One-Day Strike Cripples Transit, Commerce in Haitian Capital
An anti-government strike shut down most transportation and commerce in the heart of this capital Tuesday, reflecting the deep political unrest that has persisted since President Jean-Claude Duvalier fell from power.
Political activists who called the one-day strike are insisting on the removal of two high officials from the four-month-old provisional government. Similar demands sparked a wave of protests around the country last week.
Government officials had hoped that the unrest would subside after the announcement over the weekend of an electoral schedule, which culminates in presidential elections in November, 1987.
‘Rejected Democratic Demands’
But a newly formed committee of 28 political and civic organizations called the Tuesday strike anyway, charging that the government “demagogically rejected the democratic demands made by the sovereign people.”
Wendell Claude, a Christian Democratic politician who is active in the committee, said the strike was successful.
“We have shown that we are not playing when we say we want this and that,” he said. “We have the people with us.”
The committee’s main demand is for the removal of Finance Minister Lesly Delatour and Col. Williams Regala, who is interior and defense minister and a member of the ruling National Government Council.
Tied to Repression
Claude said Regala must leave the government because he was closely associated with repression under the Duvalier regime.
In a statement published Tuesday by the government newspaper Haiti Liberee, Regala said: “There are attacks against me, but no one can say concretely that here is a bad deed done by Regala. I am a professional, a man of rectitude. . . . “
Delatour has been criticized for proposing that several money-losing government factories be closed or sold to private investors.
The dismissal demands, demonstrations and strike are regarded as part of widespread attempts by newly active political forces to assert themselves after the long Duvalier dictatorship. The unrest has contributed to a general climate of confusion and disruption since Duvalier fled the country under popular pressure on Feb. 7.
Tuesday’s anti-government strike was the first to be called since then.
Multicolored jitneys usually crowd Port-au-Prince streets, but most were out of circulation Tuesday. In the center of the city, all but a few stores were closed although banks and government offices stayed opened.
The iron market, a filigree metal structure of green and orange where thousands of vendors peddle their wares, was all but abandoned.
Some schools were closed, and attendance was sparse at many others. Some parents kept their children home and some merchants closed their businesses because they feared disturbances, but the streets were calm.
Soldiers Oversee City
Soldiers with helmets and automatic rifles were stationed strategically around the city. They quickly cleared away barricades when demonstrators tried to block two major avenues outside the central area.
Troops used tear gas to keep a crowd from forming in the suburb of Carrefour, where a soldier and a young woman were killed in gunfire last week. Hundreds of people attended a funeral Mass for the woman Tuesday, but there were no incidents.
In the industrial park on the edge of town, the strike closed most of the factories that assemble electronic goods, clothing and sporting goods for export.
Many workers failed to come to work because there was no transportation, factory managers said, and others left when food caterers failed to arrive with their lunches.
A government official said privately that the strike crippled commerce and transportation in six provincial cities, but activities were normal in four others.