PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI, JULY 8 -- The Haitian opposition committee that has led two weeks of nationwide protests proposed today creation of a governing council to replace the military-led provisional government.
Committee officials vowed to begin a new protest campaign on Monday to force the government out if it did not negotiate with them. "If the government refuses to resign, we will fight against them in a pacific and nonviolent way," said Daniel Narcisse, a committee member from the Liaison of Democratic Forces.
The committee -- which claims to represent at least 57 civic, political and other groups embracing hundreds of thousands of Haitians -- today halted a sporadic general strike that began as a protest against the government's attempt last month to take direct control over municipal elections set for August. The strike brought shootings of protesters by soldiers, and some political analysts here worried about potential new violence during national mass demonstrations scheduled for Friday.
Diplomats and other observers have said that the crisis here could subside if a political crackdown or further violence is avoided. But a mass protest in this city, which continues to smolder with public anger over the 23 deaths during the strike, risks "starting the fire again," said one of several residents here who reacted to today's declaration.
The general mood of conflict will be exacerbated, suggested a western diplomat, who said the opposition move had narrowed the field for negotiations between the two sides. Alongside their demand for a new government, some opposition figures have suggested in recent days that they were prepared to compromise. It was not clear whether such figures have hardened their positions.
The strike committee proposed to reduce the military's representation in the government, saying that it should have one of five seats on a new governing council. The current three-man council has two military officers, including council president Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy.