PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI, DEC. 6 -- After a week of confused responses, political groups opposed to the military government's takeover of the electoral process will attempt a unified protest Monday through a nationwide general strike.
The strike's outcome, diplomats said, will determine whether the ruling National Government Council, headed by Gen. Henri Namphy, will be able to organize an election under its control, or will be defeated in that strategy by widespread resistance.
The strike has the support of all four of the presidential front-runners from the Nov. 29 election that collapsed in killing and burning by armed groups. The four are Marc Bazin, Silvio Claude, Louis Dejoie II and Gerard Gourgue, all considered centrists.
Also supporting the strike is a union representing the hundreds of drivers of the exotically painted public-transport trucks, known as tap-taps, that normally ply jammed downtown avenues. The largest labor organization, the left-leaning Autonomous Federation of Haitian Workers, and a union of white-collar employes back it as well.
Sponsors have not agreed on the duration or purpose of the stoppage, however. Some called for an indefinite protest while others argued that most Haitians are too poor to sustain more than two days of protest.
Bazin and Gourgue, considered the favorites in the aborted vote, issued their strike call together.
Claude had advocated a strike call for last Thursday. When it did not materialize he disowned it. A Baptist minister, Claude is an impulsive politician with a loyal following because of his tenacious opposition to the fallen Duvalier dictatorship.
At a press conference yesterday broadcast live, Dejoie issued a strike call so impassioned it had edgy reporters eyeing the exits -- apparently expecting an appearance by gunmen. Dejoie demanded that Namphy and the other two government council members step aside to make way for a new council.
Dejoie also called for the reinstatement of the independent electoral board that organized the Nov. 29 thwarted balloting and was dissolved that day. He lived for 26 years in Puerto Rico and describes himself as a firm friend of the United States. Nevertheless, he cast blame on Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams for collapse of the election because of earlier U.S. support for the government council.
For its part, the military government in special weekend state-run television programs accused the old election board of ruining the poll and played up reports of a possible multinational intervention -- summoning Haitians to unite against it.