Gunmen kidnap Aristide supporter U.S. cutter blocks Haiti-bound ship; gas becoming scarce

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI — PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- The whereabouts of Samuel Milord, an outspoken legislator who is a supporter of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, remained unknown last night, but the outlook was bleak because of the recent murders of two other loyalists.

Still reeling from the assassinations of Justice Minister Guy Malary last week and of businessman Antoine Izmery a month ago, forces loyal to Father Aristide were stunned by yesterday's kidnapping of Mr. Milord, a deputy in the Parliament.


The kidnapping of the deputy may have been intended as a warning to Parliament, which is trying to draft laws to implement provisions of the United Nations plan to restore Father Aristide to power Oct. 30. Many soldiers and rightists oppose the plan because it requires the army to give up control of the police.

Meanwhile, the U.N. blockade against Haiti was having an unexpectedly quick effect as long lines suddenly showed up at gas stations around the capital.


A Defense Department statement reported that a U.S. Coast Guard cutter fired across the bow of a merchant ship that had refused to turn away from Haiti while 13 miles off its coast.

Herve Denis, the information minister for the interim government preparing for Father Aristide's return, noted that Mr. Milord had made a fiery comment Wednesday night that might have provoked his kidnapping. "He spoke on television last night and said the only way to get rid of [the army] was with guns. I guess now he is paying for that."

Mr. Milord was taken from a friend's house by a group of men carrying guns.

The kidnapping instilled even more fear into the Cabinet of Prime Minister Robert Malval, leader of the interim government. In an accord signed in July on Governors Island, N.Y., by Father Aristide and army chief Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, Mr. Malval was to govern the country until Mr. Aristide's return Oct. 30.

But the 12 Cabinet ministers have been barraged with death threats, and members of their staffs have been beaten on their way to work.

'Hit List'

"There is an anonymous hit list," Mr. Malval said. "The names on it change from day to day. The only name which is always on the list is mine."

After Mr. Malary, the justice minister, was gunned down a week ago, none of the Cabinet members have ventured onto the streets. Many of them do not sleep in their homes. The same is true for most of Mr. Aristide's supporters.


"I'm not going to walk to the Ministry of Finance and let them kill me the way they killed the minister of justice," said Marie-Michele Rey, the finance minister, rummaging through official documents a bar stool on the prime minister's patio. "This I won't do. These people have no respect for human life. I'm very clear about that."

"We are the legitimate government," said Mr. Denis, the information minister. "But we have no power. We cannot function."

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Malval said that he had issued a communique to his staff, telling them that for 48 hours they would work in an emergency session to evaluate the crisis of violence and determine their course of action.

Another main item on yesterday's agenda, he said, was planning the date for the funeral of Mr. Malary.

"Like he used to say, this country is dying from lack of justice," Mr. Malval said of Mr. Malary, a friend for 15 years. "We have to do our best so that his legacy remains."

Mr. Malval, the 50-year-old owner of Haiti's second-largest publishing company, said that while his government does not have much power to act, it has found ways to cripple General Cedras.


Stations sabotaged

While armed thugs occupy the state radio and television stations, they cannot use the facilities because a technician disabled the radio and television stations before abandoning them.

Mrs. Rey said she has very limited access to data about the government's cash reserves, estimated at about $1.7 million. But she can prevent the military from spending because her authorization is needed.

"There are some things we agree to do and other things we do not agree on," she said. "That's why they are after us."

The military remains in control of the country's tax office. Over the last two years almost no taxes have been collected. It is a practice the country's small ruling elite would like to continue, Mrs. Rey said.

"The man that President Aristide had named to run the tax office received so many death threats -- he, his wife and his kids -- that he decided not to take the job," said Mr. Malval, the father of three daughters. "So the same people are running the tax office and they have control over those resources."


Yesterday, military leaders suffered another blow when petroleum suppliers in Haiti stopped selling gasoline and other products in compliance with a U.N. embargo. For the first time since the embargo went into effect late Monday, lines of cars formed at gas stations around the crumbling capital.

Shell, Esso observe embargo

Radio announcements said that Shell and Esso would not distribute the gasoline in storage tanks around Haiti.

Mr. Malval and U.N. negotiators hope such measures will press the military to release its grip on power. But, the prime minister said, General Cedras is not a man of reason.

General Cedras is demanding that Parliament pass a law granting general amnesty to military leaders. Mr. Malval and Father Aristide insist that General Cedras resign first, as he promised on Governors Island, and that the Parliament pass a law separating the activities of the police and the military.

"I discovered General Cedras has a split personality. He's a mixture of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and I notice this dichotomy in every aspect," Mr. Malval said. "On one side he is a very professional soldier, and on the other there is something very ambiguous about him."


In a sign of frustration over efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement with General Cedras, Mr. Malval has said he will resign Oct. 30 if the general has not resigned and Father Aristide cancels his plans to return on that date.

Meanwhile, members of his Cabinet said the fight is far from over.

Mrs. Rey, a mother and grandmother, said that while her family fears for her life, "they support me because they know if we do not do this work, they will probably never be able to live in peace in Haiti."

The Pentagon announced that a Haiti-bound merchant ship, the Don Jose, was 13 miles off the Haitian coast when it was ordered to turn away after inspectors were not able to look at about a third of its cargo.

"In accordance with the approved rules of engagement, two 10-round bursts of .50 caliber machine gun ammunition were fired into the water across the bow to warn the ship to comply with its instructions," the Pentagon statement said.