Haiti parliament approves new cabinet

Haiti’s parliament has overwhelmingly approved a new cabinet that includes members of six political parties, a strong show of support for President Rene Preval as he steers the impoverished nation toward peace and stability.

Haiti’s parliament has overwhelmingly approved a new cabinet that includes members of six political parties, a strong show of support for President Rene Preval as he steers the impoverished nation toward peace and stability.

In a vote late yesterday, 84 of 86 deputies in the lower house voted to approve the 18-member cabinet, which was unanimously endorsed by the senate a day earlier.

The new government reflects Preval’s need to unite the conflict-torn Caribbean nation after a February 2004 revolt toppled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and touched off a wave of violence.

The vote also formally confirms Preval’s prime minister, Jacques-Edouard Alexis, who replaces US-backed interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue. Latortue left the country last month and has not spoken publicly about the new government.

Speaking to the senate on Tuesday, Alexis said the government would work to improve security, boost access to basic services and foster national reconciliation.

But unifying the deeply divided country of eight million won’t be easy.

Aristide’s supporters are demanding his return from exile in South Africa and the release of scores of prisoners jailed without charge in the aftermath of the revolt.

Some have accused Preval of sidelining them from the new government, a move that could stir resentment in Port-au-Prince’s volatile, pro-Aristide slums.

Preval, whose cabinet includes one member of Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party, has said Aristide is free to return home but hasn’t said whether he’d welcome back his one-time ally and political mentor.

Preval, 63, was sworn in last month after winning elections in February, and has since been in talks to form the cabinet.

Preval was Aristide’s premier in September 1991, when the army staged a bloody coup. Three years later, 20,000 US troops intervened to restore Aristide’s democratically elected government.

Aristide later backed Preval in 1995 elections because the constitution barred the president from running for a consecutive term.

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