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#182: U.S. releases funds for Haitian voter ID cards (fwd)


U.S. releases funds for Haitian voter ID cards 
06:45 p.m Aug 03, 1999 Eastern  By Jennifer Bauduy 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Aug 3 (Reuters) - The United States has released money
to Haiti to create voter registration cards, a key step toward the
Caribbean nation's first legislative elections in more than two years,
election officials said on Tuesday. ``We are being given the electoral
cards through a grant by USAID,'' Leon Manus, president of Haiti's
Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), said.  Haitian officials said $3.5
million had been released for the voter cards. But a spokeswoman for the
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington said
only  $750,000 had been turned over, adding that the release of the
remaining $2.75 million was awaiting Congressional  approval.       
Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere, is  struggling to
establish a stable democracy following decades of dictatorship. A
U.S.-led intervention force of 20,000 troops helped oust a military
junta in 1994, restoring to  power the nation's first freely elected
leader, Jean-Bertrand  Aristide. U.S. officials said in a July 23
statement that U.S. funds earmarked for the November elections could not
be released until Haiti provided a ``transparent resolution'' to
contested 1997 legislative and local elections. On Tuesday, a U.S.
official said another approximately $9 million in election funds could
be released soon because of recent moves by Haitian elections officials
to resolve the two-year-old controversy. A new election law published on
July 30 failed to void results from the 1997 vote, which was marred by
widespread fraud. Two senators from Aristide's party who were elected
that day continue to claim the right to their posts. Haiti's government
has been crippled for the past two years,in part by wrangling over the
contested April 1997 election. President Rene Preval in January declared
that legislative terms had ended and began ruling by decree. He
installed a new prime minister and cabinet in March. The Haitian
government said it will depend heavily on international aid to hold the
Nov. 28 elections, which are expected to cost $18.3 million. USAID funds
will pay for the photo identification cards for the approximately four
million eligible voters among Haiti's 7.5 million people. The creation
of the voter ID became controversial recently when a local consortium
that bid on the contract for the cards alleged fraud in the selection
process.The process was guided by the International Fund for Electoral
Systems (IFES), a USAID-funded project. A Canadian firm, Code Canada,
won the multimillion-dollar contract.