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#341: Fear of Election Violence Reuters082799 from Slavin (fwd)


Haitian election officials fear increased violence

By Jennifer Bauduy

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Aug 27 (Reuters) - A series of attacks targeting 
Haitian electoral officials have raised concerns of increasing violence as 
the country heads for its first election in more than two years, officials 
said on Friday. 

The most recent incident occurred on Tuesday when gunman opened fire in front 
of the home of Emmanuel Charles, one of nine Provisional Electoral Council 
(CEP) officials. 

``We are in an electoral period ... there may be people interested in 
intimidating me,'' Charles told Radio Haiti Inter. 

``I am serving my country, serving my nation and I won't be scared off,'' he 
said, adding that gunmen have fired by his front gate several times recently. 

Tuesday's incident happened just three days after the car of another CEP 
official was car-jacked with the official's driver and security guard inside. 
The passengers were quickly released, but the car has not been recovered. 

In July, unidentified individuals tried to burn down an election office in 
the northwestern town of Gonaives, and one week later someone tried to set 
fire to the election office in the southeast town of Jacmel. 

``We are in a very fragile period,'' CEP spokesman Gerin Alexandre said. 
``There have been several bad incidents that are significant for Haiti and we 
are waiting to see that the police do their work.'' 

Alexandre said the CEP has repeatedly asked police for increased security for 
its Port-au-Prince office and for officials in the 11 departmental election 

Haitian President Rene Preval announced the terms of most lawmakers except 
nine senators ended last January. He installed a new prime minister and 
Cabinet in March and has been ruling by decree. 

Municipal and legislative elections were slated for November, but have been 
delayed by government election officials for financial and logistical 

A precise date for the vote has not been set, but CEP officials said they 
expected new parliament officials to take office on the second Monday in 
January, as the Haitian Constitution mandates. 

The elections are seen as an important step in efforts to establish a stable 
democracy following decades of dictatorship and turmoil in the Caribbean 
nation, the poorest in the Americas. 

The United States invaded Haiti with 20,000 troops to put down a three-year 
military regime and restore freely elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide 
to power in 1994. 

On Tuesday, U.S. defence officials announced they would withdraw the 
remaining 400 permanent U.S. troops in Haiti in coming months and begin a 
series of humanitarian visits as part of the ``New Horizons'' programme in 
effect throughout the region. 

13:36 08-27-99

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.