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#344: Haitian Election Officials Fear Increased Violence (fwd)


Haitian Election Officials Fear Increased Violence 
02:02 p.m Aug 27, 1999 Eastern By Jennifer Bauduy 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (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 Friday.  The most recent incident occurred 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
bureaus. 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 reasons. 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. Tuesday, U.S. defense 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'' program
in effect throughout the region.