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#681: This Week in Haiti 17:29 10/6/99 (fwd)
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"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES newsweekly. For
information on other news in French and Creole, please contact the paper at
(tel) 718-434-8100, (fax) 718-434-5551 or e-mail at
"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
October 6 - 12, 1999
Vol. 17, No. 29
ELECTIONS POSTPONED AGAIN
The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) has postponed the first round of
elections for legislative and municipal posts until Mar. 19, 2000. This is
the second postponement of the elections which were first scheduled for Nov.
28 and then Dec. 19. The CEP did not fix a date for the polling's second
CEP spokesman Macajoux Médard predicted that it was "a decision which will
doubtlessly be surprising and make lots of ink flow." However, it was far
from a surprise. Most observers had already concluded that the CEP's
December deadline was totally unrealistic.
By pushing back the elections, both the CEP and the government of President
René Préval are forsaking their vow to swear in a new parliament by Jan. 20,
Meanwhile, on Oct. 5, the National Popular Party (PPN) announced that it
would not participate in the elections because, despite squeaks of protest
from the Haitian government, the U.S. State Department is still controlling
the production of photo I.D. electoral cards.
Already popular leaders have predicted that much of the peasantry in remote
parts of the countryside will be excluded from voting because they will not
know about or will be unable to get the photo I.D. card. To make matters
worse, the cards are being produced by a Canadian firm, Code Inc., under
contract with the State Department-spawned International Foundation for
Electoral Systems (IFES) with $3.5 million provided by the State Department'
s Agency for International Development (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 17, No. 23
8/25/99). The Haitian government and CEP have absolutely no control of the
"It is a breach of principle, a breach of sovereignty, and an original sin
which subverts the entire process right from the start," stated PPN
Secretary General Ben Dupuy. He noted that "despite the thundering
declarations of Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis, the CEP and the
government have shown that they are definitely under orders from
By controlling the voting cards, "it is a way to exclude the people and to
set in place an electoral machine which will give programmed results," Dupuy
By pledging to participate in the elections under any conditions and by
refusing to see the trap being laid, the Lavalas Family (FL), the party of
former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is following "an ostrich policy,"
Dupuy said, just as many refused to recognize the signs of the approaching
coup d'état in Sept. 1991. "If later [the FL] realizes that they have
committed an error, then we will be happy to get together with them," Dupuy
said. "But at this time, we think they must adopt a clear policy so that the
people can understand well the game which is being played."
SEPTEMBER 30TH COUP ANNIVERSARY:
EIGHT YEARS LATER, JUSTICE STILL A PROMISE
Every time September 30th rolls around, it is occasion for many fierce calls
for justice from the very government officials who have neglected or
subverted justice in Haiti.
This year, Haitian officials tried to do a little better. On Sept. 30,
Justice Minister Camille Leblanc announced the indictments in the trial for
the massacre of Raboteau, a Gonaïves shanty-town where dozens of people were
gunned down by Haitian soldiers in April 1994. The government has been
preparing its case for over two years, and many in Gonaïves have lost
patience and confidence in the government's resolve to seek justice.
In a largely theatrical move, the indictment names the military and
paramilitary leaders of the coup d'état including Gen. Raoul Cédras, Col.
Michel François, Col. Philippe Biamby, Louis Jodel Chamblain and Emmanuel
"Toto" Constant. Their indictments are largely symbolic and demagogic,
however, since all of the coup's highest ranking criminals enjoy golden,
protected exiles in Panama, Honduras, or the United States, and Haitian
government officials know it.
"This indictment marks a turning point from the period of impunity and shows
that we have moved to a new level in the struggle," insisted Leblanc.
Other legal observers were much more reserved in their declarations,
however, saying that the indictment was the first and easiest step in a long
process. "This doesn't mean the battle against impunity is over," said
Lovinsky Pierre Antoine of the September 30th Foundation, which champions
justice for victims of the coup. "The path to justice still has many
obstacles and pitfalls in it, but a big step has been made and we should
President René Préval was not among the cautious. He asserted, perhaps
prematurely since a trial date has not even been set, that "the [Raboteau]
victims will find justice" and that "the trial of the coup d'état is truly
beginning through the legal action in Raboteau." Préval also called for
"justice against the [coup] criminals," a call which would ring much less
hollow if he didn't entertain a close rapport with such coup collaborators
as former putschist prime minister Marc Bazin and politician Serge Gilles.
Meanwhile, foreign officials spouted plenty of their own hypocrisy. Most of
it centered on the return of the 60,000 pages of evidence which U.S.
soldiers stole from Haiti in 1994 and which Washington still refuses to
return to Haiti without editing out certain names. Rodolfo Matarollo, the
number two man at the U.N.- OAS Civilian Mission (MICIVIH), said that the
return of the documents "is a question of fundamental importance and that
these archives should be returned to Haiti without being censored." Colin
Granderson, the MICIVIH Secretary General, concurred, saying that "the
documents are part of the Haitian patrimony and thus these documents should
be returned to the State." The declarations were, in the words of one Radio
Haiti commentator, "a brilliant exercise in futility."
Nonetheless, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Timothy Carney felt compelled to
respond, saying that the U.S. was prepared to return "98% of the documents
in their entirety, but there is 2% in which the names of Americans are
found" and which would be censored. It may not sound like a lot, but two
percent of 60,000 pages comes to 1,200 blanked-out pages.
Granderson also attended a rally of thousands of people on the Champ de Mars
on the coup's anniversary. Sponsored by the September 30th Foundation and
other popular organizations, the rally included an exhibition of photos from
the coup and a mass. In front of what was formerly Army headquarters, the
demonstrators burned a casket, which they said symbolized the burial of the
dead Army and its "military mentality." The demonstrators then marched in
front of the U.S. Embassy to demand the return of Haiti's documents.
"We are telling the imperialists to return the documents of the FRAPH [the
death squad from whose headquarters many documents were taken] so that we
can arrest the criminals, judge them, and thereby combat impunity," said
René Civil of Popular Power Youth (JPP). "We don't want interference, we don
't want occupation, we don't want corruption. We want justice, social
justice, work, food, security, and reparations for the victims of the coup."
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