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#4002: What is Mike Norton on? Arthur replies to Chamberlain (fwd)

From: Charles Arthur <charlesarthur@hotmail.com>

Dear Greg,

Your reply to my original post leaves me confused. My post
questioned whether Mike Norton was reporting on what was happening in Haiti 
or whether he was just parrotting the wild exaggerations of election fraud 
made by the losers. You 'answered' by raising the issue of the arrests on 
anti-Fanmi Lavalas politicians and their supporters. This was not an answer 
nor a reply but was plainly what is known in the English language as a red 

Despite your claims to be merely a seeker of the truth, your response on 
this occassion in no way furthers an understanding of what is happening in 

To return to my original point, Chip Carey in post #3979, writes
that he saw Mike Norton "reporting diligently at the Delmas BEC, which was 
in a state of chaos when he arrived." I have no reason to doubt this - my 
argument is whether this observation is sufficient evidence on which to base 
an AP report which clearly suggests that all the voting offices in Haiti 
were, at best, in a "state of chaos", and' at worst' controlled by Fanmi 
Lavalas supporters. I visited 13 polling stations on election day, I did not 
see any where there
was a state of chaos, nor did I see any cases of mandataires of
non-FL parties prevented from entering.

What I did see were orderly lines of voters, diligent election
officials, plently of party mandataires from most of the main parties, many 
national election observers, and a scattering of police who appeared to be 
trying their best to make the election work. However, my observations were 
limited by constraints of time and travel to one area of rural Haiti and as 
such I would not attempt to opine on what happened elswhere, and especially 
not in a news wire which, as Greg accurately notes, has the capacity to 
influence the perception of what is happening in Haiti all over the 
English-reading world.

As for Greg's 'red herring' - the arrests of the OPL and Espace
people, he asks me to explain "What on earth can Lavalas (the government) be 
afraid of if they have just won a landslide?"

Before answering this question, allow me to put the issue into some context. 
According to the information provided by the OPL and Espace spokespeople, 
around 30 of their supporters have been arrested. Whether these arrests were 
justified or not, let's remember that there were approximately 29,500 
candidates in the 21 May election. It is possible that a handful of these 
candidates committed some infringement of the everyday or election law, no?

That aside, the question is of course, were any FL people arrested for the 
same offences. All I can provide here is my own anecdote from the town of 
Maissade in the Central Plateau, where according to the the police in that 
town, a group of people (they would not say how many) including the FL 
candidate for deputy were detained on the night of 21 May by police from 
Hinche and held overnight. Espace supporters charged that the FL people were 
interfering with the counting of the ballots, but the exact details of what 
happened remain unclear.

Another anecdote - in the town of Thomond, 5 people related to
the Espace candidate for deputy were detained overnight 21 May by police
after a dispute between partisans of the Espace and the FL. According to the 
judge who authorised the detention and began the juducial proceedings, the 
car belonging to the five Espace men was found to contain 27 voter 
identification cards, and this was the basis for the arrests. He added that 
the authorities would attempt to contact the 27 people and ask how their 
cards came to be in the possession of the Espace partisans.

Finally, in answer to Greg's question, I agree that some FL
supporters have been stupidly over-zealous in making sure that what most
impartial observers see as a FL victory will be a massive landslide. This is 
very unfortunate because it only discredits the FL victory. I can only 
'explain' their actions by pointing to the political context of the 1991 
coup against the fairly elected Lavalas government, and the more recent 
attempts to interfere with Haitian democracy made by foreign powers which 
have artificially inflated the importance of the anti-FL parties. These 
facts do not excuse the heavy handed
instances of FL meddling with the results but should be borne in

But let's not go overboard - it seems that FL has won a big
victory in more-or-less acceptable elections. If, as seems to be the case, 
the majority of the voters want FL government at national and local level, 
then let them have it. Let them see what FL can or can't do. This should 
have happened in 1991-96 but sadly the last nine years have been lost.

Charles Arthur

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