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#4636: COHA Press Release (fwd)

From: John Kozyn <jckozyn@hotmail.com>

I thought listers might be interested to read last week's press release by 
the Council on Hemishperic Affairs <www.coha.org>

John Kozyn


Immediate Release
                                                             Thursday, July 
13, 2000

Much To Do About Nothing: Two-faced OAS Refusal to Observe Second Round 
Haitian Balloting Taints a Relatively Fair Election Process

OAS Permanent Council scheduled to denounce Haiti vote today, marking the 
apogee of hypocrisy

OAS and U.S. remain bent on deliberately discrediting Lavalas Party and 
Aristide, despite their overwhelming support among Haitian people

While hardly even administering a slap on the wrist against Fujimori, OAS 
slanders Haitian elections, confirming the regional organization?s 
irrelevance and unabashed hypocrisy

Clinton had previously validated independence of CEP, whose regulations 
couldn't be overruled by Haitian government

OAS and U.S. actions driven by their old fears of Aristide returning to 
office as a result of next November's presidential elections

Current policy echoes era of Lawrence Pezzullo and Dante Caputo, when the 
U.S. and UN negotiators pressured then-exiled President Aristide to 
power-share with brutal military junta

Squabbling over a technicality in Haiti?s May 21 parliamentary elections?the 
reversal of which
ultimately would not have resulted in any major difference to the winners of 
the 19 Senate seats in contention, the OAS refused to observe last Sunday's 
second-round balloting, once again exposing the regional organization?s 
shrinking stature and spotlighting its inconstant commitment to 
democratization.  In contrast to the recent withdrawal of the observer 
mission to Peru, where the OAS barely tried to prevent President Alberto 
Fujimori from cheating and bullying his way into a constitutionally-illegal 
third term, its decision to pull out of Haiti was far less justified.  Not 
only is the economic and political situation in Haiti much more dangerous, 
given the country's precarious economy and bankrupt Treasury, whatever 
infraction that might have taken place was of negligible proportion.  Even 
worse, the action to humiliate the Haitian government, led by President René 
Préval, amounts to an unprincipled scheme to discredit a relatively free and 
fair election process, given the island's impoverished circumstances.  In 
lockstep manner, the OAS is effortlessly following U.S. policy objectives, 
which in Haiti consist of preventing at
all costs the fulfillment of the will of the vast majority of the country?s 
citizens: the return of former President Aristide to office as the result of 
next November's presidential ballot.

Blackballing the Lavalas Party

After Lavalas' resounding triumph in the May 21 elections, which was 
violence-free and enjoyed
a 60 percent voter turnout (significantly greater than that of recent U.S. 
congressional elections), the State Department, the OAS and much of the 
international community couldn?t help but bestow congratulations on the 
Provincial Electoral Council (CEP), the Préval administration and the 
Haitian people over their impressive achievement.  But instead of continuing 
to provide Haiti with the support it so badly needs, and after praising the 
election process, the OAS and U.S. suddenly reversed themselves and began to 
belittle the positive results of the election with excessive and unjustified 

The malevolence of the OAS and U.S. stand can be fully appreciated when the 
following facts are taken into account.  Under the Haitian constitution, the 
CEP is an entirely independent agency and the executive branch, even if it 
was anxious to do so, could not interfere with its operations.  This fact 
was validated last year by President Clinton, who stated, in a letter to 
Congress, that the CEP was practically an entirely independent entity.

On May 31, the OAS mission head in Haiti, Orlando Marville, distributed a 
letter to the media,
accusing the CEP of only counting the ballots of the top four vote getters - 
a practice established by precedent rather than the entire field.  The State 
Department pounced on the announcement, quickly throwing its support behind 
the OAS, and ignoring the fact that this was a minor procedural point which 
had nothing to do with the substance of the dispute.  Their position was 
later strengthened by the sudden departure for the U.S. of Léon Manus, the 
CEP president, after he refused to validate the election results, but not 
before he wrote a strong letter to Marville rejecting that body?s position 
on the counting of the ballot.  With the murder of two Aristide supporters 
by an emboldened opposition immediately following last Sunday's second-round 
elections, the destabilizing consequences of international policy towards 
Haiti's already precarious political atmosphere was readily apparent.  The 
question was also being asked whether this was all part of an orchestrated 

Unfortunately, Manus? compromising action of leaving the country belied the 
efforts of election officials to tally the ballots as fairly as possible, 
and also represented a sharp about-face from the position he had staked out 
just a few weeks before.  He responded aggressively in a June 5 letter to 
the OAS?s charges, berating Marville for interfering prematurely in the 
process and explained that the CEP utilized a method it considered less 
distorting than the alternative model offered by the OAS.  To accommodate 
for Haiti's debilitatingly high eighty-five percent illiteracy rate, which 
not only makes the electorate exceedingly susceptible to misinformation and 
deception, but more directly caused a large number of voters to incorrectly 
complete their ballots, the CEP chose to gauge support for the Senate 
candidates in such a way that would arguably provide the most honest 
reflection of the public's will.

Whether the CEP entirely held steadfast to the letter of the law under the 
torrid conditions in
which the balloting took place might be open to debate, but the spirit of 
its young constitution was without a doubt fulfilled.  What's more, Manus 
explained in his letter to Marville that the electoral council had only 
repeated the same vote-counting method employed in the 1990, 1995 and 1997 
elections, all of which had been observed and approved by the international 
community.  In addition, the OAS was purportedly aware of the method that 
would be utilized on this latest vote count well before the elections were 
to take place, thereby providing it with an opportunity to constructively 
address any perceived difficulties with the technical ambiguities, rather 
than ferociously condemning the process after the fact. The question now can 
be asked, what kind of game is Marville playing?  If the Lavalas party's 
candidates swept the polls, their triumph represented the actual will of the 
Haitian people, and was not the result of the connivances or chicanery of 
election officials.  And for all their bombast, not one of the CEP's critics 
have uttered an audible word in defense of the advantages of any alternative 
procedures over those ultimately used.

The difference between Haiti and Peru

Peru's President Fujimori suffered a kinder fate than Haiti only weeks 
before.  After the Peruvian leader refused to accept some modest changes in 
the voting procedure called for by the OAS, its election mission decided to 
withdraw after it had accepted a massively tainted first round election.  
The end result was that after several meetings in Washington and Windsor, 
Canada, the OAS eventually validated Fujimori's fraudulent re-election to an 
unconstitutional third term by its de facto action.  Several weeks later, 
during a visit to Lima by a special OAS mission led by Canadian Foreign 
Minister Lloyd Axworthy and OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria (an old chum 
of Fujimori, who was the first to nominate him to his OAS post in 1994), the 
irony could not have been thicker when the OAS officials had to be protected 
in their five star hotel from pro-democracy protesters in the streets below, 
who were driven off by Fujimori's riot police firing tear gas.  In light of 
the Peruvian president?s flat rejection of the conditions that he follow a 
timeline to institute reforms, the OAS delegation?s call to strengthen 
Peru?s democracy will result, at best, in only cosmetic and token changes to 
his despotic rule.  Flying in
the face of international criticism is nothing new for Fujimori, who has 
never hidden his contempt either for the OAS or the principle of democratic 
rule.  In 1992, he dissolved congress and shut down the Supreme Court before 
rewriting the constitution, while all along ignoring the OAS?s empty threat 
of economic sanctions.  After championing free trade and grudgingly 
participating in Washington's regional war on drugs for a decade, Fujimori 
knew that he would suffer no serious repercussions from the OAS, much less 
from the U.S., which he continues to proclaim is his closest ally (in 
practice, an observation which may not be far from the truth).

State Department's selective indignation

The State Department unsurprisingly has taken no action against Fujimori 
despite the pleas of
Peru's opposition presidential candidate Alejandro Toledo, who was almost 
certainly robbed of an
outright victory by the Peruvian despot in first-round balloting.  But it 
seemed to go out of its way to defame Haiti's electoral process last Friday, 
when a State Department spokesman said that by only counting the top four 
vote getters in each race, the Senate election certainly calls into question 
the credibility of the entire Haitian election process. Haitians, who 
vividly recall CIA involvement in the 1991 coup and its resulting 
longstanding relationship with a number of brutal senior Haitian military 
officials, in addition to Emmanuel Constant, the rightwing extremist who 
headed the professedly anti-U.S. FRAPH (which served as a civilian auxiliary 
to a murderous and corrupt military dictatorship), were justifiably outraged 
by such statements.  After the State Department voiced its criticism of the 
first round elections, scores of protestors burned the American flag in 
Port-au-Prince outside the U.S. embassy. Without Washington?s support, Haiti 
has little chance of receiving desperately needed development funds promised 
by the international community (which have been put on hold with the help of 
Haiti-phobe Senator Jesse Helms) until a new parliament is seated.  The flag 
burning did not arise out of an irrational hatred of this country, but from 
a growing resentment based upon a long-practiced U.S. policy that could
once again stand in the way of Aristide being elected, or make the island 
ungovernable, if he does assume office after next November's elections.

After Argentine foreign minister and OAS/UN emissary Dante Caputo and former 
State Department official Lawrence Pezzullo tried to pressure then-exiled 
President Aristide into agreeing to
come to a power-sharing agreement with the country?s harsh military 
dictatorship (whose leaders had overthrown him and instituted a reign of 
terror on the island after 1991), Haitians discovered that neither the OAS 
nor the U.S. were interested in seeing a strong and entirely independent 
democratic government installed in their country, particularly one which had 
a leftist vision of social development.  Today, Washington's intentions for 
Haiti are no different from what they were then because the Clinton White 
House still feels that Aristide would be far less amenable to U.S. policy 
objectives for the island than a government headed by the political 
opposition.  Just as the OAS and Washington countenanced the military regime 
in the early 1990s, it is by no means certain that the U.S. will not once 
again act to stamp out Haiti's nascent democracy before it can bud, should 
Washington grow to feel that its national security is being threatened.

U.S. and OAS maintain indefencebly harsh position on Haitian elections

While the election process in Peru was reduced to a charade by Fujimori?s 
dictatorial antics, the
Lavalas candidates who won their Senate seats were clearly the overwhelming 
and bona fide choice of Haitian voters.  Whereas in Peru, Alejandro Toledo 
might well have won the first round elections outright had Fujimori not 
resorted to fraud, controlled a venal press, bullied the opposition and 
bought votes with last-minute public works projects, in Haiti, counting the 
entire field of candidates instead of the top four vote getters would not 
have prevented a Lavalas landslide.  While some political analysts have 
alleged that opposition candidates would have fared better had the OAS 
system been followed, the opposition, splintered into more than sixty 
political parties, has a miniscule number of followers many of them who 
supported the military junta and have taken bribes from various sources and 
even united would not have come close to challenging the overwhelming 
support for the highly organized Lavalas party.  In any event, the OAS' 
differences with the CEP were methodological and not substantive, in 
contrast to Peru,
where outright vote rigging was the issue.

In light of the ease with which the OAS closed its eyes to the tainted 
Peruvian elections, its
disapproval of the CEP lacks all sincerity and exhibits the mentality of a 
bully sulking away from the transgressions of the big guy while pouncing on 
the innocuous shortcomings of a weakling.  Secretary General Gaviria?s 
bottom line apparently was that Haiti was a no-account marginal black nation 
with no political clout and which could do nothing for his career, in 
contrast to Fujimori?s Peru, which provides the currently volatile Andean 
region with something of a model of stability despite the mortal costs in 
terms of  the country?s trampled democratic institutions.

The Clinton administration is also reluctant to validate the results of last 
Sunday's unassailably fair elections because Washington policymakers look 
upon them as one more precursor of Aristide's return to power.  Instead of 
throwing their support behind a government that is taking every step 
possible to strengthen its institutions and ensure a smooth democratic 
transition, Washington and the international community cried foul over a 
meaningless technicality, robbing Haiti of the very resources (from money to 
materials to human expertise) without which it can hardly hope to right the 
wrongs for which this very aid has been withheld.  By attempting to 
disillusion Haitian voters and by arming the opposition with dangerous 
delusions that they had been defrauded, Washington and its allies are only 
further enflaming the majority's well-merited mistrust of international 
intervention, and thereby alienating the country from
the very community that could one day help it realize its democratic 

The indomitable democratic spirit of the Haitian people, who flocked to the 
polls last May 21
despite a pre-election ambience marred by violence, should have driven the 
U.S. and the OAS to adopt a more understanding and patient policy toward 
Haiti and encourage the speedy transfer of the development funds so badly 
needed by the people of that nation.  Instead, the Clinton administration 
added one more chapter to a lamentable history of U.S.-Haiti relations which 
has featured duplicity, double standards and unqualified patronization.  
While seldom stressing democratization, U.S. policy towards Haiti continues 
to be driven by abiding hostility against the social vision of Jean Bertrand 


Reed Lindsay and Zsombor Peter, Research Associates

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, 
non-partisan and tax
exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the 
floor of the Senate as
being "one of the nation?s most respected bodies of scholars and policy 
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