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#4688: Congressman Conyers puts Haiti elections in perspective (fwd)


Congressman John Conyers, Jr.:

"We are holding Haiti to a higher standard than we are holding other nations 
including ourselves.  Lest we forget it was only a few years ago that we had 
to send in federal re-enforcement to allow people to vote in my own backyard 
of Flint Michigan and we, the great democratic country of the world had to 
enact not one but two voting rights acts to give blacks and other minority's 
unfettered access to the polls.  And even today, this access continues to be 
undermined by court determinations of gerrymandering.  

But for those of us who are uncomfortable examining our own struggle with 
democracy as we are the beacon of democratic values, let us examine how we 
have dealt with other countries in similar straits, such as the country of 

Last month Peru held elections that many have touted as wholly fraudulent.  
The New York Times reported, "On the surface it appeared so familiar, 
President Albert Fugimori rode to a third term of Sunday in an election so 
full of dirty tricks that Alejandro Toledo, the opposition candidate, 
withdrew from the race, and all international election monitors backed off, 
too, before a single vote was cast."  The San Diego Union Tribune reported, 
"The elections were tainted by widespread charges of voting irregularities, 
bullying of the opposition and use of state funds to benefit Fujimori. OAS 
observers walked out a few days before the election, saying the elections 
were not fair."

On the other hand, in regard to Haiti's elections, the AP reported that, 
"Millions of Haitians braced under a scorching sun and the threat of violence 
and voted.  According to official records about 60 percent of the three 
million eligible voters went to the polls, surpassing many established 
democracies."   Speaking of the impressive numbers, the Associated Press said 
that "more than 2 million voters - an estimated 60% of the electorate - cast 
their ballots in the elections."  We noticed that this is considerably higher 
than the 38% turnout in the US Congressional elections of 1998.

Haiti's elections were relatively free of violence and we witnessed a firm 
commitment from Haitian citizens to have democratic elections.  We observed 
great levels of voter participation and an overwhelming sense of civic pride, 
and concerted efforts towards the conduct of credible elections.

...Why are we so quick to condemn a country that has so little but is so 
important to our country...Haiti is a fragile new democracy.  This is only 
its third election since it rid itself of over 50 years of dictatorship rule. 
 If only we could have been so perfect so early in our development as a full 
- functioning democracy. 

Excerpts from Congressman Conyers, Jr.'s statement before the House on July 
13, 2000.