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#5043; May elections at an impasse... (fwd)
Published Wednesday, September 6, 2000, in the Miami Herald
U.S. warns Haiti on vote__ May elections at an impasse
BY DON BOHNING
With the failure of the Haitian government to end an impasse over its
disputed parliamentary elections, the Clinton administration on
Tuesday warned the government of President Rene Preval that the United
States was through with ``business as usual.'' The warning came during a
meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organization of
American States, called to hear a report on an OAS mission last month
to Haiti. The message was one of the toughest issued by the Clinton
administration since a U.S.-led invasion of Haiti in 1994 ousted a
military government and restored democratically elected Jean-Bertrand
Aristide to the presidency. Luis Lauredo, U.S. ambassador to the OAS,
accused Haitian leaders of consistently ignoring ``the serious concerns
raised by the international community regarding the May 21 elections.''
``The decision to install a parliament based on a flawed methodology
for determining senate winners and to prepare for the Nov. 26
presidential elections with a compromised provisional elections council,
indicated an unwillingness to cooperate with the international community
regarding the most serious challenges facing democracy in Haiti,''
Lauredo said. ``Absent new concrete steps to end the impasse, the United
States will not be able to conduct `business as usual' with Haiti,''
Lauredo said. ``Instead, we will pursue policies that distinguish
between helping the people of Haiti and assisting the government of
Haiti.'' That would mean, said Lauredo, withholding financial support
for the election Nov. 26 presidential election, channeling most U.S.
government assistance to Haiti through private and nongovernmental
organizations, and scrutinizing loans and grants to Haiti from
international financial institutions. ``We have reached a crossroads,''
Lauredo said. ``The elation experienced on May 21, when millions of
Haitians demonstrated their trust in the ballot box and
democratic elections, has turned sour as a result of the unwillingness
of the Haitian authorities to address the serious irregularities and
deficiencies arising in the elections' aftermath.''
Haiti's new parliament was seated Aug. 28 despite widespread
international criticism over the way votes were tabulated. An OAS
electoral observer mission said 10 of the 19 senators elected in the
first round should have faced runoffs because they failed to receive the
absolute majority of the votes cast as called for by the electoral law
and the constitution.
The Senate and the lower chamber of the new parliament are dominated by
partisans of Aristide, who is expected to run and be elected for
another five-year term in the Nov. 26 vote. Barring unforeseen
developments, however, all serious opposition candidates will probably
boycott the election. Washington and the rest of the international
community had held out hope until the last minute that Haiti would delay
seating the new parliament until the Senate election impasse was
resolved. ``We did view this [seating the parliament] as them
proceeding unilaterally down the wrong path,'' said a senior Clinton
administration official. ``They have done this frequently . . . moving
from fait accompli to fait accompli. This was the last and
most serious step.'' The Clinton administration, along with most of the
international community, has indicated it does not recognize the new
parliament. The OAS mission report, presented by Secretary-General César
Gaviria, said delegation members were ``extremely concerned about the
current political climate'' in the aftermath of the May 21 elections. It
added that ``it will be difficul to create adequate conditions for
credible and transparent presidential elections'' this year.
In another blow to the Preval government, diplomatic sources said Guy
Pierre, Haiti's acting OAS ambassador, resigned last week in protest
over the policies his government was pursuing.