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5348: Rumors of a Coup; Antoine comments (fwd)

From: Guy Antoine <GuyAntoine@windowsonhaiti.com>

The discourse on this list has been somewhat discouraging to me
in recent times.  But yesterday, I read two analyses from Damiel
Simidor and Joel Dreyfuss which call for responses not in
opposition per se, but to add nuances of thought to further the
national dialogue.  Allow me to use some quotes from Simidor's
note as a platform for formulating my own sentiments on the issues
that he has raised.  I do so with respect given to every person of
good faith.

> Yes it's true that the US government will keep making trouble
> for Aristide so long as he retains any connection with the people.

Ain't that a shame?  What should Haitians do to reverse that
historical trend?

> But it's also true that a very broad spectrum of people and
> interests found valid reasons to condemn the way the elections
> were conducted.

And a lot of invalid reasons as well.  Somehow the unbridled
ambition of a group of opportunistic politicians, clamoring for
option zero at every turn, has cast a pall on the legitimate
grievances that arose from the conduct of those elections.

> Haitian rejection of the elections goes in fact well beyond
> the method used for tabulating the votes.

It's too bad that this rejection has not been adequately formulated,
in a spirit of strenghtening our institutions, rather than undermining

> The screwy tabulations were just the icing on the cake, the one
> irrefutable element that the Lavalas spin doctors couldn't turn
> against their critics.

Screwy, they absolutely were.  We have to make sure that this
situation never repeats itself.  Minority votes should never again
be rejected in such an arbitrary fashion.

But what is the true story behind this debacle?

Leon Manus's flipflops certainly do not help.  We have heard of
"private" conversations between Préval, Manus, and Aristide,
which lead one to wonder just where those leaks came from.
What is the meaning of "private" at the Palace, anyway?  Was
the presidential line bugged?   Did the OAS unduly interfere
in the internal affairs of the Haitian State?  Were they invited
to do so?  Were they aware of how the votes were going to be
counted beforehand, and if so why did we not hear of their
protest at that time?  Did Leon Manus fly the coop out of
paranoia or were his life and his family's threatened? All those
questions have been raised before, but the problem is that we
have only heard answers from people who were not really in a
position to know.

SO MANY amongst us like to AFFIRM, but never CONFIRM.

But to come back to the issue at hand, the tabulations were
indeed screwy and they did favor Fanmi Lavalas, but to what
extent?  It would appear to a logical mind that a number of
people who got elected in the first round would have had to
go to a second round otherwise, but that they were indeed
the leading vote-getters.  Would this have been anything more
than a formality, a procedural matter that should be respected
to be sure?  When one reads the Haitian political situation and
the mood of the Haitian electorate, is it reasonable to assume
that the population would have turned its back on those leading
vote-getters of Fanmi Lavalas?

>From an objective standpoint, it would seem far more likely
that they would have won by even greater percentages. If so,
why did not the party choose to send its victorious candidates
back to a second round?  But this may be expecting too much
from a political party, anywhere.  The CEP was predetermined
to be the sole arbiter in resolving these electoral issues.  Like
the Supreme Court of the United States in legal matters.  Like
Alan Grennspan and co. in U.S. monetary policy.  So the real
question should be how to strenghten the CEP, how to place
it above the pressures of the politicians and "chimeres" alike,
how its members should be selected to induce a lawful,
nonpartisanship state of mind, and the total dedication of each
one of its members to the wellbeing of the Nation, and not a
rigid allegiance to any political party.

> But people on this list will recall the pre-election violence which
> kept everybody but the Lavalas candidates from seriously
> campaigning.

I do remember the pre-election violence and vigorously denounced
it in previous notes to the list.  However what I refuse to do is to
"automatically" assign the planning and execution of those violent
acts to Fanmi Lavalas.  I remember well the time that w-h-e-n-e-v-e-r
some bad news came out of the country, some of my acquaintances
would invariably respond without further analysis: " C I A ! ! "  To
this day, I don't know if they were right or not, but that ultimate
predisposition to accuse the CIA on an automatic basis, and absolving
Haitians from the possibility of conceiving a perverse political act
or human rights violation on their own has always baffled me. Before
jumping to a (perhaps rightful) conlusion, shouldn't we dig and come
up with some incontrovertible evidence?  The last few years, we
have witnessed the same situation with respect to Jean-Bertrand
Aristide.  Somebody's mother dies of natural causes, hey "it's
because of Aristide".  I don't get it.  I just do not get it.

The absolute dreadful thing in Haitian society is that no criminal
investigation ever seems to run its course.  We hear theories,
insinuations, accusations, usually with no real evidence to back
them up, and then it's an imperfect but nonetheless oppressive
silence that follows.  It all fades back to our tradition of impunity.

been the victims of social crime or political violence (and it's
sometimes not easy to distinguish between the two) in the past
ten years alone!  Their memory unfortunately recedes with the
passage of time (though there is at least one group in New York
who is committed to not let us forget), but the trauma and
resulting impact on the Haitian psyche is inescapable. Impunity
leads to paralysis, fear and mistrust, to a severe loss of
confidence as a people.  It makes Haitians swear never to
invest in this "hell hole of a country" again.  Which political party
could ever benefit from such a situation?  Are we that myopic?
Until the Haitian people and their governments decide to place
Justice at the forefront of their priorities, there is indeed little to
hope for.  Respect for individuals' life and property is fundamental
in re/building a society, and conversely our police and judicial
institutions have to perform a thousand times better than they
ever did, if we are to see a renewal of hope and investment in
Haiti again.

> The opposition also gave public and ample evidence of vote
> tampering before, during and after the actual voting.

Without even attempting to deny such evidence, was the show
of evidence ample or anecdotal?  How and where has it been
documented? On what scale?  Was it on a scale to seriously
put into question whether the results reflected the preferences
of the voting population? Those are questions that need to be
asked, and they are not an attempt to circumvent the issue of
fraud.  We need not be concerned only with whether there was
fraud, but we need to have a clear idea of just HOW MUCH
fraud there was.  We need some quantification, not just
superlatives and hyperheated rethoric, the sort of which we
have been bombarded with.  Just what were the conclusions
of the electoral observation groups?  What other evidence can
be submitted for verification?  Please, let's not rush to conclusions
of electoral theft, without first coolly analyzing the available facts.

It appears to me, and tell me if I am wrong, that once three years
were "stolen" from the mandate that the Haitian people had given
to Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the implacable will of the people has
been to reinstate those three years, and add two for just measure:
"Nou pèdi twa zan, n ap tire senk an nan bounda kokorat yo!"
It is a simple logic, that we should all be free to agree or disagree
with as individuals.  Furthermore, every healthy political system
needs to accommodate a viable opposition, if only to keep the
governing party honest.  But the opposition needs to be enlightened,
hard working, patient about its own successes, and must present
a reasonable alternative to the people, by appealing to the people's
interests.  Do you think that this is what happened in Haiti?  Once
again, it appears to me that the Haitian people are in no mood
to see another coup d'état, real or virtual, they know WHO they
want, they know just for how long, they are dead tired of having
their future decided for them in Washington or in intellectual circles.
That's the political reality today. Are they wrong in their determination
to have JBA and Fanmi Lavalas represent them?  Time will tell, BUT
aren't they entitled to make their own mistakes, if this were such?

We could decide that Bush or Gore is the wrong person to assume
the office of President of the United States.  But are we entitled to
do anything more than our civic duty and vote our conscience?
If the Haitian or Cuban governments, for instance, did not like the
selection of a particular American candidate, would they be entitled
to form terroristic groups to attempt and influence the natural course
of American politics?  Why in the world do we speak about of
democracy, and constantly refuse to accept its implications, one
of which is simply that every people should be entitled to make its
own choice, whether you consider it to be the right choice or the
wrong choice!

> Republicans and Democrats, I agree, are two faces of the same
> coins when it comes to policy matters like structural adjustment
> and privatizing the state's assets.  But Haiti has also become a
> pawn in the power game between the two US ruling parties...

I agree with Simidor's reading of this situation.

> (Jesse Helms has zero tolerance for "uppity niggers")

Well, uppity niggers is what Haitians are all about.  It's a long wait,
but in the end we will outlive and survive.  In the meantime, we just
need to become smarter in the affirmation of our sovereignty.  We
should not continue undoing our own best initiatives, continue to
engage in senseless fratricidal fights, and then pointing to the
international community and say "There's the bogeyman!"  It's similar
to leaving your doors wide open, and then calling "Thief!" afterwards.
It's similar to not managing the Haitian-Dominican migration problems
anywhere close to adequacy, and then shouting "Racist bastards!"
afterwards.  It's similar to inviting USAID to fund and manage your
national institutions, and then screaming "Interference!" afterwards.
It's similar to not doing your homework, and then decrying the severity
of the professor afterwards.  Well, members of the governing and
opposition parties, it's exactly what it's all about: doing your homework
and assuming your responsibilities!  There will be no free lunch... Let's
present a united front for a change, and understand the flow of time:
not every party can be the winner at any moment in time, but we could
all be winners if we choose to be.

Guy S. Antoine
Windows on Haiti