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5992: This Week in Haiti 18:36 11/22/00 (fwd)

"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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                           HAITI PROGRES
              "Le journal qui offre une alternative"

                      * THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

                      November 22 - 28, 2000
                          Vol. 18, No. 36


Despite violence and political machinations aimed at derailing
them, presidential and senatorial elections scheduled for Nov. 26
now seem a sure thing. The Haitian government and the Provisional
Electoral Council (CEP) have resolved to forge ahead with the
contest in defiance of a political boycott from the so-called
Democratic Convergence, a tiny herd of tiny opposition parties,
and a financial boycott from the usual European and North
American election funding donors.

"The Haitian people are going to come to a decision on Nov. 26
about whom it wants to lead the country and at the same time to
choose nine new senators," said Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard
Alexis. "I think that this will happen no matter what."

Former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide faces only three little-
known challengers in the presidential race, since three other
candidates pulled out at the last minute. The CEP says, however,
that ballots will have the name of all seven original
presidential aspirants.

Aristide's Lavalas Family party (FL) is also heavily favored in
the elections for one-third of the Senate's seats. The FL swept
all but one of the other Senate seats in May 21 elections.

However, violence looms. On Nov. 10, small bombs and grenades
exploded at three electoral offices in the capital as well as the
CEP headquarters. Ben Dupuy, the co-director of Haïti Progrès and
secretary general of the National Popular Party (PPN), an FL
ally, received a written death threat on Nov. 6 suggesting that
he would share "the fate of Jean Dominique," the celebrated radio
journalist gunned down on Apr. 3. "Soon your name will be added
to the list of victims," the death threat read.

Meanwhile, on Nov. 3, gunmen in a car machine-gunned a crowd near
the old military airport, killing seven and wounding many more.
Similar drive-by gunfire, largely victimless, from plateless
pickup trucks has happened almost daily around Port-au-Prince
over the past week. In general, the "insecurity," as Haitians
call the crimes carried out by shadowy armed bands, has worsened

"The forces of darkness, the Macoutes, as well as their allies in
the opposition, clearly want to wreak havoc, since they have said
so publicly and otherwise," said Dupuy in a recent radio
interview. "We think that the people should have the opportunity
to have their say. [The opposition politicians] don't believe
that the people should decide political matters. For them, the
people are there only to make noise while they go behind their
curtains to make deals the way they have always made them." Dupuy
also urged Haitian authorities to take serious measures to
counter the threats of terrorist attacks over the next few days
and especially on election day.

The U.S. State Department is clearly expecting the worse and has
advised the evacuation of  U.S. government personnel's families
from Haiti. In a Nov. 17 advisory, the State Department "warns
U.S. citizens against travel to Haiti due to the unstable
security situation throughout the country" with particular
emphasis that "American citizens are warned to avoid political
gatherings and demonstrations."  The alarmist advisory also
complains that "the dialogue of some candidates and government
officials has been distinctly anti-American, and the Haitian
government has failed to contain or condemn certain violent and
dangerous incidents. Such incidences have included anti-foreigner
rhetoric, politically motivated killings, indiscriminate gunfire
directed at pedestrians in Port-au-Prince, and incidents directed
at diplomatic facilities and vehicles."

Meanwhile, election preparations are in their final phase.
Although most voters will use their electoral cards from last
May's contest, the registration of those who have since achieved
voting age and of those who have lost their electoral cards has
ended at the 1595 electoral offices established in the country's
11 electoral departments.

Mild support for the elections came from an unexpected quarter of
the international community last week. The Vatican's ambassador
to Haiti, Monseignor Luigi Bonazzi, declared that the elections
represent an important step towards the resolution of the
country's political crisis: "I cannot give an opinion on the
positions taken by political parties about participating in the
elections," Bonazzi said. "But it seems that there is a desire
[on the government's part] to try to arouse the interest of all
the citizens to take part in the upcoming contest."

Although U.S. and European officials have claimed they will not
bestow the honor of their electoral observations on Haiti, non-
governmental election observers said they would. The
International Coalition of Independent Observers (ICIO), which
includes organizations like Global Exchange and the Quixote
Center, arrives this week from the U.S., Canada, and certain
European countries. The ICIO criticized certain foreign sectors
for denigrating Haiti's elections while hypocritically ignoring
the shameful frauds which have come to light in the Nov. 7 U.S.

The ICIO's position sits well with most Haitians. "We have seen
what happened in the United States and it proves that they are
experts in making electoral coup d'états," Dupuy said. "The U.S.
electoral crisis clearly shows that they have no moral authority
to give lessons to anybody."

Meanwhile, a new organization called the National Unit for
Electoral Observation (UNACO) says it is ready to deploy four to
five thousand observers around the country to observe the
elections. UNACO's coordinator Jean Alix says that his group has
no political affiliation and that its activities are financed by
citizens and the private sector.

Despite his immense popularity and not having any real
challenger, candidate Aristide has not rested on his laurels. His
party militants have been energetically campaigning around the
country through meetings, banners, posters, graffiti, media
spots, and marches, mostly impromptu. Last weekend, a small plane
buzzed the northern city of Cap Haïtien, dropping thousands of
small red and blue flyers with Aristide's photo urging voters to
choose #11, the FL's electoral number on the ballot.

The opposition continues to say that there cannot be elections in
the "present conjuncture." It hopes that voters will stay home
due to the insecurity and threats of violence. In a suspicious
move, the Committee of Haitian Workers (COH), an obscure union,
has called for a strike on Nov. 25 and 26, the eve of the
election, to protest the hike in gas prices two months ago, at
which time the union said nothing.

Despite Mgr. Bonazzi's measured words, the Catholic hierarchy
clearly favors the opposition. A bishop of Port-au-Prince, Mgr
Serge Miot, who has been discreet until now, said that the
elections would not provide enough political stability to resolve
Haiti's economic woes. "One cannot talk of elections if the
opposition is not participating," he said.

Meanwhile Foreign Minister Fritz Longchamp denied rumors that
there are ongoing secret negotiations between the FL, the
government, and the opposition under the aegis of the
Organization of American States.

In short, most Haitians have grown tired of being held hostage by
a tiny circle of politicians, most of them associated in one way
or another with the three year coup d'état. Lacking any popular
credibility or legitimacy, the opposition, with the support of
right-wing sectors in Washington, continues to throw incendiary
rhetoric while armed death-squads throw incendiary devices in an
attempt to destabilize the country and prevent the Nov. 26
elections. But such threats, intrigues, and acts of violence are
meeting the fierce determination of the Haitian people to
continue their democratic march and hold this weekend's election.

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