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5909: Popular Hero Aristide Set for Return in Haiti (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

Thursday November 23 11:34 AM ET
Popular Hero Aristide Set for Return in Haiti  By Trenton Daniel

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) - After a campaign boycotted by
opposition parties and virtually free of actual campaigning, Haitians
will go to the polls on Sunday for an election certain to restore      
populist hero Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the presidency.The former
firebrand Roman Catholic priest who swept from Haiti's teeming slums on
a wave of  grass-roots support to capture the presidency in 1990 -- only
to be ousted in a bloody coup and then restored by a U.S.-led invasion
-- has no serious opposition in an election shadowed by allegations of a
tainted parliamentary vote last May.
Once considered crucial to Haiti's shaky efforts to establish a stable
democracy after decades of dictatorship and military rule, the election
has taken on elements of farce. The United States, Canada and the
European Union (news - web sites) have refused to send observers.     
The streets of the capital are devoid of election posters, save
Aristide's. Legitimate opposition parties have condemned the vote as
nonsense, leaving Aristide to run against a group of unknowns.
``There will be no election because all the candidates refuse to
participate,'' said Reynold Georges, a member of Convergence
Democratique, an opposition alliance that is boycotting the election.
``There's no competition. It's a farce. There will be no legitimacy to
this election.''But the election, political analysts say, holds one
promise -- to return to power the man who is overwhelmingly the most
popular politician in a troubled Caribbean nation of nearly 8 million
people,the poorest in the Americas.Ten years ago, Aristide, now 47, won
the presidency with about 67 percent of the popular vote. This     
year, a landslide victory is a foregone conclusion. Aristide supporters
argue that the opposition parties  were happy for the chance to opt out
of an election they had no chance of winning.

 Luxurious Home

 Aristide seldom leaves his luxurious home on the outskirts of the
capital and has not made any public appearances during the campaign.
 Analysts say he will hold enormous power after the vote. His Lavalas
Family party won the disputed May election overwhelmingly and controls
both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies in parliament and most local
offices. ``I think that he will have total control,'' said Anthony
Bryan, a political scientist at the University of Miami's North-South
Center. ``Lavalas Family will have control of the municipalities, the
legislature. He's going to fill three or four vacancies in the Supreme
Court with his supporters. The chief of police will depart sometime
in    February. He will appoint a police chief,'' Bryan said. But his
standing around the world, analysts said, will be stained by allegations
that Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council, the body that oversees
elections, miscalculated results in 10 Senate races in the May vote,
handing outright victories to Lavalas Family candidates who should have
been forced into runoff elections.The allegations, leveled by the United
States, the Organization of American States and other international
elections observers, fortified the belief, within and outside Haiti,
that Aristide was pulling strings behind the scenes in a bid to sew up
power before his certain presidential win.``People are going to vote and
Aristide is quote-unquote 'going to win,''' said a business leader who
asked not to be named because of a political climate he called
unfavorable to criticism of the government. ``An election without
competition can't be called an election.' First Freely Elected President
 During the latter days of the 30-year reign of ``president- for-life''
Francois ``Papa Doc'' Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude ''Baby Doc'' --
Aristide was a fiery orator who exhorted Haiti's poor from his pulpit  
in the slums of Port-au-Prince.When a popular uprising sent Jean-Claude
Duvalier into exile in 1986, Aristide -- affectionately known as
``Titid'' to his followers -- emerged as Haiti's favorite leader. In
1991 he took office as its first freely elected president.But he quickly
ran afoul of the dreaded military and was ousted in a bloody coup just
seven months after taking office. His three-year exile ended in
September 1994 when the United States led 20,000 troops into Haiti,
removed the military junta and restored Aristide. Limited by the
constitution to one term, he handed power to his protege and elected
successor, Rene Preval, in 1996.During his abbreviated first term,
Aristide's major accomplishment was to disband the army, the hated    
security arm of the Duvalier dictatorship, and the creation of a
civilian police force, Haiti's first. But his socialist leanings curried
little favor in an increasingly capitalist world and his perceived
reluctance to  shove Haiti toward a market economy chilled relations
with the United States.  His expected return to the presidency sees
Haiti little changed from a decade ago -- savaged by the  worst poverty
in the hemisphere, with per capita annual income of about $400, and
wracked by drug trafficking.
It has been rattled by street violence in recent weeks. Explosives
killed a teen-age boy and injured several other people in the capital on
Wednesday and a young girl on Thursday. Three of the seven presidential
candidates withdrew because of the violence.The State Department has
warned Americans not to visit Haiti and urged relatives of government
officials to leave because of the escalating violence.