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5924: Aristide's Return: Bad News Perhaps for Him and Haiti (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

November 24, 2000
 Aristide's Return: Bad News Perhaps for Him and Haiti

MIAMI, Nov. 23 ? In what opponents call a tragic power grab
and supporters a resounding affirmation of the will of Haiti's
impoverished masses, former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is
virtually assured of returning to power in elections to be held on
Sunday.That Mr. Aristide is resurgent is the only point of agreement
between impassioned supporters and detractors of this former
Roman Catholic priest, who became Haiti's first democratically
elected president in 1990 and was overthrown in a coup a year later.
Still angered over legislative elections last May in which a disputed
vote-counting method gave Mr. Aristide's Lavalas Party almost total
control in the Senate, all major opposition parties are boycotting this
weekend's presidential contest. Also absent will be international
observers and any American financing, since the government of Mr.
Aristide's handpicked successor, René Préval, failed to reach any
agreement on reconsidering the results of the May election. Foreign
diplomats are suspicious of the political and legal obstacles raised in
a process that is clouding the return to power long sought by Mr.
Aristide. Even this week, diplomats said there were indications that
Lavalas loyalists were sounding out the opposition about postponing the
elections so they could field candidates and make Mr. Aristide's
return appear more legitimate. But no official announcement has
been made. "Everything logical calls for them to delay the elections,"
said a senior American diplomat. "But I think Aristide and the
government wants so bad to get it over with and he knows it's not going
to be judged as credible no matter what he does. I tend to believe he is
going to say, Let's just do it."
The question on most people's minds ? to the extent that Haiti is on
anybody's mind in the outside world ? is what happens after the
elections. The hopes expressed and the millions of dollars pledged
by donor nations and financial institutions after 20,000 American
soldiers crushed the coup and restored Mr. Aristide to office in 1994
have long been replaced by weariness over the sometimes violent
partisan battles.Indeed, the only recent heartening development has come
from Haiti's wobbly justice system. In the first case of its kind,
soldiers were found guilty this month of massacring several residents of
Raboteau during the coup. Even more astounding was the fact that
the court also ruled against the coup's intellectual authors and
leaders, including Raoul Cédras and Roger Biamby, who have been
 living in exile and who now might be subject to extradition.
However, also this month, Léopold Berlanger, the director of the
New Haiti Foundation and the person in charge of Haiti's domestic
election observers, was told by a judge that he was linked to the
death of Jean Dominique, a popular radio commentator and ally of
Mr. Préval.The accusation, which came from a Lavalas loyalist, said Mr
Berlanger, as well as Léon Manus, the former head of the electoral     
council, who fled Haiti after May's elections, were part of a cabal  
plotting an "electoral coup." Diplomats have repudiated the accusation
as part of a campaign of intimidation fostered by Lavalas. But diplomats
and others have also faulted both sides for not having been more
accommodating in discussions brokered by the Organization of American
States to break the impasse. They have criticized the government for
allowing the same electoral commission that presided over the May vote
to conduct this weekend's election. And many people have been alarmed in
recent weeks as drive-by shootings, robberies and violence have
increased, much as they did before May's elections.