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5982: Haitians Cast Votes Amid Bombings (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

Sunday November 26 3:25 PM ET
Haitians Cast Votes Amid Bombings 
By MICHELLE FAUL, Associated Press Writer 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Fear, apathy, violence and an opposition
boycott marred Haiti's presidential election Sunday in a vote expected
to restore former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who opponents charge
will install a new dictatorship. Defying widespread cynicism and
suspicions about his intentions, Aristide, a former priest, urged      
Haitians to head to the polls.``After 200 years of political and
economic violence, we have decided to choose peace,'' Aristide said in  
a radio message. ``Too much misery, too much insecurity, too much
bloodshed. Enough is enough.'' Despite such words, violence continued: a
homemade bomb exploded in a market in the densely populated suburb of
Carrefour shortly after polls opened, slightly injuring one man. Another
went off near an electoral office outside Port-au-Prince, but did not
cause injuries. Nine pipe bombs exploded in the capital last week,
killing two children. Aristide blamed the bombs on opponents, who he
said were trying to ``block the elections.'' Opposition leaders say the
pro-Aristide government of President Rene Preval staged the attacks to
justify an expected low voter turnout. There was barely a trickle of
voters, in dramatic contrast to the ecstatic wave of support that first
swept Aristide to power 11 years ago. Only three people voted in an hour
at a polling station in Tabarre, where Aristide lives reclusively behind
high white walls, protected by heavily armed Americans who describe   
themselves as his bodyguards.Since the 1989 vote, Haitians have become
increasingly disenchanted with their floundering democracy, an
experiment that produced an endlessly squabbling tangle of political
parties and left many as poor and  hungry as ever. ``Whether you vote or
not, it doesn't make any difference,'' said Sauveur Jean-Baptiste, a
70-year-old plumber. ``The people we are voting for are nothing but fat
cats.''The pro- and anti-Aristide forces disagreed completely on the
turnout. Herve Denis, part of an  opposition coalition that urged a
boycott, declared that even in rural areas spared election violence,
``the vast majority is avoiding the polls.'' Pro-Aristide activist Rene
Civile claimed on local television that 70  percent had voted by midday.
 In no surprise, voters favored Aristide over six unknown rivals. Dozens
interviewed across the country said they voted for Aristide - although
there was little passion about a choice that seemed inevitable. A     
few said they believed Aristide's promise of ``Peace in the mind, peace
in the belly.''``I'm happy because I'm voting for my president,'' said
Jesumene Duvelglas, an unemployed mother of three in the seaside slum of
Cite Soleil. ``We're going to have a better life. The cost of living is
going to  get lower. We will have security.'Polls were to close at 6
p.m. and the earliest partial results were expected Monday.
 Aristide, Haiti's first freely elected president, was toppled in a 1991
military coup and restored to power  after a U.S.-led invasion in 1994.
Because the constitution does not allow consecutive terms in office, he 
stepped down reluctantly in 1996, making way for Haiti's first
democratic handover of power in its  200-year history.Ever since, the
opposition has accused Aristide and his hand-picked successor, Preval,
of plotting his eventual return. All major opposition parties boycotted
Sunday's vote, charging that legislative elections six months ago
were rigged to favor Aristide's candidates and that Haiti is sliding
back into dictatorship. Aristide's opponents in the race, fearful of
attacks, have not campaigned.`This is not an election: it's a
consecration - one that will bring Haiti an illegitimate president who
will set up an illegitimate government,'' charged Chavannes
Jean-Baptiste, a peasant leader and former Aristide ally who went into
hiding after an alleged assassination attempt this month. He called the
vote``practically the death of democracy.'Nine senators also were to be
elected Sunday, and Aristide's Lavalas Family party was expected to 
make a clean sweep. In May, Lavalas won 17 of 18 Senate seats and 80
percent of the House of Assembly.The international community including
the United States questioned the count of votes that gave 10 Senate
seats to Aristide candidates, but Haitian officials refused to hold
runoffs despite threats they might cut aid.In response, they refused to
send observers and the only international monitors were a 25-member
team     from Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based human rights group,
and a four-member mission from the Caribbean Community trade bloc.
  At one polling station, the South African Polytechnic Center, people
voted in the shade of a tree, behind cardboard partitions set on school
desks. There was no privacy; voters cast their ballots within view of