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6858: Re: 6831: Re: "Aristide, Again"; an Open Letter to the Progressive (fwd)

From: Cynthia Tschampl <ctschampl@hotmail.com>

In his "Open letter to the Progressive"(6831, Jan.29), Daniel Simidor 
performs a much greater disservice than merely choosing "to look only at the 
?half-full glass'" extended by Aristide.  I do agree 100% that the 
appearance and the reality of what is going on in Haiti, especially if one 
stays only in Port-au-Prince, can be stunningly different.  My trip to Haiti 
this past December as part of a post-election fact-finding mission opened my 
eyes to just how different.  Please note that this trip was "off-season", it 
included no Tabarre meetings, Francilus Saint Leger was not a part of the 
trip, I am not a journalist and I was self-financed.

Perhaps the most stunning difference to me is this obsession with the 
elections and the demonizing surrounding them.  When actually on the ground 
in Haiti, interacting with Haitians, the overwhelming sense was that the two 
elections were completed, if not perfectly, at least satisfactorily, and can 
we please get on with discussing issues?  The week before I left Michelle 
Montas, widow of Jean Dominique, proclaimed as much, yet I remained dubious 
due to the coverage of the mainstream press.  While in Haiti, her statement 
was confirmed time and again.

But since it seems to be "the crux of the matter" to so many, I will share 
some other little-publicized facts I found out during my trip.  Despite 
claims from many sources of "low voter turn out", the only substantiated 
claim to me was that the streets were empty and "crowds of voters" were not 
apparent.  First, Charles Sufrard, National Coordinator of KOZEPEP explained 
that in the May 21st election where crowds were very obvious) each voter had 
to fill out six or seven ballots, thus extending the time they had to wait 
in line.  Compare this with the two ballots of the November 26th election.  
Second, Pierre Esperance, Director of NCHR Haiti said that the streets are 
always empty during elections, especially due to the fact that up until now 
driving was not allowed during election days.  Third, in an interview with 
members from three different youth groups in Gwo Mon, I found that they made 
a deliberate and rational decision to go to the voting bureaus one-by-one or 
in very small groups.  This differs from the crowds that gathered in May.  
Finally, Melinda Miles, Co-coordinator of the ICIO explained that the voting 
pattern shifted from heavy in the morning and very slow in the afternoon 
(May) to very slow in the morning and a steady trickle for the remainder of 
the day.

Now, add this to the fact that the only groups to _actually observe_ the 
election _and_ give a defined percentage of voters report numbers that 
confirm and support the official results of 60% voter-turn out.  Not only 
can you not call it a "referendum", it says that Aristide has a legitimate 
and strong mandate.  Even the OAS said that by October, it was the 
Convergence that refused to budge in the negotiations despite numerous 
concessions offered by Fami Lavalas.

I am also disappointed that Simidor knit-picked Orenstein's use of the 
"whole of international community."  Not only is it a common error, it is 
not much of one.  When you consider that one can not name just two 
governmental or international bodies; Asian, European, African, American, 
Australian or other; that sent observers to the November elections, 
Orenstein's wording is not far off the mark.

The final point I make is also the most critical.  It truly pains me to see 
well-intentioned people like Simidor so willing to defy the beauty of hope 
out of seeming disdain for one individual.  To say that "Haiti has been 
marked for failure" is to deny that the FANM SOLID women's collective raised 
their own money and labor to provide clean water for their community.  That 
statement negates the 70% tree survival rate of the Fon-imbo reforestation 
project.  It says to the people of Gwo Mon, "the wall you have built to keep 
the river banks intact was an exercise in futility."  It denies that the 
FONKOZE Foundation is closer than ever, despite terrible tragedy, to 
obtaining it's commercial licence.  It proclaims doom for the NCHR 
Monitoring Network.  It ignores the victory of the Raboteau Massacre Trial.  
It scoffs at twelve-year-old Riva who ran a summer art class for her fellow 
school mates.  It not only calls the glass half-empty, it smashes the glass 
against the rocks because it didn't hold enough to assuage thirst anyway.

Cindy Tschampl
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