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7172: Haiti's Carnival is outlet for turbulent politics (fwd)

From: Sicla@aol.com

Haiti's Carnival is outlet for turbulent politics

By Trenton Daniel

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Feb 27 (Reuters) - After a year of chaotic politics that 
brought populist hero Jean-Bertrand Aristide back to the presidency, Haitians 
let loose this week as the music, revelry and political satire of the 
Caribbean nation's annual Carnival claimed the streets. 

"Carnival is what I live for every year," said Jean Paul, 22, a student, 
wearing a yellow pro-Aristide shirt and bouncing to the rhythms. "It is now 
when I can finally let it all out." 

While the pre-Lenten carnival is noted for debauchery, it also is seen as a 
way for musical bands to give a satirical twist to the past year's political 

"It kind of catalyzes everything that at the present time is in the Haitian 
minds -- what they're thinking about -- and you often see a lot of political 
satire," Jorgen Leth, Denmark's honorary consul to Haiti and a 20-year 
observer of the country, said in the southern city of Jacmel. 

"So if the people are frustrated or angry, they get it out in the Carnival, 
with the help of the beloved groups," Leth added. 

This year, politics in the impoverished nation of 7.8 million people has 
provided rich fodder for the satirists. Many have aimed their pent-up 
frustration at Haiti's political opposition, which formed a "parallel 
government" on Aristide's inauguration day, Feb. 7. 

The 15-party opposition coalition Democratic Convergence has charged that 
last year's legislative and presidential elections were skewed to favor of 
Aristide and his ruling party Lavalas Family. International observers said 
that 10 senate seats won by Lavalas in elections last May should have headed 
to a runoff because no candidate won an absolute majority. 

Despite pressure at home and abroad, authorities refused to recalculate the 
disputed vote tallies. Opposition parties and international allies boycotted 
the November presidential election that returned Aristide to the presidency. 


Synthesizer-heavy bands ride high on parade floats in the streets. While 
groups such as Sweet Micky and T-Vice are popular for ridiculing each other 
and their mothers, others such as Koudjay, Tokay, and Boukman Eksperyans tout 
a political agenda, mocking Convergence with anti-opposition lyrics and a 
pro-Aristide slant. 

Lavalas-friendly Koudjay has a catchy song that compares the political arena 
to a soccer match: Aristide has three goals, the opposition zero. 

Tokay sings about how Haiti's people should not be intimidated by U.S. 
President George W. Bush, whose presence in Washington brings painful 
memories for Aristide loyalists. The former Roman Catholic priest was ousted 
in a 1991 military coup during his first term while Bush's father served as 
U.S. president. 

Carnival also can mean violence in the streets. At least 40 people received 
minor injuries and one was seriously wounded the first night of the 
celebration, Radio Metropole reported. Knife fights are common. Armed police 
in trucks maintain a heavy presence in public. 

Official festivities come to an end on Tuesday. 


One band that decided not to perform this year is the voodoo-inspired RAM, 
led by Richard Morse, a Haitian-American who runs the Oloffson, a 
gingerbread-trimmed Port-au-Prince hotel made famous in Graham Greene's "The 

Morse, a Lavalas supporter until 1996, objects to what he calls government 
mismanagement and disrespect for musicians during Carnival. He also holds 
that the government sought out Aristide-friendly bands to perform. 

The bands "are so pro-government, it sounds like a commercial," said Morse, 
whose band also boycotted Carnival in 1994 because of the military rulers at 
the time. "I wouldn't be surprised if the government didn't write the lyrics 
for them." 

After writing a song to be considered for Carnival, bands pay a fee to the 
mayor's office in Port-au-Prince, where a committee decides which bands will 
perform that year. 

"The country stops for four days to have one big party," said Leth, while 
looking over the dancing crowd below his bandstand. "That's beautiful, 

12:29 02-27-01