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20511: This Week in Haiti 22:1 03/17/2004 (fwd)

"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
newsweekly. For the complete edition with other news in French
and Creole, please contact the paper at (tel) 718-434-8100,
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                           HAITI PROGRES
              "Le journal qui offre une alternative"

                      * THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

                        March 17 - 23, 2004
                         Vol. 22, No. 1

by Ira Kurzban

The second coup against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is now
in its third week. U.S. Marines have killed six Haitians and
suffered one casualty, a soldier wounded in the arm on Mar. 14.
Thousands in Haiti and throughout its diaspora have demonstrated
against the foreign military occupation of the country and for
the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

On Mar. 14, a delegation including U.S. Congresswoman Maxine
Waters (D-CA), TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson, CARICOM
emissary Sharon Hey-Webster and Haitian government lawyer Ira
Kurzban flew in a chartered Gulfstream jet to Bangui, Central
African Republic to pick up President Aristide and his wife
Mildred and to take them to Jamaica for a 10-week visit.

De facto Haitian Prime Minister Gérard Latortue called  Jamaican
Prime Minister P.J. Patterson's hosting of Aristide an
"unfriendly act" against Haiti and withdrew the Haitian
ambassador, who he had already fired anyway. Congresswoman Waters
called Latortue's response "meaningless." U.S. Secretary of State
Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, and
Ambassador to Haiti James Foley all condemned Aristide's presence
in Jamaica. Foley ominously warned that Jamaica was taking a
"great risk and responsibility" by inviting him. Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared that Aristide should "not come
back into the hemisphere and complicate [the] situation."

Meanwhile, Latortue's Interior Minister designate former Gen.
Hérard Abraham has been seen in Pétionville embracing and meeting
with "rebel" leader Guy Philippe, whom even U.S. officials have
characterized as a "thug," despite their transparent support of

The following is a synopsis of how the latest "regime change" in
Haiti was carried out. Although written by Ira Kurzban as mere
notes to serve as background for journalists, it offers a concise
yet comprehensive review of the mechanics of the coup.

The May 2000 Election

      In May, 2000, under the administration of President René
Préval,  an election was held in Haiti for 7,500 different
offices. There were approximately 30,000 candidates running for
these offices which included all local, state-equivalent, and
national elections except several seats in the Haitian Senate and
the Presidential election. Under Haitian law, the only entity
empowered to organize and set the date for an election was the
Provisional Electoral Council (CEP). President Préval picked a
CEP by seeking the best nine people he could find who had
technical experience and knowledge that would be necessary to run
a fair election. No member of the CEP was a member of Jean-
Bertrand Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas party.

During the months leading up to the election, the United States
government, through the International Republican Institute (IRI),
spent millions of dollars to create an opposition against
Aristide's party. The result of their work was first to establish
the Espace de Concertation and then the Democratic Convergence, a
group of disparate parties cobbled together by the IRI in an
effort to create an opposition to Lavalas. In the weeks leading
up to the election, the U.S. Embassy warned of great violence and
there were sporadic instances of bombings.

On May 21, 2000 the Haitian people spoke clearly and
unequivocally. Over 60% of the registered voters (which
encompassed 92% of those who were eligible to vote) carried out a
peaceful, fair and fully democratic election. The OAS described
the election in the following terms: "The day was a great success
for the Haitian population which turned out in large and orderly
numbers to choose both their local and national governments and
for the Haitian National Police Election Day proceedings on May
21 represented the high point of the electoral process. An
estimated 60 percent of registered voters went to the polls. Very
few incidents of violence were reported." (Final Report of OAS
Mission CP/doc. 3383/00 13 Dec. 2000 at p. 2)

The report noted some irregularities in the tallying of votes and
the failure to count others but concluded that "since one
political party [Fanmi Lavalas] won most of the elections by a
substantial margin, it is unlikely that the majority of the final
outcomes in local elections have been affected." (Id  at p. 3)

Notwithstanding the above results, the May 21, 2000 election has
consistently been described as "flawed" or "fraudulent" in the
press and by U.S. and OAS officials. The "flaw" in the election
was the methodology used to determine whether eight Senate races
should have gone into runoff elections. Seven of those races were
won by Fanmi Lavalas candidates, the other by a member of a minor
party. Even if these seats had been discounted entirely or given
to opposition parties Fanmi Lavalas still retained a majority in
the Senate.

Nevertheless, the U.S. and the opposition continued to claim that
the election was fraudulent and that Fanmi Lavalas "stole" the
election. They also used it as a pretext to boycott the November
2000 election for the Presidency of the country. However, the
real reason for the boycott was that no candidate had the
slightest possibility of defeating Jean Bertrand Aristide. The
United States-commissioned Gallup Poll confirmed it. Results of a
USAID poll of 1002 Haitians conducted nationwide by CID-Gallup in
October, 2000, clearly refute suggestions that Haitians were
reluctant to vote in the November national elections or were
deeply divided about their political preferences. Almost everyone
(92.8%) knew about the upcoming presidential elections and the
vast majority said they were very likely (55.9%) or somewhat
likely (22.7%) to vote and nearly 65% believed there were no
major obstacles to the successful holding of national elections.
Over 68% of voters felt the May 21st legislative elections had
been honest and fair and 61% expressed at least some satisfaction
with the results.

The poll also demonstrated that Jean-Bertrand Aristide was the
most trusted national leader in Haiti according to over 50% of
respondents. No member of the opposition came anywhere near that
figure. Evans Paul/Espace de Concertation was most trusted by
only 3.8% of respondents. Leslie Manigat/RDNP polls only 3% in
this category, Gerard Pierre Charles/OPL only 2.1% and all other
opposition figures, including Marc Bazin, Hubert Deronceray, and
Victor Benoit each received less than 1%. In the survey Fanmi
Lavalas is the preferred party by a factor of 13 to one and far
outpolled the opposition across categories of age, gender,
economic situation and education. President Aristide's support
was not limited to the impoverished, disadvantaged "masses" as
many in the media typically assert; he received a favorable
rating from 83% of respondents with some university education.
Aristide's Election

In November 2000, the national election was held for President.
The opposition "boycotted" the election over the alleged "fraud"
in the May 2000 election. No serious observer of Haitian politics
believed that any candidate could beat Aristide, and the polls
clearly bore that out. Because the OAS refused to monitor the
election due to the claimed methodological dispute over the 8
senate seats, it did not send observers to the election. However,
international groups that did observe the election stated that
over 60% of registered voters went to the polls and the President
won by 92% of the vote. The CEP confirmed that over 62% of
registered voters cast their ballots in the election. However, a
small group of journalists and "unnamed officials" from various
embassies including the U.S. embassy, observing only several
polling places in Port-au-Prince, concluded that  10% or perhaps
20% of the voters actually voted in the election. These
fabricated numbers were later used by the opposition to undermine
the legitimacy of Aristide's election. In fact, on February 7,
2001, the day the President took office, the opposition appointed
its own "President" claiming his election was "fraudulent."
However, no international organization has ever challenged the
legitimacy of President Aristide's second election.

The Eight Senate Seats

Within several weeks of President Aristide's Feb. 7, 2001
inauguration, he convinced the seven senators who were part of
his political party and whose seats were contested to resign. The
eighth senator was from another party and refused to resign. He
thereafter issued a letter to the OAS asking the OAS to move
forward on a new election. The President was never taken up on
his offer. Instead the opposition, with the assistance of the
U.S., continued to say that it was Aristide who had not done
enough to resolve the crisis. The President also obtained the
consent of parliamentarians to cut their terms in half so that an
election could be held for all seats in the legislature. The
opposition ultimately rejected this offer as well.

The Embargo

Using the eight Senate seats as an excuse, the U.S. began a
fierce economic embargo against the Haitian government. It shut
off all aid to the Haitian government and used considerable
institutional pressure to prevent the Inter-American Development
Bank (IDB) and the World Bank from giving money to the Haitian
government. France did the same and prevailed on the European
Union to withhold funds. The effects of the economic embargo are
well known. It prevented $150 million dollars in loans that were
approved by the Haitian Parliament and the IDB from being
disbursed. It deprived Haiti, for example, of the ability to
establish a potable water project in a country that has less
potable water than any other nation in the world. The effort to
make the economy "scream" as in Chile or simply fall apart as in
Nicaragua was devastating in Haiti, and it was designed to drive
a wedge between Aristide and his supporters. The incredible human
suffering was largely ignored. The claim that the money was not
given to Haiti because of the "flaws" in the 2000 election seemed
quite insincere when compared to the institutional willingness to
loan money to Duvalier, the military generals after Duvalier, and
the coup leaders   all of whom received hundreds of millions of
dollars in aid to their "governments" by the U.S. and the
international financial institutions. It also seemed odd in light
of the fact that there was no longer any controversy over the
"flawed" elections because seven senators had resigned.

The Police

Although press stories consistently portrayed the Haitian police
as weak and ineffective due to Aristide's desire not to have any
strong institutions, the situation on the ground in Haiti was
quite different. The police were eviscerated by the international
financial embargo, an international arms embargo, and the
decision to withdraw the U.S. sponsored police training program
from the Department of State.

In addition to the financial embargo stated above, the United
States placed an arms embargo against Haiti. The government of
Haiti was unable to purchase both lethal and non-lethal weapons
and equipment. The Haitian National Police could not even
purchase such items as bullet-proof vests or gas masks to protect
themselves. As it had done with the international financial
embargo, the U.S. used its considerable influence to pressure
other countries from selling Haiti equipment and weapons. In
addition, in 1998 the U.S. had stopped its training program for
the Haitian police among allegations by one of the former
directors of ICITAP (the US training program run out of the
Department of State) that U.S. intelligence agencies were
infiltrating and undermining the State Department's training
                                          (To be continued)

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