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#746: Tense Electoral Climate
From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>
Haiti-Correspondence series 2/ No. 34/ October 11 1999
Haitian news from
a popular and democratic perspective
The Tense Electoral Climate
Recent activity in Haiti has poisoned the country's electoral climate.
The resignation of Robert Manuel as State Secretary for Public Security
on October 7 serves as an example of such activity. Manuel left after
Rene Preval demanded his resignation during a heated discussion.
Officials did not release any statement about Manuel's subsequent
departure from Haiti on October 9, a development that all of
Port-au-Prince knew about.
Robert Manuel was appointed head of the State Secretariat of Public
Security in 1996.
According to one source close to Robert Manuel, Manuel had been out of
the loop in Port-au-Prince for about three months. Other sources pointed
out that Manuel's forced resignation had something to do with Preval's
recent visit to the United States.
Preval, accepting an invitation to the United States from John Conyers,
had had meetings with President Clinton and Minister of Justice Janet
Reno about the electoral process and drug situation in Haiti. Members of
the opposition saw Preval's visit to Washington as a "summons" rather
than an "invitation". Preval spoke of his "useful exchange" with the
number one American.
Robert Manuel had the responsibility for a controversial file and
understood the rising insecurity in Haiti as a challenge for the current
government. Assassinations have multiplied across the country, including
acts of banditry, the settling of scores between drug traffickers and
politically motivated crimes.
Security is also an important element for the realization of the
upcoming elections, scheduled by the CEP for March 19 and April 30,
2000. In the electoral calendar published on October 6, the CEP expects
electoral campaigns to being on January 10, 2000.
Robert Manuel had assured the coalition of the five opposition parties,
"Espace de Concertation", that he would uphold the electoral rules
during the next election. "This guarantee does not exist anymore," Micha
Gaillard, leader of the National Congress of Democratic Activity
(CONACOM) recently told the press.
Robert Manuel accompanied Rene Preval during every stage of negotiations
with l'Espace de Concertation, which helped prevent a political crisis
last March. Manuel, in the name of the executive, signed an agreement
that provided for the formation of the government and the CEP.
Sauveur Pierre Etienne of the Organization of People in Struggle (OPL)
predicted that the forced resignation of Robert Manuel would give those
in power more control over the electoral process.
Yvon-Neptune, spokesperson for Fanmi Lavalas, controlled by the
ex-president Aristide, did not want to "interpret" the departure of
Robert Manuel. He did point out, however, that those in power felt it
was necessary to take measures "to establish a sense of security in the
About six months ago, a campaign was started that attacked the
management of the police, namely Robert Manuel and the director general
of the police, Pierre Denize. Graffiti appeared on walls in
Port-au-Prince and pamphlets were distributed throughout the city,
demanding the resignation of certain police and security officials.
These officials had, coincidentally, received the support of the
It was in this context that Lesly Faro, director of information at Radio
Timoun, founded by former president Aristide, and member of the press
service of the Presidency, was arrested and then released for possession
of pamphlets that were hostile toward the former secretary of state and
general director of the police.
Many popular organizations close to Fanmi Lavalas had placed barricades
in the streets of the capital. One of these groups "Jeunesse Pouvoir
Populaire" (JPP) celebrated upon receiving news of Manuel's resignation.
JPP called upon Preval to choose a "bureaucrat" to take the place of
The day following Manuel's resignation, the former colonel Jean Lamy, a
consultant for the National Police and a man close to Fanmi Lavalas and
the government, was assassinated on a busy street in Centre-Ville. He
died in the hospital thirty minutes later after having been shot many
times in the head. Jean Lamy was being considered as a possible
replacement for Robert Manuel.
Preval, his wife and his advisors gathered around the victim's bedside
and compiled a list of over a dozen people who had been killed by
gunshot wounds in one week. A police inspector was among the victims.
Recently, Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis acknowledged that the
insecurity was becoming "a serious problem". According to Alexis, the
government would do well to lessen the sense of insecurity throughout
The resignation of Robert Manuel occurred a few days after the launching
of operation Columbus, an effort against drug and arms trafficking that
includes the Haitian police, Dominican agents, Colombians and Americans.
The West, North, South, South-East, and Artibonite Departments have
received visits from agents of the bureau against drug trafficking.
Over a dozen people have been arrested under the scope of this
operation. Hundreds of kilos of cocaine, thousands of American dollars,
and cars were seized. The most spectacular seizure occurred in Frere,
near Petion-Ville, where agents seized 275 kilos of cocaine, 41 thousand
American dollars and five vehicles. Three people were arrested.