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#1863: This Week in Haiti 17:43 1/12/2000 (fwd)

From: Kim Ives <kives@gateway.net>

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

                      * THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

                        January 12-18, 2000
                          Vol. 17, No. 43


The name of Léopold Berlanger is practically synonymous with the
"American Plan" for Haiti. Since the fall of the Duvalier
dictatorship in 1986, he has been one of Washington's principal
pawns in its efforts to control Haiti's political direction and
maneuver the country down the path of neoliberal reform.

Thus it was more than disconcerting this week to see Berlanger
become the "coordinator general" of the National Council of
Electoral Observation (CNOE), an amalgam of 43 groups and
committees all having the self-appointed mission of "observing"
the upcoming elections.

Berlanger is the president of one of those committees - the
National Civic Network (RCN) - and has been instrumental in
engineering, over the past few months, the assemblage of all the
groups under the CNOE umbrella. In essence, he has placed himself
in the enviable position of having the final word on the
"validity" of upcoming elections... with the crucial advantage of
being a "national" who cannot be accused of meddling in a
sovereign election as foreign observers can.

But if ever Haiti had an "agent of a foreign government" (as they
are called in Washington), Berlanger is it. In 1986, he emerged
on the political scene in Haiti as the head of the Haiti
International Institute for Research and Development (IHRED).
This organization was spawned by the National Endowment for
Democracy (NED), Washington's quasi-official foundation for
promoting the U.S. government's agenda in the Third World in a
more "legal" fashion than its cousin agency, the CIA. IHRED's
launching was "enthusiastically endorsed by the U.S. Embassy,"
according to a NED report from that time, with the mission of
"helping independent democratic institutions to take root and
flourish in the country."

Toward this end, from Oct. 24-26 1986, the IHRED held a
conference on the "electoral process" which resulted in the
creation of the "National Independent Council for the
Organization and Supervision of Elections" (see "Le 'projet
démocratie pour Haïti: un scénario conçu, monté et réalisé par
les Etats-Unis,"Haïti Progrès, Vol. 4, No. 49, Mar. 11-17, 1987).
In fact there was nothing either "national" about the council --
since it was overseen by a delegation from the National
Democratic Institute (NDI), the Democratic Party arm of the NED -
nor "independent," since its members were named by the neo-
Duvalierist National Council of Government (CNG) of Generals
Henri Namphy and Williams Régala.

Today, 13 years later, we see that Berlanger and the NED have set
up a new version of their 1986 "council" for electoral control.
It even contains many of the same faces. For example, at
Berlanger's side in the RCN and CNOE is one man who was
instrumental in launching IHRED: Rosny Desroches, the Education
Minister of both Jean-Claude Duvalier and the CNG.

Berlanger is also director of Radio Vision 2000, a station
financed by the U.S. State Department's Agency for International
Development (USAID) and founded by members of the putschist
bourgeoisie during the 1991-1994 coup. The station's anti-
Aristide bias is a secret to no-one, and it is the only radio in
Haiti with national coverage, thanks to its broadcasting via
satellites. It also broadcasts over the Internet.

The nine-member Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) has
officially welcomed the Jan. 6 formation of the CNOE, but clearly
there is some uneasiness. CEP spokesman Macajoux Médard said the
body was "very satisfied" with the CNOE's emergence but hinted at
some wrangling by adding that "we will continue to work on a
common accord so that we can make election observation possible."
On Jan. 5, Radio Haiti reported that the CEP's "administrator of
electoral operations Carlo Dupiton had recently noted with some
reserve the sudden proliferation of organizations and networks
interested in electoral observation; he then expressed his fear
that these organizations could be used by certain political
parties to control the electoral apparatus."

Meanwhile, Berlanger "deplored" the CEP's moves to dilute his
power when "the council addressed letters of invitation to
persons on an individual basis to become part of the National
Council for Electoral Observation while only persons of the
institutions are qualified... to be part of the council."

Following his "election" to be CNOE head by 26 out of the 43
groups in the council, Berlanger declared that he would "furnish
a leadership in the electoral question, as we in the RCN have
accumulated... a certain experience on the ground on this
question" and asserted that he would "work to have free, honest
and democratic elections in the country without force so that we
can finish with bogus elections (eleksyon malatchong)."

But an "eleksyon malatchong" is just what some people seem to
feel is coming, among them Jean Hancense, the director of the
human rights group, Commission Justice et Paix. He expressed his
anxiety about the political agenda of certain election observers,
whose ranks his organization plans to join. "One thing that
scares us is when we see all the maneuvering in the country to
control the very necessary observation of the elections" he said.
"We don't understand what interests certain groups have which
makes them get so worked up about controlling the observation

Meanwhile, the election road continues to grow rockier. Not all
the parties agreed to sign on Jan. 4 a 20-point "Code of Ethics,"
a sort of gentlemen's agreement for civil political conduct.
Among the fifteen parties that did sign were the Lavalas Family
(FL) of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the RNDP of
former military-puppet Leslie Manigat, the URN, founded by the
late Macoute leader Roger Lafontant, and the neo-Duvalierist
coalition the MPSN. Among those that refused to sign were the
center-right coalition, Espace de Concertation, and former ruling
party the Organization of People in Struggle (OPL). The
rejectionists are angling for more control of the appointment of
election supervisors, among other things.

Furthermore, the date for voter registration was postponed two
weeks until Jan. 24, a move which some parties seized upon to
again launch all sorts of accusations against the goodwill of the

Electoral violence and passions are still raging in the western
Grand'Anse department over the disqualification of a candidate of
the progressive party KOREGA by a local Electoral Bureau, made up
exclusively of Espace de Concertation members. Maxime Roumer, a
KOREGA leader, said that his party may withdraw from the

Meanwhile, the CEP announced that over 7,000 candidates for posts
ranging from local representatives (ASECs) to deputies and
senators were registered for the elections, even though all the
names have not been released. Finance Minister Fred Joseph also
said that the government has already disbursed 100 million
gourdes ($5.88 million US) out of a total of 200 million gourdes
earmarked for the elections.

Amidst all this turmoil, the strategic move of Berlanger on
behalf of U.S. imperialism and the Haitian bourgeoisie has almost
been overshadowed. But it is one of the most significant
developments last week and is an important chess move in the
effort to bring about an "electoral coup d'état" on March 19 and

All articles copyrighted Haiti Progres, Inc. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED.
Please credit Haiti Progres.