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#1899: Agent of Washington Takes Control of Election Observers (fwd)

From: LMB <lauretteb@yahoo.com>

Please read the following piece from Haiti Progres.



Haïti Progrès 
12 au 18 Janvier  2000
Agent of Washington Takes Control of Election Observers 

The name of Léopold Berlanger is practically synonomous 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
"coodinator 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 "indépendent,"
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 "coucil" 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

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 "adminstrator 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

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 electoral observation which has to be done" he
said. "We don't understand what interests certain groups have which makes
them get so worked up about controlling the observation process." 

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 CEP. 

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. One KOREGA leader said that his party may withdraw
from the elections. 

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 beyond. 

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