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This Week in Haiti 17:51 3/8/00 (fwd)

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                           HAITI PROGRES
              "Le journal qui offre une alternative"

                      * THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

                        March 8 - 14, 2000
                          Vol. 17, No. 51


Two weeks ago, Haïti Progrès carried the headline “March 19:
Elections impossible” based on the analysis made by the National
Popular Party (PPN) in a Feb. 21 press conference. Last week,
other groups such as the Mouvman Konbit Nèg Lakay in the town of
Léogane and the peasant organization KOZEPEP from the Artibonite
Valley also issued assessments deeming it impossible to hold
nationwide parliamentary and municipal elections scheduled for
that date.

The calls come after weeks of protest by thousands across Haiti
who have been unable to procure a photo identification electoral
card, due to shortages of supplies and of voter registration
stations (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 17, No. 49, 2/23/00). In a
futile attempt to keep the schedule for Mar. 19, which was
already a postponement from last November, the Provisional
Electoral Council (CEP) extended the registration period from the
end of February until Mar. 3. But on that date, the CEP had to
finally cede to reality and formally announce – after a week of
coy allusions – that the elections would be postponed. Elections
are now set for Apr. 9 with run-offs for May 21. The registration
period has been extended until Mar. 15.

The CEP claims that over 3 million people have already been
registered. But many organizations doubt that assertion. “The CEP
is making an ideological coup d’état by giving a lie every day,”
said Duclos Bénissoit, spokesman for the powerful public
transportation drivers union. He said that the figures being
given by the CEP did not square with the quantity of materials
given to the registration offices.

This appraisal seems justified by the CEP itself, which blamed
the shortages of electoral materials on the widespread
disappearance of supplies. “There has been so much theft, so much
diversion of registration materials, that it has brought the
registration process to a halt,” said CEP spokesman Carlo
Dupiton. For instance, in the Artibonite alone, materials for
registering 91,600 voters have been stolen, he said.

But the PPN and other groups feel the shortage of electoral
materials and registration stations was a deliberate move to
affect an “electoral coup d’état” by limiting the electorate and
thereby the electoral prospects of the Lavalas Family, the party
of ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who is generally
acknowledged to be Haiti’s most popular politician. The
registration materials are produced by the Canadian firm, Code
Inc, which was contracted unilaterally by the U.S. State
Department’s Agency for International Development (USAID) via the
USAID-spawned semi-official International Foundation for
Electoral Systems (IFES).

Capturing the Haitian parliament is key to the strategy of right-
wing Haitian parties, discreetly supported by Washington, to
contain Aristide, who is expected to easily win presidential
elections set for November. Therefore, rightists are anxious to
hold the parliamentary contest long before the presidential one
so that Aristide does not act for other FL candidates as “an
aircraft carrier”, in the words of Gérard Pierre-Charles of the
Organization of People in Struggle (OPL), a bitter FL opponent.

“We have to, on the one hand, avoid one general election at  the
end of the year,” Micha Gaillard, the Port-au-Prince mayoral
candidate of the center-right Espace de Concertation alliance,
told Reuters. “At the same time, though we may not like it,  we
must allow another two or three weeks at the most, so that
everyone is comfortable with these elections.”

The Patriotic Movement to Save the Country (MPSN), a far-right
neo-Duvalierist alliance, was not as copacetic about the election
postponement. They along with the OPL have called for President
René Préval’s immediate resignation. “If the elections are being
postponed, Préval has to close the [Presidential] Palace and
leave the key under the door for us ” declared the MPSN’s Reynold
Georges, “and the CEP has to go too.” These resignations, called
the “zero option,” have been proposed by the MPSN for months.

While such rants are to be expected, a more insidious positioning
was taking place among the “international community,” which has
been intruding in Haiti’s sovereign elections since the

“I have a wish to formulate,” said French ambassador Yves Godel
on Mar. 1. “It is that the elections take place on the scheduled
dates; that is Mar. 19 and Apr. 30 for the run-offs. I know that
there are some small difficulties, but I think that should not
prevent the elections from being held on the scheduled dates. I
do not think a postponement would be desirable.” Of course,
ambassadors are completely out-of-line to comment on the internal
political affairs of their host countries.

Next it was the turn of the Canadian ambassador, Gilles Bernier,
to inappropriately opine after the CEP’s decision. “The delay
should not be too long because that could cause  the country a
lot of problems,” Bernier said, according to Reuters.

But the most alarming intrusion came from the U.N. Security
Council, whose authority to meddle in Haitian internal affairs (a
UN Charter violation justified by an exceptional 1993 appeal from
then exiled President Aristide for help to “restore democracy”)
technically ends on Mar. 15, with the expiration of the mandate
of the MIPONUH (UN Civilian Police Mission in Haiti). Therefore
it was curious to see this month’s council president, Ambassador
Anwarul Chowdhury of Bangladesh, issue a statement on Mar. 3
saying: “It is the view of the Security Council that prompt, free
and fair legislative and local elections are essential for the
restoration of the national parliament.” The Security Council
went on to warn Haitian electoral authorities on the importance
of “remaining close to the electoral calendar.” On Mar. 6, UN
Secretary General Kofi Annan echoed the demand for “prompt, free
and fair legislative and local elections for the restoration of
Haiti's Parliament and for strengthening Haiti's democracy,”
according to his spokesman.

Who is to determine what is “prompt” and “close to the electoral
calendar”? Foreign diplomats, the U.N. Security Council, and Kofi
Annan? What if the elections now set for Apr. 9 derail and have
to be pushed back again? What if the CEP chooses to hold one
general election next November, as groups like the PPN have
proposed? Does the U.N. Security Council imagine that it has any
say in such a decision? Is it looking for an excuse to, in UN-
speak,  “remain seized of the matter” of Haiti?

These are the questions raised by the Security Council’s last
minute warnings. In the case of Haiti, as in so many other world
theaters, the Security Council is merely a tool in the hands of
Washington. Clearly, if the situation in Haiti takes a turn the
US government does not like, it will first resort to the world’s
highest executive body to justify its meddling.

There remain 219 UN police men in Haiti as of Feb. 21, according
to Annan’s final report on the MIPONUH to the Security Council on
Feb. 25. The report envisages that the MIPONUH assets in Haiti
will not be “liquidated” until June 30. Meanwhile, UN “police
advisors”, without arms or uniforms, are slated to be deployed
this month in Haiti as part of the new mission called MICAH
(International Civilian Support Mission in Haiti), which is a
creature of the recently resuscitated Economic and Social Council
(ECOSOC) and is supposedly under the General Assembly’s aegis.
Nonetheless, the U.S. government, working through the Security
Council, is trying to fashion ways to use ECOSOC and MICAH to its

Also this week, the first of 80 UN “election observers” arrived
in Haiti, essentially swapping places in towns around Haiti with
the out-going “human rights observers” known as the MICIVIH
(International Civilian Mission in Haiti).

In short, the UN has so many “civilian” missions in Haiti, all
basically to camouflage the ultimately military intentions of the
United States government should events in Haiti not go the way it
has planned.

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