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#3413: Long-delayed Haitian elections threatened anew (fwd)

From: Rosann Clements <rosann@onemain.com>

Published Monday, May 1, 2000, in the Miami Herald
Long-delayed Haitian elections threatened anew
Violence casts pall on voting set for May 21
The elections are seen as critical to resolving a standoff that has left a
partially functioning government.
Escalating violence and ongoing technical and logistical problems once again
threaten Haiti's long-delayed parliamentary elections, seen as the first
step toward pulling the troubled Caribbean country back from the brink of
First-round voting -- already postponed three times -- for about 10,000
local and legislative positions is now set for May 21, with a parliamentary
runoff June 25.
The elections are seen as critical to resolving a three-year-old political
standoff that has left only a partially functioning government and only nine
elected officials nationwide -- President Rene Preval and eight senators.
There has been no Parliament since Preval terminated its term in January
1999. But as the vote draws closer, growing concern is being expressed both
in Haiti and internationally about political-related violence, underlined by
the April 3 assassination of Jean Dominique, Haiti's best-known radio
commentator, and the disturbances that followed his April 8 funeral.
``If, in the coming days, popular organizations continue to promote
violence, to destroy the cars of honest citizens, if fires continue to
destroy property . . . the elections will not take place,'' Leon Manus,
chairman of Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council, said last week at a
meeting with political party representatives.
The so-called popular organizations blamed for much of the street violence
have been linked to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, although he has
denied any responsibility.
The Preval government and Haiti's fledgling police force are coming under
fire for not acting more aggressively to halt the violence.
``We reiterate that the responsibility for ending this violence and bringing
the perpetrators to justice rests with President Preval and the Haitian
government,'' said a joint statement by six liberal U.S.-based human rights
groups, including the National Coalition for Haiti Rights, the Washington
Office on Latin America, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, Human
Rights Watch, the Center for International Policy, and the International
Human Rights Law Group.
The April 25 statement also said the groups were ``disturbed that Mr.
Aristide personally has not used the considerable moral force and political
goodwill that he still enjoys in Haiti to condemn the violence.''
Aristide reportedly promised a delegation from private-sector organizations
that met with him April 20 that he would make such a statement, but so far
it has not been made.
An Organization of American States electoral observer mission, already in
the country, also chided the government for not acting more forcefully,
noting ``once again that the State has primary responsibility to assure
conditions of security to permit the functioning of its institutions.''
There is widespread speculation among opposition groups and other analysts
that Aristide and Preval would prefer to see the parliamentary elections
delayed and combined with presidential elections later this year.
That would give Aristide, still Haiti's most popular politician and a
presumed presidential candidate, a better chance of winning a parliamentary
majority. And it would enable Preval to govern without a Parliament for most
of the remaining nine months of his term.
Both foreign and Haitian analysts are now putting the chance of elections
being held as scheduled May 21 and June 25 at little better than even, given
the growing violence, the continued disorganization of the electoral
machinery and the perceived reluctance of Preval and Aristide to hold them.
At the same time, there are signs of both disintegration and politicization
in the new Haitian National Police, which replaced the army dissolved by
Aristide after he was returned to the presidency in 1994 by a U.S.-led
The latest blow came last week with the resignation of Luc Eucher Joseph,
the police inspector general who was credited with weeding out some of the
force's worst elements.
He was the second ranking police-security official to resign in recent
months. In October, Bob Manuel, secretary of state for security in the
Ministry of Justice, resigned under pressure from Aristide and his Lavalas
Family political party.
That leaves only Pierre Denize, the police director general, in place, and
he, too, came under fire from Aristide and his supporters at the time of
Manuel's resignation.
The statement by the six human rights groups noted that ``the Haitian
National Police is in growing disarray, with ongoing serious human rights
abuses and its integrity challenged by political interference and
drugs-related corruption.''
The erosion of the police also comes as a new United Nations Mission -- with
judicial, human rights and police advisory components -- that was to begin
operation March 15 is being held up by lack of promised U.S. funding.
Clinton administration officials say they now expect that $3 million will be
transferred to the United Nations sometime this week to help jump-start the
Special correspondent Stewart Stogel contributed to this report from the
United Nations.