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This Week in Haiti 18:8 5/10/2000 (fwd)

"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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                           HAITI PROGRES
              "Le journal qui offre une alternative"

                      * THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

                        May 10 - 16, 2000
                          Vol. 18, No. 8


In a report released last week, the Electoral Observation Mission
(EOM) of the Organization of American States (OAS) threw its
weight behind Haiti's embattled Provisional Electoral Council
(CEP), revealing the determination of Washington and the
"international community" to see parliamentary and municipal
elections held on May 21.

In essence, the OAS report just rehashes voter registration
figures provided by the CEP, which claims that 3,959,571 voters
have registered out of a potential electorate of 4,245,384, or
93.27 percent.

The OAS deemed the CEP's figures to be reliable principally
because "during the last two days of registration, the BIs
[registration stations] were open, but few people requested voter
cards." This was practically the OAS's only first-hand
observation in the report. Furthermore, the OAS does not specify
how many of the 3500 BIs scattered around Haiti it visited during
the last two days of voter registration -- and for how long --
with its force of only about 80 observers.

The rest of the report's findings were almost entirely drawn from
the self-evaluations of election officials.

The OAS report contradicts that of an independent human rights
delegation headed by Global Exchange and the Quixote Center which
pointed to widespread estimates that "up to 25% of the eligible
voters have been prevented or deterred from registering." The
independent delegation questioned the CEP's claim of near
universal registration by noting that "this claim is not
consistent with what we heard again and again from religious,
civic, labor, and peasant leaders" (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 18,
Nº. 7, 5/3/00).

In some places, the arbitrary nature of the CEP's figures was
underscored by the OAS itself. For example, the estimate of the
voting population at 4.245 million was based on questionable
projections from a questionable census done 18 years ago. "The
Mission was unable to obtain the exact methodology for this
calculation," the OAS report states.

In fact, earlier this year a Canadian election consultant
publicly criticized the CEP's electorate estimates as much too
low (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 17, Nº. 49 2/23/00).

In another case, the OAS dutifully reports that 91.77% of the
Artibonite's electorate (580,975 voters out of 633,065 eligible)
were registered and then notes that "the Secretary and the
Vice-President of the BED [Departmental Electoral Office]
continue to insist to the EOM that 50% of the population were not
able to register." Nonetheless, the OAS seem to favor the BED
President who "maintains that all those who wished to register
were able to do so" and its purported observation of "little
activity in BIs in the final days of registration."

The former president of the 1995 CEP revealed just how deep
foreign involvement has become in Haitian elections in a long
analysis published in the Mar. 8 edition of the weekly Haïti en
Marche. Entitled "Elections, foreign meddling, and national
sovereignty in Haiti," Anselme Rémy explained the tremendous
foreign pressures, manipulation, and intimidation he resisted
from the "so-called international community under the orders of
the US" which has not "abandoned its plans to control the
electoral process" in Haiti. In just one of many examples,
"USAID [US Agency for International Development] was the
executive body which controlled all the funds turned over to the
United Nations by the US for the elections," Remy explained. In
the 1995 election, the US provided about $8 million of the $11
million polling tab.

The 1995 election was also the first where "the CEP learned that
IFES [the International Foundation for Electoral Systems] would
be the body in charge of and responsible for acquiring and
handling the candidates' records, the formation of the BEDs and
BECs [Communal Electoral Offices] and other formations, and of
the counting and calculation of the election results."

Today USAID is again using IFES to oversee Haiti's elections. But
this week the Haitian government expelled the IFES director,
Micheline Bégin, after the Canadian accused Haitian President
René Préval and some CEP advisors of being too close to former
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his party the Lavalas Family
in a report she sent to her headquarters in Washington. "We
consider it an intolerable affront," said Prime Minister Jacques-
Edouard Alexis.

But IFES is just one of the many foreign tentacles poking around
Haiti, including a host of so-called "non-governmental
organizations" (which almost all work with funding and on behalf
of governments),  the United Nations (UN), and of course the OAS.
At this time, the OAS is playing a bigger role since the UN
mission to Haiti is in financial distress.

"The OAS is just a mouthpiece for the Clinton administration,"
said Ben Dupuy, secretary general of the National Popular Party
(PPN), which has abstained from participating in the current
elections due to the blatant foreign meddling. "Clinton wants the
elections to happen under any conditions while the Republicans
want to make a mess. That's why we think the 'laboratory' has
stepped up the level of violence and terror since the killing of
Jean Dominique. We may be witnessing a repeat of the Harlan
County incident."

He is referring to the events of Oct. 1993, when the CIA
undermined official US policy by conspiring with the death-squad
FRAPH to create a climate of terror to prevent the first
scheduled return of exiled president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The
campaign culminated in a theatrical and violent demonstration on
the Port-au-Prince wharf which forced Clinton to recall the USS
Harlan County, which was supposed to off-load US and Canadian

Today, the Clinton administration wants to push through
elections, compromised by its own tampering, but may see its
plans thwarted by right-wing destabilization.

Another looming problem for May 21 is fraud, which many Haitians
feel could contribute greatly to an "electoral coup d'état." The
OAS tried to downplay this danger, but could not ignore it. "At
the CEP's own admission, some voters have registered more than
once, which would inflate the percentage of those registered
vis-a-vis the estimated voting population," the OAS report said.
Nonetheless the OAS, without any explanation, concludes that such
fraud "does not appear" to be "planned on a nationwide scale" and
"double registration does not, therefore, appear to be a major

But for parties like the PPN, such anomalies cannot be papered
over. "The only way the CEP could really know how many people are
registered is to centralize and computerize all the lists of
registered voters which are now being maintained separately at
each registration station," Dupuy said. "There is nothing now
which prevents a voter from having ten electoral cards."

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