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#3718: This Week in Haiti 18:9 5/17/2000 (fwd)
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
May 17 - 23, 2000
Vol. 18, No. 9
ELECTIONS, AND VIOLENCE, NOW SEEM CERTAIN FOR SUNDAY
This time it looks like they are going to happen. Parliamentary
and municipal elections postponed from December to March to April
and finally to May 21 seem to be on track, even though there may
be a train-wreck.
Most of the opposition parties, which had threatened a boycott,
have grudgingly announced that they will take part.
But political violence has spiked in recent days, threatening
everything. Last week, three men believed to be members of the
Espace de Concertation (Space of Concord), a center-right
opposition front, were gunned down in the Central Plateau town of
Savanette. On May 12 in Port-au-Prince, three men shot to death
Branord Sanon, a campaign director of the Lavalas-tinged Louvri
Baryè (Open the Gate) party. The same day, a 29-year-old
businessman, Guerline Léveillé, died at the General Hospital
after being shot, also in downtown Port-au-Prince. The next day,
the residents of the capital's Martissant neighborhood discovered
the bodies of two brothers and their brother-in-law near St.
Police spokesman Jean Dady Siméon denied, in the face of
resurgent violence, that his superiors had abandoned their
campaign to deploy cops at strategic intersections at night to
stop and search suspicious vehicles for illegal arms."'Operation
Buckle Up Port-au-Prince' is still in effect, although of course
with some modifications," Siméon said. "We have had to take
different approaches, which cannot remain static, since the
bandits have developed their own strategies of how to get around
the police. We have had some very positive results, which we will
make known very soon."
Justice Minister Camille Leblanc also announced a new policy of
"zero tolerance," saying that even political big-shots had better
be careful. "There are no untouchables in the country now,"
Leblanc said. "In this period of elections, whatever your
affiliation or your friends, you are in trouble if you make
trouble. We will not tolerate or accept any disturbance of the
Some popular organizations have questioned whether this get-tough
policy is also get-illegal after Leblanc forbade all street
demonstrations except those connected with a candidate's
campaign. Such a prohibition, which has not been tested by
demonstrators nor seconded by Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard
Alexis, would be a flagrant violation of Article 31 of the 1987
For his part, Alexis said, obliquely, that the cops would provide
more security by increasing "intelligence" and "mobility" or,
more comically, "mobilizing the Boy Scouts to support the efforts
of the police."
Many Haitians feel that their nation's political violence is
being fomented by the "laboratory," as they call the unholy
alliance of the CIA, Pentagon, and former Haitian soldiers and
Tonton Macoutes. Some credence was given to this notion this week
when police arrested eight former soldiers on May 11 at a house
in Pétionville, according to the Info-Haiti website.
The police also seized military uniforms and caps as well as
"several pieces of photographic equipment... at Technique Studio
Photo on Delmas 101, a rendez-vous place for the making of
identity cards with the heading of the Haitian Armed Forces," the
agency reported. The Haitian Army was disbanded by then President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1995.
The police are now looking to arrest the man who signed the
cards, a certain Serge Justafort, who just happens to be the
coordinator of the security corps which guards the U.S.
diplomatic installations in Haiti.
Furthermore, the police are also looking for Lynn Garrison, the
Canadian pilot who was the principal foreign advisor to Gen.
Raoul Cédras during the 1991-1994 coup d'état in Haiti. Info-
Haiti cites a police source saying that Garrison has been roving
around different regions of Haiti in recent days carrying out
"activities which are likely to be considered as being
destabilizing to the Haitian democratic order."
Right-wing death-squads linked to the Haitian Army were
responsible for the massacre of dozens of would-be voters during
the aborted elections of Nov. 29, 1987. The vivid memory of those
killings may keep many Haitians away from the polls on Sunday.
That is, if voters can even find the polls. With only days to go,
there is still universal confusion about where polling stations
will be and which ones voters must visit to vote (see below
"Serious Obstacles May Prevent Popular Participation on Election
The Patriotic Movement to Save the Nation (MPSN), a far-right-
wing alliance, said that it will hold off announcing whether or
not it is participating in the elections until 48 hours before
voting begins. Popular organizations say that the right-wing
wants to leave the door open to participate just in case their
destabilization campaign is unsuccessful. "When we hear the MPSN
spokesman ask his candidates to wait for a signal 48 hours before
the election and when his camp has said that it wants foreigners
to come hold the elections, we wonder: have they made some
arrangement for that kind of invasion?" asked the Front of
Organizations of Cadres of Carrefour (FOK) on May 15.
(As we go to press, we learn that MPSN leader Hubert Deronceray
has called on his partisans to participate in Sunday's election.)
Meanwhile, foreign sponsors of the elections have finally shelled
out some dough, but mostly to pay other foreigners. This week
Canada gave $600,000 (Canadian) for Organization of American
States (OAS) and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) election
observers. The OAS observer mission was about to close due to
lack of funds. France also kicked in 2.74 million gourdes (about
US$160,000), and said they might send "supplemental observers."
Election aid is also awaited from Japan.
The principal worry of the OAS mission is the violence. Three
observers from Quebec decided to return home. "I don't say I have
apprehension," said Orlando Marville, the Barbadian head of the
OAS observer mission, "but I do have concern. In the days before
and after the polling, the political actors and the voting
population must be peaceful."
Peace, however, is unlikely, since right-wing forces will
probably be upset if they can't steal the election from the
Lavalas Family (FL), Aristide's party, and Aristide's partisans
are likely to be upset if they do.
The FL is paying particular attention to the National Council of
Observers (CNO), which is headed by Leopold Berlanger, an agent
of the U.S. government's National Endowment for Democracy (NED)
and owner of Vision 2000, a powerful anti-Lavalas radio station
funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
In his final editorial, Jean Dominique, the radio journalist
assassinated Apr. 3, pointed to the tremendous danger posed by
Berlanger, through a secret accord he signed with Provisional
Electoral Council (CEP) president Léon Manus in February.
Already, Berlanger was captured on tape convincing an election
worker to falsify voting results during the 1990 elections,
Dominique said. Now, through the accord, he is empowered to
deputize observers to act as umpires over the election, to review
the CEP's written report of the balloting, and to issue a final
report on the vote, all in violation of the Electoral law.
"Is President Manus, the president of the CEP, qualified to sign
an agreement which contradicts the text and the spirit of the
electoral law?" Dominique asked. "Did President Manus sign this
very important text to give Mr. Leopold Berlanger the possibility
of altering the results of the vote?"
Despite such questions, the CEP delivered 7205 observer
accreditation cards, out of the 8900 requested, to the CNO, which
will give them to organizations of its choosing. "The electoral
law gives the CNO the right to give electoral observer cards to
organizations of the civil society which want to be observers,"
blithely asserted Carline Simone of the CNO, in flagrant
contradiction of Dominique's revelations. "The only observer card
which is valid is the one with the CNO seal and so anybody who
wants to be an observer must come to the CNO to ask for his
electoral observer card."
But the Haitian people are aware of the CNO's game. "We note with
sadness that a number of distrusted politicians have plotted with
the international community to form a CNO-CIA which has
undertaken a number of maneuvers to give the people an electoral
coup d'état," said Morantus Mitello, the FL's mayoral candidate
for the town of Fond Verrettes.
In his final editorial, Jean Dominique spoke of "the legitimate
suspicion that there is a threat to the [electoral] process with
the successive unpleasant revelations of the role of IFES
[International Foundation for Electoral Systems] inside of the
CEP and financed and directly manipulated by USAID. So, these
legitimate suspicions about the CEP are getting larger by that
unbelievable accord with the CNO."
In short, the May 21 elections are already marred by violence,
trickery, and foreign meddling. It will be no surprise if
participation is less than overwhelming.
SERIOUS OBSTACLES MAY PREVENT
POPULAR PARTICIPATION ON ELECTION DAY
by Haiti 123
MAR. 16 (Haiti123) - Five days before elections, the Provisional
Electoral Council (CEP) has still not fully published the
locations of the purported 11,064 polling stations (BVs) where
Haiti's four million voters are expected to cast their ballots
As of May 16th, 700 of those sites were not even designated
despite the requirement in the 1999 Electoral Law (Chapter 10,
Article 125) which requires the CEP to publicize the list of all
polling stations one week prior to the day of elections.
Serious irregularities during the registration period prevented
countless people to register in their own neigborhoods. The OAS,
in their May 2000 Report on the Registration Process, stated that
"an undetermined number of voters registered in places other than
their residences. It is not clear whether or not these voters
know that they must vote where they register which could cause
confusion on Election Day..."
Anticipating chaos on election day the OAS went on to say that:
"The Mission believes it would be appropriate for the CEP to
address this issue through public announcements leading up to the
election." However, an informal survey held today of popular
radio stations in the capital revealed that no public service
announcements were being aired explaining how to determine where
The quick response that voters should go to the sites where they
registered (BIs) is not enough. Many of the registration offices
were not converted into polling stations (BVs). Furthermore,
there will be almost four times as many BVs as BIs.
When on Sunday, May 21st, a voter finds that her BI is not a BV,
where does she go to cast her vote? And if she is directed to
another site, after how long a wait and how far will she have to
walk? (In the past Haiti has suspended all but emergency and
official vehicles from circulating on the day of elections. No
announcements on this issue has yet been made.)
Several obstacles to an effective electoral process including the
claim by many that they had no access to the registration
process, poorly trained election workers (who were trained at the
last minute because of labor disputes), lack of computerized,
centralized or alphabetized voter lists, anticipated confusion
and long-distance treks by foot, may serve to create voter
frustration and disenfranchisement.
This week's paid insert in Le Nouvelliste, Haiti's daily
newspaper, purporting to publicize the voting locations (BVs) is
not only late, it is wholly inadequate. First, the information
is presented as a chart with no written explanation. What does
the heading "Code BV" mean and how does it correspond with the
codes on the electoral cards? Second, some of the BV "addresses"
listed are nothing more than "Chez Eva Mercer" which is merely
the name of a family in their private residence with no address
In a country with 85% illiteracy, why isn't this vital
information being blasted clearly and repeatedly - and in Creole
- over the radio air waves where most Haitians get their news?
More frightening is that less than 5 days from elections no one
seems concerned that voters don't know where they have to go to
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