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#4268: Washington Post FWD - Broken Rules in Haiti (fwd)





From:Racine125@aol.com

Broken Rules in Haiti
     
Saturday, June 17, 2000; Page A18 


BACK IN 1994, the Clinton administration dispatched 24,000 troops to Haiti to 
overturn a military coup and reinstall the elected president, Jean-Bertrand 
Aristide. Since then, the U.S. government has spent hundreds of millions of 
dollars and enormous diplomatic energy trying to promote prosperity and 
democracy, largely to ensure against a resumption of massive refugee flows to 
Florida. 

But things are not going well. There was a brief encouraging moment on May 
21, when Haitians flocked peacefully to the polls to vote for a new 
parliament. Since then, however, evidence of electoral misconduct has been 
mounting--and much of the fault appears to lie with backers of Mr. Aristide.

Haiti's election was supposed to have taken place in November 1998 but was 
repeatedly delayed by President Rene Preval, who works closely with Mr. 
Aristide and who has ruled Haiti by decree since dissolving parliament in 
January 1999. The weeks leading up to the vote were marred by violence, most 
of it committed by supporters of Mr. Aristide's Lavalas Family Party against 
opposition targets. More than a dozen people were killed. Since the vote, the 
Haitian police, who are heavily influenced by Mr. Aristide's party, have 
arrested 37 opposition candidates and activists on spurious charges; only 11 
have been released. The Organization of American States has determined, 
moreover, that election authorities used an unlawful method of 
ballot-counting. This improper count gave Mr. Aristide's party 16 of 17 
contested Senate seats--assuring Mr. Aristide a pliant parliament if, as 
expected, he wins the presidency himself later this year. A proper count 
would have forced eight of these purported winners into runoff elections 
against opposition candidates.

The United States supports the OAS assessment--though U.S. statements on 
Haiti have been more muted than its condemnations of Peru's recent electoral 
chicanery. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has proclaimed himself 
"troubled by the continuing irregularities" and has reiterated his 
"expectation" that Haiti adhere to its own law in calculating the final 
results. The Haitian government has so far brushed aside such criticism. 
Yesterday, another pro-Lavalas crowd occupied downtown Port-au-Prince, 
throwing rocks and burning tires--and demanding that the apparently unlawful 
vote count be officially ratified. With the runoff elections scheduled for 
June 25, time is running out on what little hope remains for the 
consolidation of genuine democracy in Haiti.


 2000 The Washington Post Company