[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
#4268: Washington Post FWD - Broken Rules in Haiti (fwd)
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
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