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#4336: This Week in Haiti 18:14 6/21/00 (fwd)
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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please contact the paper at (tel) 718-434-8100, (fax)
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
June 21 - 27, 2000
Vol. 18, No. 14
DISINFORMATION AND MEDDLING
IN WAKE OF LAVALAS LANDSLIDE
As baseball great Yogi Berra once said, "It's déjà vu all over
Once before, in Dec. 1990, the Haitian people poured out by the
millions to vote Jean-Bertrand Aristide into power. Almost
immediately, the corporate press, U.S. and European diplomats and
bureaucrats, local "opposition" politicians, and functionaries
for the United Nations (UN) and Organization for American States
(OAS) began sniping at the newly elected president and his
democratic nationalist program, culminating in the bloody Sept.
30, 1991 coup d'état.
Today the scenario is almost identical. Millions of Haitians
voted Aristide's party, the Lavalas Family (FL), into the vast
majority of Haiti's municipal and legislative posts this past May
21, foiling brazen foreign meddling by the U.S. State Department.
Now the "democratic correction," as putschists called their 1991
mutiny, has once again begun.
Leading the charge is the OAS Electoral Observer Mission, which
falsely asserts that, in Senate races, Provisional Electoral
Council (CEP) "officials counted the votes of only the top four
contenders and not the others who ran and may have gotten a few
votes," as the Associated Press uncritically relayed. The Miami
Herald, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times,
Washington Post, CNN, BBC, and other corporate press outlets have
bleated the same falsehood, apparently never checking the CEP's
calculations for themselves.
Such a review shows that the CEP counted the votes cast for all
candidates, divided the total in half, then narrowed the field
for the run-offs to the top four aspirants garnering the highest
percentage. Anyone with over 50% plus one vote won in the first
round (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 18, No. 12, 6/7/00).
On Jun. 19, the CEP began releasing its final results for the
eight departments covered in the May 21 vote. (The Grande'Anse
Department's polling took place on Jun. 11 and no results have
been announced.) The FL swept 16 of 17 Senate seats up for grabs
in the first round. The exception: Luc Fleurinor, an independent
in the Northwest, who also won his Senate seat in the first
For lower house races, the FL won 26 of 65 races in the first
round, and its candidates are in all but five of the remaining
run-offs. (Eighteen other deputy races are being fought in the
Grand'Anse.) The second round was scheduled for Jun. 25 but is
now postponed. No new date has been fixed.
Meanwhile, the FL captured over half of the 133 mayoral races,
and the vast majority of seats in the rural Communal Section
CEP results were released without the signatures of three members
-- President Léon Manus, Débussy Damier, and Emmanuel Charles --
all linked to the opposition front Space of Concord (EC), which
had demanded that its partisans resign from the body. Resign they
did, and for added effect, Manus even flew into exile on Jun. 16.
But the remaining six members, including EC-appointee Irma
Rateau, achieved a quorum and signed the results.
"It was a real, democratic, peaceful revolution at the polls done
by over 60 percent of the Haitian voters," wrote Father Gérard
Jean-Juste, the pastor of the capital's St. Clare's Church, in a
Jun. 19 open letter to the editors of the Washington Post. "Most
of us, Haitians, told 'you' what is good for us." He denounced
the "false accusations against Aristide [as] continued
colonialism" and reproached the racist portrayal of Haitian
street fighting as more violent than European or North American.
What are the false accusations being made against Aristide? The
web-page of the Democratic Party-aligned Center for International
Policy (CIP) offers a good example. The CIP claims that President
René Préval brought Manus to the Palace to have him sign the
final election results but "Manus refused to budge." At that
point, according to the CIP, Préval led Manus into his office,
made a phone call to Aristide, and "Aristide told Manus that this
had gone on long enough and he had better sign off very soon or
else bad things might happen to him." Yeah, right. Aristide is so
desperate to win the elections that he is going to personally
deliver a death-threat to Manus over the Palace's telephone!
The CIP's research director James Morrell also told the Chicago
Tribune that the electoral sweep was due to "power plays by
Lavalas" because "they don't want to just win. They want to
obliterate the opposition."
Then there is the more clever "shading" of the news done by
people like the AP's Michael Norton, who repeats in his many
dispatches that Haiti is "on the road to becoming a virtual
one-party state." The Miami Herald reinforces the message by
quoting EC sympathizer Jean-Claude Bajeux: ''It's a one-party
state with a charismatic leader in a poor country" as well as EC
candidate (and former putschist) Claude Roumain: "Aristide is the
In fact, mainstream stories are studded with such scathing quotes
from followingless politicians and unnamed diplomats. The CEP's
angry denials of miscalculations are given passing mention, while
FL and popular organization voices are completely absent.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has come to the OAS's side
saying that he too is "troubled by continuing irregularities in
the way the votes for Senate candidates were being calculated,"
and lectured CEP members to "strictly adhere to the procedures
stipulated in the electoral law," as if they weren't. The U.N.'s
1994 mandate to deploy its forces in Haiti expired last March.
Therefore, Annan would do better to "strictly adhere to the
procedures" stipulated in the U.N. Charter, which explicitly
forbids the body from meddling in member states' internal
The U.S. State Department's Haiti coordinator Donald Steinberg
and National Security Council senior director Arturo Valenzuela
were also in Haiti this week, trying to push around the Haitian
government about the final tallies. "The manner in which they're
counted and finalized is very important to us," State Dept.
spokesman Richard Boucher said with blood-boiling arrogance. "We
believe the process needs to be handled very carefully."
An election official in Haiti remarked that the elections were
Haitian not American, and that the CEP was "the sole authority in
In the face of so much disinformation and meddling, it is no
wonder that the Haitian people have risen up in anger. They took
to the streets on Jun. 16 and 19, virtually shutting down Haiti's
three largest cities. Protestors burned the U.S. flag in front of
the U.S. embassy to let Washington know that they see its hidden
hand behind the OAS, the UN, and Haiti's destabilization. When
election results were released, the crowds receded and calm
"Despite all the attempts and threats to carry out an electoral
coup d'état since well before elections, the Haitian people went
out and voted," said Yvon Neptune, one of the victorious Senate
candidates for the West Department. "They knew why they were
voting, how they were voting, and for whom they were voting. Now
what is important is political stability so that peace can return
to the country."
FIX '96: NEW LAWS RIP FAMILIES AND LIVES APART
by Mark Dow
Luis Freire is one of us, but the Immigration & Naturalization
Service (INS) is trying to make him into one of them.
Born in Ecuador, Freire immigrated legally to the United States
at the age of seven. He is 43 now. In 1975, he was convicted of
second-degree murder, and he did his time: 15 years at Attica and
a series of other New York state prisons. Released in 1990, he
began sweeping floors for ZZZ Carpentry, and today he is a
In April 2000, after ten years of reporting to his parole officer
every two weeks, Freire's sentence was complete. But his troubles
were not. On April 15th, around 5.30 in the morning, INS agents,
accompanied by New York City Police officers -- some ten in all,
wearing bullet-proof vests -- showed up at his home in the
Washington Heights section of Manhattan. He was arrested and
handcuffed in front of his family. His five-year old daughter
softly interrupts the story: "I missed him very much," she says,
peeking around her father's back. Freire's two young children and
his wife are American-born. His mother, who also lives here, is a
naturalized U.S. citizen. Freire himself, however, never became a
U.S. citizen, and so, according to the law, he can be deported
back to Ecuador.
An INS bus took Freire along with a group of other so-called
"criminal aliens" picked up from Manhattan's Varick Street
detention center to the Wicomico County jail in Maryland, where
all were held with non-INS prisoners. Nationwide, county jails
hold over 10,000 INS detainees (of a total over 20,000), renting
bedspace to the federal agency at premium rates to supplement
local treasuries. Warden Thomas Hogan of the York County
(Pennsylvania) prison, which holds hundreds of INS detainees,
speaks candidly about the profit motive in "Abandoned: The
Betrayal of America's Immigrants," a new documentary by David
Belle and Nicholas Wrathall. "We're running a business," notes
the warden, "and that's exactly what this is -- it's a custody
The INS detainees at Wicomico were held "incommunicado," as
Freire puts it. Correctional officers at the jail knew nothing
about their immigration cases, and on-site INS officials move
"fast through the [cell] blocks," not wanting to stop and talk.
"Actually, you're lost there," he says. And yet, adds Freire
without a trace of bitterness, "I happened to luck out." Many INS
detainees are denied bail, but in a video hearing an immigration
judge set a bond for Freire at $10,000. His family raised the
money, and he was released after two weeks. Many other detainees,
of course, are held for months and even years. Freire will go
before an immigration judge in September. If he is deported, he
will be prohibited from ever returning to the U.S., even though
his life, his family, and his tax dollars are all here.
The film "Abandoned" shines a light on the hidden damage which
the 1996 laws are causing to families all over the country. In
the film, Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) explains how passage
of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant
Responsibility Act was fueled, in part, by reaction to the
bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Of course, the
man convicted for that bombing is an American citizen. If Luis
Freire were a citizen, the end of his criminal sentence would
have meant the end of his troubles. It is difficult to escape the
conclusion that non-citizens have become scapegoats again.
Although Freire is "legal," he remains an "alien," and so the law
says that he can be detained and deported. The 1996 laws
eliminated legal protections which had been available to certain
people in Freire's situation. In the eyes of the law, his ties
here mean less than ever. Miami attorney Steven Forester,
speaking in "Abandoned," calls the laws themselves "un-American."
Yet the us-versus-them mentality is nothing new to American
politics. Perhaps the problem is that these laws are too
In a recent press release, the INS declares that it is "proud" to
have increased the number of "criminal aliens" in detention "from
3,300 in 1994 to more than 16,000 this year -- proof that INS has
and will continue to detain people who pose a threat to public
safety." But the question of public safety in these cases was
already determined by the criminal courts which sentenced people
like Luis Freire, and then released them when they finished
paying their debts to society.
Some immigration lawyers say that the INS and courts are
misinterpreting the law, which calls for convicted felons to be
deported "upon release" from prison. The law is not retroactive,
these lawyers claim, and should not affect someone like Freire
who was released from jail ten years ago and six years before the
laws were in existence.
Many people effected by the new laws were convicted of less
serious crimes, for which they did no jail time, though they are
now detained by INS. Others have actually served more time in INS
detention than they did for their original crimes. "They have
been punished, and we accepted it," insists the relative of a
legal resident convicted of drunk driving, interviewed in
"Abandoned." "Now they're trying to take them away from their
To coincide with last weekend's premier of the new documentary in
the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, an organization called
Citizens and Immigrants for Equal Justice (CIEJ) held two days of
demonstrations -- June 17-18 -- in front of the INS offices at 26
Federal Plaza in Manhattan to educate the public about how
families are being torn apart by the 1996 laws. Both the film and
the rallies make one thing clear: the line between us and them is
not clear at all, and our laws will be more just when everyone
accepts that fact.
"I was blind to this stuff," said Freire at Saturday's rally.
"You never know what's going to happen until it happens to you."
To join the Fix '96 campaign to change the immigration laws,
Citizens & Immigrants for Equal Justice:
in New Jersey/Connecticut: email@example.com
in Florida: firstname.lastname@example.org
in Texas: email@example.com
For more information:
Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Services: www.lirs.org
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights: www.lchr.org
For the film "Abandoned," contact Crowing Rooster Arts:
Demonstrations are held on the first Thursday of every month from
8:30 - 9:30 a.m. in front of the Federal Building at 970 Broad
St., Newark, NJ. For more details, call the National Coalition to
Protect Political Freedom, 908-820-0875.
All articles copyrighted Haiti Progres, Inc. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED.
Please credit Haiti Progres.