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6058: Where U.S. unwilling, NGOs eye Haitian vote (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

Where U.S. unwilling, NGOs eye Haitian vote
 UPI, Tue 28 Nov 2000 UPI WORLDNEWS 

Usually the activists work with the opposition and the United States
monitors the election. But in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest
nation, the situation is reversed. Earlier this month, the State      
Department refused to send observers to Port au Prince for Sunday's
election, citing irregularities in May's local and legislative election.
So a coalition of left-leaning non-governmental organizations sent     
around 25 volunteers to Haiti to oversee Sunday's presidential
elections. Guess what they found. Despite early low voter turnout and
some isolated incidents of violence, the vote that is projected to   
restore Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Haiti's presidency was "free and
fair," to use the magic phrase U.S. bureaucrats evoke to certify
elections in fledgling democracies. "We are prepared to say the
elections were conducted in a free and fair manner," said Melinda Miles,
the co coordinator of the International Coalition of Independent
Observers. The ICIO comprises three U.S. peace groups -- the Quixote
Center, Witness for Peace, and the Global Exchange. The latter two have
participated in the coalitions of globalization protestors that took to
the streets Seattle and Washington in the last year to disrupt the     
International Monetary Fund and the World Bank conferences respectively.
And these groups are pushing the United States to recognize Aristide,
the projected winner of Sunday's vote, as the rightful president of
Haiti. So far, the United States as well as the Organization of American
States, the North American coalition that monitors potentially troubled
elections, have hedged on this question. "The flaws that are there need
to be remedied by the local authorities," State Department spokesman
Richard Boucher said Tuesday. "There are a lot of indications including
low voter turnout and the violence in the pre-election period that show
that they need reconciliation in Haitian society." Indeed, the
opposition to Aristide's party -- the Lavalas Family Party -- boycotted
Sunday's election, citing local and legislative elections held in May
and officials counted votes arbitrarily, giving the Lavalas party
control of the Senate. Haiti's election commission claims that more than
60 percent of Haitians voted Sunday, while opposition parties say that
figure is a gross exaggeration. Miles, whose coalition monitored ballot
stations in the capital as well as four other posts throughout the
country, says the turnout is closer to 70 percent. The man poised to
take control of Haiti's government owes his political life to the U.S.
military.Twenty thousand U.s. troops restored Aristide to power after a
military coup ousted him in 1994. Since then, the United States has
helped rebuild Haiti, but recently reduced aid payments. While Haiti   
received $193 million in U.S. assistance in 1995, the country only
received $76 million in 2000. "After having played an important role in
what happened here," Miles said, "for them to abandon the process      
as it is happening is more than irresponsible it is an insult to the
freedom of the Haitian people." --