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6183: Some Americans did monitor Haiti's presidential vote/Haitian Times (fwd)

From: MKarshan@aol.com

Some Americans did monitor Haiti's Presidential Vote
By Brian Stevens
Haitian Times Staff

MIAMI - When the United States refused to send observers to Haiti's Nov. 26 
presidential election, a coalition of 25 independent monitors took up the 
challenge, as both a rebuke to Washington, D.C.'s condemnation of the 
troubled May parliamentary vote and as a show of support to Haiti's 
beleaguered people.

"Haiti is a sovereign nation and the U.S. government must recognize that and 
stop treating them as some kind of stepchild," said Bob Dellavalle-Rauth, who 
visited 36 polling places throughout the Southwestern town of Jeremie on the 
day of the vote.

As a member of the Catholic social justice organization Pax Christi USA's 
Haiti Task Force, Dellavalle-Rauth joined with observers from the Washington, 
D.C.-based Quixote Center Haiti Reborn project and San 
Francisco-headquartered Global Exchange to monitor more than 150 polling 
places across four of Haiti's nine departments.

The International Coalition of Independent Observers, as the group called 
itself, pegged voter turnout at roughly the same level as did Haiti's 
Provisional Electoral Council, or CEP - numbers that vastly contradicted what 
opposition parties said.

In Port-au-Prince, ICIO figures put voter participation levels at about 75 
percent, with 60 percent in Cap Haitian, 62 percent in Gonaives and 90 
percent in Jeremie.  Official results from the Haitian government - which 
show Aristide winning the election with an overwhelming majority - are 
available on the Haitian Embassy to the United States' web site, 

How do Dellavalle-Rauth and the ICIO account for their markedly higher 
numbers - with charges of political smear tactics aimed at the popular 
Lavalas Family political party of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

"The main thrust of the opposition parties since May has been to tear down 
Aristide and his party," said Dellavalle-Rauth.  "They've spent so much time 
and energy doing that, they haven't build up their own base," he said of the 
handful of opposition groups aligned against Lavalas.

At the same time he expressed his disappointment with opposition parties, 
Dellavalle-Rauth said he recognizes the need for there to be more than one 
political party in a truly democratic Haiti.

"I would have felt better if the opposition was building a grassroots base," 
said Dellavalle-Rauth, a consultant to the Pax Christi USA Haiti Task Force.  
"It's good to have opposition parties," he said.

ICIO members reported seeing a handful of independent Haitian observers and 
vote watchers from the Lavalas Family at polling places across the country, 
but no observers from the Espace d' Concentration opposition coalition.

Wearing matching blue T-shirts with the acronym ICIO, coalition members 
spread out across Haiti to observe the voting process and determine turnout 
by matching the number of voters on the rolls at each polling place with the 
number of voters local election workers said had turned out.

November's trip was the eleventh for Dellavalle-Rauth, 74, since 1990, and 
the fifteenth for his wife, Adele, since 1983.

"I heard the negative reviews of Haiti's May vote so many times," said Adele, 
68, chairwoman of the Pax Christi USA Haiti Task Force, who with her husband 
has helped 45 Catholic churches in her Diocese of Richmond, Va., form 
twinning relationships with houses of worship in Haiti.

"The international community made such a big deal over how they counted the 
ballots, so I decided I wanted to observe this election to see for myself," 
she said in explaining why she made the 1,300 mile trip from her Huddleston, 
Va., home to where she observed the election in Gonaives and Gros-Morne.

ICIO delegation members - which included representatives from the United 
States, Canada and Denmark - spent 10 days in Haiti, from Nov. 20 to 30 
meeting with civic and religious leaders in an effort to better understand 
the often violent climate in Haiti that led up to the November presidential 

A second delegation of 12 ICIO members slated for Dec. 12-19 - just in case 
the Haitian election was postponed - will still make their trip to continue 
the group's research work.

"We will follow-up with many of the same people the earlier delegation met 
with," said Cynthia Banis, an upstate New York resident who will have a hand 
in leading the second delegation that leaves next week.

As for the strong condemnation Haitian officials received in May at the hands 
of observers from the Organization of American States, Bob Dellavalle-Rauth 
called the electoral standards applied to Haiti "excessively harsh," and said 
he believes much of the criticism was a set-up designed to make the CEP look 

"The vote counting mechanism was a technicality and the CEP has the final 
authority on what method to use.  They used a method counter to what the UN 
had suggested before the election took place," he said, suggesting 
international observers knew Haitian officials would count the vote 
differently and lay in wait to criticize the CEP when it did so.

To the Dellavalle-Rauth's it is the determination of the Haitian people - 
both those who came out to vote and those who worked long, hot hours at 
polling stations - that is the real story behind the presidential election.

"Many of the workers we saw went without food and water," Bob said.  "People 
were amazing."

At age 74, and 68, some may say it is the Dellavalle-Rauth's who have 
performed an incredible feat.

"But we weren't the oldest ones on the delegation," Bob protested. "There was 
an 80-year-old man and his 76-year-old wife," Dellavalle-Rauth said.