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6858: Re: 6831: Re: "Aristide, Again"; an Open Letter to the Progressive (fwd)
From: Cynthia Tschampl <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In his "Open letter to the Progressive"(6831, Jan.29), Daniel Simidor
performs a much greater disservice than merely choosing "to look only at the
‘half-full glass'" extended by Aristide. I do agree 100% that the
appearance and the reality of what is going on in Haiti, especially if one
stays only in Port-au-Prince, can be stunningly different. My trip to Haiti
this past December as part of a post-election fact-finding mission opened my
eyes to just how different. Please note that this trip was "off-season", it
included no Tabarre meetings, Francilus Saint Leger was not a part of the
trip, I am not a journalist and I was self-financed.
Perhaps the most stunning difference to me is this obsession with the
elections and the demonizing surrounding them. When actually on the ground
in Haiti, interacting with Haitians, the overwhelming sense was that the two
elections were completed, if not perfectly, at least satisfactorily, and can
we please get on with discussing issues? The week before I left Michelle
Montas, widow of Jean Dominique, proclaimed as much, yet I remained dubious
due to the coverage of the mainstream press. While in Haiti, her statement
was confirmed time and again.
But since it seems to be "the crux of the matter" to so many, I will share
some other little-publicized facts I found out during my trip. Despite
claims from many sources of "low voter turn out", the only substantiated
claim to me was that the streets were empty and "crowds of voters" were not
apparent. First, Charles Sufrard, National Coordinator of KOZEPEP explained
that in the May 21st election where crowds were very obvious) each voter had
to fill out six or seven ballots, thus extending the time they had to wait
in line. Compare this with the two ballots of the November 26th election.
Second, Pierre Esperance, Director of NCHR Haiti said that the streets are
always empty during elections, especially due to the fact that up until now
driving was not allowed during election days. Third, in an interview with
members from three different youth groups in Gwo Mon, I found that they made
a deliberate and rational decision to go to the voting bureaus one-by-one or
in very small groups. This differs from the crowds that gathered in May.
Finally, Melinda Miles, Co-coordinator of the ICIO explained that the voting
pattern shifted from heavy in the morning and very slow in the afternoon
(May) to very slow in the morning and a steady trickle for the remainder of
Now, add this to the fact that the only groups to _actually observe_ the
election _and_ give a defined percentage of voters report numbers that
confirm and support the official results of 60% voter-turn out. Not only
can you not call it a "referendum", it says that Aristide has a legitimate
and strong mandate. Even the OAS said that by October, it was the
Convergence that refused to budge in the negotiations despite numerous
concessions offered by Fami Lavalas.
I am also disappointed that Simidor knit-picked Orenstein's use of the
"whole of international community." Not only is it a common error, it is
not much of one. When you consider that one can not name just two
governmental or international bodies; Asian, European, African, American,
Australian or other; that sent observers to the November elections,
Orenstein's wording is not far off the mark.
The final point I make is also the most critical. It truly pains me to see
well-intentioned people like Simidor so willing to defy the beauty of hope
out of seeming disdain for one individual. To say that "Haiti has been
marked for failure" is to deny that the FANM SOLID women's collective raised
their own money and labor to provide clean water for their community. That
statement negates the 70% tree survival rate of the Fon-imbo reforestation
project. It says to the people of Gwo Mon, "the wall you have built to keep
the river banks intact was an exercise in futility." It denies that the
FONKOZE Foundation is closer than ever, despite terrible tragedy, to
obtaining it's commercial licence. It proclaims doom for the NCHR
Monitoring Network. It ignores the victory of the Raboteau Massacre Trial.
It scoffs at twelve-year-old Riva who ran a summer art class for her fellow
school mates. It not only calls the glass half-empty, it smashes the glass
against the rocks because it didn't hold enough to assuage thirst anyway.
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