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8930: Ira Kurzban, Esq. responds to disinformation in UCA piece (fwd)

From: MKarshan@aol.com

August 22, 2001

Mr. David Keene
American Conservative Union
1007 Cameron Street
Alexandria, Va. 22314

Re: Your August 8, 2001 Article Titled “Aristide: Haiti’s voodoo doctor”

Dear Mr. Keene:

Your article concerning President Aristide and Haiti’s past elections deserves a response. Virtually every statement you make as a “fact” in your “article” is not credible, is devoid of a source to support your statement, is contrary to the reports made by persons who were involved in the events, and shows a contemptuous disregard for the truth.

There was a time in this country that a person who called himself a “columnist” had a certain responsibility to make his views known within the context of facts regarding a political event. Sadly, your article proves once again that this is no longer the case and anything goes when you want to attack a politician (Clinton or Aristide).

Here are the facts:

1.  There was no violence on election day, nor did “police storm[ ] polling places [and] seize[ ] ballot boxes” as you state. In fact, the Organization of American States’ final report on the May 21, 2000 election provided the following accurate picture of what occurred:  “The day was a great success for the Haitian population, which turned out in large and orderly numbers to choose both their local and national governments, and for the Haitian National Police, whose capacity had been questioned by the political parties, by the Government and by the press, but who had been able to keep order quietly and effectively.” Final Report, The Election Observation Mission, Executive Summary at 2. Your statements regarding the events are not only pure fabrications, they demonstrate a contemptible disregard for what happened on May 21, 2000 and what was actually criticized on that date. No reputable source has ever stated that the election of May 21, 2000 was flawed because they were violent or because the ballot-boxes 
were stuffed. The only serious criticism of the election turned on the methodology used to determine runoffs in 7 at-large senate seats. In light of the fact that there were approximately 30,000 candidates running for over 7,500 positions, the resultant dispute over only 7 senate seats was remarkable. Your statement that the election of the over 7,500 local, state, and federal officials was “a joke” and was labeled by “international observers” as “a fraud” is therefore, to be charitable, bewildering. In light of the methodological difficulties in our own Presidential election, it is hypocritical. Moreover, President Aristide has taken steps to remedy the May 21, 2000 methodological dispute by obtaining the consent of the seven senators to resign and by his announcement of the establishment of a new electoral counsel and a new election, thereby satisfying the concerns of the OAS and the international community. In addition, despite your unrelenting attack on President Aristide, you should inform your readers 
that Aristide was not President at the time of the May 21, 2000 election and that no member of the Electoral Council that conducted the May 21, 2000 election or the Presidential election was a member of Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party.  

2.  Your statements regarding the November, 2000 Presidential election are equally flawed. You state that “everyone objected” to the election and the “turnout was less than 3 percent and most of those who voted actually worked for the government.”  I do not know who the “everyone” is that you cite, but the Gallup Poll that USAID commissioned three weeks before the Presidential election indicated that the Haitian people were going to the polls and were doing so enthusiastically. In October 2000, three weeks before the election over 75% of the people questioned said that they support Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party and that they would join it if they could. When asked whether they intended to vote in the Presidential election, 56% said they were “very likely” to vote, 23% said they were “somewhat likely to vote,” and only 4% said that they were “not at all likely” to vote. Moreover, The Haitian Electoral Commission (CEP) in tallying the votes on election day found that over 60% of those eligible to vote went to 
the polls. All independent observers who actually placed people throughout the country on election day agreed. The national peasant organization KOZEPEP deployed 5,842 observers nationwide on November 26, 2000. They reported that voter participation was between 60% and 65%. An international team of observers, the International Coalition of Independent Observers wrote a detailed report based on their observations in all nine departments within Haiti. Their report found that the average voter turnout was approximately 60%. But why believe Gallup or the three entities that actually observed the election nationwide, when you can pull numbers out of thin air like 3%. The fact is that the opposition parties boycotted the Presidential election, just as they are today stalling on reaching a settlement on the May 21, 2000 elections because they know that despite the best efforts of the US to provide financial and political support to them, they could not win a fair election in Haiti. 

3.  You criticize the Haitian police for tossing “political opponents into jail” after “several police stations were raked by gunfire” finding that this was “a sort of minor league Reichstag fire designed to justify an assault on [Aristide’s] critics.”  Politics may be politics but have you no shame? Five police officers were executed and 14 others were wounded.  Former military officers who fled to the Dominican Republic have said they were responsible for the executions and are seeking political asylum in that country. In the course of the turmoil the police properly rounded up persons they believed to be co-conspirators with those who fled to the Dominican Republic. Of those who were rounded up very few were members of the tiny opposition political parties that exist in Haiti. Most of those arrested have since been released. But perhaps you can look the families of the executed officers and police trainees in the face and give them your “theory” of what occurred. 

4.  The final “fact” is a typical red-baiting ploy. According to you, Aristide has no support in Haiti and “it appears that whatever popular support he once enjoyed is vanishing.” He has therefore returned from visiting Castro with “a new all-Cuban security team to protect him from his own people.”  First, our own Gallup Poll recognized that Aristide is a widely popular President by any standards. Over 67% of the people said they would vote for him in an election. He has the trust of a majority of the Haitian people while the so-called opposition could only garner less than 4% of the trust of the Haitian people in the Gallup Poll. As for any outside security the President may have, they are from the United States, not from Cuba. But why let a few facts get in your way?

As the attorney for the Government of Haiti in the United States for the past decade I have become accustomed to your kind of attack piece. However, I am always willing to learn. If you have any support for any of the assertions you have made in the article, I would be delighted to meet with you and to discuss the matter.

Ira J. Kurzban, Esq.