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a 19: Govt of Haiti's counsel writes Baltimore Sun (fwd)

From: MKarshan@aol.com

December 18, 2001

Mr. John B. O’Donnell
Baltimore Sun
501 N. Calvert Street
Baltimore, MD 21278

Dear Mr. O’Donnell:

    I recently was provided a copy of an article that you wrote titled “An Abandoned U.S. Adventure”.  As general counsel in the United States for the Republic of Haiti for over a decade, I worked with Lawrence Pezzullo and his predecessors and successors. Unfortunately, your article did not seek the opinions or perspective of persons who worked with the Haitian government during that period and therefore included a number of serious errors. 
    First, it is not true that Aristide became president again in “a disputed election last year” and that the government “is paralyzed over that balloting and a contentious election of legislators”.  No responsible journalist, government official, or international or local election monitor has ever suggested that Aristide’s November 2000 election was “disputed”.  In fact, everyone agreed that Aristide would have won any election because of his vast popularity within Haiti.  Moreover, there were no allegation that the presidential election was marked by fraud or that Aristide somehow stole the election.  The only issue was in regard to voter turnout.  The OAS said the voted turnout was around 20%  All other parties observing the election said that the turnout was between 60% and 65%, considerably higher than in our own presidential election.  OAS based its numbers on observations at 3 or 4 polling places in Port-au-Prince.         International observers (with observers in all 9 departments within Haiti) and 5
,000 domestic observers in all departments in Haiti concluded that the vote was between 60% and 65% -- a percentage consistent with the official tally of the CEP at 63%.  
    Your article also quotes a number of completely irresponsible statements by Lawerence Pezzullo, an obviously bitter man over his ouster by the Clinton Administration for his mishandling of Aristide and his misunderstanding of the Haitian people’s vast support for him.  It is unfortunate that you quoted him as making such bold and outlandish statements as Haiti now has “a dictatorship which has a patina of democracy”, without any effort to balance such wild, untrue and unfair accusations.  The facts are that for the first time in 200 years of Haitian history, the country has now had two peaceful democratic transitions from president to president in the last 7 years.  The analogy to Afghanistan borders on the farcical. Jean Bertrand Aristide was elected by 67% of the people in his first election in 1990.  He and his predecessor, Rene Preval were elected by even larger margins in subsequent elections. The Northern Alliance has never stood for election, nor have the other organizations that seek to cobble toget
her a government in Afghanistan.  

    Perhaps this is the reason that Mr. Pezzullo never succeeded in Haiti. He simply did not understand or wanted to ignore the fact that the Haitian people had a right to have the government they elected. His desire to develop a government “of national reconciliation” ignored the fact that the Haitian people had selected their own government and didn’t need a U.S. representative to try and nullify that election.  

    It was also somewhat ironic that your article was quoting Marc Bazin. Despite the picture you portrayed through Mr. Pezzullo, Mr. Bazin, a cabinet member, is from the opposition, not from Mr. Aristide’s party. 
    Your article also gave a misleading picture of the financial situation in Haiti. You stated that “Haiti” can’t balance the budget, inflation is rising, foreign aid is off, the government is paying 30% interest on bonds and the International Monetary Fund is demanding that Haiti shape up”.  You neglected to disclose to your readers that the Interamerican Development Bank has refused to provide to Haiti loans that were agreed upon and ready to be disbursed because the United States requested that the funds be embargoed.  At the same time, the Interamerican Development Bank has demanded that the Haitian government pay the interest on the loans and fees associated with the loans, which Haiti has paid.  This means that Haiti, among all the nations of the world, is in the unique position of financing the IDB rather than receiving funds from it. Perhaps the economic situation would not be as dire if the United States had not insisted on blockading all international funds to Haiti until the Haitian government agree
s to share power and void national and local elections 

Although you claim that “Aristide resisted compromise”, the Haitian government has repeatedly made concessions in the face of the embargo. President Aristide directly placed his own credibility on the line by insuring that the seven senators whose seats were contested stepped down.  Notwithstanding your statements about elections in general, it was only the seven senatorial seats that were ever in question.  However, after the President obtained the consent of the senators to step down, the OAS, led by the United States, insisted on greater and greater demands including voiding the May 21, 2000 elections.  This denial was contrary to the OAS’ electoral report, which never seriously questioned the validity of the May 21, 2000 elections except as to the seven senators.  

    I would be delighted to talk with you about this and other matters concerning Haiti if you choose to maintain a more balanced approach and if you are interested in current conditions in Haiti. 


                    Ira J. Kurzban