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Haiti Flashback - May 2000 Elections

 

#3771: Pina comments on the closing of the poles with conch horns blowing



From: kevin pina <cariborganics@hotmail.com>
  
At the closing of the polls it was reported that the sound of conch horns 
was heard in several neighborhoods of Port au Prince. The sound of the
Caribbean native conch shell has long symbolized as a call for freedom in
Haiti. It is well known as a call to arms for the maroons, communities of
escaped slaves in the country's early history, who allied themselves with
the forces that defeated Napoleon's armies, establishing Haiti as the
world's first black republic.

Tonight it is heard as the symbol of an anticipated victory for Aristide's
Lavalas party and political rectification for Haitian majority politics put
off track by the 1991 coup and the nullification of the results of the
previous parliamentary elections. There are also reports that quiet,
spontaneous celebrations have begun to break out in several neighborhoods of
Port au Prince. At a small but growing gathering in the front yard of a
small merchant, one celebrant stated, "We have tried one more time to make
them understand that what we want is change. Lavalas and Aristide are our
choice." She seemed convinced that if the elections were fair that
Aristide's Lafamni Lavalas party will emerge victorious.

________________________________________________________________________ 
 
 


 

The Aftermath of Haiti's Election

by Kevin Pina

Port au Prince, May 28, 2000 - There is palpable tension left in the wake of Haiti's recent parliamentary elections as many Lavalas supporters brace themselves for possible attacks by those who oppose a return of Jean-Betrand Aristide to Haiti's presidency. While a few naturally feel it could strike at any moment, others speculate it is more likely to occur closer to the final tallying when Lavalas appears to have won a majority in the Haitian parliament. This is not an irrational fear, as Haitian history will attest. For many, today is as it ever was, confronting the fear of retaliation from the wealthy elite and the military that are backed by powerful political allies in the US government.

When Jean-Bertrand Aristide emerged as the hands down winner of Haiti's presidential elections in 1990, it was at the head of a broad popular movement fomented by Haiti's poor majority known as Lavalas. After having endured years of being ruled as virtual chattel by the wealthy elite and military dictatorships which were propped up through corruption and violence, they courageously spoke with one clear voice in December of 1991 to demand real change in Haiti. Aristide and the Lavalas movement came to symbolize in the hearts and minds of most Haitians the desire to overturn the dark legacy of the past and create the possibility of a new future for Haiti's impoverished majority. Aristide's election by Haiti's poor majority was only the first challenge to the power of the country's traditional rulers. Preval and Aristide then pushed it further by throwing open the gates of Haiti's political reality to include the voice of the country's poor and dispossessed. For the first time the voices of the poor were echoed throughout Haiti's greatest symbol of power, the presidential palace.

After only seven months, this was, in the common tradition of Haiti, followed by a violent military coup financed and backed by the wealthy elite with powerful allies in Washington. This vicious military coup was prolonged by a half-hearted US led embargo that many in Lavalas believe was designed to allow time for the movement to slowly get chewed up by the army. At the same time, many within Haiti's traditional elite strengthened their position and added to their vast fortunes through profiteering during the embargo. Many Lavalas veterans view the coup as having been a "slow bleed" scenario for depleting the best resources of a popular movement for change while allowing Washington's traditional allies to grow stronger.

Those who offer this view have good reason to believe that the political machinations of Washington will not cease until they have a government to their liking in Haiti. First there was the coup of September 1991. Then, after Aristide's return there was the parliamentary elections of 1997, in which Lavalas won a clear majority, only to have them annulled following charges of fraud led by the likes of the International Republican Institute, The Carter Center for Democracy and the National Democratic Institute and the OPL. For many of in Haiti's grassroots it has become crystal clear that a government to Washington's liking does not include Aristide or Lavalas. As Haiti approaches the final tally of the ballots in this latest round of "US sponsored" elections, many are convinced it is essentially the same configuration of forces and dynamics in play today, the poor majority of Haitians opposed by the wealthy elite and their allies in the former military supported by powerful friends in Washington.

Not surprisingly, remnants of the US-trained Haitian military don't agree with the concept of popular democracy and in light of recent evidence there is growing speculation they have been plotting a comeback for quite some time. A May 11th story broke in Haiti reporting that eight former members of the Haitian military had been arrested for operating an underground recruitment network that supplied photo IDs bearing the official logo of the Armed Forces of Haiti. A warrant was also issued for the arrest of the signatory of the military IDs, identified as Mr. Serge Justafort who was working as chief of security for rental installations used by the US diplomatic mission in Haiti. Although much attention was given to this story in Haiti, confirmed by the Haitian National Police and the Ministry of Justice, not one word of it reached the international press.

The name of a Canadian national named Lynn Garrison also surfaced in connection with the busts in Haiti. Garrison was described in a June 1994 interview in the Toronto Globe and Mail as "a former Canadian born fighter pilot…playing the improbable role of advisor to the military regime, public relations man for the 1991 coup, and intelligence source for attacks by American conservatives on exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide." Garrison has made public claims he was the source for the "psychological profile" of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide that was presented by the CIA's Brian Latelle to the US Senate in 1993. In that report, Aristide was described as mentally unbalanced, on lithium, and having been confined to a Canadian mental institution in the 1980's. On may 17th, less than one week before Haiti's scheduled election, the Haitian National Police issued an "arrest on sight" for Garrison on charges of "activities suspected of being destabilizing to democratic order." As one could have guessed, no mention was ever made of this in the international press.

The US Embassy staff, under former Ambassador Alvin Adams, used to refer to Haiti's wealthy class as the MRE's or the Morally Repugnent Elite because of their pronounced lack of concern for their fellow human beings. They too have also resurfaced in the form of Olivier Nadal, unabashed coup supporter and president of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Nadal claims to have taken refuge in Washington out of fear of reprisals from Aristide, Preval, Lavalas, and the Haitian people. Popular organizations in Haiti have publicly accused Mr. Nadal of involvement in a campaign to force small peasant farmers off their land in the Artibonite Valley in 1995. It resulted in the "sacking and burning of over 100 homes and left several dead" according to the peasant rights organization Tet Kole.

Mr. Nadal's departure from Haiti coincided with the shenanigans of American Rice Corporation, owned by the Erly Corporation based in Los Angeles California, whose company representatives staged a dramatic flight from the country after it was revealed they had under claimed imports values to avoid customs fees. Nadal is also the voice closest to the ears of Senator Jesse Helms(R-SC), the powerful chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and is known to have the favor of Congressman Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), chairman of the House International Relations Committee. On May 19, the eve of Haiti's parliamentary elections Nadal stated, " Aristide demonized Haiti's military to a point that no one commented upon its destruction, even though the army was Haiti's only structured element of law-and-order. This was replaced by an Aristide controlled police force, now coordinating much of the cocaine traffic into America. It is greatly responsible for much of the violence in Haiti as Aristide directs their activities from his 50 plus acre estate at Tabarre. Not bad for a priest who renounced his "vows of poverty" in October of 1990. He is now said to be worth over one billion dollars-much of his cocaine related"!!

 Given the recent revelations about the military and Nadal's pronouncements, to many in Lavalas it appears there is a new alliance being forged between Haiti's former military and the wealthy elite that represents a long lineage of "traditional" rulers known for their brutality and ruthlessness. They realize that the thought of a Lavalas led parliament and Aristide's return to the presidency must be a nightmare scenario to these familiar opponents. It must be the same for their allies in Washington. Early press reports from the election included scenarios of an Aristide "dictatorship" replete with a circle of "drug barons" and "political assassins" while Lavalas is portrayed as a violent mob under the control of a charismatic leader. There has, after all, been much invested in this campaign to cultivate an image of Aristide as a former priest and president transformed into a monster leading unruly mobs through the streets of Port au Prince.




 

Moving the Goal Posts in Haiti's Democratic Game


By Kevin Pina - Port-au-Prince, July 5, 2000
 
On May 21, 2000, the Haitian people once again played
by the rules of the democratic game, as directed and tutored by Washington and
the international community, only to see their hope for social change squashed
by yet another endless series of technicalities and accusations.  The current
political crisis in Haiti should come as no surprise if seen within the
context of earlier efforts at democratic change that resulted in the bloody
coup of 1991 and annulled elections in 1997.  Popular sentiment among Haiti's
grassroots organizations seems to be that each time they manage to score a
goal in the democratic game the United States and the international community
change the rules and move the goal posts farther out of reach.

Prior to the May 21st elections in Haiti, tremendous pressure was placed on
the Preval government to set a date for elections despite its official
objections that an evaluation of the process was necessary before proceeding
with the ballot.   The US anointed "political opposition" in Haiti cried foul
showing once again how their greatest constituency resides not in Haiti but
abroad.  They proclaimed loudly that Preval and Aristide were attempting to
delay the process so that parliamentary elections could coincide with
presidential elections in a plot to sweep Lavalas to victory on Aristide's
"coattails."  The Preval government ultimately relented and elections were
held on May 21st in what have been called "the most promising elections in
Haiti to date."  The international community initially embraced the May 21st
elections until it became clear that Aristide's "coattails" are so wide that
they must precede him as well as follow him.  Given the international
community's insistence on an accelerated timetable for the ballot, it made it
difficult for them to back down from initially endorsing the validity of these
elections.  This set the stage for the timely political debacle that has
ensued and what many in Haiti view as disingenuous performances by Orlande
Marville of the Organization of American States and Leon Manus the president
of the Provisional Election Council or CEP.

Given the tremendous investment involved, one cannot help but wonder at what
moment Mr. Marville was inspired to conclude that the calculations of the
ballots was based solely upon the top four vote getters and not the total
percentage of votes cast in the elections. It is difficult to believe that the
international community, and the OAS in particular, were not present to
observe the entire process of balloting and calculations of the ballot count
prior to the CEP releasing the initial results of the election.  Rather than
quietly communicating this discrepancy to the CEP and requesting a change in
the calculations prior to the release of results, the OAS chose to wait until
the CEP had committed itself to the purported incorrect calculations and timed
its "electoral revelations" in a manner that has obviously caused great damage
to the political process in Haiti.

And what of Leon Manus, president of the CEP, who has fled to a self-imposed
exile in the US claiming that his life had been threatened by the Haitian
government if he did not sign off on the "bad calculations?"  Immediately
following Mr. Marville's revelations, Mr. Manus was quoted on Radio Metropole
in Haiti stating that the results had been calculated in the same manner as
previous elections. If we are to believe Mr. Manus's first position then the
last example we have to look to are the annulled parliamentary elections of
1997.  The results of that election, which appeared to give Lavalas a
parliamentary majority, were discounted amid charges of electoral fraud led by
the International Republican Institute, the Carter Center for Democracy and
the National Democratic Institute, each closely associated with the Republican
and Democratic parties in the US respectively.  An analysis of press reports
from that period clearly show that the procedure for calculating the
percentages of ballots was never once brought into question with respect to
the 1997 parliamentary elections.  Instead, charges focused on "voting
irregularities" amidst a ramped up campaign to link Aristide and Lavalas to
violence and political assassinations in Haiti.

Presently, Mr. Manus has fled Haiti adding one more note in a well-documented
campaign to associate Preval, Aristide and Lavalas with violence as he
embraces the position of the OAS in a complete reversal of his initial
statement.  Mr. Manus's claims, whether coincidentally or by design,
overshadows the obvious error made by the "coattail" theorists and lends
support to the assertion that Aristide and Lavalas rigged the vote count in an
effort to establish a one-party dictatorship.

Haiti's poor majority has fought tirelessly since the coup of 1991 to restore
their original mandate of 1990 to transform a system of endemic,
institutionalized, predatory corruption into a modern democracy fulfilling the
aspirations of its citizenry.  A prevalent view among many Lavalas supporters
is that every imaginable obstacle has been placed before them to preclude this
restoration including a brutal military coup, charges of fraud, charges of
political violence, charges of drug running by Lavalas officials, and finally,
bad mathematics. In this context one might understand why Lavalas supporters
took to the streets in force to denounce what they view as another attempt to
overturn the results of yet another election in which they believe to have
reclaimed their original mandate for change in Haiti.

In the words of one young militant, belonging to one of the popular
organizations behind the recent show of Lavalas strength in the streets of
Port of Prince, "Haitian history will not move forward without a return of
Lavalas and Aristide to the presidency."  Many in Lavalas are convinced that
the OAS and the international community are conspiring to discredit the May
21st elections and throw them into disarray in an attempt to forestall the
coming presidential elections in which Aristide would be the hands down
winner.  Others believe that this recent political battle over the credibility
of the May 21st elections is intended to discredit the majority's popular
mandate and further isolate a Lavalas ruled Haiti from the community of
nations.  Let us hope for the sake of the Haitian people and the integrity of
US foreign policy that they are not right.


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