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Haiti readied for OAS, elections. High-Profile Events Key to Legitimizing Occupation, Status Quo

from Haiti Info,
Vol. 3, no. 17, 3 June 1995

PORT-AU-PRINCE, June 3 - Despite the continued atmosphere of impunity, murders and attacks in broad daylight and many reported irregularities, preparations are full-steam-ahead for this month's elections, with heavy support from the U.S. and the international community. The country is also being prepared to host the Twenty- fifth Session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (O.A.S.)

The buildup for these two events, which provide crucial legitimation internationally and nationally of the current state of affairs here, has resulted in a barrage of press conferences, radio and television campaigns and speeches attempting to convince the Haitian people of their importance and that President Jean- Bertrand Aristide and his government are in the process of satisfying their demands for economic development, justice and democracy. The successful carrying off of the O.A.S. meeting and especially the elections are also crucial to the U.S. and other international partners who restored democracy to Haiti.

Attacks, Complaints, Irregularities

In spite of violent attacks on candidates and 800,000 missing voter registration cards, preparations are moving into their final stages for the elections scheduled for June 25 and July 23. Today the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) will meet with all of the participating political parties. It is also the last day for voter registration.

Although the government claims three million Haitias have registered, all the parties have criticized the process, and there is still discernible apathy, cynicism and sometimes even fear from people, who complain of everything from partisan voting bureau employees to a sense of hopelessness that their vote will not matter or will result in more violence.

More worrisome still are the threats and attacks. On May 30, Senate candidate Renaud Bernadin, head of Pati Louvri Barye (part of the Lavalas Platform) and an Aristide advisor, was attacked as he addressed a crowd in Cap-Haitien. He was not wounded but others were. On May 28, a candidate from Union des Patriotes Democrates (UDP) was shot and wounded at a meeting.

Last week, a member of ex-Port-au-Prince Mayor and coup-supporter Franck Romain's party, PAKAPALA (in Creole the initials mean cannot not be there) who was not cleared to run in the elections, threatened to sabotage them.

Yesterday, in an obvious provocation, vehement coup-supporter and candidate for reelection Simon Georges of Parti Agricole et Industriel National (PAIN), accused the Lavalas party of handing out weapons to people in the South. (A PAIN member was arrested last week in Les Cayes for buying up voting cards.)

Int'l Supporters Revved Up

Despite the obvious problems, however, there have been only praises from the organizers and funders of the elections - the U.S., European countries, the U.N. and O.A.S. - which for evident reasons of credit and stability have a vested interest in the successful holding of free and fair, internationally sanctioned elections which will provide the final coat of varnish to the supposed restoration of democracy. [See Haiti Info, v.3, #14]

Every time foreign dignitaries visit, they focus on the elections. U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) chief Brian Atwood said Wednesday: I continue to feel confident that this will be a free and fair process and that people will feel secure they can vote their consciences. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who accompanied him, added: It's the key to true democracy. I encourage all my brothers and sisters to vote, vote, vote.

Last week, U.S. Embassy Spokesman Stanley Schrager called the CEP's work, which is criticized in the press almost every day, formidable, and in frequent press conferences and meetings, U.N. and O.A.S. officials continue to push forward the process, signing new accords, pledging more money, more materials and more staff. (Meanwhile, there have been no pledges to answer the Truth Commission's request .)

Two Republican visitors, here for 24 hours, revealed clearly why the U.S. is pushing the elections so insistently. Presidential candidate Senator Alan Specter and Senator Mike Dewayne said on Monday that Aristide promised again to step down on Feb. 7, 1996.

He very eloquently said that the Constitution was stronger and more important than his friends, explained Dewayne.

Not mincing words, Specter went even further to expose depth of U.S. imperialist arrogance when he noted that Haiti is under international tutelage and that President Aristide and Haiti have the duty to prove their democratic engagement. [Translated from French.]

O.A.S. Meeting: More Varnish

The 25th O.A.S. assembly, to start on June 5, provides another important coat of varnish to the tutelage. Beginning tomorrow, Haiti will receive almost 1,000 foreign delegates, staff and press for a five-day meeting entitled: Haiti: yesterday, today and tomorrow, her presence in the world.

The government has spent between US$2 and US$3 million to prepare for the event, including full-page newspaper advertisements and endless radio messages telling people why the meeting is important.

In one, a person chides someone who does not seem to care about the meeting, saying Oh, you're not interested in democracy anymore? Another ad tells people the meeting is a big event... Let's clean everything, let's put flags everywhere, and says, We know how to receive people!

Prime Minister Smarck Michel, in a press conference on May 30, said the meeting is crucial because you give a signal, a signal of stability... of discipline.

But U.S. Spokesman Schrager summed up why the meeting is important to the country's tutors, speaking once again with unfailing frankness about the importance of inserting a stable, democratic Haiti into the U.S.-dominated world market: This assembly is important. It is an indication of the progress happening in the hemisphere in the political domain and especially the economic domain.