Posted on Thu, Oct. 06, 2005
The proposed Haitian election is a sham, and the Bush administration knows it. During her visit to Haiti last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was under security so tight that she could only remain in the country for several hours. But that did not stop her from trying to promote U.S.-sponsored elections even though the registration process has failed on several counts.
To begin with, most Haitians voters are disfranchised, and the period to register has ended. Haiti’s electoral council, known as the CEP, established only 623 sites to register voters compared to the 11,238 sites established when Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president.
The current registration was largely designed to exclude the vast majority of the poor who are supporters of Aristide’s party Fanmi Lavalas. It had the predictable result. There was no registration site, for example, in Cité Soleil, a poor area of Port-au-Prince and an Aristide stronghold of 300,000 people. Similarly, there was only one registration site in Bel Air, where tens of thousands of Aristide’s supporters live.
The Peace and Justice Commission in Haiti has noted that only 10 percent of rural voters, traditionally supportive of Fanmi Lavalas, have been registered to vote in a country where 70 percent of the population lives in rural areas. Less than 60 percent of the voting population has been registered, if you believe the CEP. In the 2000 Haitian elections almost 94 percent of eligible voters were registered.
In order to vote, a Haitian must have a voter-identification card. Unfortunately, the CEP has distributed only 20,000 voter-identification cards.
In addition, the two potential candidates for president from Fanmi Lavalas, both of whom would easily win a fair election, sit as political prisoners in Haitian jails.
Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, a hero to the Haitian community in the United States and the poor in Haiti, has been designated a political prisoner by Amnesty International and Human Rights First. Former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune has been incarcerated on trumped-up charges for more than 14 months, and even former U.S. Ambassador James Foley called for Neptune’s release before he left Haiti.
The CEP, controlled by the Group 184 that led the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Haiti, has barred Jean-Juste from running for president on the grounds that he must ”personally appear” to register as a candidate.
The interim Haitian government also has done its part in this farce by keeping both Jean-Juste and Neptune in jail on no or baseless charges. They have also arrested most of the leadership of Fanmi Lavalas, banned all demonstrations until after the elections and allowed the Haitian National Police to work with death squads for the purpose of executing thousands of Fanmi Lavalas supporters since the coup against Aristide.
And this is where the Bush administration’s incompetence is evident. The current government was put into office by the United States with the assistance of France and Canada. Under Haiti’s constitution, its mandate was for 90 days only. Thereafter, it became an illegal government under Haitian law.
Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue assumed his position after spending 15 years as a radio commentator in Boca Raton. If the Bush administration really wanted fair elections, one would suppose that it could put some pressure on Latortue to release all political prisoners, stop the repression against Fanmi Lavalas members, allow for the registration of all Haitians and hold fair elections. Given the fact that Latortue and his government exist solely by virtue of using U.S. troops to forcibly remove Aristide and put Latortue in office, is it incompetence, deceit or both that maintains the current situation?
Ira Kurzban was the general counsel for Haiti for 13 years during the governments of Rene Peval and Jean-Bertrand Aristide.