"Justice. Verite. Independance."
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
April 15 - 21, 2009
Vol. 2, No. 39
by Kim Ives
In the face of widespread consternation and a boycott by Haiti's largest
party, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) plans to go forward with
partial Senate elections this weekend, just days after international donors
met in Washington, DC in an effort to raise money for the cash-strapped
Two months ago, the CEP excluded former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's
Lavalas Family party (FL) on the grounds that he had not signed the
registration documents for his party's candidates for the 12 Senate seats
being filled (see Haiti Liberté, Vol. 2, No. 31, 2/18/2009).
Aristide, who is still in exile in South Africa, is not required to sign the
documents. Another party designee can and has done so in years past,
including this year. Furthermore, it would be difficult and politically
awkward for Aristide to sign the documents at the Haitian Embassy in
Pretoria, as he would have had to.
In response to its disqualification, the party has launched "Operation
Closed Doors," a campaign urging the Haitian people to shun the Apr. 19
polling. The call comes after a Haitian court ruled Mar. 9 that the CEP had
acted illegally in disqualifying the Lavalas Family (see Haiti Liberté, Vol.
2, No. 34, 3/11/2009). The CEP, however, has ignored the ruling, being
constitutionally autonomous and outside court and government jurisdiction in
(Judge Jean-Claude Douyon, who made the ruling against the CEP, was fired by
Haitian Justice Minister Jean-Joseph Exumé on Apr. 3 for alleged corruption.
Douyon, however, says his dismissal was retaliation for hearing the case,
according to the Haiti Information Project's Kevin Pina.)
Thousands of demonstrators marched through the capital on Feb. 28, the fifth
anniversary of the Feb. 29, 2004 coup d'état against Aristide, to demand his
return to Haiti and the party's inclusion in the elections. Another march of
some 10,000 on Mar. 27 shook Haiti's second city, Cap Haitien.
The Haitian Priorities Project (HPP), based in the U.S. and Haiti, estimated
that only 5% of eligible voters would turn out on Apr. 19, based on polling
conducted of some 65,000 people by 70 investigators during eight days in
"If the Lavalas Family is not part of the election, then there will be no
free and fair election," said a Lavalas Family member at a demonstration
outside CEP headquarters last month. "Whatever happens will just be a
Even organizationally, the election appears destined for trouble. Although
CEP spokesman Frantz Bernadin claimed that ballots and other voting
materials were already distributed to Departmental Electoral Offices - known
as BEDs - several press reports said that two-thirds of the 600,000 new
electoral cards were not yet distributed to voters with less than a week to
There are 78 candidates from only 16 of Haiti's 49 registered parties -
along with some independents - running for the 12 seats. The elections,
which have been postponed for about a year and a half, are costing more than
In an effort to promote the elections, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton will travel to Haiti on Apr. 16, as her husband, former President
Bill Clinton, did with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Mar. 9 (see
Haiti Liberté, Vol. 2, No. 34, 3/11/2009). In Port-au-Prince, she will meet
with President René Préval, as she did on Feb. 5 in Washington. (The same
day she will travel on to the Dominican Republic and then on Apr. 17 to
Trinidad and Tobago, where she will attend the three-day Summit of the
Americas along with President Barack Obama in Port of Spain.)
The push for elections will come after a push for aid. On Apr. 14, Hillary
Clinton, along with Ban Ki-moon, French Deputy Foreign Minister Rama Yade,
and Haitian Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis, attended a donors
conference of about 30 nations and multilateral agencies in Washington,
organized by the Haitian government and the Inter-American Development Bank
(IDB). Clinton pledged $57 million from the U.S. government, including $20
million for infrastructure repair, $20 million for debt relief, and $15
million for food aid.
The $125 million Pierre-Louis aimed to raise on Apr. 14 is just to close
this year's budget deficit, Haiti's Economy and Finance Minister Daniel
Dorsainvil told The Wall Street Journal. In addition, the Haitian government
is looking for pledges of $2 billion, half of a $4 billion three-year
poverty reduction program.
The government came away from the conference with pledges of $324 million
for the next two years. Time will tell how much of that sum will actually be
delivered as the world capitalist crisis deepens in the months ahead.
Washington is very concerned about Haiti's political stability, as indicated
by the donors conference, the high-level visits, and a spate of articles and
editorials by Ban Ki-moon and others in leading U.S. dailies like the New
York Times and Miami Herald over the past two months.
"We are treading on very fragile ground," Pierre-Louis told the donors
conference. "If no action is taken now the consequences will be
Catastrophic instability, however, may well result, sooner or later, from
the exclusionary Apr. 19 elections. Despite attempts to raise money to avert
disaster, by keeping Aristide in exile and his party out of the Senate
elections the Préval/Pierre-Louis government, and its international backers,
may be engaged in the futile exercise described in a Haitian proverb: "Lave
men, siye ate." Wash one's hands but then dry them in the dirt.
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