|Haiti Archives 1995-1996|
|25/07/95||THIS WEEK IN HAITI July 19 – 25, 1995 Vol. 13, No. 17 BOYCOTT THREATENS LAVALAS "ELECTION" WIN|
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* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
July 19 – 25, 1995
Vol. 13, No. 17
BOYCOTT THREATENS LAVALAS "ELECTION" WIN
The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) this week finally released the results of the June 25th local and parliamentary "occupation elections." But after 17 days, the suspense was largely gone and the winners already known. The Lavalas Political Platform (PPL), a political coalition anointed by President Aristide, swept the vote, trouncing the more than two dozen "particles" that contested the various municipal and national seats.
In the balloting for the Senate, the PPL won some 47% of the vote. In the lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, Lavalas took 39% of the vote. The National Front for Change and Democracy (FNCD) came in second, with 12% and 13% in the respective houses, and KONAKOM third, with 9% and 8% of the parliamentary vote. On a local level, Lavalas won 62 out of 84 mayoralties in seven departments.
Aided by the highly "irregular" nature of the vote, the losers cried foul, claiming that the CEP was stacked with Aristide supporters. Evans Paul of the FNCD, the mayor of Port-au-Prince, who lost his post to singer Manno Charlemagne, told one radio station that "I am willing to lose in a clear and credible race, not an election without proof." (The official tally shows that Charlemagne won 45% of the vote against 18% for Paul.)
Even before the results were released, the FNCD and KONAKOM called for the elections to be annulled, as did almost all of the PPL's 26 opposing parties. Now, with results announced, the losing parties are declaring that they will not participate in the "reruns" of aborted first round votes, set for August 6, and the second round of balloting slated for later August. (For the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, candidates have to win 50% of the vote to be elected. Otherwise, a run-off is held. Thus far, Lavalas has won 5 Senate seats and 16 seats in the lower house.)
A boycott of the reruns and run-offs could pose some problems for President Aristide and the PPL. At the very least, it threatens to undermine the legitimacy they are so desperately seeking. The PPL seeks above all to please the "international community," whose solid support of the elections showed some cracks this week. OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria told Reuters July 14 that "it is very difficult for us to say that this [election] was free and fair." But, he was quick to add that "I really hope that the electoral council, with the help of President Aristide and the government, will find a way to get the results accepted."
Finally, the announcement of the results could signal the beginning of violence among the rival clans of politicians. On July 18, Port-au-Prince deputy mayor elect Johnny Charles of the Popular Power Assembly (PWOP) was ambushed by 6 armed men who tried to abduct him. He resisted and was stabbed twice in the left arm. A passing policemen caused the assailants to break off their attack. Charles suggested that the motive was not robbery, but political.
HAITIAN GOVERNMENT WORKING "HAND IN HAND" WITH THE WORLD BANK
Officials of the World Bank, one of the principal institutions used by the industrialized North since 1945 to subjugate and supervise the economies of the South, have been met around the globe by protestors chanting the refrain of an international campaign of denunciation: "50 Years is Enough!"
But in La Saline, Haiti, one of the Western hemisphere's most miserable slums, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide called on the Haitian people to work "hand in hand" with the World Bank, which "symbolizes life" and whose new president, James D. Wolfensohn, "has done a good job."
Wolfensohn, a private investment banker recently plucked from Wall Street by President Clinton to replace outgoing bank head Lewis Preston, flew into Port-au-Prince on July 13, his first stop on a ten-day public relations tour of six Latin American and Caribbean countries. The fawning reception given by the Haitian government to Wolfensohn underscores the degree to which Haiti is now under the tutelage of the Bank and the priority that the Aristide government has given to implementing the Bank's Structural Adjustment Program (SAP).
Last August, just prior to the US-led military intervention of Haiti and the return of President Aristide, the exiled government agreed to what some consider the most draconian austerity program in the hemisphere. Even Marc Bazin, the former World Bank official and the "American candidate" in the 1990 presidential elections, has criticized the Aristide/World Bank plan as going too far, too fast. In a press conference in early July, Bazin was quoted as saying "adjustment has its limits." Under last August's "Paris Accord," the Aristide government plans to slash government jobs, particularly in health and education; privatize profitable state-owned firms like the telephone company; sharply reduce tariffs; keep wages low, and promote the low-wage assembly industry and the tourism sector. "The export-led development pushed by the World Bank, the IMF, and US Agency for International Development actually pulled resources away from food production in Haiti. This model has made seed, fertilizer and agricultural inputs so expensive that peasants cannot afford them," said Lisa McGowan of the Washington, D.C.-based Development Gap at the time.
Despite the well-documented ills caused by World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) policies in Haiti and worldwide, and President Aristide's election on a nationalist platform in 1990, the Haitian government's economic policy is now clearly on a neo-liberal trajectory. The irony is, of course, that the "American plan" would probably be blocked by popular outrage if not for Aristide. The IMF and the World Bank are notorious for helping to pump millions of dollars into the Duvaliers' Swiss bank accounts while pretending to be concerned about Haitian poverty. In fact, Bazin's connection to the World Bank was one of the principle reasons he was so rejected by the Haitian electorate in 1990.
But today the World Bank has a new champion in Aristide. "We have a bank which deals with the problems of poverty in the world," Wolfensohn told the crowd in La Saline. "We deal with environmental problems, and when it comes to Haiti, you are a good client because you have poverty and you have a lot of environmental problems."
Aristide and Wolfensohn went to muddy La Saline to unveil a new drainage project. "We have not come here with empty hands," Aristide triumphantly declared. "There are $150 million to create jobs immediately, immediately, immediately."
Wolfensohn, however, was a little bit more cautious. "We are here today to address drainage matters," he said to the crowd, "and we trust you because you are a people which is very patient, very alive, and very optimistic."
Wolfensohn's visit to Haiti, the Caribbean, and Latin America is intended to redress the Bank's growing "public relations" problem and the fierce resistance worldwide to the Bank's policies. Throughout the Third World in the last decade, SAPs have sparked riots, strikes, and demonstrations. Wolfensohn's whistle-stop tour is designed to help shore up the governments which are implementing the Bank's programs. In Haiti, Wolfensohn signed a $100 million deal.
To add insult to injury, on July 13 Haitian National Television was supposed to broadcast the eagerly awaited soccer match between Brazil and Colombia as a part of the Copa America. Instead, the game was preempted by the sad spectacle of Aristide and Wolfensohn making propaganda for imperialism in the midst of La Saline's misery.
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