Haiti Archives 1995-1996
21/06/95 INTERNATIONAL LIAISON OFFICE FOR PRESIDENT ARISTIDE: Update

HAITI: UPDATE1 June 21, 1995

I. UPDATE ON THE ELECTIONS

II. TOWARDS ECONOMIC RECONSTRUCTION

III. TRUTH COMMISSION INVESTIGATION UNIT

IV. CHILDREN SUBJECTED TO CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT

V. NEWS BRIEFS

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I. UPDATE ON THE ELECTIONS

In a few days, Haitians go to the polls to elect parliamentary representatives and local officials. While the process has been fraught with administrative challenges, the framework for free and fair elections has been put in place. The elections are scheduled for June 25 and the runoffs for July 23. The process has been notable for the very high level of participation from candidates and parties across the political spectrum, as well as for the high level of voter registration. Through these elections, Haitians will take another step towards the consolidation of democracy and increase their capacity to influence all levels of Haitian government.

Nearly 4,000,000 voters (over 90% of the voting population) have registered to elect all 83 Deputies, 18 out of 27 Senators, 133 municipal councils, and 564 members of district councils (CASEC's). This will be only the second time in Haitian history that people have had the opportunity to democratically choose their parliamentary and local representatives. According to the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), there are approximately 4092 candidates from about 30 political parties participating.

The applications for candidacy were reviewed by the CEP according to the Electoral Law: about 143 of the 177 senatorial applicants were accepted to run; 716 of the 859 deputy candidates; 756 of the 885 candidates for mayor offices; and 2477 of the 2688 for CASEC's. Most of the disqualifications were related to failure to submit the documents required under the law. According to article 291 of the Constitution, the architects of the Duvalier dictatorship cannot run for elected office until 1997 (ten years after the writing of the Constitution).

Some candidates were disqualified on the basis of being members of paramilitary organizations. One candidate was disqualified because he currently faces criminal charges of murder. According to the Organization of American States, invited by the Haitian government to assist in observing the elections, the disqualification did not seem to follow any ideological pattern. "There are as many from one ideological tendency as another being rejected, and no one group seems to have benefited", said the OAS Electoral Observation Mission deputy chief, Micheline Begin (New York Times, June 12, 1995).

CEP President Anselme Remy had previously announced that some 1,000,000 voter registration cards were stolen, but it now appears that the cards may simply have been misplaced. Additional registration cards were ordered, and excess cards will be used for a supplemental registration period prior to the Presidential elections in December.

In order to facilitate the greatest possible participation in the elections, the CEP extended the registration period and has increased its voting sites from 9,000 to over 10,000. There are also 55,000 people recruited to work at the polling sites on election day.

Among the measures being taken to ensure fair elections and prevent fraud:

*** All Departmental Electoral Bureaus will provide a list to the CEP with numbers of any missing registration cards.

*** All voters will present their registration cards at the voting sites, which will be cross checked with the carbon copies of the cards as well as with the official voter registration list published by the CEP.

*** After casting their ballots all voters will have their fingers dipped in indelible ink to prevent multiple voting.

*** In order to increase transparency of the process, the CEP and the political parties agreed to form a Unit for Surveillance and Control which will observe the process throughout the country. On June 12, the political parties and the CEP agreed on a code of conduct for the campaigning period.

*** The CEP has invited many experts to assist with technical support during the electoral process and several hundred national and international observers to monitor the elections throughout the country on election day. The OAS Elections Observation Mission has a team of 40 experts assisting during the electoral process, which receives complaints, and transmits recommendations to the CEP. On June 15, the Mission will greatly increase to 400 observers (including temporarily, members of the OAS/UN International Civilian Mission) for the voting period. At least 9 Haitian and 18 international missions have been approved to observe the elections.

*** The United Nations Mission in Haiti is providing logistical and security assistance throughout the process, in conjunction with the Interim Police Force and the new national Police force.

Other international organizations involved with the elections are: the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) which is printing the ballots, providing training on administrative procedures, voter education, and party pollwatcher training; the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) which has been training some political parties in fundraising, media relations, membership building, poll watching, and civic education campaigns; the International Republican Institute (IRI) which will have a delegation of observers;

the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) which is organizing "get-out-the-vote" campaigns; the Parliamentary Human Rights Foundation (PHRF) and the Center for Democracy (CFD) which are involved in post-electoral training for the new parliament.

The ballots are being printed in California by Sequoia Pacific Systems, which received the bid over a Haitian printing firm. The ballots will be flown to Miami and then to Haiti. Two members of the CEP are in California following the printing process.

II. TOWARDS ECONOMIC RECONSTRUCTION

The government of Haiti recognizes the need to strengthen civil society as a fundamental component of economic reconstruction. Efforts to modernize and decentralize the State and to revitalize the economy will not improve the situation of Haiti's majority unless civil structures can be strengthened at the same time.

This is because the Haitian "formal" economy, which is concentrated mainly in Port-au-Prince, has employed less than 300,000 people (less than 5% of the population) even at its best moments. Over 70% of the population lives in the countryside. Thus economic revitalization will depend largely on the social and economic activities of the Haitian people and their civic organizations.

The pace of economic revitalization has been slow, since the return of President Aristide on October 15, 1994, for a number of reasons, including:

* The social and practical challenges involved in transforming many decades of corrupt, parasitic governments, and reorienting the country's institutions towards democracy and productivity.

* A "development deficit" created by the coup regime, which had to be overcome, and included: ignoring debt payments to the international community and building up tens of millions of dollars in arrears; targeted destruction of civic organizations and productive infrastructure; the looting of government ministries; driving out international investors.

* The international community's slowness in delivering on commitments of development assistance.

* The weak bureaucratic structure of the Haitian government.

* Continued insecurity due to the limited effectiveness of the Interim Public Security Force.

* The slowness of the Haitian private sector to launch economic initiatives.

Economic revitalization is very much tied to the strengthening of Haitian democracy and the creation of a new "social contract" for the country. Key steps along the way are: 1) the June elections for Parliamentary and local officials, 2) the full deployment of a new, civilian Police force, and 3) advances in creating an effective judicial system and carrying out the work of the National Truth and Justice Commission. Some of the governmental initiatives to revitalize and strengthen Haitian civil society, which was targeted for repression and devastated under the coup regime, include:

**** Lowering the Price of Basic Goods: community stores and community restaurants are being established around the country, as part of the "presidential small projects" program, in order to offer basic foods at lower prices, and perhaps eventually to bring down the market price of food. For example, a new community store opened last week in the public market at Leogane managed by a committee of local popular organizations. The selling price for the primary products are : 305 gourdes (US$ 21.80) for a sack of rice, compared to 350 (US$ 25) in the parallel market; 375 gourdes for sugar (compared to 430); 60 gourdes for a gallon of oil (compared to 70).

**** Credit for the Rural Sector: The government is currently examining methods for providing vitally needed credit to Haiti's poor majority, particularly in the rural sector where 70% of the population is located. Credit in the Haitian countryside (as well as for the urban poor) has always been extremely limited, controlled by a few people and provided at usurious interest rates of over 240% per year. The decapitalization of the rural population under the coup regime has only made the problem more severe. The government is also examining a number of institutions and mechanisms to help make credit more readily available.

**** Training: Mechanisms to provide vitally needed training to civic and citizens organizations are being explored, in particular those involved in production and marketing (artesanry and peasant cooperatives, market women, etc..) Training would be targeted to enhance productive activities, including refining artesanry, basic management of finances, project administration, etc.

**** Collective Infrastructure: The government hopes to further revitalize the rural economy by providing collective infrastructure which will improve the well-being of broad sectors of the population and enhance their ability to foster social and economic development. Such infrastructure would include roads, potable water wells and cisterns, and irrigation projects.

In addition, various government initiatives —the Economic and Social Assistance Fund (FAES); the Central Implementation Unit of the Prime Minister's Office; the Ministry of Public Works— are beginning to advance more rapidly in implementation of basic infrastructure and job creation programs.

III. TRUTH COMMISSION INVESTIGATION UNIT

The National Truth and Justice Commission has organized its Investigation Unit which will consist of approximately 50 human rights experts from Haiti and the rest of the world. A second office opened in Peguy-ville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, and training for field investigators begun on June 12. Field investigation teams will be deployed on the first week of July throughout the country to receive the complaints from the population for a period of at least two months. The reports will be sent to headquarters in Port-au-Prince which will further analyze the data. The final report is expected to be completed by mid-November. The Commission has already received large amounts of data from human rights organizations relating to specific cases of human rights violations committed between September 29, 1991 and October 15, 1994.

An advance delegation recently went to Gonaive on a public information visit and to conduct a preliminary forensic examination on the site of the Raboteau massacre of April 22, 1994 (in which soldiers with civilian collaborators attacked, shot, beat, hunted down, arrested and destroyed the homes of residents, particularly those most active in opposing the de facto regime, killing some 12 to 20 individuals). The delegation met with popular organizations, human rights monitors, UN Police monitors, members of the Haitian Interim Public Security Forces, and victims of the Raboteau massacre. The delegation was accompanied by experts from the OAS/UN International Civilian Mission and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The Commission is still critically short of funding and continues to look for support from foreign governments, organizations, foundations, and other donors. The resources are channeled through a trust fund set up under the auspices of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The Commission's estimated budget is US$ 2,500,000, and at present it has only received US$ 118,000 from the UNDP; Canadian $ 55,000 from the government of Canada; and 4,000,000 gourdes from the Haitian government (about US$ 285,700).

The most concrete additional commitments for assistance are from the Canadian government with promises of C$ 1,000,000 more; up to US$ 500,000 from the United States government; and 3,000,000 gourdes more from the Haitian government (about US$ 214,000). Talks are also underway with the European Commission which is expected to finance some of the data analysis.

The Commission is also receiving some donations such as vehicles, office space in the countryside, and office equipment, and is also discussing with the UN logistical support for communications. The Commission is also urgently requesting the donation of an electric generator, a UPS (uninterruptible power supply), and office equipment such as copy machines and faxes.

IV. CHILDREN SUBJECTED TO CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT

Twenty three members of the US Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter to President Clinton on June 7 urging the immediate granting of humanitarian parole to the remaining 165 children at the US Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba, in order "to mitigate what has already been a serious humanitarian tragedy— as well as to avoid the appearance of a double standard". An endorsement letter to President Clinton was signed by hundreds of well known figures, such as Harry Belafonte, Robert de Niro, Jonathan Demme, Katherine Dunham, Danny Glover, Michelle Pfeiffer, Randall Robinson, Gregory Peck, Susan Sarandon.

The US Administration has set a deadline to complete the forced repatriation by the end of June. Last summer, 356 children fled Haiti after seeing their loved ones brutally slain or were themselves victims of beatings, rape or other tortures by supporters of the coup regime. Some saw their parents drown while fleeing Haiti in overcrowded boats. As if those were not enough physical and emotional hardships for the minors, they had to endure one year of detention at the Guantanamo Naval Base, just to be forcibly repatriated to a homeland without a home, parent, adult relative or guardian to care for them.

All of the children have close living relatives or sponsors in the United States eager and willing to provide for them. There are also resettlement agencies, such as the US Catholic Conference, ready to help resettle these innocent lives. Many of the about 200 already repatriated children were erroneously sent back, and presently live in conditions of squalor or danger, according to fact-finding missions by refugee advocates. Some are destitute and living in the street.

Racism has been alleged by critics as the main reason for the repatriations, since all Cuban refugee children in Guantanamo were recently granted humanitarian parole and welcomed by the United States government with open arms.

V. NEWS BRIEFS

1.— Since President Aristide's meeting with members of both the Interim and the new Police force on May 23 — in which the President declared that there must be unity between the police in order to maintain a climate of security in the country — several of the biggest groups of zenglendos (bandits armed by the previous military government) were disbanded and at least 75 members arrested.

2.— "Our Nation's great strengths lie in its great potential. That potential must be made real. In order to do that, we need people who will protect the rights of every person. That is the fundamental role of the Police. That is the sacrifice that we are proud to make together, heroically, to give life, protection, security, and peace to the newly born Haitian nation", said President Aristide at the graduation of the new Police Force. The first 370 graduates of the newly created Academy of Police and 48 cadets trained at the Regina School in Canada took the oath to honor the Constitution of Haiti and protect the rights of all the citizens, on June 4 at the Haitian Presidential Palace. This is the first class of trained police that Haiti has ever had since it declared independence nearly 200 years ago. About 125 new graduates are being deployed in Port-au-Prince in the Delmas area, and 250 in Cap Haitian. With the deployment, a corresponding number of Interim Public Security Force will be demobilized.

3.— On June 9, the Minister of Justice, Jean-Joseph Exume chaired the ceremony ending the training of police officers charged with running the state penitentiary. A total of 180 officers were trained. The ceremony was held at the Navy base.

4.— Haitian human rights organizations and government officials have expressed concern about the United States proposal to train all the remaining classes of the new police force for 8 of their 16 weeks session at the US Military Base Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. A major achievement in the struggle for consolidation of the democracy in Haiti has been the creation of new institutions to replace old corrupted, brutal, and oppressive ones. According to one official quoted by the New York Times, (June 18, 1995) "Psychologically, the one thing the new police have going for them is that the population sees them as untainted. That's the most important asset any police force can have, so why risk losing it?" The Haitian people's faith in the new police force's commitment to defend the Haitian people and the Haitian Constitution on Haitian land will be vital to the success of the new institution.

5.— The Organization of American States' 25th General Assembly meeting was hosted by Haiti from June 5 to 10, focusing on "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Haiti's Presence in the World". Hundreds of members participated from the 34 member countries of the Americas and from observer countries such as Germany, France, Croatia, Poland and Egypt. "The greatest political problem to resolve in our hemisphere", according to OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria, " is the reintegration of Cuba in the inter-American system". Secretary General Gaviria also talked about efforts to create a region-wide free-trade zone, and to join efforts to stop counter terrorism, drug trafficking, and corruption. At the closing ceremony, the member states adopted a declaration, "A New Vision of the OAS", which includes a series of 20 resolutions intended to promote economic integration and free market exchange in the region.

6.— Haitian Minister of Justice Jean Joseph Exume was elected as a member of the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. He will begin his four year term in January 1996.

7.— As part of the ongoing efforts towards judicial reform, the Ministry of Justice made some personnel changes in the courts, officially registering numerous dismissals and retirements.

8.— As part of the initiatives taken by the Ministry of Justice leading to judicial reform, a group of 7 young Haitian lawyers, judges and law professors are participating in training classes at the School of Magistrates of Bordeaux, France, from June 7 to 26. On their return, they will become teachers at Haiti's new school of judges.

9.— The rise in juvenile delinquency and the lack of adequate facilities continue to be a matter of grave preoccupation for Haitians. One measure that the government is undertaking is the creation of Summer Camps for children in crisis, as reported by President Aristide on May 23.

10.— Receipts from customs are increasing, according to the general manager of Port-au-Prince customs, Mr. Jacques Valentin. Receipts reached a record high of 100,000,000 gourdes (approximately US$ 7,143,000) in May. The Saint Marc Customs Office also reported a record income of 2,900,000 gourdes (US$ 200,000) for the month of May alone. The frequent arrival of foreign cargo ships in the city's port due to the return of the constitutional order are credited for the record.

11.- A US$ 50 million loan from the World Bank has been approved for the implementation of an Employment Generation Project. The program will finance short-term employment for people in extreme poverty in support of the government's program for poverty alleviation. The Central Implementation Unit of the Prime Minister's Office will be responsible for the overall project planning, monitoring and evaluation.

12.— On May 15-17, 200 Haitian Diaspora businessmen and an equal number of resident Haitian met for a three-day Haitian Economic Symposium. At the closing of the symposium, Chief of Cabinet Lesly Voltaire announced 11 measures the government has taken to encourage financial investment including: 1) four to six hours of electricity per day in the industrial areas; 2) discussion on the reduction of port costs; 3) reduction of the number of national holidays to 14; 4) elimination of export inspection; 5) study of a new tariff for export businesses; 6) temporary renewal of tax exemption for imported merchandise; 7) opening of an account to receive donations from Haitians living abroad earmarked for development in Haiti; 8) establishment of a work code among the government, the unions and the private sector.

13.— On May 30, the Paris Club canceled 67% of the Haitian debt to the member countries.

14.— Measles cases reached an all-time low of four cases in January as the national immunization campaign against measles expanded to outside of Port-au-Prince. However, a June 8 report by UNICEF says that "in almost all social areas except for vaccination and rights of children, Haiti has failed or advance too slowly." Pneumonia, iodine deficiency, lack of vitamin A, diarrhea, are only some of the major problems that have not yet been targeted by national programs.

15.— 26 Haitians and 6 Guayanese and a boat commander coming from Bahamas were intercepted on June 13 by American coastguards. Among those persons, there was a pregnant woman and a child. All the intercepted persons are in the Krome detention center, in Louisiana, USA.

N.B. These materials are being distributed by the International Liaison Office for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The International Liaison Office is registered with the Department of Justice, Washington DC, under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, as an agent of the Government of Haiti. The required registration statements are available for public inspection at the Department of Justice. Registration does not indicate approval of the contents of these materials by the United States Government.

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