Haiti Archives 1995-1996
25/06/95 HAITI-POLITICS: What Aristide Wants, Aristide Gets by Ives Marie Chanel

Copyright 1994 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.

Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jun 25 (IPS) — Among the poor of Sun City, Belekou, choosing a candidate to support in Sunday's election is simple — whomever President Jean Bertrand Aristide backs that is the person who will get their vote.

''We do not know the candidates, they have never even put in an appearance here in our district during the campaign. We do not have any candidates, but we will vote for whomever President Aristide asks us to,'' says 51 year old Canes Castor.

Castor, a house painter and father of eight children, is treasurer of a working-man's association in Sun City, considered the largest slum in the country with a half a million residents.

Castor had to go into hiding a few days before President Aristide's return to Haiti, when a group of unidentified armed men raked his house with machine-gun fire the night of Oct. 2, 1994.

''Since Aristide's return,'' says Prosper Saint Val, ''we are living in peace, security has been reestablished and we can sleep in the street without being afraid.''

Saint Val comes from the island of La Gonave, situated 50 kms off Port-au-Prince, and he has been living in Sun City for 25 years. Also a father of eight Saint Val is a porter who earns about a 1.50 U.S. dollars per day

His children no longer go to school because he cannot pay the school fees. His children are not intelligent, he thinks, because they are badly nourished.

''Yesterday evening I cried because I could not give my children anything to eat. Sometimes I don't make any money at all. I feed myself on sweet potatoes and often eat sugar cane for supper.It's a difficult situation. Staple products are dear. Nothing has changed yet, but I believe God wll help us,'' he says.

God and Aristide are the two names always on the lips of Sun City residents. Unlike other Haitians who have found their confidence in the president shaken by the time lag in the distribution of bounty, these people still have faith in Aristide.

Their hope, they say, is that one day they will be able ''to eat around the table''. This ''table'' they speak of is the emblem of the Lavalas (PPL) political platform. The PPL is a coalition of parties, openly supported by President Aristide in the closing weeks of the election campaign.

The President has thrown all his weight behind the PPL hoping for the parliamentary majority he needs to get all his projects passed by the legislature.

Like the December 1990 elections, observers believe that Aristide's supporters will vote ''with their eyes blindfolded'' — not for those candidates whose programmes are founded on their demands or ideas, but for an emblem which stands for the rallying of the 'Lavalassians'.

Some of Aristide's supporters, however, have in private expressed reservations about this practice.

In fact, several members of parliament who got elected in December 1990 under the banner of the National Front for Change and Democracy (FNCD) — a coalition which had supported Aristide's candidacy for president — were identified after the army mutiny which overthrew him in September 1991 as being among the fiercest opponents of his restoration.

President Aristide's attitude is frowned upon by certain political leaders. Serge Gilles, coordinator of the Haitian Revolutionary and Progressive Nationalist Party (PANPRA/Social Democrat) thinks that Aristide has been badly advised. He should have kept his neutrality, he says.

Less than 48 hours from the voting, it is difficult to predict the outcome as the fragmentation of the electorate and the absence of a genuine campaign makes it difficult to judge the popularity of the candidates, political commentators say.

However, since the system of patronage has by no means disappeared from the political culture of Haitians, observers say it is entirely possible that he with the largest pocket will conquer all comers. (end/ips/np/imc/da/95)

Origin: Amsterdam/HAITI-POLITICS/


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