Elections in Haiti in 2000, Epilogue

Okay, just one more thing on this topic. On February 1, 2004, John Maxwell (no relation) wrote a column entitled “The End of Nationhood”:http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/html/20040201T040000-0500_55163_OBS_THE_END_OF_NATIONHOOD.asp for the “Jamaica Observer”:www.jamaicaobserver.com. The article highlights some of the international community’s attitudes towards Haiti and how those attitudes are causing grave harm to the country. Especially check out the last segment of the column, entitled “The election flaw is a red herring.”

Elections in Haiti in 2000, Part I

Tomorrow, I will return the focus of my research – and consequently the entries on this site – to Toussaint Louverture. I’m glad I’ve taken some time to know Haiti’s current situation a little better, but it’s time to get back to the whole point of this enterprise, which is getting to know the man himself.

There’s one bit of unfinished business I’d like to wrap up, though. I had written a bit about Haiti’s current situation in previous entries, and much of what I wrote seems to take a particular anti-US policy tone. My personal feelings aside, I didn’t really intend to present my views as one-sided or unsupported. As I mentioned in yesterday’s entry, I asked the Haiti List for help in finding some objective resources, but the people who responded only confessed to being equally in the dark.

I had never considered before that I take a certain type of news coverage for granted. I think much of the news media in the US is… well, at best, useless for keeping me _accurately_ informed of what’s going on in the world. But if there’s one thing I can count on, it’s that it there are at least a few places I can consistently find accurate reporting presented by responsible journalists. In my brief time of studying Haitian politics, I’m not sure the same can be said for that country.

(I am aware that there are brave and dedicated Haitian journalists risking their lives to get the truth out. My point is that their job is a lot harder and more dangerous and the general Haitian public and world audience are far less likely to hear their voices.)

So, look, I’m not a journalist. I don’t know Thing One about reporting. I’m an amateur writer who is depending entirely on secondary or tertiary or quaternary sources for information, and then I’m trying to synthesize it and spit it back out so it makes sense to me. It’s just that, in the interest of fairness, I felt I had to at least try to present the other side of the Haiti question.

In particular, I wanted to find out what the US and International community’s policy towards Haiti is, and what is the basis for that policy? And, since the elections of 2000 are often mentioned in relation to US policy, what specifically were the flaws in the 2000 election?

If I were a real reporter, I probably would have called or emailed the sources here directly, but in the end, part laziness and part desire to regain my focus on Toussaint drove my decision not to. Instead, I’ll present here a survey and summary of what I was able to find online.

Please keep in mind, that while I have devoted significant time to finding relevant information, I’m not in a position to analyze the motivations of various sources or the veracity of their claims. What I offer here are my summaries of what I read, along with links to the relevant documents so that others who wish to make up their own minds will have a place to start. I can’t promise 100% accuracy, though I promise I’ve done my best. Sources appear in no particular order.

h3. Elections in Haiti in 2000, Part I

h4. Summary of information found online relating to Haiti’s Year 2000 elections and the international community’s policy towards Haiti.

h5. Some facts about the election that do not seem to be disputed:

* The elections of May 21, 2000 were originally scheduled for November 1999. The delays were “due to logistical, technical, financial and political problems.” (ICIO)
* The elections in May, 2000 were generally peaceful.
* Most estimates note that 60% of the population voted in the May elections
* The elections in May 2000 were disputed mostly on the basis of the methods used to count the winners.

h3. Source: “The United States Embassy in Haiti”:http://usembassy.state.gov/haiti/

The United States has taken the position at least as early as February 2001 that the Haitian elections of 2000 were ‘flawed.’ Quoting from “Washington File article by Eric Green”:http://usinfo.state.gov/regional/ar/islands/aristide7.htm dated February 7, 2001, the US Department of State ‘said Haiti has ‘considerable ground to cover in developing an effective and inclusive electoral process.” Apparently, the Organization of American States and independent political observers cast doubt on the validity of ‘some seats won by Aristide-supported candidates.’ The United Nations was forced to call off its mission in that country the day before Aristide’s inauguration because of increasing security concerns.

Because of the results of the election and Haiti’s continuing problems in the areas of security and human rights, the US has suspended direct aid to the government of Haiti, and has encouraged the international community to do the same. In a “May 2002 speech”:http://usinfo.state.gov/regional/ar/islands/02052301.htm, Lino Gutierrez, principal deputy assistant secretary of state put the US policy this way.

bq. “Corruption, drug trafficking, human rights abuses, increasing authoritarianism, and a declining economy threaten Haiti’s fragile institutions,” he said. In response, the United States has adopted a policy toward Haiti that “rests on four pillars, all equally important,” Gutierrez said. “We seek to support efforts to strengthen democracy and improve respect for human rights; provide humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable Haitians, and actively promote sustainable economic development; discourage illegal migration, which threatens maritime safety and the lives of those who risk dangerous sea travel; and stem the flow of illegal drugs through Haiti” to the United States.

To read continue reading Part I, click the link…
Continue reading Elections in Haiti in 2000, Part I

Elections in Haiti in 2000, Part II

h3. Source: “Haiti Election page of the International Coalition of Independent Observers (ICIO)”:http://www.quixote.org/haiti/elections/

This thorough, detailed report is an excellent source of information about the 2000 elections. One caveat: The website states that “The ICIO observed the local and legislative elections in Haiti on May 21, 2000 as the only group of observers completely independent from government structures.” Though independent, ICIO’s point of view should be considered while reading this, as the lead member of the coalition appears to be Haiti Reborn, a group whose stated mission is to “advocate for a more just US foreign policy” in Haiti. Still, the report is written by authors who are not affiliated with a particular government, and so it should be read in hopes of balancing other government-based reports. To my eyes, the report is extensively researched and quite willing to show all perspectives, warts and all.

The ICIO report contains a thorough analysis of the 2000 election, its methods and processes, including:

* The registration process and its flaws
* The role of International Agencies
* Reasons for the election postponements
* US pressure tactics to set the date of the elections
* The actual elections and irregularities noted
* National and International political fallout

Voter registration was apparently a major issue in Haiti’s 2000 Elections. The Bureaus of Inscription (BI) were allotted only a month in which to register an estimated 4.2 million voters. In addition to the enormous time pressure, the BI were given photographic equipment that was difficult to operate, and there were claims that not enough registration materials had been distributed. Training, pay, and selection of BI staff were also serious issues, as were corruption and the lack of computerized Central Data Processing.

The ICIO report while unflinchingly recognizing the serious weaknesses in the democratic process, also points out the hopeful and positive sides of the 2000 elections.

When the elections were held on the 21st of May (in most of the country), the ICIO report states that the elections “were declared by all international and national observers to be legitimate and acceptably free and fair.” The report also states that “minor irregularities were noted…,” most of which seem to be logistical. A section of personal reflections on the elections that day describes Haitians patiently and determinedly participating in an outdoors voting bureau.

The day after the election, opposition groups began to question the results. The OAS published a letter in the Haitian press criticizing the CEP (the provisional electoral council, responsible for certifying election results). The CEP asserted that the results were valid, but then two members affiliated with the opposition party resigned. The head of the CEP fled the country. Nonetheless, President Preval published the results and scheduled runoff elections for July 7th.

The ICIO report agrees that the OAS criticisms of the election results were valid. “According to Article 64 of the electoral law, to be elected as a senator in the first round of elections requires an absolute majority of votes. In the counting done by the CEP in May 2000, only the top four candidates in each contest were counted, and based on these numbers the CEP determined whether or not a candidate for senate had received an absolute majority.” Nevertheless, the CEP believed it had used proper methodology under the circumstances and stood by the results, issuing a Statement of Clarification to that effect on June 30, 2000.

The US took a hard-line stance, claiming that the CEP was not a credible body, that the run-off elections in July were highly disputed, and that given the persistent disagreement between the opposition coalition and Aristide’s _Fanmi Lavalas_ party, the US would withhold further official aid and assistance.

The OAS orchestrated several meetings between _Fanmi Lavalas_ and the _Convergence Democratique_, as the opposition coalition had come to be known. There was actually some agreement between the two parties and a willingness to negotiate, but ultimately talks broke down. (See links to the original OAS reports in Part IV.)

The ICIO report offers this asessment of “The Larger Picture” of democratic progress in Haiti from James Deroser, a deputy from Cap-Haitian:

bq. “‘To understand what is going on now you have to know history,’ explained Deroser. In his opinion, the entire history of Haitian politics is clan politics. The situation has always been one where 80% of the land and production are in the hands of a tiny minority, and the entire society sits on a base of exploitation. ‘Those with privilege,’ Deroser says, ‘have never looked well upon the popular movement for democracy.’

bq. “This impression is similar to the opinions articulated in areas of Haiti beyond the capital. ‘The opposition has no popular base, but they do have support from the United States,’ Deroser explained. This opinion says that the richest members of Haitian society have ties to Republicans in the United States. In terms of the rest of the Haitian population, over 80% are illiterate, but it is important to note that they are not stupid. ‘They understand what is happening,’ Deroser said, ‘and Jean-Bertrand Aristide is their leader. If elections were held tomorrow the population would vote for one party, Fanmi Lavalas.'”

Though by this time the international community had removed its observers and refused to offer further financial or technical assistance, the CEP went ahead with presidential and partial senatorial elections in November.

To continue reading part II, click the link…
Continue reading Elections in Haiti in 2000, Part II

Elections in Haiti in 2000, Part III

h3. Source: “United Nations”:http://www.un.org/

The UN maintained a mission in Haiti, “UNIMH”:http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/dpko/co_mission/unmih.htm from September 1993 to June 1996, in part to set the stage for a fair election.

In 1990, 1994, and 2000, the UN “provided technical assistance”:http://www.un.org/Depts/dpa/ead/assistance_by_country/ea_h_n.htm to Haiti during their elections. This “support included”:http://www.un.org/documents/roundup.htm working with Haiti’s police, strengthening the justice system, and promoting human rights.

On 17 July 2000, the Secretary-General issued a report entitled “The situation of human rights and democracy in Haiti (a/55/154)”:http://www.un.org/documents/ga/docs/55/a55154.pdf (PDF), from the International Civilian Support Mission in Haiti. The report contains the following statements:

* “…the electoral process…unfolded in a climate of violence, intimidation and unpredictability…”
* In delaying the elections, “there were charges that President Rene Pr�val, who had refused to issue a decree confirming a previous date on the grounds that he had not been consulted, was procrastinating.”
* “On 8 April 2000, the headquarters of the opposition Espace de Concertation was torched by persons _alleged to be_ Fanmi Lavalas supporters, who also stoned a radio station often critical of the Government.” [my emphasis]
* One of 70 acts of violence between February and May took place when Jean Dominique, “a leading radio journalist whose reporting and commentary were exceptionally bold and hard-hitting, was shot dead. His murder was seen as a warning to all Haitian journalists, including those identified with the opposition, several of whom were the targets of specific threats or assaults during this period.”
* CEP�s deteriorating relationship with the United States-funded IFES culminated with the expulsion of the local IFES director on 8 May 2000. The loss of IFES assistance was particularly apparent in the inadequate training of poll workers.

bq. [Note that the “ICIO report”:http://www.quixote.org/haiti/elections/ explains that Micheline Begin, head of the Haiti program for IFES, had already left the country when she “was declared persona non grata by the Government after allegedly reporting to her colleagues in Washington that President Pr�val was unduly influenced by supporters of FL. ‘We can�t tolerate this sort of declaration from a foreigner,’ Prime Minister Alexis said, and called Begin�s remarks ‘an insult.’ Begin was replaced by Denise Duphenais, who acted as interim chief through the elections. According to Duphenais, IFES� relationship at an operational level with the CEP had become problematic. Starting May 6, the entire process began moving forward more smoothly. Duphenais believes this was due to increased political will to see the elections take place.” -sm]

* The elections on May 21 “went unexpectedly well.”
* The opposition parties immediately asserted that “fraud had been massive and systematic but produced little concrete evidence.”
* Initial evaluations by the OAS Electoral Observation Mission concluded that there had been no systematic fraud, though there were “many minor irregularities and a few serious ones, including instances in which armed gunmen stole ballots, but those irregularities were isolated and did not affect the overall credibility of the elections.” These conclusions were confirmed by an organization of Haitian electoral observers.

Paragraph 14 notes the heart of the dispute:

bq. “14. On close examination, it was discovered that the CEP Senate results had not been calculated according to the electoral law. All 17 of the Senate contests held on 21 May 2000 were won in the first round (16 of them by Fanmi Lavalas and one by an independent). If properly calculated, however, a run-off would have been required for eight of those seats, for which no candidate obtained an absolute majority of all votes cast, as required by the electoral law. In the view of EOM [the OAS Electoral Observation Mission], the credibility of the entire electoral process would be jeopardized if that ‘serious error’ were not corrected. CEP and Government officials argued, without substantiation, that the same (wrong) method of calculation had been used in previous elections. Haitian officials strongly rejected suggestions that the results be recalculated, justifying the decision in part because it obviated the need for costly run-offs. Fanmi Lavalas called on its supporters to defend its election victory, resulting in two days of aggressive demonstrations by several hundred protesters outside embassies and offices of the international community in Port-au-Prince.”

To continue reading Part III, click the link…
Continue reading Elections in Haiti in 2000, Part III

Elections in Haiti in 2000, Part IV

h3. Source: “The Organization of American States (OAS)”:http://www.oas.org/

The OAS appears to have been the organization most involved in the Haitian Electoral process and took the most active role in resolving the disputes subsequent to the May 21 election.

_One note about the OAS website: forget trying to find information by using their search function. In order to finally find relevant documents through the OAS, I ended up using Google to search within the site, thus: haiti election site:www.oas.org 2000_

On April 3, 2000, the OAS EOM (Electoral Observation Mission) issues “this press release”:http://www.oas.org/oaspage/press2002/en/press98/press2000/04300.htm condemning the assassination of Jean Dominque, an outspoken Haitian radio journalist. The EOM calls the murder, “perpetrated during the electoral campaign, a strike against freedom of the press in Haiti, as well as against democracy.”

On May 24, 2000, three days after the election, the EOM issues “this press release”:http://www.upd.oas.org/EOM/Haiti/haitiobservation20006.htm#Press%20Release,%2024%20May%202000 noting that the election process had proceed smoothly overall. The EOM details several irregularities, but reassures that the isolated nature of the incidents would affect only a tiny percentage of the overall vote. The Press Release concludes by saluting “the Haitian people for their determination to go to the polls and elect representatives.”

A “July 13, 2000 press release”:http://www.oas.org/OASpage/press2002/en/Press98/Press2000/july2000/E133.htm reported that the OAS had suspended its mission on July 7, 2000, “two days before the second round of elections, citing serious irregularities in the calculation of senatorial results.” Orlando Marville, Chief of the EOM, “expressed the Mission�s concern about a number of serious irregularities which, in the case of legislative elections in particular, compromised the credibility of those elections. Marville cited the calculation of the percentages of votes obtained by the senatorial candidates as the most grave irregularity which occurred during the electoral process, since it violated both Haiti’s Constitution and electoral law and resulted in 10 senatorial races being erroneously decided in the first round.”

On the same day, Ambassador Marville issued his “Chief of Mission Report to the OAS Permanent Council”:http://www.upd.oas.org/EOM/Haiti/haitichief%20of%20mission%20report.htm. According to the report, more than 29,000 candidates ran for 7,500 elected positions throughout the country in May of that year. The CEP (Provisional Electoral Council) “also completed the identification of the 11,238 Bureaux de Vote and recruited poll workers to manage the BVs on Election Day.”

The EOM’s report, after acknowledging difficulties, has glowing words for the eventual election:

bq. “Election Day was postponed on at least three separate occasions and these delays had a deleterious effect on the electoral process.� Political parties husbanded their resources anticipating another delay and the electoral campaign never began in earnest.� Despite the delays and its effects, however, the CEP eventually accomplished the major tasks necessary to successfully conduct the May 21 elections. The day was a great success for the Haitian population, which turned out in large and orderly numbers to choose both their local and national governments, and to the Haitian National Police, whose capacity had beeen questioned by the political parties, by the Government and by the Press, but who had been able to keep order quietly and effectively.

bq. “Election Day proceedings on May 21 represented the high point of the electoral process.� An estimated 60 percent of registered voters went to the polls.� Very few incidents of violence were reported.� The Haitian National Police responded efficiently and professionally to situations that could have deteriorated into violence.� Party poll watchers and national observers were present at almost every polling station observed by the OAS and performed their jobs for the most part in an objective manner.� While voters had to wait in long lines, especially at the beginning of the day, they were eventually able to cast their ballots free of pressure and intimidation.� Most voters were able to find their polling with relative ease.”

However, the EOM lists several incidents of violence and chaos “in some localities.” Several opposition candidates were arrested, though the report makes no mention of the charges.

The EOM’s election audit identifies “at least several senators and perhaps as many as three deputies who should have participated in a second round election, but were declared winners in the first round. Moreover, the Mission has identified candidates for the Chamber of Deputies who had been excluded from a second round election.” The report specifically cites one case in which the CEP seems to have favored the putative second-place candidate.

The report then sums up the credibility of the elections thusly:

bq. “With respect to the municipal and local elections, the Mission’s overall conclusion is that a series of irregularities appear to have affected an unspecified number of local elections in the country.� However, since one political party won most of the elections by a substantial margin, it is probably unlikely that the majority of the final outcomes in local elections have been affected.

bq. “In the case of legislative elections, the Mission considers that a number of irregularities did compromise the credibility of these elections, particularly with respect to the senatorial race. As noted in this report, the posting of results at the communal and departmental levels was sporadic and lacked transparency.� OAS observers who were able to obtain results on these levels noted discrepancies affecting the results in both the senate and the chamber of deputies.� Challenges presented by the political parties were not treated in a systematic, professional or transparent manner.”

However, the calculation of percentages of votes becomes the major sticking point for the EOM. “The Constitution and the electoral law of Haiti clearly stipulate that a senatorial candidate must receive an absolute majority of the valid votes cast. If not, the candidate must participate in a second round election.”

[Meaning, if there are 5 candidates for a seat and 100 votes are cast, a winning candidate must garner at least 51 votes. If no candidate wins 51 votes, there must by law be a run off. The CEP’s method, though, limited the number of candidates, say to 3 in our example, by kicking out the bottom few vote-getters, then calculated the percentages of the votes the remaining candidates received. Here’s what happens: Method 1 is the constitutional method. Method 2 is the CEP’s ad hoc method. Remember that 100 total votes were cast in our example.

|candidate|votes|method 1 %|method 2 %|
| 1 | 30 | 30% | 60% |
| 2 | 20 | 20% | 40% |
| 3 | 10 | 10% | 20% |
| 4 | 6 | 6% | — |
| 5 | 4 | 4% | — |

Using Method 1, candidates enter a runoff. Using Method 2, candidate 1 is the outright winner. -sm]

The CEP refused to change its methodology and the OAS Mission suspended further observation activity on July 7th.

To continue reading Part IV, click the link:
Continue reading Elections in Haiti in 2000, Part IV

Elections in Haiti in 2000, Part V

h3. Perspectives

It’s time for me to get back to the main purpose of my research – the story of Toussaint Louverture. The study of the 2000 elections, though, has left me with some questions that I would follow up on if I had time. Perhaps I’ll get back to these at some point, or perhaps someone with some insight will care to comment on these entries.

# In UN pub a/55/154, the report of the International Civilian Support Mission in Haiti, the claim is made that an unexpectedly high number of citizens seeking voter cards led to the delayed election. The report intimates in paragraph 3 that President Pr�val was “procrastinating.” Who made these charges?
# In paragraph 4 of the same report, the Secretary-General urges Pr�val that “the prompt holding of free, transparent and credible elections was an essential step” in creating the proper conditions for democracy. Why were they pushing so hard if the country wasn’t logistically ready to hold elections? Why did the Secretary-General not encourage Pr�val to take his time to get the elections done well and credibly?
# The UN report is, in fact, full of unsupported allegations and half-truths. For example, the report mentions the expulsion of the IFES director, but doesn’t mention that she had already left the country and had been replaced by an interim director. (see the ICIO report) Still, it blames the loss of the director for “inadequate training of poll workers.” Is the ICIO report wrong, or is the UN report wrong (or intentionally misleading)?
# Why would three US congressmen issue a statement calling the elections a sham? Their language seems inflammatory and irresponsible, almost bizarrely so. Who were they trying to influence?
# The OAS report which calls the senatorial and deputy seats into question does not charge fraud, only that those candidates should have been involved in a second round election. Does this really seem like enough of a reason to question the Aristide government’s legitimacy and to deny vital aid money to the Haitian government? In other words, while some election irregularities were serious, doesn’t it seem like the will of the people was, in the main, implemented in the 2000 elections?

By the way, this research was conducted entirely online, which means that it is limited to information that is available on various websites. I also checked CARICOM, IFES, and NDI, but found no documents which significantly added to my understanding.

h4. My personal perspective:

The situation in Haiti is volatile. Each side fights hard for an edge. Given this backdrop, it seems unreasonable to expect a democratic process to spring forth fully formed from the brow of Saturn, as it were. We may have to content ourselves with small steps. Democracy in Haiti needs its small wins – like peaceful polling – rewarded by increased international support, while at the same time receiving strong encouragement and incentives to fix the remaining problems. But we have to help them fix those problems. We cannot just abandon the country in disgust and expect anything to get better. We then allow the opposition justification for their belligerence and give the ruling party little choice but to respond in kind.

International policy towards Haiti seems like that of a doctor who says to a patient, �I have this medicine that will heal you, but I won�t give it to you until you’re healthy.�

One thing does seem clear to me: The Haitian people did their honest best under extraordinarily difficult conditions to participate in the democratic process. How many Americans would walk three hours just to register to vote? How many of us would stand outside in the hot sun to cast our choice for president? I don’t even go to the polls any more; I vote by mail! I take for granted that kind of access and faith in the American democratic system, a system that has been developed and refined continually over more than 200 years and which has had its share of problems. Given that, what we ask of Haiti seems unfair and counterproductive to the goal of Haitian democracy.

h4. Various quotes collected along the way:

In a statement before the U.S. House of Representatives, John Conyers stated: “We are holding Haiti to a higher standard than we are holding other nations including ourselves� Haiti�s elections were relatively free of violence and we witnessed a firm commitment from Haitian citizens to have democratic elections. We observed great levels of voter participation and an overwhelming sense of civic pride, and concerted efforts toward the conduct of credible elections� Why are we so quick to condemn a country that has so little but is so important to our country� Haiti is a fragile new democracy. This is only its third election since it rid itself of over fifty years of dictatorship rule. If only we could have been so perfect so early in our development as a full functioning democracy.”
From: “Haiti Elections”:http://www.quixote.org/haiti/elections/

Visiting Haiti during the June 1995 election, Dr. (Robert) Pastor found it flawed by technical and administrative problems, and its results were widely disputed. However, he said, “Compared to 200 years of dictatorship and repression, the election was a step out of the past. Whether it will be a step forward or sideways remains to be seen.”
From: Carter Center (URL is currently listed as containing suspected malware. Was: http://www.cartercenter.org/activities/showdoc.asp?countryID=38&submenuname=activities#)

Erin Soto and Sharon Bean at the United States Agency for International Development shared what they called a grassroots perspective on Haiti�s democratic process. It was their observation that in Haiti, political will is everything, and it was this that allowed the CEP to pull off the elections on November 26.
From: “Haiti Elections”:http://www.quixote.org/haiti/elections/

There continues to be enormous resistance to seeing the progress of the democratic process in Haiti. It appears that the greatest obstacle to the creation of this process is those who stand to lose the most with the advent of a new era of Haitian history, an era where the needs of the poor are served by the government. Those who will lose in this process are not only Haitians. In fact, our existing global order is threatened by the concept of empowering the poor in Haiti. Those who lose in a vigilant participatory democracy are those who have historically benefited from their exclusive status. As Noam Chomsky states, “If a tiny and impoverished country with minuscule resources can begin to do something for its own population, others may ask: �Why not us?� The weaker and more insignificant a country, the more limited its means and resources, the greater is the threat of a good example. The rot may spread, threatening regions of real concern to the rulers of much of the world” (N. Chomsky, The Managua Lectures, p. 39).
From: “Haiti Elections”:http://www.quixote.org/haiti/elections/

But, as Alvaro Arciniegas pointed out, the concept of sharing power is foreign to Haiti. There is a mentality that “If I�m not in control I disqualify everything that is beyond my control.” Parties that were unable to control the whole electoral apparatus rejected it. Arciniegas said, “The culture of democracy has not taken root; it needs to be built. People need to believe in democracy and share power.” The concept of power sharing and negotiation are essential to the participatory nature of the process.
From: “Haiti Elections”:http://www.quixote.org/haiti/elections/

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Continue reading Elections in Haiti in 2000, Part V