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Elections in Haiti in 2000, Part V

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.

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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report mentions the expulsion of the IFES director, but doesn’t mention that she had already left the country and had been replaced by an interim director.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)?
  4. 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?
  1. 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.

    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.

    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

    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

    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

    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

    Click the following link for a book list…

    h3. Books on Haiti, elections, and international policy

    NB: I haven’t actually read these books, but I looked them up as part of my research. I’m including the list since it may be useful to others. All books are available through Amazon.com.

    Haitian Frustrations: Dilemmas for U.S. Policy: A Report of the Csis Americas Program (Csis Report)
    Fauriol, Georges A. (Editor)

    Sanctions In Haiti
    Gibbons, Elizabeth D.
    Synopsis Gibbons analyzes the ruinous three-year trade embargo imposed on Haiti in response to the September 1991 coup d’etat to President Aristide’s return to office in October 1994. Drawing on contemporary research of noted academics and international legal experts, Gibbons places Haiti’s experience of san About the Author ELIZABETH D. GIBBONS is Deputy Director of UNICEF’s Office of Emergency Programs. Book Description Gibbons analyzes the ruinous three-year trade embargo imposed on Haiti in response to the September 1991 coup d’etat to President Aristide’s return to office in October 1994. Drawing on contemporary research of noted academics and international legal experts, Gibbons places Haiti’s experience of sanctions in a wider context. From the Haiti case, she draws conclusions about the utility of comprehensive sanctions as instruments for the advancement of democracy and human rights and recommends measures that policymakers may find better suited to achieving these objectives.

    U.S. Policy Toward Haiti: Hearing Before the Committee on International Relations, U.S. House of Representatives
    Gilman, Benjamin A.�

    A Proslavery Foreign Policy : Haitian-American Relations during the Early Republic
    Matthewson, Tim
    Book Description While the influence of racial policy has long been a factor in American foreign policy, one particularly evident example is U.S. relations with Haiti. The troubled relationship began under George Washington, who authorized the dispatch of arms and ammunition to help the French planters of Saint Dominque, present day Haiti, suppress the black rebellion. Washington’s support for the defense of slavery in this regard, proved to be important precident in the formulation of a proslavery policy in the White House, the State Department, and the Congress. Matthewson explores this stormy legacy and discusses the tension between racial and economic imperatives that would contiue to plague relations with the island nation for decades to come.

    �
    Haiti: Foreign Policy and Government Guide (World Foreign Policy and Government Library)
    No Author

    U.S. policy toward Haiti : hearing before the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, One Hundred Sixth Congress, first session, Tuesday, November 9, 1999 (SuDoc Y 4.IN 8/16:H 12/8)
    No Author

    Exiting the Whirlpool: U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Latin America and the Caribbean
    Pastor, Robert
    Raul Alfons�n “A magnificent contribution to understanding U.S.-Latin America relations and for offering a provocative vision of the relationship…” Abraham F. Lowenthal, Foreign Affairs “An impressive volume… a significant contribution to rethinking U.S. relations with our closest neighbors.” Book Description In this second edition of Whirlpool, Pastor provides an overview of US Latin American policy under Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton, with special attention devoted to the role played by Congress. Next he looks at the recurring challenges faced by the United States – how the United States has tried but often failed to manage succession crises, stop revolutionaries, promote elections, and encourage development. Pastor offers a series of far-reaching policy recommendations for exiting the whirlpool, based on a renunciation of unilateral intervention and a forging of a freer trade area. This second edition is thoroughly updated, with detailed new considerations of the cases of Nicaragua and Mexico in particular, and of the concept of hemispheric community.
    �

    Taking Haiti: Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism, 1915-1940
    Renda, Mary A.
    From Library Journal In July 1915, U.S. armed forces occupied Haiti, where they remained until 1934. Renda (history and women’s studies, Mt. Holyoke Coll.) explores the intellectual underpinnings of the U.S. military and political actions and how the occupation affected American intellectuals and artists. Supporting the economic and military reasons for the occupation was a sense of paternalism and racism. Haitians were seen as a backward, inferior people needing the white man’s benevolent protection. This protection turned at times to violence, as U.S. marines suppressed Haitian uprisings during the occupation. In turn, the exotic nature of Haiti as a whole, and the lure of its voodoo tradition in particular, shaped individual Marines along with black and white American thinkers, writers, and artists: Orson Welles, Eugene O’Neill, James Weldon, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston produced wonderful works of art inspired by Haiti. Renda uses a wide collection of materials from diaries, memoirs, letters, books, plays, and the arts to produce an excellent cultural study of the development of American imperialism. Recommended for all libraries. Stephen L. Hupp, West Virginia Univ., Parkersburg Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. LIBRARY JOURNAL “Renda uses a wide collection of materials…to produce an excellent cultural study of the development of American imperialism. Recommended for all libraries.” Book Description The U.S. invasion of Haiti in July 1915 marked the start of a military occupation that lasted for nineteen years—and fed an American fascination with Haiti that flourished even longer. Exploring the cultural dimensions of U.S. contact with Haiti during the occupation and its aftermath, Mary Renda shows that what Americans thought and wrote about Haiti during those years contributed in crucial and unexpected ways to an emerging culture of U.S. imperialism. At the heart of this emerging culture, Renda argues, was American paternalism, which saw Haitians as wards of the United States. She explores the ways in which diverse Americans—including activists, intellectuals, artists, missionaries, marines, and politicians—responded to paternalist constructs, shaping new versions of American culture along the way. Her analysis draws on a rich record of U.S. discourses on Haiti, including the writings of policymakers; the diaries, letters, songs, and memoirs of marines stationed in Haiti; and literary works by such writers as Eugene O’Neill, James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston. Pathbreaking and provocative, Taking Haiti illuminates the complex interplay between culture and acts of violence in the making of the American empire.

    �
    Haiti’s Turmoil: Politics and Policy Under Aristide and Clinton (WPF Report #32)
    Rotberg, Robert I.
    About the Author Robert I. Rotberg is President, World Peace Foundation, and Director, WPF Program on Intrastate Conflict, Conflict Prevention, and Conflict Resolution in the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He was Professor of Political Science and History, MIT; Academic Vice President, Tufts University; and President, Lafayette College. He was a Presidential appointee to the Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities and is a Trustee of Oberlin College. He is the author and editor of numerous books and articles on U.S. foreign policy, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. Book Description When President Clinton’s forcefully-backed initiative restored democratically-elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power in 1994, Haiti seemed poised to prosper politically and economically. The poorest part of the Americas had promises of abundant international funding, plus UN, OAS, and U.S. assurances of medium-term capacity building efforts. Everyone except the departing military junta wanted Aristide and Haiti to succeed. Sadly, success has proved elusive. That Haiti still suffers from its rulers and ruling classes, and that President Aristide’s leadership has failed to unite Haitians or to evoke continuing support from the international community, greatly concerns policy makers and everyone who wishes better for the Haitian people. This report is a commentary on Haiti’s recent vicissitudes and on the policy choices that were made before and during the Clinton and Aristide presidencies. Haiti deserves more effective leaders and more successful policies.

    �
    The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier
    Wilentz, Amy
    From Publishers Weekly In 1986, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, Haiti’s “president-for-life,” was forced to flee his country. A military junta had seized power, and the widespread feeling of unrest that had been brewing for years among the Haitian peasantry and the urban poor came to a boil, resulting in chaos: mass strikes, riots and other forms of violence. Wilentz’s first book carefully, sensitively narrates these events in the first person, providing historical background when necessary, and telling the stories of Haitians from all walks of life, from the infamous “Tontons Macoute”—a ruthless government-sponsored vigilante group—to voodoo priests (who speak at length of their magic), and including government officials, missionaries, intellectuals, workers and the unemployed. The former Time reporter’s numerous visits to the island between 1986 and 1988 enrich her account with details of daily life, both in the dilapidated alleys and slums of Port-au-Prince and in remote villages tucked away in lush tropical mountains. Her vivid record of an important piece of contemporary world history captures the sad political and quotidian existence of an impoverished albeit physically beautiful country. Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.—This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. From Library Journal This welcome interpretation of Haiti provides many insights into a country that few North Americans understand. Wilentz, a journalist, captures the complex cultural ambience and mystery of domestic politics with a penetrating eye and powerful description. Covering the years 1986-89, Wilentz analyzes political developments, centering her interpretations on the activities of a radical priest, interspersed with individual Haitian portraits and personal incidents. The flavor of Haiti is superbly… read more—This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.