UN-occupied Haiti's two-faced democracy

December 4, 2009

The Haiti Information Project (HIP) said in a November 23 article that Haiti's Provisional Election Council (CEP) had allowed the Fanmi Lavalas party to register to run in elections scheduled for early 2010. Lavalas is the party of left-leaning former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was overthrown in a US-backed military coup in 2004.

Three days after its decision, the CEP published the names of those political parties allowed to participate in the elections. Lavalas did not appear on the list.

The CEP now clings to the same flimsy excuses it used to exclude Lavalas from the Senate elections held in two rounds in April and June. It said the party did not meet all the legal requirements to register.

We at the HIP humbly apologise for the mistaken assumption in our reporting that the CEP was telling the truth. Apparently, it has no shame.

This decision is clearly another attempt to punish Haiti's poor majority, this time through exclusion, for their political choices and the probability of a Lavalas victory at the polls.

In the Senate race from which Lavalas was excluded, 90% of the electorate boycotted the vote.

The highest reported figure for the turnout in the April election and June run-off combined was provided by the United Nations, who said it was 11% . Many independent observers much lower noted voter turnout throughout Haiti's 10 departments.

The latest exclusion of Lavalas can only fan the flames for another boycott campaign and gives the impression of duplicity on the part of the US government and the international community.

Reuters said in a November 26 article that Lavalas is "still considered the most popular political force in the impoverished Caribbean nation of 9 million people". How can the US and the international community continue to sponsor and fund an electoral process that is built upon exclusion of the most popular political force in Haiti?

What of the silence of the Organisation of American States (OAS) in Haiti today? While the OAS takes a principled position on not recognising bogus elections sponsored by the coup regime in Honduras, its silence is deafening concerning the decision of the CEP to bar Lavalas in Haiti.

Where are the OAS lectures to the Haitian government about the necessities of democratic inclusion and free elections in the hemisphere?

What does the US and the international community have to fear from Lavalas that they would not condemn Haitian President Rene Preval and his handpicked CEP for excluding them from the political process?

After three years of hellish repression, thousands killed, arrested or forced into exile, a Lavalas victory at the polls would expose their justification for Aristide's removal and Haiti's occpation by UN forces as a lie.

How would a return of Lavalas through democratic elections colour their longstanding argument that Aristide had lost the support of the Haitian people and Lavalas was nothing more than a violent political organisation intolerant of opposition from civil society?

An even greater fear must also be that a Lavalas victory would interfere with the US/UN development plans for Haiti. One could not imagine that a low minimum wage created to make Haitian sweatshop operators and their international partners hefty profits would have passed so easily in a Lavalas-run parliament.

Sweetheart deals in parliament that encourage partnering Haiti's elite families, notorious for encouraging political instability, with transnational companies would not be so easy.

The growing number of deals for mining rights on public lands and the current bidding process to sell the national telephone company might also come under greater scrutiny with Lavalas in parliament.

Simply put, taking a chance on a truly inclusive democratic process where Lavalas participates in elections would not fit into the elite's plans for selling Haiti's few resources to the highest bidder, while relying on transnational capital investment as the motor for economic development.

The elite clearly think Lavalas will rock the boat and cannot be let onboard, even if it runs against the democratic principles of inclusion and participation.

The US and the UN often remind Haitians that one of their main objectives is to strengthen democratic institutions in Haiti. Allowing the Preval administration to once again bar Lavalas from participation in the democratic process gives new meaning to that endeavor.

[Kevin Pina is a journalist and filmmaker who has been covering events in Haiti since 1991. Pina is also the Founding Editor of the Haiti Information Project(HIP), an alternative news agency based in Port au Prince. This article is abridged from < href="Haitiaction.net.]

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