Sunday, February 19, 2006

Another Haitian Revolution: How it happened and where to go from here

The Miami Herald and Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti follow up with good analysis of the results of the Haitian Election.

The Herald points out that

The news [of Preval's victory] came after a day of closed-door meetings involving Préval, foreign diplomats, the U.S.-backed interim Haitian government and the nation's electoral council, according to Haitians and foreigners who participated in the meetings...

Ambassadors from Brazil and Chile led a push to change the way blank votes were tabulated, something first suggested by U.N. electoral advisors, according to people in the meetings. Canada and France, two countries with long-standing traditional ties to Haiti, initially insisted the council stick to a count that would have forced a runoff, but agreed that significant flaws in the election process would make it impossible to declare the results with precision.

Notice that this doesn't mention the role of U.S. ambassadors, representatives of a government that provided troops, training, guns, money and diplomatic support of the coup leaders who were leading this referendum on their power.

Prensa Latina (Cuba) [site currently down] suggests that U.S. representatives put pressure against this resolution.

This result suggests that the pressure put on the U.N. by the Haitian Information Project and solidarity activists paid off. They, like the Brazilian General of the U.N. forces Becellar were sick of collaborating in such a bloody mess. The solidarity activist in the U.S., Canada and possibly France were such that the governments were willing to cede their arguments rather than risk allowing the crisis to grow. This set a much less violent stage for Haitian street protests than had been seen during many demonstrations and elections in the past.

Concannon's analysis, while happy with the resulting Preval victory, is more ambivalent about the terms of the deal. He points out that the deal allows coup supporters (and the New York Times) to accuse Preval of a fraudulent victory, while the real fraud was what kept Preval's numbers in the poll deceptively low in the unofficial returns. Pointing out the continued existance of Haitian political prisoners, he continues..

The defective vote tabulation is just the latest in a long string of efforts to minimize the impact of the poor voters who backed Preval. The IGH engaged in a comprehensive program to suppress political activities of the Lavalas movement, where Mr. Preval drew most of his support, in the ten months before the elections.

Several prominent politicians were not able to participate as candidates or activists because they were kept in jail illegally. Political prisoners included Haiti's last constitutional Prime Minister, a former member of the House of Deputies, the former Minister of the Interior, and dozens of local officials and grassroots activists. When Haiti's most prominent dissident, Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, was diagnosed with leukemia, it took a massive campaign, including intervention of top U.S. Republicans, just to obtain his provisional release for desperately needed treatment...

Haiti's politics are not parlor games. Each coup d'etat leads to thousands of deaths, and many more times that are killed by diseases that would be prevented or treated by the programs of a less embattled government. The life expectancy for men in Haiti has dropped below 50. It is far past time for the International Community to stop condemning Haiti to repeating this outrageously unjust history.

This call to the "International Community" must also be directed at "Civil Society" and "The American Street." We need to keep our eyes on Haiti. We need to demand the release of the Lavalas political prisoners and the prosecution (if possible) of War Criminals like Guy Phillipe. Any moves to destabilize Haitian politics must be immediately recognized and condemned, and we need to keep our eyes and ears tuned to the words of Haitian activists themselves, like the journalists of the Haiti Information Project.

Most importantly, professionals of all kinds need to get serious about what Paul Farmer calls "pragmatic solidarity." We must be called to work with Haitian partners to improve health care, economic justice, education and improved living standards.

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