Democracy in Haiti: Elections and the Return of Aristide
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
MELINDA MILES, [in Haiti] 011-509-3855-8861, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://lethaitilive.org, Skype: melindayiti
Miles is director of the Let Haiti Live Project at TransAfrica Forum. She is in Haiti and will observe events during the Sunday elections. She said today: “Only 14 months after the devastating earthquake, Haiti’s sovereignty is seriously compromised by the presence of thousands of foreign troops and an Interim Recovery Commission that gives foreigners equal voice to Haitians in deciding reconstruction contracts. At this critical moment, Haiti needs a real democratic process to allow the people to express their will. However, despite the fact that first round of elections in November was highly fraudulent, marked by massive disenfranchisement and low voter participation, electoral authorities are moving forward towards a second round this Sunday.
“Due to intense international pressure, particularly from the United States and the Organization of American States, the provisional electoral council changed its initial first round results leaving Haitians to choose between two right-wing candidates. The result is an election that is pure theater at a time when Haitians are still in the midst of a major humanitarian crisis and hundreds of millions of earthquake aid are hanging in the balance.”
MARK WEISBROT, via Dan Beeton, (202) 239-1460, email@example.com, http://www.cepr.net
Co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Weisbrot has been been involved in Haiti policy work for over 20 years. He has co-authored two papers analyzing the outcome of the first round of Haiti’s elections and several op-eds and columns on the elections and Aristide’s return.
He said today: “Haiti is preparing for the second round of presidential elections on Sunday, following a widely criticized first round in November in which the most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas, was banned from the ballot and in which only 23 percent of registered voters participated. As a result of U.S. and international pressure to overturn the results of the election, the contest will now be between two right-wing candidates: former first lady Mirlande Manigat, and kompas music singer Michel ‘Sweet Micky’ Martelly. Both Manigat, who received votes from 6.4 percent of registered voters in the first round and Martelly, who received 4.5 percent of registered voters’ ballots, support reviving the Haitian army, which former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide disbanded in a popular move in 1995 and which historically was responsible for a great deal of human rights violations in Haiti.
“Aristide’s return after seven years in forced exile is an historic victory for democracy in the hemisphere. The United States, which destroyed Haiti’s economy in order to overthrow his government in 2004, naturally opposes his return — just as they opposed the return of President Zelaya in 2009 to Honduras, after his democratic government was overthrown by the military. Washington manipulated the OAS [Organization of American States] and forced Haiti to have a presidential runoff election between two right-wing candidates, who would help them keep Aristide out of Haiti after Sunday’s vote. That is why he has to come back now. It is a new era in the Western Hemisphere, and Washington does not get to pick other countries’ leaders. The Obama administration will have to learn to accept this reality.”
KIM IVES, [in Haiti] 011-509-3105-4546, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.haiti-liberte.com
Ives is in Haiti to cover Aristide’s return and the Sunday elections. He just wrote a piece entitled “Haiti Wants Aristide: Let Him Go,” which states: “Aristide first came to power 20 years ago as the champion of the people’s uprising against the Duvalier dictatorship and the neo-Duvalierist juntas that followed its February 7, 1986 fall. Seven months after his inauguration, President Aristide was overthrown by a U.S.-backed neo-Duvalierist military putsch on September 30, 1991. ‘Sweet Micky’ was one of the principal cheerleaders of this three-year coup, which claimed some 5,000 lives, according to Amnesty International.
“In the years following Aristide’s restoration to power in 1994, Martelly became obsessed with hatred for the man. In a video from not too long ago, which can be seen on YouTube, the candidate threatens a patron in a bar where he has performed … [Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPM9f3YxVsk&feature=youtu.be ]
“Manigat is not much better. She is the wife, and many say the proxy, of former Haitian President Leslie Manigat. He was a perennial rightwing candidate who came to power in a 1988 election that was run and rigged by a neo-Duvalierist military junta.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/mar/15/haiti-jean-bertrand-aristide