Haitians Protest Sham Elections – by Stephen Lendman
Washington’s imperial boot flaunts Lavalas’ slogan: “All people are people (Tout moun se moun).” The sham elections are one of many abuses. As a result, Haitians continue protesting for rights they’ve been long denied, including leaders serving them, not monied interests.
On December 3, Al Jazeera’s Sebastian Walker said street protests continued for the fourth consecutive day after the November 28 sham elections.
“Tensions reached a level not seen in Haiti’s capital in many weeks. UN troops were powerless to keep the crowds back. At times the city center looked more like a war zone.”
Litter bins were toppled, then used to block roads. “Frustrations over fraudulent elections were taking on a new turn.” UN officials told several angry candidates they were ahead in the popular vote, lying to enlist their support for a rigged process.
“For Haitians, this is business as usual with election politics. Everyone knew this would happen, and that Washington was aware that (Rene Preval) would try to orchestrate votes in favor of his candidates.” People also rage about “foreign powers adding legitimacy to a fraudulent vote. The anger on the streets is palpable. The crisis continues.”
On December 2, reporting from Port-au-Prince, independent journalist Ansel Herz said:
“Furious demonstrations continued across Haiti (days after) the Nov. 28 highly contested election in which thousands (were) unable to vote.” They reacted by rock-throwing, barricading roads, and protesting angrily in Port-au-Prince, Cap Haitien, Les Cayes, Hinche, Petit Goave, Archaie, and elsewhere.
On November 30, “demonstrators clashed with United Nations peacekeeping troops in St. Marc and Gonaives.” Most presidential candidates denounced the process in favor of Preval’s hand-picked candidate, Jude Celestin, demanding new elections.
Presidential hopefuls, observers, and journalists witnessed brazen fraud, Canada’s CBC reporting “massive fraud, blatant ballot-box stuffing.” Reporting from Port-au-Prince, Paul Hunter called it “unbelievable,” saying he’d previously witnessed electoral fraud, but “never” anything like this.
“We saw ballot stuffing. We heard voters who were intimidated into voting for a candidate. And we saw thugs, gangs of thugs, going into polling stations, grabbing stacks of ballots, marking them with the candidate of their choice,” INITE party’s Jude Celestin. He was the only major candidate not signing a statement calling for the election’s annulment.
On December 5, the Philadelphia Inquirer gave Lamp for Haiti.org’s Regine Theodat and Ted Oswald op-ed space headlining, “Annul Haiti’s elections and have free, fair vote,” saying:
“The elections were fraught with disorganization, corruption, and human rights abuses.” In one Cite Soleil location, “An angry mob (protested) because voting monitors supporting the INITE party refused them entry to the poll because they (wouldn’t) support Preval’s party.” Many other locations had similar problems.
“Disenfranchised and ignored, many voters resisted the illegitimacy of the elections and found ways around” the Provisional Electoral Council’s (CEP) “failures and apparent malfeasance. Some voted without permission; others organized street boycotts….chanting ‘Arrest Preval and CEP.’ Others sang Haitian freedom songs…” Haitians were again defrauded.
On December 3, Reuters reported about “2,000 protesters marched in Haiti’s capital demanding a rerun of Sunday’s elections….skewed by fraud.” They waved red cards calling for Preval’s removal and disqualification of Celestin. “Arrest Preval,” and “No to the first round,” they shouted. “The march swelled as it passed poor city slums and finished” at the CEP’s downtown offices.
On December 4, Miami Herald writers Jacqueline Charles and Trenton Daniel headlined, “Ballot inspections under intense scrutiny in Haiti,” saying:
“….if the results are not considered valid, this already quake-battered country could plunge even deeper into crisis….Amid accusations that widespread fraud was engineered by (Preval’s INITE) coalition, diplomats are scrambling to prevent major violence that could cause Haiti to lose billions in reconstruction aid.”
Whatever happens, concerns are ‘”that Haiti’s next president could lack legitimacy….” Miami Herald staff found numerous “elections failings, which began well before polls opened….” Among them:
— “many people could not get through to a call center to learn their polling site;”
— “the Office of National Identification ignored OAS requests to use text messaging to nofify 416,631 people that their new or replaced voter (ID) cards were ready;”
— residents with ID cards were told they were invalid;
— others found no address listed for their assigned voting center;
— the January earthquake destroyed nearly half of 1,500 sites;
— people staffing them were functionally illiterate or instructed to tell voters they were ineligible;
— unlike previous elections, residents couldn’t vote where they chose; nor could they with only a receipt signifying they applied, but hadn’t received an ID card; and
— a campaign to let camp residents vote where they were failed; most were denied, sparking violent clashes.
According to longtime Haitian establishment observer Mark Schneider, it amounted to a “nefarious plan to steal the election.” Kinder critics cited bureaucratic glitches. Honest ones denounced massive fraud. The entire process was bogus, an election in name only. As a result, “People were frustrated – you saw thousands in the streets, screaming.” Anger continues and may explode if Preval declares Celestin the winner.
On December 4, Haitian Truth.org headlined, “Ultimatum for Preval,” saying:
Washington gave him until Sunday night, December 5, for resolution, “or further steps will be taken. The American embassy sent a team to Cap Haitien, Grande Anse and the Artibonite to see what the reaction would be to” a Celestin victory. They “discovered (he) has no support and the population’s reaction would be immediate and violent.”
Suggestions are “that Preval should step down, (citing) ill health, leaving (Jean-Max) Bellerive as Prime Minister. A new CEP (could) be created, probably with political groups having some say in the choice. Preval is always unpredictable and may dare the Americans by choosing Celestin. The situation is explosive!!!”
As of early December 6, no results have been announced. However, on December 5, protests continued, Al Jazeera headlining, “Haiti protesters clash with police,” saying:
“Hundreds of protesters, demanding the annulment of Haiti’s elections, have clashed with riot police in (Port-au-Prince),” stoking tensions ahead of preliminary results expected on December 7. A likely mid-January run-off is expected unless Preval declares his man the winner with a majority of electoral votes.
Police fired tear gas at over 2,000 when they tried breaking through a barrier accessing the presidential palace, still largely in rubble from January’s quake.
Sebastian Walker said “protests, rock-throwing and popular anger boil over” daily in Port-au-Prince, demanding fair elections. After preliminary results are announced, “they’ll likely continue over the course of the coming week.”
Nonetheless, UN and international observers endorsed the fraud, urging Haitians accept the outcome. They haven’t, nor should they ever, given how unfairly they’ve again been denied.
Presidential hopeful Jean-Henry Ceant, the only candidate most Haitians support, condemned the “electoral masquerade,” saying protests will continue “as long as necessary” for justice. Charles Henri Baker, another presidential aspirant agreed, saying: “We will conduct the battle as long as is necessary. (Initial) results announced on December 7 will not not stop the movement….any president from this process will suffer from a legitimacy deficit.”
Haiti’s Long Neocolonial History
Besides oppressive centuries under Spanish and French rule, neocolonialism cursed Haiti after revolutionary leader’s Jean-Jacques Dessalines’ 1806 assassination. Presidents drafted and abolished constitutions at will. From 1949 – 1859, “Emperor” Faustin I suspended Haiti’s republic. Debt to France hamstrung the country. Governments controlled agricultural lands. Elites held power directly or through puppet presidents, serving their interests.
Coups and assassination were commonplace. Once the presidential palace was blown up, killing the incumbent. An angry mob hacked another to death. A third was poisoned. Relative stability was rare. America withheld recognition until 1962, during the Civil War under Lincoln. After President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam’s assassination, US marines occupied Haiti oppressively from 1915 – 1934 to secure America’s business and imperial interests. Washington’s man was made president, Phillippie Sudre Dartiguenave (1915 – 1922).
Stenio Vencent succeeded him in 1930, ruling until 1941, solidifying dictatorial leadership. Elie Lescot continued it until 1945. Elitist rule maintained relative stability until Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier established despotism in 1957. His son, Jean-Claude, “Baby Doc” continued it until unseated in 1986. An interim National Council of Government replaced him, governing repressively, including under General Prosper Avril, a period of violence and assassinations.
After his departure, landmark elections were held in December 1990, Jean-Betrand Aristide winning a 67% majority, only to be deposed by a September military coup. General Raoul Cedras seized power, holding it until Aristide’s October 1994 return. In 1996, unable to succeed himself under Haitian law, he ran again in 2000, winning with a 92% majority.
No matter. On February 29, 2004, US marines forcibly deposed him at gunpoint, exiling him to the Central African Republic, then South Africa where he now resides, eager to return. Haitians want him, rallying publicly to no avail.
Washington prevents it, assuring sham elections, puppet leaders, and despotic rule unless Haitians en masse refuse, demanding fair elections and democratic governments serving everyone, not solely oligarchs, elites, and imperial Washington. The coming weeks may decide whether or not that’s possible. Given Haiti’s troubled history, at best the odds are long.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.