miércoles, diciembre 27, 2006

Jwayé Nowël timoun!

It’s Christmas Eve in Haiti.

I had the chance to fly to Gonaives accompanying Edmond Mulet, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Haiti and current Chief of MINUSTAH. At his initiative, we left the relative comfort of Port au Prince to have lunch with the Argentinean soldiers based in “the city of Independence”, the capital of the Artibonite Department. A visit to a local orphanage and medical center run by the Sisters of Charity, Mother Theresa's Catholic order, was part of the program. The troops have been delivering drinkable water to the nuns for some months but today they had prepared something special: Christmas presents for every children.

It’s always amazing how kids react to presents this time of the year, particularly toys. No need for further explanations.

The nuns are great. They work hard and their kindness is a real
inspiration. I’m not posting the “backstage” pictures… those
corresponding to the HIV positive patients of all ages that are receiving medical treatment and those of the dying that receive dignifying care during their last days. I’m sure you can imagine them.

One powerful image remains: the cradles made of iron construction bars… there’s definitely no room to romanticize poverty.

miércoles, diciembre 13, 2006

Pèp la se sèl mèt beton-an (a snapshop of Haitian "mobcracy")

Timid or prudent, or maybe both, the CEP has announced some preliminary results for the local elections held ten days ago. The news has been received with mixed reactions, ranging from rushed radio press conferences called by heated (loser) candidates, to road blockades, burning tires, physical threats, stone throwing, day and night gunfire and arson in various parts of the country. One of them, again, is Bombardopolis.

Despite its futuristic airplane industry hub-like name, Bombardopolis is a remote and poor village in the north-western tip of Haiti with less than 10,500 registered voters –including the surrounding rural areas. During the presidential and parliamentary elections last February tensions there ran very high… to say the least!

The ruthless struggle among eight political parties running for Deputy and their fanatical distrust of each other, as well as of poll officials, led four of them to gather violent crowds of supporters to enter the polling stations and destroy the ballots. Some sources pointed to the local leaders of LESPWA, MIRN, ALYANS and UNION. These acronyms may not ring any bells to people unfamiliar with Haiti (by the way, there are around 100 registered political parties here and some 30 more non-registered). For the sake of clarity, let me just say that LESPWA, whose presidential candidate is the current President Mr. Rene Preval, got 51.21% of the national votes, MIRN's presidential candidate Mr. Luc Fleurinord received 1.90%, ALYANS' presidential candidate Mr. Evans Paul got 2.49% and UNION's presidential candidate (backed by LAVALAS) Mr. Marc Bazin got 0.68%.

However, the poor results of their corresponding candidates will not deter any Haitian local politician from pursuing his or her quest for power, nor lessen the fervor of their local supporters and allies ... quite the opposite.

Tensions skyrocketed in Bombardopolis after the December 3rd election. Incoming reports indicating a much more serious wave of post electoral-related violence include information about houses looted and set ablaze and people fleeing town. Unfortunately, there is a crude explanation for all of this … for those anti-civic leaders this is the very last chance to get a piece of the pie (of power)!

Se pa cochon moun yo remen, se pito griot. Como decimos en mi país “no es por amor al chancho sino al chicharrón”.

miércoles, diciembre 06, 2006

No K.O.

Besides its outcome, there are some important issues that should soon be discussed regarding the past municipal and local elections in Haiti, as well as the broader electoral cycle that began in 2005 - which included the voter’s registration, Presidential elections and run-off parliamentary elections.

However, the first necessary step must be to temper claims referring either to total success or total failure.

From my part, I would only like to say that it’s true that the quality of elections and their administration (the aspects to which scholars refers as procedural democracy) was the best possible under the peculiar circumstances of Haiti. For instance, don’t forget that the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP, for its acronym in French) missed ALL the deadlines for the elections to take place in 2005, as originally established in the multi-party transition agreement.

The constant postponement added disorganization and confusion to the whole process, and the public witnessed the internal power struggles among the CEP’s politically-appointed members on a daily basis. For many observers, this situation was created on purpose. Some political spoilers and criminal groups found this rather advantageous, while international donors became anxious about the potential waste of their voluntary contributions for the electoral process (more than US$70 million compared to less than US$2 million provided by the Haitian state).

The picture changed dramatically with the appointment of an Executive Director in October 2005, a move practically imposed by the international community. Finally, the presidential election took place on 7 February 2006 and Rene Preval won by a landslide.

To avoid the futility of periodically throwing money away for elections in Haiti, everybody knows that much more has to be done in the near future. Otherwise, Democracy will remain a highly irrelevant word in this country.