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The South Florida Sun-Sentinel

The Great Fear of Haitian Self-Government

The controversy over the return of the infamous dictator, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, to Haiti, is in many ways a distraction. Certainly it is important that he stand trial for crimes against humanity, including the murder and torture of opponents. But there is another crime being committed against Haiti right now: foreign powers are trying to rob Haitians once again of their democratic rights. More than 200 years after Haiti liberated itself from slavery and from France, the rich countries still seem to have a Great Fear of Haitians governing themselves.

It was obvious from the beginning of the disaster one year ago, when the United States took control of the air traffic into Haiti and immediately filled up most of the available landing slots with planes carrying soldiers and military equipment. Their great fear of looting and crime in the aftermath of the earthquake never materialized, but many people lost their lives and limbs in the first week after the earthquake that could have been saved, if doctors and medical equipment had been the first priority.

The “international community” has made a mess of the relief effort that is shameful by any standards. Some ninety five percent of the rubble has still not been cleared. Little has been done in the way of sanitation, according to Doctors Without Borders, helping to spread the cholera that was apparently brought by the UN occupying troops – causing 3600 deaths from a disease that is normally relatively easy to treat and prevent from spreading.

Most of the people who lost their homes in the earthquake are still living under tarps where the ground beneath them turns to mud when it rains – they couldn’t even give them tents. The “international community,” which dominates the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission – didn’t want to pressure Haiti’s landowners to accept what would be done in any other country, including the United States:  taking available land, with compensation, for the necessary shelter.

But this same international community has not been shy about pressuring the Haitian government to accept its choices for the presidential run-off election. This despite the fact that the OAS team of “experts” used an arbitrary method to throw out 234 tally sheets and change the result of the election.

But we have no idea what they would have found if they had subjected all of the tally sheets to the same test (there was no statistical inference reported). And there are more than 1300 tally sheets (about 12 percent of the total) that were missing or quarantined by the electoral authorities. If these were included, it appears that Jude Celestin – the government’s candidate and the one that the OAS proposes to exclude -- would have come in second, and would proceed to the run-off.

In other words, Washington and its carefully selected allies are telling Haiti what the results of their election should be. Of course, the election was illegitimate to begin with because the country’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas, was excluded from appearing on the ballot. Mostly as a result of this exclusion, only about a quarter of Haiti’s voters went to the polls. This compares to a 59 percent turnout in the 2006 presidential election, and even larger percentages in the past. There is no voter turnout this low in the last 60 years of presidential elections in this hemisphere, including Haiti.

Fanmi Lavalas is the party of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was overthrown by the “international community” in 2004. Their Great Fear is that if the election were to re-run – as it obviously should be – this arbitrary exclusion, which is analogous to banning the Democratic party in the United States, might be called into question. A free and fair election, with the Haitian people choosing who they want, could occur.

That is what the “international community” – which is really Washington and its closest allies – cannot accept. And that is why they have been pushing so hard for Haiti to allow foreign governments to determine the results of their election.

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Mark Weisbrot

Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Washington, DC. He is also president of Just Foreign Policy. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: The Phony Crisis. E-mail Mark:

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