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HAITI ELECTIONS: Diaspora looking Inside Out

Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 10:48 am
by Michel Nau_
No election fever for S. Florida Haitians
Disappointment is sweeping South Florida's Haitian community as its homeland heads toward elections.
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
jcharles@MiamiHerald.com
Not that long ago, Gustave Acacia was flashing his Haitian voter ID card, boasting to friends that he planned to travel home on election day and vote for the presidential candidate he hoped might deliver the country from turmoil.

That was five long months ago. It was before the vote was delayed four times, before violence blossomed into chaos, before kidnapping turned into a virtual industry and before one of Acacia's friends was shot dead by thugs yards from a U.N. peacekeepers' checkpoint.
''For me to go to Haiti and waste my vote, it could cost me my life,'' said Acacia, a Fort Lauderdale healthcare coordinator, as he looked to
ward the vote Tuesday. ``It's ridiculous. I can't even talk about elections right now.''

Neither can countless others in the 245,000-strong Haitian community in South Florida, ground zero for Haiti's overseas presidential politics. There is no election fever palpable here, only frustration and disillusionment.

''There is Haiti fatigue,'' said Lavarice Gaudin, a leader of Veye Yo, a Miami-based grassroots political group that supports former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. His ouster in 2004 sparked the current round of chaos.

LUKEWARM RESPONSE
The kind of excitement that washed over South Florida streets in 1990, when Haitians turned out in droves to give Aristide a landslide win in the country's first-ever fully democratic elections, is all but gone today. Back then, campaign signs landscaped the streets of Haitian neighborhoods, Haitians turned their homes into campaign offices and join
ed scores of street rallies.

Today, election talk is left to Creole-language radio, jitney rides, dinner time at home and the occasional debates in Little Haiti restaurants and convenience stores. ''Right now the response is lukewarm given the general mood of the country. The elections are not really a priority,'' said Herntz Phanord, host of an afternoon Creole talk show on 1700 AM (Planet 17). ``They have a wait-and-see attitude.''
There's frustration with the political bickering that has delayed the elections and the violence that continues, members of the community say. There's even a generalized doubt that the vote will take place on Tuesday as scheduled because of the deteriorating security.

''Right now when you talk about Haiti, everybody shakes their head,'' said Marie Florence Bell, former chairwoman of a task force created by Gov. Jeb Bush to help Floridians find ways to help Haiti. ``It's hopeless. We are starting to feel like
maybe it can't be helped.''The disillusionment is not totally a reflection of what is happening back home.

The community here also feels blocked from playing important roles in the future of their country.

When Boca Raton resident Gérard Latortue was named interim prime minister after Aristide's ouster, many hoped he would sympathize with efforts to allow Haitians in South Florida to vote at the local consulate. Latortue initially endorsed the idea but then said it would be too costly and logistically impossible to arrange for these elections.
Further irking Haitians here was the Latortue government's decision to block the presidential candidacy of Texas millionaire Dumarsais Siméus. The government said the constitution bars Siméus, a U.S. citizen, from holding dual citizenship. But many saw it as a snub of expatriates.

As in Haiti, the community in South Florida is politically divided along class and color lines, althoug
h there are increasingly more shades of gray as it becomes more assimilated and its economic status rises.

Supporters of Aristide, a former slum priest elected in 1990 and again in 2000, still wield considerable influence among the bulk of those who arrived here as refugees and still closely identify with the struggles of Haiti's poor.
Although Aristide's Lavalas Family Party is officially boycotting the elections, former president and Aristide protégée René Préval is the front-running candidate with strong support among grassroots Aristide supporters.
Préval has tried to distance himself from Aristide, and has not officially run a campaign in South Florida. But Aristide supporters believe he is their ticket back into power.

''I believe that he would be a good thing for Haiti if he could be in charge,'' said Lavalas spokesman Jonas Petit, who splits his time between Ft. Lauderdale and New Jersey. ``[b:f149201b7
6]Our hope is that the political and social environment can be more tolerant and would let . . . Lavalas act as a political party.''

ACTIVIST ENDORSEMENT
Former Miami-based Haitian rights activist Gérard Jean-Juste, who just months ago criticized the elections, changed his tune after polls showed Préval leading the pack of candidates and urged Haitians to vote. Jean-Juste, jailed until last week by the Latortue government, plans to annouce his endorsement of Préval today in Miami, two days after announcing it on the airwaves in Haiti.''Things will change for the better in Haiti,'' he said after arriving in Miami for cancer treatment.
On the other side of the political fence, South Florida supporters of candidate Charles Henri Baker, most of them members of the business class o
r professionals, have been telephoning and e-mailing expatriates here and in Canada to urge them, to call home and encourage relatives and friends to vote for Baker.

Early in the campaign, Baker attracted a lot support during a three-day tour of South Florida. In October, more than 300 people showed up at one of several events that have helped the businessman raise $1.4 million for his campaign.
But what began with standing-room crowds soon dwindled as the election was delayed again and again and plans for other fundraisers were zapped. A week ago, less than 150 people attended a fundraiser at a Coral Gables art gallery on behalf of Baker, running second to Préval in most polls.

Other presidential candidates who have made campaign visits to South Florida include Serge Gilles, Rigaud Duplan, Paul Denis, Evans Paul and Chavannes Jeune.

Still, Haitians in South Florida can't completely re
move themselves from what is happening in their homeland, and on a recent afternoon at a Little Haiti beauty supply shop the talk turn to elections.

Patrons couldn't agree which former president, Préval or Leslie Manigat, would be the best new president for the country but agreed that life had not improved in the two years since Aristide's ouster.
''The country is worse,'' said Enold Alcegaire, 38, adding that guns had now replaced machetes as the instrument of violence around his hometown near Jeremie, about 150 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince.

''People are dying,'' said hairdresser Elsie Mayant, 37. ``Even if they sent me back to Haiti, I would not go.''

Still she, like countless Haitians living abroad, yearns to return home; not to the Haiti of today, but the Haiti of yesterday when the streets were safe and the word kidnapping wasn't part of the Creole vocabulary. ''I woul
d love a beautiful change for Haiti,'' she said.

Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 5:40 pm
by Michel Nau_
Spécial/Elections 2006

Koffi Annan appelle le peuple haitien à saisir pacifiquement "la chance" de tourner la page de la violence et d'aller vers la stabilité
Le secrétaire général de l'ONU met en garde contre toute tentative de perturbation des élections
Posté le lundi 6 février 2006
Par Radio Kiskeya
Le secrétaire général des Nations Unies, Koffi Annan, a appelé lundi les haitiens à voter pacifiquement mardi à l'occasion du premier tour des élections présidentielles et parlementaires qu'il considère comme "une chance qu s'offre au pays.

"Les élections de demain offrent une chance à votre pays de s'éloigner de la violence et de l'incertitude pour un avenir de paix et de stabilité" a déclaré M. Annan dans un message lu à New York par son porte-parole, Stéphane Dujarric. Plus lo
in, le secrétaire général ajoute "
J'ai un message destiné au peuple haitien alors qu'il approche des élections du 7 février pour choisir un nouveau Président et de nouveaux représentants au Parlement. Chaque vote est crucial pour l'avenir d'Haiti".

Parlant d'éventuelles tentatives de sabotage de la journée électorale auxquelles pourraient recourir certains secteurs en désespoir de cause, le numéro un de l'ONU prévient qu'aucun acte de violence ne sera toléré.

"A ceux qui pourraient être tentés de troubler le processus démocratique, je veux dire que la Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haiti (MINUSTAH) fera tout ce qu'elle peut pour soutenir les autorités haitiennes afin de garantir que le scrutin se déroule dans la liberté et la sécurité".

Koffi Annan invite également les différentes parties engagées dans la bataille électorale au respect de la vol
onté populaire et à la réconciliation.
"J'appelle toutes les parties à respecter le résultat des élections et les futurs gouvernants à s'engager en faveur de la réconciliation et de l'ouverture" affirme-t-il.

"La communauté internationale continue de soutenir le peuple haitien dans son entreprise visant à créer des institutions démocratiques fortes reposant sur la bonnne gouvernance, l'Etat de droit et le respect des droits fondamentaux"
poursuit le dirigeant de l'organisation mondiale. Enfin, Annan suggère aux haitiens
"Sur ces piliers vous pourrez reconstruire une nation dont tous les haitiens seront fiers".

La mission onusienne déployée en Haiti depuis le 1er juin 2004 doit jouer un rôle majeur dans la sécurisation des premières élections démocratiques haitiennes de l'ère postAristide. Environ 9.000 casques bleus et bérets bleus se joindront aux 6.00
0 policiers nationaux pour garantir le bon déroulement des opérations de vote. spp/RK