Some background on LESPWA, 18 February 2006
by Charles Arthur for the Haiti Support Group
René Préval was elected president as the candidate of the new LESPWA coalition. LESPWA has 19 candidates contesting the 30 Senate seats, and 58 candidates contesting the 99 seats in the House of Deputies. Although you would not know it from the media coverage, elections for the Senate and House of Deputies also took place on 7 February.
The LESPWA platform is an alliance of two small political parties, the Parti Louvri Barye (PLB-Open the Gate Party), and the Efò ak Solidarite pou Konstwi yon Altènativ Nasyonal Popilè/Koordinasyon Resistans Grandans (Eskanp-Korega), and one or more peasant organisations.
The PLB was part of the Lavalas Political Platform (PPL) (together with the OPL and MOP) that contested the 1995 elections - elections that were a comprehensive victory for the PPL. Later, when the PPL fe
ll apart - notably over differences about the neo-liberal economic reforms demanded by the IMF/World Bank - some of those parliamentarians elected on a PPL ticket formed the anti-neo-liberal Eskanp/Korega coalition.
More recently, in the 2000 legislative elections, two candidates from the PLB, and one candidate from Eskanp/Korega, were elected to the Chamber of Deputies. Nearly all the other 83 seats went to Lavalas Family Party candidates. The 5 January 2000 issue of Haiti Progres newspaper, reported that "For years, Korega has been the most popular and powerful organisation in the Grand'Anse," and that Father Joachim Samedi, the curate of the St. Helene parish in Jérémie is "a Korega leader".
Two LESPWA candidates for the Senate in the current elections are Jean Maxime Roumer, standing in the Grand'Anse, and Kely Bastien, standing in the North. Roumer was a PPL Senator 1995-1999. Bastien was a PPL Deputy, and head of the Chamber, 1995-1999.
The peasant organisat
ion, KOZEPEP, is also a part of the LESPWA platform. KOZEPEP is the Artibonite-based peasant organisation closely linked with Radio Haiti Inter's Jean Dominique until his murder in April 2000. Préval and Dominique are believed to have been heavily involved in the creation of KOZEPEP, and there has been speculation that it was because elements within the Lavalas Family leadership were afraid that a popular alternative to their party was growing that they ordered the murder of Jean Dominique. This is speculation, but certainly, in the first months of 2001, KOZEPEP did suffer persecution at the hands of Lavalas Family toughs believed to working on behalf of newly elected Lavalas Family Senator, Joseph Médard. The latter, like Lavalas Family Senator, Dany Toussaint, was a former Army officer. KOZEPEP leader, Charles Suffrard, went into exile in the USA, but has recently returned to Haiti.
It is also interesting to see various more 'establishment' characters revealed as leading LESPWA supporters. These
include: Pierre Léger, the succesful vetiver producer from Les Cayes; Fritz Jean, a former director of the Central Bank during the first Préval presidency (1996-2001); and Frantz Large, former head of the Chamber of Commerce for the South East department, who is now standing as a LESPWA candidate for the Senate.
One of Préval's campaign managers is Bob Manuel, Secretary of State for Public Security during the first Préval presidency who resigned in 1999 following a concerted campaign by elements within the Lavalas Family Party to take control of the PNH. Dany Toussaint was prominent in this campaign.
Other leading members of the LESPWA inner circle are Joseph Jasmin, the former North department, Eskanp Deputy from the 1995-1999 Parliament; Fritz Longchamp, a former Foreign Minister during the first Préval presidency; and Volcy Assad, the news director for Radio Solidarité.
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