While it is good to see someone in the mainsteam press speaking frankly about the fraud in the latest election in Haiti, the real fraud is keeping Aristide out of the running. He would win by a landslide, and the U.S. got rid of him under Clinton (free trip to Africa) because he is a too-popular leftist. Aristide would never pander to Cuba the way Hugo Chavez has in Venezuela. He doesn't want a dictatorship the way Chavez does. Over recent years the New York Times and the rest accused Aristide of rigging elections because he won by huge margins assumed to be achieved through fraud. I fell for this line and turned against Aristide until I looked into it a little deeper.
Wall Street Journal
December 13, 2010
In a moment last week when Haitians were struggling to overcome yet another misfortune—this time a fraudulent election—the U.S. State Department's top honcho for the region, Arturo Valenzuela, put his energy elsewhere. He went to Tegucigalpa where he spent two days trying to force the Honduran government to drop criminal charges against deposed president Manuel Zelaya.
Bizarre priorities in Latin America are nothing new for the Obama administration. But this one takes the rice bowl. Haiti is, for all intents and purposes, a U.S. dependency, kept alive by U.S. aid. Yet President René Preval seems to regard election fraud as an entitlement. When the nation erupted in violent protest over the Nov. 28 fiasco, his allies muttered threats of civil war. Did Mr. Valenzuela go to Port-au-Prince to read the president the riot act? Nope. The trip to Honduras was deemed more important.
The word "miserable" does not come close to describing Haitian life since the devastating January earthquake. Eleven months later, there is no sign of even modest recovery. Displaced families are still living in tents and cholera has claimed more than 2,000 lives. The population has displayed near-saintly patience and stoic resilience, but it has also taken note of Mr. Preval's dismal performance. The presidential election was supposed to be its chance to change horses.
A supporter of presidential candidate Michel Martelly during a protest in Port-au-Prince, Dec. 9.
Mr. Preval and his henchmen had other ideas, and for good reason. Government corruption is legendary. It starts at the port (as I described in "Who Cares About Haiti?" on Nov. 22), when goods enter the country, and it cascades across the economy. Sources tell me that the rule of thumb is a 20% cut. The international community has pledged $5 billion in reconstruction aid. You do the math.
Haitian corruption is no secret, but the U.S. barely notices. So too did it turn a blind eye to the rigged electoral process.
Long before the Nov. 28 election, it was clear that the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), which supervises elections, had been politicized. One example: It had arbitrarily disqualified former Haitian ambassador to Washington and outspoken Preval critic, Raymond Joseph, as a candidate. It also made it impossible for hundreds of thousands of voters, who had lost their identification cards in the earthquake, to get them renewed.
These were explicit violations of CEP obligations, and the fact that the U.S., the United Nations, and the Organization of American States let them pass amounted to tacit approval of the Preval plan to manipulate the outcome for his own man—Jude Celestin.
Things did not improve on election day. Many of those who did have ID cards couldn't vote at their assigned polling station because when they got there their names weren't on the register. One source who was on the ground in Haiti told me that some polling stations were never allowed by the CEP to open, and opposition groups made charges that ballot boxes had been stuffed by Preval supporters. Photographs of ballot boxes turned upside down and polling stations strewn with ballots went viral on the Web. Haitian voters expressed anger and disgust with the process, and 12 of the 18 candidates called for the elections to be annulled.
According to the reports of international and domestic observers—including the European Union-funded National Electoral Observation Council, made up of Haitian nongovernmental organizations—who were also on hand at the tabulation center when results were tallied, candidates Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly placed first and second. These vote tallies now seem to offer the best chance for the truth to prevail.
But Mr. Preval has made it clear that he does not intend to go quietly. Last week his handpicked CEP announced that Mr. Celestin came in second behind Mrs. Manigat and won the right to compete in a runoff next month. It also said that Mr. Preval's party had won two-thirds of the parliament, which will allow him to name the prime minister.
The opposition wasn't buying it, and not only because of Mr. Preval's unpopularity. It also had the reports of the election day observers. Thousands of Haitians took to the streets. Violence ensued. The Port-au-Prince airport had to be closed. An angry mob set Mr. Celestin's party headquarters on fire.
Mr. Celestin's campaign manager fired back that his candidate had garnered 52% of the vote and warned that his supporters in the slums were ready to unleash violence. ''If we cannot hold them back, prepare yourself for civil war,'' Sen. Joseph Lambert said.
Unless the international community wants to publicly admit that it is being cowed by thugs, it will have to call Mr. Preval's bluff. The U.S. may be waking up to this reality. In a briefing last week, the State Department said that it is "concerned" about the CEP's version of the vote.
The CEP responded last week by saying it will "recount" the presidential votes. That's not good enough coming from the institution that has had custody of the ballots for two weeks, and Haitians know it. Someone needs to break the news to Mr. Preval.
Write to O'Grady@wsj.com