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Major Issues - Haiti

Congressional and Municipal Elections:

On May 21, 2000, the Haitian people showed their strong desire for democracy. It was clear in the early morning hours, when at 5:30 am, dozens of voters were already waiting in line to cast their vote to shape their future. Forecasting that the elections would have low turnout and a high rate of violence, the nay Sayers predicted the high registration that Haiti experienced was due to the people wanting an identity card and not due to the people wanting democracy. Clearly the nay Sayers were wrong, not only was there a high turnout and very little election related violence, but the democratic process worked exceptionally well.

For these elections, Mr. Conyers led a congressional delegation to Haiti consisting of Congresswoman Corrine Brown, Congressman Bill Delahunt. We witnessed dedicated voters, serious about their role in the democratic process. We witnessed diligent poll-workers who carried out their roles with careful deliberation and great professionalism. We witnessed party observers who monitored the BV's (polling stations) from dusk to dawn. We witnessed international observers led by the OAS (Organization of the American States) who canvassed the entire Haitian countryside providing an international presence. We witnessed the Provisional Electoral Council, (CEP); administer an extremely complex and difficult process with great aplomb. The Haitian people were able to accomplish this giant first step towards democracy with little or no help from the US despite the US's constant criticism of this nation which is in its infancy of democracy.

The AP reported that, "Last week, millions of Haitians braced under a scorching sun and the threat of violence and voted. According to official records about 60 percent of the three million eligible voters went to the polls, surpassing many established democracies."

Unfortunately, there were irregularities that occurred in the election and there is a post-election problem of the vote count that is threatening to undo the democratic work of the citizens of Haiti. Without doubt there were irregularities that occurred in the election which have been conceded by the CEP. Now that the Haitian people have taken their first giant step towards democracy, it is more imperative that the US express its support for the Haitian democratic process by continue to work with Haiti to come to a solution which would be fair to all.

In September, Mr. Conyers attempted to thwart efforts to have direct aid to Haiti suspended by introducing a motion to strike the language that precludes assistance to the government of Haiti unless it met the two following preconditions:

  1. The Secretary of State reports to the Committees on Appropriations that Haiti has held free and fair elections to seat a new parliament; and

  2. The Director of the Office of National Drug Policy Control reports to the Committees on Appropriations that the Government of Haiti is fully cooperating with the United States efforts to interdict drug traffic through Haiti to the United States.

This language limits assistance to the Government of Haiti and represented a double standard. In effect, we are holding Haiti to a higher standard than we are holding other nations including ourselves. Lest we forget it was only a few years that we had to send in federal re-enforcement to allow people to vote in my own backyard of Flint Michigan and we, the great democratic country of the world had to enact not one but two voting rights acts to give blacks and other minority's unfettered access to the polls. And even today, this access continues to be undermined by court determinations of gerrymandering.

But for those of us, who are uncomfortable examining our own struggle with democracy, as we are the beacons of democratic values, let us examine how we have dealt with other countries in similar straits, such the country of Peru.

Last year, Peru held elections that many have touted as wholly fraudulent. The New York Times reported, "On the surface it appeared so familiar, President Albert Fujimori rode to a third term on Sunday in an election so full of dirty tricks that Alejandro Toledo, the opposition candidate, withdrew from the race, and all international election monitors backed off, too, before a single vote was cast." The San Diego Union Tribune reported, " The elections were tainted by widespread charges of voting irregularities, bullying of the opposition and use of state funds to benefit Fujimori. OAS observers walked out a few days before the election, saying the elections were not fair."

On the other hand, in regard to Haiti's elections, the AP reported that, "Millions of Haitians braced under a scorching sun and the threat of violence and voted. According to official records about 60 percent of the three million eligible voters went to the polls, surpassing many established democracies." Speaking of the impressive numbers, the Associated Press said "more than 2 million Haitian voters - an estimated 60% of the electorate - cast their ballots in the elections." We noticed that this is considerably higher than the 38% turnout in the US Congressional elections of 1998.

Haiti's elections were relatively free of violence and we witnessed a firm commitment from Haitian citizens to have democratic elections. We observed great levels of voter participation and an overwhelming sense of civic pride, and concerted efforts towards the conduct of credible elections.

AID TO HAITI

Mr. Conyers has also sent a letter to the International Relations Committee to release the holds on the Economic Support Funds for the Department of Justice's International Criminal Investigative raining Assistance Program in Haiti. This program was developed to improve the levels of professionalism in the Haitian National Police, and to improve middle management recruits, which is deemed essential to a well-developed police force. --
Click Here (Link to letter)

Mr. Conyers also sent letters to the Secretary of Agriculture and the President expressing his support for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association to begin establishing electric cooperatives in Haiti. --
Click Here (Link to letter)

FUTURE TRAVEL TO HAITI

Next month, Mr., Conyers intends to travel to Haiti to attend the upcoming Presidential Inauguration and to briefly meet with the new cabinet, especially those involved with the Judiciary. It is our goal to make acquaintance with the new administration and follow up with more lengthy meetings at a time in the neat future.

History of Haiti:


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Representative John Conyers, Jr. , Michigan 14th district
2426 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-5126   Fax: 202-225-0072

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