Haiti's President in Miami: The interim Ambassador scorned, Aristide praised
June 27, 2006
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Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald and Knight Ridder Newspapers, addressed President Preval as "President Aristide" twice during her questions before realizing her error and correcting herself
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The Double Standard
September 12, 2004

Haiti's President in Miami: The interim Ambassador scorned, Aristide praised

HIP - Miami - The presence of Haiti's ousted president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, loomed large in a Miami auditorium last Sunday night as the newly elected Chief of State, René Garcia Préval, took the podium. About 1000 Haitians crowded the Joseph Caleb Auditorium in Liberty City and began chanting "Aristide... Préval! Aristide... Préval!" for nearly two minutes as President Préval was introduced and rose to the stage. Haiti's new president patiently waited till the chants died down, smiled and reminded the audience, "There was an election on February 7th and the Haitian people choose me to be president" amid thunderous applause.

Preval is the Haitian leader to emerge through democratic elections since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced out of office on February 29, 2004 in a coup backed by the United States, France and Canada. The U.S. Embassy announced the invocation of Article 149 of the Haitian Constitution within hours of Aristide's flight into exile and oversaw the swearing into office of Boniface Alexander, the senior member of Haiti's Supreme Court.

With all of the sitting members of Parliament forced into hiding and unable approve Boniface's appointment, the U.S. selected an extra-constitutional body modeled after the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) that was established in that country following their invasion in 2003. It was called the "Council of the Wise" and its seven members selected Gerard Latortue, a former U.N. employee and talk show host from Boca Raton, Florida as the new Prime Minister of Haiti. Latortue's government was marked by gross violations of human rights and corruption before the election of Preval earlier this year. Aristide continues to live in exile in South Africa as pressure mounts for Preval's government to pave the way for his return to Haiti.

Last Sunday was President Preval's first address to the Haitian community in Miami since his election victory earlier this year. Several western diplomats have surreptitiously deemed his election on February 7 a "negotiated settlement" to assume the presidency rather than a clear electoral mandate. Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), which orchestrated the tainted elections, was forced to declare Preval the winner in the first round of balloting after thousands of protesters took the streets and paralyzed the capital of Port au Prince for several days. This came on the heels of reports of gross irregularities on the part of the U.N-sponsored CEP in counting the ballots and charges of fraud after thousands of uncounted ballots were found in several garbage dumps throughout the capital.

In an obscure agreement dubbed the "Belgium option," the international community brokered an arrangement with the CEP where thousands of blank ballots were distributed evenly among the candidates giving Preval the votes he needed to rise above the 50% threshold to avoid a runoff. The arrangement also helped to mask the failure of the international community to sponsor clean and fair elections in Haiti after investing an estimated 76 million dollars as well as providing a U.N. army for security and logistical support to the process.

The Haitian people thwarted the plans of the CEP to defeat Preval through manipulation and fraud, yet the international community still managed to blame the victim in a twisting of reality that would have made Machiavelli blush with shame. Turning the issue of electoral fraud to their advantage, the international community used - then acting U.S. Chargé d'Affaires - Timothy Carney to remind the new president that a veritable Sword of Damocles hangs over his head.

In an Associated Press article written by Stevenson Jacobs on February 19, 2006 - titled "American: Haiti Leader Must Perform" - Carney stated, "If he [Preval] doesn't perform, yes it [the electoral settlement] could weaken him." Carney then added the caveat, "If he does perform, nobody will remember it." Carney had already made it clear that part of the expected performance from Preval included not allowing Aristide to return to Haiti. In a statement the day after the elections Carney said, "Aristide is on his way to becoming as irrelevant to Haiti as Jean-Claude [Duvalier], and with no future. Aristide is now demonstrated to be a man of the past." Apparently Carney and the international community were oblivious to the most popular chant heard in the streets throughout the electoral campaign and on inauguration day, "Preval for president so Aristide can return."

Although Haitians in Miami clearly embraced the new president as their legitimate leader, it was equally clear that the sympathies of most in the auditorium remain with Aristide and his Lavalas Family political party whose electoral base was responsible for Preval's victory. This was made apparent when Preval's introduction of Lavalas grassroots leaders traveling with his official entourage was met with wild applause. Counted among them was Moise Jean-Charles (former Lavalas mayor of Milot and founder of MPM, the Milot Peasant's Movement), Sanba Boukman (who served as Lavalas spokesman in Bel Air during the bloody two-year period following Aristide's ouster) and Jean Joseph-Joel (he served as one of the leaders in Cite Soleil for the Lavalas National Base of Cells of Reflection the past two years).

Haitians in the Miami audience also viewed Preval's visit as a symbol of the end of the reign of terror and repression carried out by the U.S.-installed regime of Gerard Latortue following Aristide's ouster.

The introduction of the Latortue regime's appointed ambassador to Washington, Raymond Joseph, was met with nearly unanimous booing and hissing from the crowd. Joseph is the uncle of rapper Wyclef Jean and is a co-publisher of the reactionary newspaper Haiti Observateur. Latortue's Ambassador is known for making preposterous claims of Aristide supporters crushing babies - mortar and pestle style - to bathe President Aristide in their blood to assure his re-election victory.

An ardent supporter of the 1991 military coup against Aristide, Joseph also claimed that Aristide lent - then president - Bill Clinton a vodou medium who advised him not to change his underwear as part of ritual designed to win him re-election.

In his recent post representing the coup government, Joseph was a vocal supporter of the crudely named anti-Aristide movement known as the GNB (literally translated GNB means "balls up your ass movement"). Ambassador Joseph was clearly embarrassed by the response from the crowd and sources close to the new Foreign Minister Renald Clerisme, speculate that his reception on Sunday all but sealed his imminent departure from that position.

The following day Preval held a press conference at Miami's Inter-Continental Hotel where a few journalists appeared to remain confused by the continued depth of support shown the night before for ousted president Aristide. In one embarrassing moment, Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald and Knight Ridder Newspapers, addressed President Preval as President Aristide twice during her questions before realizing her error and correcting herself.

During the same press conference, HIP Founding Editor Kevin Pina asked President Preval about progress towards reforming the country's corrupt and highly politicized judicial system and the release of political prisoners jailed by the Latortue regime. President Preval responded, "The government prosecutor has asked that former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune be released, and the dossier of So Ann should be resolved soon." Prime Minister Neptune and Annette Auguste (aka Só Ann) were arrested and jailed following unsubstantiated allegations by an organization called the National Coalition of Haitian Rights (NCHR). The organization is accused by many of participating in the political persecution of Aristide supporters following his ouster and was forced to change it name to Defence of Human Rights National Network or RNDDH. The organization's director, Pierre Esperance, served as a primary source of information for other human rights organizations such as Amnesty International until he was finally discredited and exposed for his record of collaboration in political persecution against Lavalas supporters early last year. Sources close to Haiti's president stated that the release of Neptune and Auguste could come as early as Friday but encouraged international solidarity and human rights organizations to "turn up the pressure on Haiti's judicial system."

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