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Haiti protests erupt against election fraud

Published Dec 20, 2010 9:41 PM

A mass movement of protest and anger has erupted in Haiti against the oppression, extreme poverty and desperation experienced by the vast majority of people. The militant struggle is challenging the so-called “constitutionally mandated” election of Nov. 28, claiming fraud and misconduct throughout the process.

On Dec. 7, after the election results were announced, outraged protesters shut down Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, with barricades of earthquake debris, garbage dumpsters and burning tires.

The “official” tally showed presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat leading, with Jude Célestin, the ruling party’s candidate, coming in second, ahead of popular candidate Michel Martelly by a few thousand votes. A fraudulent election hadn’t put Célestin in the second round; therefore, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) had to rig the count.

One protester told NPR, “If we don’t get Martelly, I’m the rock that will crush you. We are going to tear this country down.”

The mass anger aimed at Haiti’s ruling party; at its president, René Préval ; and at its presidential candidate, Célestin, resulted in its headquarters being destroyed by fire.

Some of the most militant street protests, which confronted the Haitian police and faced down the armored personnel carriers of Minustah, the U.N.’s occupation force, challenged the system itself and called for revolution.

Even though the Nov. 28 election was so flawed and fraudulent that 12 of the 18 presidential candidates called for its annulment or cancellation, the U.N., which provided “security” for the voting, and the CEP declared that it was valid, while admitting it had “some problems.”

After three days, the protests died down. People were running out of food, water trucks couldn’t get through to the camps, and supplies couldn’t get through to the cholera treatment centers.

Then the CEP declared a recount of the votes for Manigat, Célestin, and Martelly. Célestin’s party accepted the recount and claimed that a recount would show he “obtained 52 percent of the votes.” ( Haïti Liberté, Dec. 10).

Manigat refused to participate in the recount and issued a statement criticizing the CEP’s press release and procedures. Martelly’s campaign formally rejected the recount and at its press conference on Dec. 10 asked, “Would you report theft to a thief?” Martelly’s campaign demanded a new CEP before any electoral decisions are made.

The U.S., France and Canada aim to preserve Haiti’s present political structure and maintain their political hold on the country, with the goal of potentially reaping vast profits from its mineral wealth. Between the imperialists’ aims and the roiling anger of the masses, it is going to be difficult for the CEP and the wing of the Haitian bourgeoisie it represents to find a solution to the current electoral crisis.

While the imperialists and the Haitian ruling class push their candidates and maneuver the election results, mass protests can restart at any time.

Cholera, the U.N. and Cuba

The electoral campaign omitted reference to the cholera epidemic. As of Dec. 10, however, more than 2,200 people have died and more than 100,000 people have gotten ill from the disease.

While the U.S., France and Canada have pushed the phony elections, they and other wealthy, capitalist countries have not provided housing for the 1.5 million homeless since January’s earthquake, nor have they provided the necessities of clean water and sanitation, which are life and death matters in this time of cholera.

Angry protesters have chanted, “U.N. and Cholera out of Haiti!” The Haitian people blame the Minustah troops for introducing this deadly disease into Haiti. French epidemiologist and cholera specialist Renaud Piarroux has confirmed this.

Piarroux conducted a study in Haiti in November at the request of the Haitian department of public health. He concluded that the epidemic began with an imported strain of the disease that could be traced back to the U.N. base at Mirebalais in central Haiti. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control confirmed that the cholera strain there originated in South Asia.

Fidel Castro said that Cuban medical personnel, who have been treating 40 percent of Haiti’s cholera cases, confirmed Piarroux’s theory. He said that this epidemic “is threatening to extend to the neighboring Dominican Republic, the Caribbean, Latin America and other similar Asian and African countries.” (Granma, Dec. 7)

While the U.S. is planning a vaccination campaign that will cost $6 a dose and take two months to start, socialist Cuba is proposing a different plan based on its experience in successfully treating tens of thousands of cholera cases.

Castro explained, “The Cuban medical mission, with the support of the Haitian authorities, has offered a presence in many of the isolated 207 sub-communes, so that no Haitian citizen lacks medical attention in the face of the epidemic, and many thousands of lives can be saved.”