Are Haitians Really Safer Leading Up to the Election?
Haitian blogger Yon Ayisyen, a French-speaking blogger whose name means “A Haitian”, reports his impressions of the buildup to Tuesday, February 7's presidential elections from the capital city of Port-au-Prince. (Yon Aysien is one of the few Haitians blogging from Haiti.)
In a post titled Elections and Insecurity, one of of four posts made on Saturday (February 4) he doubts head of UN Mission to Haiti (MINUSTAH) Juan Gabriel Valdes’ assertion that insecurity has in any way diminished in the lead-up to the election. While Mr. Valdes has appeared repeatedly on Haitian television in the past two weeks claiming that insecurity has subsided, Yon Ayisyen observes the opposite:
[S]omeone I know was shot in broad daylight in the streets while his companions were being kidnapped. Yet officials intoxicate the population with claims that “insecurity has dropped.”
Yon Ayisyen observes that the population believes the UN Mission's assertions about safety. He tells of one friend whose memory had to be refreshed about the above murder. He also surmises:
How many others have been assasinated this week without any press coverage? Many for sure, but because of the elections people have to be reassured even if lied to, as in “the streets are safer now than they were before.” But that is far from true.
In December, insecurity actually increased but people let their guard down and were surprised. Kidnappers probably wanted Christmas presents at the expense of honest citizens. But authorities were probably too busy providing security for the electoral process to actually care.
To support his point, Yon Ayisyen devotes a post to 11 detailed accounts of recent armed attacks on friends and acquaintances. Yon Ayisyen posts these accounts because he thinks elections are being used to obscure issues of safety and security and because:
General Heleno says: “poverty and hunger are responsible for the crime.” To this I say he is insulting those Haitian poor who go hungry and yet choose not to participate in violent crime. Besides, we know that many of the violent criminals are not necessarily the neediest of Haitians. We also know that many of the gang leaders in Cité Soley receive regular payments from many businesses and factories. Those businesses don't have a choice but to make payments to those criminals because they are at their mercy.
Over half of Yon Ayisyen's 11 accounts involve kidnappings or attempted kidnappings, mostly coupled with a paid ransom and some degree of torture. In one case, a woman who was tortured and sexually assaulted during the kidnapping committed suicide after release. In another, one of two children kidnapped was killed. In a third, an elderly woman suffered torture leading to loss of three toes.
Poster Wars and Illicit Campaign Financing
In another Saturday post titled The Poster Wars, Yon Ayisyen remarks on the many candidates’ posters plastered all over Port-au-Prince streets. He explains that candidate René Preval started the postering earlier than others and that his yellow LESPWA posters at first “seemed to be everywhere and took all the space.” By the end of campaign season, continues Ayisyen, other candidates such as Leslie Manigat and Charles-Henri Baker “did their best to catch up.”
Yon Ayisyen is also concerned about campaign financing of presidential candidates. He believes that the 500,000 Gdes provided to each candidate by the government cannot account for all of their campaign expenses. He deplores the population's lack of interest in potentially illicit sources of campaign financing while he concedes that some candidates probably just indebted themselves to finance campaigns. Unfortunately, Yon Ayisyen doubts that either the interim president or legislators will question whether certain political parties were financed with illicit drug money because “they too would then have to become accountable for their own handling of public monies, something past Haitian governments have always avoided.”
2011 Run for Former Candidate Dumarsais Simeus
In another post titled Simeus Candidate in 2011? Ayisyen reports that Haitian-American candidate Dumarsais Siméus did not forge the alliances that might have allowed him to run this time around. Instead, Ayisyen reports, Simeus wants to run again in 2011. Simeus also “expressed support for candidates René Preval and Leslie Francois Manigat”.
On the Eve of Uncertainty
White Girl Driving, an expat NGO worker, admits to having no idea what the outcome of the election will be and is skeptical as to the government's promise that election results will be ready in three days:
it’s a mistake i make all the time, running through the possibilities and trying to see what the powerful are preparing for, what the rich of this country are expecting to happen. what would benefit the private sector most right now? i ask myself the question every morning, for three more mornings until elections. the electoral council has suggested that results of the elections will be available in only three days, which is laughable considering it took weeks in may 2000 and there are at least as many if not more seats being contested on tuesday. will the elections happen, be accepted, and the country just proceed on to carnival? will the city become more violent, more impossible, more insecure? can the private sector afford to not have a carnival this year?