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Selections from the Caribbean blogosphere

Categories: Caribbean, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Elections, Ethnicity & Race, Protest, Religion

This week the Caribbean saw presidential elections taking place in Haiti, violence erupting in Spanish Town, Jamaica, and Hosay observances in Trinidad. Here's the blogosphere's take on these events:

Haiti [1]: Presidential Elections

February 7th’s presidential election in Haiti seemed at first to belong to René Préval. The New York Times reported [2] on Thursday that the former president had received 61% of what appeared to be a representative sample of ballots. As the week drew to a close, however, Préval’s lead “shrank dramatically [3],” making the possibility of a runoff in March more of a reality. Charlito News [4], a blog maintained, one would assume, by supporters of candidate Charles Henry “Charlito” Baker (who is in third place behind Leslie Manigat), posted nine news updates on Saturday, including one comprising “The Key Provisions of the Electoral Decrees of 2005 [5]” (FR), presumably to support allegations of fraud [3] made by Baker.  The last of Saturday's posts [6] reported that Préval supporters had stormed the presidential palace, “livid results of [the] election their candidate is said to have won have not be finalized”. The post went on to say that:

With 72 percent of votes counted, the latest official results showed frontrunner René Préval, a former president and champion of the poor, slipping to 49.6 percent. He would need 50 percent plus one additional vote to avoid a runoff.

But international electoral observers told Newsday that an analysis of the vote showed Préval had won about 54.5 percent, enough to win on the first round. The sample of 12 percent of votes was conducted by a Haitian electoral observation group and monitored by the National Democratic Institute, an arm of the U.S. State Department, the sources said.

Jamaica [7]: Unrest in Spanish Town

The volatile community of Spanish Town, 13 miles outside of Jamaica's capital city of Kingston, erupted in violence on Wednesday [8] in reaction to the shooting of Andrew Hope, the “reputed leader” of the One Order gang. CoolDestiny reported [9] that she happened to leave work early on Wednesday and learned about the unrest en route:

I smartly decided to drive on the toll road instead of the Spanish Town bypass to avoid all the chaos that I knew would be happening. Yesterday, however, the toll road was not spared from the display of violence as the road was blocked at the stoplight causing a major pile up of traffic to exit the toll road. Strange-looking men lurking in the bushes … and not a police man, car, bike, bicycle patrol … NONE. In the distance, we could see huge clouds of black smoke rising in the sky, confirming the protest taking place on the by-pass and in the town.. . . I'm so sick and tired of this s*** happening every time a “don” is killed.

Charles Matheson was one of only six people to report to work at his office in Spanish Town [10] on Thursday. “One of my co-workers called to say that she would not be reporting to work,” wrote Matheson, “as she had been turned back blocked by gunmen who told her to go back home.” The staff at Matheson's office was sent home at 9am after gunfire was heard in the vicinity.

Trinidad & Tobago [11]: Hosay

Trinidad & Tobago's Carnival season is heating up in the lead-up to the official start of the two-day festival on February 27th, but stay tuned for an overview of blogosphere's response to Carnival closer to that date. In the midst of the Carnival frenzy this week, however, Trinidad's Shi'ite Muslim community observed Hosay (also known as the festival of Muharram [12] or Ashurah [13]), which Liz Ali reminded us [14] “is NOT an Islamic festival. The practice began as a Shi'a mourning ritual then morphed into this bacchanal. Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hosein with prayers ………not party.”


Panchaitee tadjah on Western Main Road, Hosay 2006, Trinidad, by Nicholas Laughlin [16]

To Nicholas Laughlin's “creole eyes”, however, Hosay looked festive. Laughlin was on spot [17] on Friday afternoon in the community of St. James, center of the Hosay activities, wondering at “the impossibility that Hosay and Carnival can have co-existed in Port of Spain for a century and a half without some kind of cross-pollination,” and posted a detailed and vivid description of the events [17].

The Bookmann
also contemplated the cross-pollination issue [18]. “Where in any Country would one observe a religious rite side by side with a pub blaring Soca music from large fete speakers, and couples grinding on the curb with bottles of alcohol loosely held by its neck swinging in tempo?” he asked. Both Nicholas and The Bookmann also posted photos.