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   Vol. 70/No. 8           February 27, 2006  
Haiti vote: protesters demand
Aristide ally be declared victor
MIAMI—Thousands have marched through the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, demanding that presidential front-runner René Préval be declared the winner in the February 7 elections. Préval was the prime minister under former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was ousted following a U.S.-backed rightist uprising and imperialist military intervention in February 2004.

Préval supporters accused the provisional electoral council of fixing the vote totals to force a March 19 runoff. “We don’t need a second round!” was the chant at a pro-Préval rally in Miami.

As of February 13, with 90 percent of the vote counted, Préval reportedly had 48.7 percent of the vote—just shy of the absolute majority needed to avoid a runoff. Second place in the field of 35 candidates was Leslie Manigat with 11.8 percent of the vote. Guy Philippe, the leader of the rightist uprising that led to the ouster of Aristide, garnered less than 2 percent.

Aristide was first elected president in 1990 following a decades-long struggle by workers and farmers to end the reign of a series of U.S.-backed military regimes. He was ousted in a military coup in 1991 but reinstated by U.S. forces three years later after U.S. troops invaded and occupied the country.

Préval, who worked closely with Aristide, was elected Haiti’s president in 1996. Aristide again won the presidency in 2000 in a climate of increased hostility from Washington, which cut aid to Haiti. Opposition parties, goaded on by the U.S. rulers, began a campaign that culminated in an armed uprising by rightist forces and direct military intervention led by Washington.

Aristide was kidnapped Feb. 29, 2004, by U.S. forces and taken out of the country. He is still living in exile in South Africa. Gerard Latortue, a career diplomat living at the time in Boca Raton, Florida, was installed by the U.S.-led occupation force as “interim” prime minister. He has ruled since then with the help of a United Nations military force.

If elected, Préval has promised to provide relief to the two-thirds of Haiti’s population living in extreme poverty. At the same time he has made overtures to Washington and to the opposition parties in Haiti’s ruling class. “A chief objective of Mr. Préval’s government, one of his advisers said, would be to attract more investment from the United States,” the New York Times reported February 10.

The election took place in the shadow of a nearly 9,000-strong United Nations occupation force.

“I think all foreigners’ armies need to leave Haiti,” said Pierre Paul at a rally in Miami celebrating the release of political prisoner Gérard Jean-Juste from his jail cell in Haiti. “Haiti is an independent country. Haitians can run our own country. We had an elected government with Aristide for five years. Then Jacques Chirac, George Bush, and Paul Martin kidnapped the president by night,” he said. He was referring to the presidents of France, the United States, and the former prime minister of Canada, which all deployed troops in the invasion and occupation of Haiti in 2004.  
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