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Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

Wyclef-hand-hurt

According to Wyclef Jean, and the people around him, ‘Clef (as the kids here call him) was driving down Delmas 65 in downtown Port-au-Prince Saturday night around midnight when he got a phone call.  Because Wyclef does not like talking on the phone in front of his driver (weird, I know…), he told the driver to stop the car so he could hop out and have the phone conversation privately on the side of the road.  While having said conversation, Wyclef claims to have heard a gun shot, after which he looked at his hand and saw blood dripping from his palm onto his shoe.  Wyclef had been shot!  The bullet had grazed his palm!!! Right?!

Well, according to Haitian police, Wyclef refused to talk to them about the incident, and some people think he just cut himself on a piece of glass.  That’s right!  Rumors are flying that he made the whole thing up, and that the whole gun shot incident is just a story.  Why he would make up something like this is beyond me, but I can venture some guesses.  Maybe he got in an embarrassing argument with a can of pickles that just wouldn’t open, and needed a better explanation for his injury than “I just could not open that jar of pickles, so I broke it…on my hand.”  Maybe he’s looking for some street cred in anticipation of his next hit album.  Maybe he actually got shot, who knows?

But what we do know is that he’s not shy about the injury whatsoever.  In fact, while voting today at a polling center on Delmas 29, he made it a point to insert the ballots into the ballot boxes not with his good, un-shot (and completely functional) hand, but with the bandaged hand that required a polling center employee to assist him in the process.  He then walked out and gave several interviews to various press organizations about the incident.  He explained to my friend Allyn, who was working for CNN, that he didn’t want this to be a distraction to such a historic election.  Hmmm…

Wyclef refused to speculate as to who could have possibly shot him in the hand, and because he refuses to talk to police it sounds like justice in this case may never be served.  But I think we were all taught an important lesson from this incident: that you should NEVER stop on the side of the road in Port-au-Prince at midnight on a Saturday and get out of your car to take a phone call.  You live and you learn, right?

Wyclef-placing-ballot

And P.S. He voted for Martelly.  More on that later.

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Aristide-Supporter

Exiled former-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide is scheduled to returned to Haiti by the end of the week, leaving a country gearing up for it’s second round run-off elections on pins and needles to see how his return will be received.  While Aristide has repeatedly claimed that he is not returning for political reasons, his timing could not be more political, coming just days before Sunday’s elections are supposed to take place.

Aristide has been living in exile in Pretoria, South Africa for the past seven years after being ousted (or forcibly removed, however you see it), in 2004.  He claims he wants to return to Haiti to help with the earthquake recovery, and pursue his passion, which is education.  He also mentioned that he has had a number of eye surgeries while in South Africa, and that his eyes would be better maintained if he returned to Haiti (which doesn’t really make sense to me considering all the junk that is flying around in the air here, but I’m not an optometrist).

Aristide-Supporter-2

There are a few reasons why Aristide may have chosen this specific time to return to Haiti:

1. He is worried that after a new President has been elected he, or she, will not allow him to return.
2. He would like the elections to be annulled and conducted again (his Lavalas party was banned from participating in the elections).
3. He really wants to come back to help.
4. He’s worried that he will become irrelevant once the elections are over.

There are rumors that Preval had a hand in this, making way for the return of his former colleague in an effort to cause chaos during a run-off that his hand-picked candidate was left out of.  Either way, it’s a tense time in the country, and everyone is wondering what is going to happen next.  It’s not outside the realm of possibility to think that supporters will take to the streets once he returns, in fact, it’s inevitable.  What effect this will have on the elections is the question on many people’s minds, especially the US State Department who has (again) encouraged him to wait until after the run-off is complete.  His comments once he arrives are going to be crucial to whether Sunday happens or not, so stay tuned, and stock up on your water!

Aristide-Supporter-5

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Duvaliers-Lawyers

Duvalier’s lawyers decided to call a press conference yesterday to discuss the case against their client, and here’s a quick synopsis of what they said:

1. Duvalier is innocent!
2. The statute of limitations has run out for him to be charged!!!
3. The courts have messed up, so he can no longer be charged!!!!!
(the number of exclamation points indicate how emphatically the statement was made)

That’s pretty much it, nothing we haven’t heard over and over again before.  Because of that, I’m going to leave to leave it at that, and just make this a “Picture of the Day”.

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Michel-Martelly

The headline says it all…Haiti might as well cancel the March 20th run-off because this election has been signed, sealed, and delivered now that Wyclef has endorsed Martelly.  I’m totally kidding, but it’s kind of a big deal considering a lot of the youth in Haiti really respect Wyclef for some reason.

Also in political news, campaigning for that same run-off began yesterday.  New campaign posters are up and campaign events are popping up around the country, some drawing crowds of thousands of supporters.  The big question is if more than 6% of the population will actually vote this time, as the constitution requires that a minimum of 10% of the electorate vote in a run-off for the results to be official.  As always, we’ll see.

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Duvalier-Supporter3

The Haitian courts summoned Duvalier today for questioning, as the three-month investigation period into his crimes involving corruption and embezzling Haitian funds is still underway.  No charges have been filed, and during this period, the court can summon him as many times as they like in an effort to gather evidence to build a case against him.  Outside the gates to the court, a throng of Duvalier supporters crowded the entrance cheering about the return of the ex-dictator, and calling for the end of the Preval presidency.

Duvalier-Supporter2

A large red pick-up truck pulled up to the gate and the crowd went wild.  Dozens of journalists and supporters crowded around the car expecting to see Duvalier in the passenger seat, but to everyone’s disappointment it was simply his lawyer, Reynold Georges, coming with a message for the court.

Duvaliers-Lawyer

Duvalier-Lawyer-into-office

Duvalier had employed the oldest trick in the book, one we all have used to get the chance to stay home from school when we’re not feeling up to going: He got a doctor’s note saying he was sick.  According to his lawyer, Duvalier had a bout of high blood pressure and was feeling light-headed.  He was brought to the hospital and a doctor made the assessment that he needed to rest.  The doctor’s note asked the judge for permission to allow him to rest for 15 days, so he could study some more for his final exam so he could get back in good health and then return to the court for questioning.  The judge granted his wish, so the questioning will have to wait for another two weeks.

The lawyer walked out, all while joking with reporters (“No, he does not have Cholera! Haha!”), and then met with the group of Duvalier supporters who were still chanting outside.  They posed for another round of pictures with the press corp who now, after Duvalier was a no-show, had nothing to show for their trip to the court, and then left.  For now, we can rest knowing that Duvalier is safely holed up in his home, hopefully getting the necessary treatments he needs for his newly diagnosed hypertension, and in 15 days, we’ll do this all over again.

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Calling-Aristide

Last week Jean Bertrand Aristide’s American lawyer, Ira Kurzban, confirmed that Haiti had issued his client a diplomatic passport, effectively ending the deposed leader’s exile from this country. (here’s a dated article)  He’s probably not coming this week, but it’s pretty much an inevitability that he will be back in Haiti soon.

It’s a tough situation for a country that is already struggling to stay afloat.  While Aristide has every right to come back to Haiti, it’s hard to see his return as a good thing.  I’m all for democracy, and abiding by the will of the people, but his return will no doubt bring widespread unrest among his supporters.  Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas, was barred from participating in the elections, which was a ridiculous decision made by a president trying to keep his party in power, but where do you go from here?  Will the people rise up against the current regime (old or new), and attempt to put him back into power?  That doesn’t seem ideal…

The elections have been conducted (legitimately or not), and now the country is left at a cross-roads.  It can move on from here, or continue to look into the past.  Many of the Haitians that I’ve spoken with don’t necessarily want Aristide to be president again, but feel slighted that he was forced to leave the country when such a large percentage of the population had elected him as president.  But bottom line, he’s coming back, so make sure you have your water stocked, and your Ramen noodles ready!

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Small-Girl-Tear-Gased

Haitians took to the streets in front of the Presidential Palace today calling for President Rene Preval to step down, and for a new government to take control, but were faced with riot police and tear gas canisters.  The protests began because, according to the constitution here, today (February 7th) is the day that Preval should give up his presidency, and a new leader should be sworn in.  Because the elections have been delayed and the second-round run-off isn’t scheduled until March 20th, Preval has announced that he will stay until May to make sure the transition goes well.  This did not make people happy…

Kid-Throwing-Rocks

Dumpster-going-over

Men-pushing-dumpster

Rolling-Concrete-Tube

Wall-on-Fire

The constitution in Haiti allows for a presidential term to last for five years to the day, and five years ago Preval was supposed to be sworn in on February 7th, 2006.  But because there was a delay, Preval was actually sworn in on May 14th, which is the day that he has announced as his new last day as president.

Protesters clashed with Haitian police with force, throwing rocks, building barricades and lighting fires.  Haitian police responded in kind, and showered tear gas canisters down on the protesters.  Unfortunately, the majority of them were aimed in the wrong direction (or hit their targets…depends on how you look at it), and landed in the middle of the tent camp in Champ d’ Mars, where thousands of people are still living after losing their homes in the earthquake.

Tear-Gas-in-the-Tent-Camp

Tear-Gas-in-the-Tent-Camp2

Girl-after-Tear-Gas

Small-Boy-Tear-Gased

Man-Holding-Tear-Gas-Canister

An older woman (not pictured) holding a tear gas canister ran to me and grabbed my arm, “Come!” she yelled in Kreyol, “You have to look back here, they shot at my home!”  I following the woman back to her make-shift home-made of tarps and corrugated steel, and she pointed out all the places where the tear gas had rained down into the camp.  All around were people rubbing at their eyes, and children screaming and yelling.  A harsh stinging haze lingered in the air, burning your eyes and stinging your throat.

The tear gas just angered the protesters more, who continued to throw rocks in the direction of the police.  While the protest began with political motivations, it quickly became a fight to protect their homes, and their families, from the tear gas that had now filled the tent camp.  The protesters began working in earnest to block the roads and stop traffic from entering, but a team of Haitian police officers armed with assault rifles and revolvers barreled towards the crowd, exited the car, and sprinted towards the protesters firing round after round into the air.

Police-Firing-Shots

Police-Standing-By

Police-Running-with-Shotgun

The protesters and the crowds dispersed into the camps, and the policed followed, marching through the tents and makeshifts shelters as if they were hunting down an enemy.

Police-Running

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Hands-up

In the end they arrested no one, and after standing guard for about 15 minutes they piled into their SUV and sped away.  The crowds died down, the barricades were pulled away, and a calm fell over the camp.

The reality is that the people have a reason to be upset, Preval has been a rather stagnant president over the past year, and he is largely seen as the reason why the November elections were marred by fraud. Many Haitians call the Presidential Palace the devil’s house, and Preval the devil, and having him stay in power for another three months is hard for them to swallow (especially as they live in the shadow of the still collapsed Palace).

On the flip side, it does make sense to have him stay while the electoral process is seen through.  A transitional government would take time, and would leave the country in a state of limbo.  Even the US government has said they think Preval staying is a good idea.  “The United States believes that a peaceful and orderly transition between President Preval and his elected successor is important for Haiti,” Jon Piechowski, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, told the AP (Article HERE).

But unfortunately, the police’s reaction to the protesters has left many with only another reason to fight.  Time and again we go to these protests and tear gas canisters and rubber bullets are shot into tent camps or neighborhoods, hurting innocent people and leaving a resentment that results in more fighting.  These protests will likely continue for the coming weeks, if not months, until Preval has stepped down.  But in reality, they could continue forever if the police and UN forces fail to show some restraint, and as a result cause innocent people to be victims of their continuing carelessness.

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