Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Haitian Scandal

What would Haiti be without a scandal? I've been roosting in my house for the past three days as people demonstrated in the streets. In this instance roosting includes baking cookies, quilting and studying Spanish. I did take a bit of a walk in the streets to see what the demonstrations were all about.

Near my house is a major intersection which was barricaded with random bits of whatever was available-- campaign signs, car frames, tree branches. It's interesting until you realize that you are standing around watching people watching other people. Many demonstrations here are done out of sheer boredom or the fact that someone is paying for it to happen.

Other demonstration areas were a bit more exciting including the debacle at the Montana Hotel. The Montana is usually considered to be a reprieve from the chaos, but not this past Monday. Crowds of people pushed their way in, were running around the hotel, jumping in the pool and otherwise causing chaos. The humorous part for me is that Desmond Tutu happened to be staying there as well as most of the international press and other significant VIPs. Some were air lifted off the roof, but Desmond apparently stuck it out in his room. Welcome to Haiti.

Things got really interesting last night (Tues, Feb 14) when television cameras filmed people in the city dump holding up ballots alleged to have been tossed out. Of course, the ballots they found were votes for Preval, who is leading the polls, but doesn't have the majority of votes to avoid a run-off election. There are two possibilities- first, the ballots are valid and were in fact thrown out or second, they were extra ballots that weren't used at the polling stations, had been thrown out and someone decided to mark them and call them real. Both scenarios are entirely plausible. The second is likely because there were hundreds of unused ballots left over that had been signed by the election workers (they were required to do so before the voting began). The deciding factor will be if the ballots had been folded in four, which they were supposed to be and in fact had to be in order to fit in the ballot boxes. In any case, the whole situation has caused an uproar and simply added to the chaos.

Surprisingly, there is less tension and fewer demonstrators on the streets today. On Monday and Tuesday they demonstrated because the final results hadn't been posted yet and there were accusations of 'magouy' (scheming, twisting) the election results. There were even announcements of candidates contesting the results before final results have even been posted!

At any rate, things are likely to become more interesting as time goes on. It looks like chaos, confusion and personal interests will continue to be major players in Haiti's near future. If you don't hear from me for a few days it's likely that I'm busy sitting in my house waiting out the chaos!

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