Pre-Elections: Day 2

  • Posted on: 5 February 2006
  • By: Bryan Schaaf


My escort arrived a prompt 30 minutes late this morning. All things considered, not bad. We picked up the rest of the gang and headed to the chancellery. It was to be my first time visit. As a volunteer with Peace Corps, we were always discouraged from visiting. The control room was already set up, computers set on tables, maps of the country posted to the walls. We briefed quickly and then split into our teams to decide who would be visiting which sites.

Our team, Team 1, chose Port-au-Prince South, i.e. everything south of John Brown with slight variations here an there to include important zones. Our territory included towns as far out as Carrefour and then out to Leogane.

Once this was established, we met up with our DS detail and headed out. The CEP headquarters was our first visit. There was a clear MINUSTAH presence, soldiers on rooftops and inside the building. They were in addition to Haitian National Police. While John went inside to speak with the President, I remained outside to interview people in line waiting for their Voter ID cards.

The first group I interviewed had mixed answers to questions like, how many times have you been here to obtain your card, how much time did you spend in line, etc. But everyone agreed that the community was at ease and that a positive election day was expected. It would turn out that most people responded positively to that line of questioning, which was good to hear. There was some dissent, the typical Haitian ambiguity, “Maybe yes, maybe no…” But overall, people felt good. When I asked why so many waited until today to obtain their cards, they said that there was new motivation to vote in the community, but could not explain why.

On a tip that poll worker training was going on at a school across town we decided to hop on it. We drove off to the Daniel Fignole School, named after a ’60 era president of Haiti. The roads, which our drivers knew well, were primarily back streets once we turned off Delmas. Moving farther away from the thoroughfare, pavement turned to gravel, turned to dirt. As are most city back streets, these were like driving through a gauntlet. The walls of the individual lakous, together, made one large walled street. At the school we arrived at a dead end. Entering the lakou there was only a single person who said that no one had been there that day. Our immediate reaction was that training was being shirked or that we’d been led on wild goose chase… My ride has just arrived. I will write more later.

Update: Saturday, February 11, 2006 12:30pm EST

Rob Miller says:

Baker 44

That afternoon, I attended a Charles Baker rally in Canape Vert. But let me first say that this is carnival season in Haiti, and due to insecurity the government canceled all carnival activities in the capital on Sunday. That being said, Baker’s rally was held on Saturday afternoon the day before carnival was to be celebrated.

The rally was to begin at 3 PM and our team decided to arrive fashionably late a quarter to 4 to find nary a soul present. But over the course of the next few hours there was a discernable ebb and flow of people, but mainly in the form of rah-rah bands. Three main troupes danced through the plaza playing drums and horns with hundreds of followers at their heels.

Rah-Rah Band

This was, of course, our first experience with large groups in Haiti which made our security detail a little wary (by week’s end they had relaxed a lot). The only bit of anger I saw the entire rally was from the Baker crowd when Preval supporters held up banners and began to chant.

Preval Supporters Infiltrate

John, my partner had a very interesting conversation with a man who said he was paid to attend, which in US terms we call a campaigner, but it felt a little more widespread that just a few employees. Truckloads of people were brought into the square. All of this led us to conclude that the rally was made up of three groups of people: 60% were there to celebrate carnival, 30% were paid or somehow otherwise encouraged to attend, and 10% media and true supporters of Baker.

A large speaker truck rolled into the square around 5:45 and Baker took the mic at close to six with next to no applause. There was a mass egress soon there after which only reinforced our earlier conclusion that the majority of the 1500 or so people were there for reasons other than to support Baker.

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