Thursday, 23 February 2006

VOA and NPR

While reporting on the elections in Haiti, Amelia Shaw (a former NPR intern) serving as a stringer for National Public Radio (NPR) also served as a freelance reporter for the U.S. Government funded Voice of America (VOA). NPR's Vice President for communications Andi Sporkin responded that "NPR was not aware she had filed anything for Voice of America". Sporken went on to add, “NPR’s lead reporter in Haiti – and leading our coverage on the elections there – has been NPR Foreign Desk staff correspondent Corey Flintoff. Ameila Shaw has served as a back-up stringer (she is a freelancer, therefore has no NPR title)…NPR policy does not permit freelancers who report for VOA or any government-controlled news organization to also do for NPR. In this case, it was simply a misunderstanding that has been quickly corrected: NPR was not aware she had filed anything for VOA, and Ameila was not aware of the prohibition. Once it was learned Ameila volunteered to stop filing for VOA and has done so. Like most freelancers, she might be contributing to other news orgs such as the BBC, the wires, etc., but that is permissible per NPR policy.” NPR’s Morning Edition never announced that Shaw had broken her ties with NPR.



Shaws reporting on Haiti has commonly ignored the mass killings of the poor in the slums of Haiti's capital. After nearly two years of a brutal and unelected government sponsored by the US (which few in the mainstream media questioned), elections were held in Haiti. The winning candidate Preval was the popular choice but many in the US media lamented the fact that Lavalassians (supporters of the ousted Aristide government) made up in large part Preval's own base of support.
Shaw along with NPR Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep explained in one NPR interview that Preval's supporters could be used for spreading "mayhem".
The relationship between the VOA and NPR is not clear. But according to US domestic propaganda laws it is illegal for VOA to be aired within the borders of the United States.Shaw's first report for NPR appeared in November of 2004 and her first report for VOA appeared in October of 2004. So for around the last year and half Shaw has been working for both the VOA and NPR while reporting often on Haiti. NPR Andi Sporken acknowledges that this presents a conflict of interest as NPR bylaws prohibit it from employing US government employed journalists.


What is the Voice of America?
According to its website, the VOA is an international broadcasting service that is funded by the U.S. Government. The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, amended in 1972 and 1998, prohibits the U.S. government from propagandizing the American public with information and psychological operations directed at foreign audiences, making VOA broadcasts inside the United States illegal. VOA estimates its weekly listeners at more than 100 million, while NPR estimates at it's weekly listeners at only 25 million. The VOA employees approximately 22 domestic and 16 foreign overseas corespondents and they are augmented by contract correspondents and part-time "stringers," in numerous countries, who file in English and numerous languages used by VOA's various language services. One must wonder, how widespread former VOA employees are in the U.S. free press? For further reading on the VOA-NPR Ameila Shaw scandal see US Propaganda in Haiti: NPR reporter Amelia Shaw is wearing two hats and listen tonight on Flashpoints.

Wednesday, 15 February 2006

Burned/Dumped Ballots in Haiti

Election manipulation in Haiti is no joke. Only a few in the mainstream press, as of yet, have covered these burned/trashed ballots. Today vote monitors and members of AUMOHD discovered piles and piles of burned and trashed ballots marked for Preval. Here are some photos.
AUMOHD writes, "Thanks to our volunteer accompanier, Jared Sibbitt, here are three of pics of the burned ballots. Our information is that these were found in an area called Marcial near Cite Soleil. I have placed more pics on our website since this listserve has some limits on size of messages."



From AP: "We expected these MREs to do anything in their power to steal the elections and they did not disappoint us. Guy Delva of Reuters News Agency reported that hundreth and possibly and possibly thousands of burnt and still smoldering ballots, many cast a week ago for Preval, were found on a Port-au-Prince garbage dump, outraging Preval supporters and setting off demonstrations after nightfall. "Steve Jacobson of AP also reported Local Telemax TV news Tuesday night showed smashed white ballot boxes in a garbage dump, with wads of ballots strewn about. Ballot after ballot was marked for Preval."


Corbbet Lister Patrick Tortora writes, "On Haitian Television Channel 5 this evening a cameraman was following Haitians who were taking him through a rubbish dump near Citi Soleil. The people leading the cameraman around were showing hundreds if not thousands of presidential ballots that had been marked for a presidential candidate and signed on the reverse by an official of the Electoral Council. All the ballots that were shown to the camera were marked for Preval. There were also many cardboard ballot boxes littering the dump. The inference was that legally marked ballots were dumped in the landfill. Even if these ballots were counted before being discarded, what were they doing in the dump before all ballots were counted and before election result were announced, not to say anything about a possible recount?"



David Willmhurst, of MINUSTAH, says that it was possible someone dumped the ransacked ballots to create an appearance of fraud. Wimhurst also said there was no evidence of fraud. The U.N. provided security for the vote (much like they provided "security" for the Haitian National Police while they have massacred poor Haitians for the last two years) and helped ship election returns to the capital but is not directly involved in counting ballots. Coup President Boniface Alexandre's chief adviser Michael Brunache announced the votes will be reviewed by a commission which will include presidential candidate Rene Preval's attorneys.


AHP reports "Thousands of ballots were discovered this Tuesday in a huge garbage dump situated in the Thuittier district north of the capital (Port-au-Prince). The ballots bore check marks in box number one, which is the number representing the presidential candidate of the Espoir Platform (Platform of Hope), Rene Preval. All of these votes, many of which were found inside ballot boxes, appeared to have come from voting centers set up in the periphery of the shantytown of Cite Soleil, where more than 95% of the population voted for Espoir."

Monday, 13 February 2006

Children of Cite Soleil in the Pools of Hotel Montana - Protesting CEP

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After officials within the CEP criticized other officials for vote tampering and one or possibly two demonstrators were killed (reportedly by Jordanian members of the UN MINUSTAH force), the Haitian masses from Bel Air, Cite Soleil, Delmas, and other neighborhoods have marched on Hotel Montana. As the crowd began to jump in the Hotel Montana's pool, the UN troops were landed by helicopter on the Hotel's roof. The Hotel Montana is the central point where the media, politicans, private military contractors (PMCs), foreign funded "democracy promootion" workers, elite, etc gather in Haiti's capitol.

Tuesday, 7 February 2006

Flashpoints Interview

Click "read more" to view a rough transcript of my interview on Flashpoints last night (Mon/ Feb 6,2006).
Or see it up on Znet">

Sunday, 5 February 2006

Seeking an “Even Playing Field”: Washington and UN Work to Create Anti-Lavalas Coalitions

By: Jeb Sprague

As Haiti’s legislative run-off elections approach, it is worthwhile to review elements of Washington’s campaign to rig the vote in favor of its local client parties. This “democracy promotion” – which is anything but that – is strategically critical to winning the Haitian parliament, with which President-elect René Préval will name the new prime minister, Haiti’s most powerful executive post. Researcher Jeb Sprague has published the findings that are the basis of this article on his weblog (www.freehaiti.net).

In the years leading up to Haiti’s 2006 presidential and legislative elections, whose second round are now set for April 21, the International Republican Insitute (IRI) helped form and coach three coalitions of right wing and social-democratic parties, which were all partisans of the Feb. 29, 2004 coup d’état against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

IRI’s goal was the “strengthening [of] democratic political parties,” according to an October 2004 IRI document I obtained through a recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. But in the past, as pointed out in Irwin Stotzky’s Silencing The Guns in Haiti, the IRI proposed “leadership training exclusively for non-Lavalas centrist political party representatives,” considering supporters of Lavalas as “undemocratic.” All of the client parties trained and facilitated by the IRI were arrayed against the FL in the Democratic Convergence political front, supporting the 2004 coup.

Nonetheless, IRI had a hand in merging a rump faction of former FL leaders into a coalition with the Movement for the Installation for Democracy in Haiti (MIDH) of Marc Bazin, whose ill-fated campaign as a supposed “Lavalas” presidential candidate netted him only 0.68% of the February 7 vote. According to interviews conducted by Canadian journalist Anthony Fenton, the IRI was involved in the meetings to merge the rump “Lavalas” and MIDH.

FOIA discoveries by researcher Jeremy Bigwood indicate that Marc Bazin was involved in meetings with IRI prior to the 2004 coup.

IRI is the Republican arm of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a quasi-official foundation which carries out Washington’s “democratization” programs in nations around the globe – working to promote candidates and parties that further U.S. strategic interests. IRI has worked continuously to undermine democracy in Haiti, as made clear in the January 28, 2006 New York Times article "Mixed U.S. Signals Helped Tilt Haiti Toward Chaos" (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 23, No. 47, 2/1/2006). IRI’s Democratic Party counter-part at the NED is the National Democratic Institute (NDI). In addition to other funding, the IRI and NDI have a joint $5.7 million contract in Haiti for 2002-2006 with USAID.

Meanwhile, through another FOIA request, I have learned that the U.S. State Department’s Agency for International Development (USAID) recently funneled $3 million through the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) to provide “logistical support to democratic political parties during the 2005 electoral campaign.” According to the released USAID document, USAID and UNOPS “invited the democratic parties” – again no mention of who the “undemocratic” parties are – “to attend an information meeting on Friday, November 4 [2005].” At that meeting the parties were asked to “sign memoranda of understanding” that would allow them to use SUVs and minivans “for outreach and election-monitoring activities in outlying cities.” The USAID money also went to “purchasing media time for campaign messages” and the providing “shirts, posters, campaign materials, etc.” as well as the all important “operational expenses for political party representatives” monitoring the elections. All this for “democratic parties” who came to an “understanding” with USAID and UNOPS. USAID’s Haiti Country Team selected the “democratic and law-abiding political parties and coalitions... in consultation with” IRI and NDI. According to the document, the $3 million was to be disbursed from August 22 through December 31, 2005 “with possibility for extension... due to election delays.”

Reportedly, René Préval's Lespwa party refused the UNOPS/USAID funding.

Meanwhile, leaders of the Lavalas Family party were jailed or exiled by the de facto government. With millions going to help rival political parties in Haiti, it is no wonder that USAID says that its UNOPS project would help "even the playing field for the upcoming elections."

It is also interesting the importance that USAID gave to helping create a “socialist” coalition between the Struggling Peoples Organization (OPL) of Paul Denis, the National Progressive Revolutionary Haitian Party (PANPRA) of Serges Gilles, the National Congress of Democratic Movements (KONAKOM) of Victor Benoit and Micha Gaillard, and Ayiti Kapab.

I believe that the IRI is working to neutralize and destroy the parties championing Haiti’s Lavalas ideals by strengthening and constructing rival parties and coalitions. Is this democracy when neo-conservative political operatives, funded by the world's foremost superpower, work to undermine the political process of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country?

The OPL's Paul Denis surely suspected that his IRI and USAID support was not going to put him in the lead. Just before the election, he “denounced what he termed the lack of determination by the Provisional Electoral Council to make corrections to the electoral process before February 7, 2006, the date of the first round of the presidential and legislative elections,” the Haitian Press Agency (AHP) reported. “The OPL provided an upbeat assessment of [Denis’s] electoral campaign and considered that the failure to regularize the situation will result in a low voter turnout, which could in turn lead to doubts about the legitimacy of the results of the election and a new confrontation in Haiti. Mr. Denis said he feels assured of victory, but he regrets that his advice was not taken into account by the actors involved in the electoral process.”

Here is an extract from the IRI documents my FOIA request released: "Since 2002, IRI has formulated seminars, targeted at women and youth from political parties and civil society, on campaign management, political party structure, fundraising, polling, political communication, platform development and the uses of Internet Technology to strengthen political parties. . . Throughout the year [2004], IRI helped with the ongoing emergence of three major coalitions and one merger of left of center parties. The coalitons are: the Grand Front Centre Droit (GFCD), Union Patriotique, and Fronciph. . . From July 31 to August 1, 2004, leaders of left of center parties, Ayiti Kapab, KONAKOM, OPL, and PANPRA met to discuss ways to accelerate a merge and the various techniques needed to advance the goal at the municipal level. At the end of the session, they put in place a work plan for the departments and municipalities to implement the merger of the four parties, now called the Groupe Socialiste. . . IRI is still working with the Christian democratic parties for a similar coalition. . . IRI's information technology trainings have helped political parties create their own websites:. . . OPL. . . GFCD. . . MDN. . . Generation 2004."

The Haiti Democracy Project, an elite-funded think-tank, has put on its website an interview between pro-coup journalist Nancy Roc and Paul Denis. In the interview, Denis discusses the OPL's role in Democratic Convergence’s campaign against Haiti’s democratically elected government: "We had a Convergence which gathered parties from the left and the right, but we were joined together around the same objective: the fight against Aristide and for his departure."

This is the kind of “democratic and law-abiding” party that IRI and USAID are spending millions to support.




USAID FOIAs on IRI and UNOPS




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USAID FOIA on UNOPS





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Saturday, 4 February 2006

Freedom for Father Gerard Jean-Juste

Father Gerry is Free. Flashpoints was able to get an exclusive interview with Father Gerard Jean-Juste at the Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. (Click the photo below to read the Flashpoints interview).