February 14, 2006 [LINK]

Post-election chaos in Haiti

The vote counting process in Haiti is not having the intended effect of building trust among social factions, to put it mildly. Even though the favored candidate of most poor Haitians, Rene Preval, is far ahead of his rivals in the vote tabulations thus far, his supporters are angry that he has not already been officially declared the winner. Preval had urged his supporters to remain calm, but he also accused the electoral commission of "stealing" votes, almost inviting the violent response. If he does not reach the fifty percent threshold, there will be a second round election, but no one seriously doubts that Preval will be the ultimate winner. See Washington Post. The foreign minister Brazil, Celso Amorim, wants the UN Security Council to get more involved in the Haitian situation. Brazil has more peacekeeping troops there than any other country, so this crisis is of urgent concern to Brazilians, if not to most Americans. See BBC.

The impatience of Preval's supporters, and their quick resort to violence before the vote counting is even finished, makes it clear how far Haiti has to go before anything resembling a stable democratic regime emerges. The United States can do very little in these kinds of situations (much like Iraq), beyond encouraging moderation and avoiding any contact with anti-democratic forces such as the warlords who toppled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide two years ago. The ultimate outcome will depend more on him and other leaders in Haiti than anything else.

Evo remains cocaleros' chief

Coca leaf The newly inaugurated president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, has been chosen by his colleagues in the coca-growing business to continue serving as their leader. He has pledged to fight narcotraffickers, but it will be hard to sustain such an effort given the fact that a large majority of coca revenue in Bolivia comes from illegal markets. The fact that he addressed the mass meeting in front of a banner reading "Long live coca, Death to Yankees" is not encouraging, but it may just be ritualistic defiance. See CNN.com.

From the agricultural sampler souvenir I purchased in Peru two years ago. See PHOTO of me with the kids who sold it to me. They are the kind of people Morales says he is fighting for. I hope so.