Preval's Final Push

Audio: Photojournalist Ron Haviv speaks to presidential candidate René Préval. >> More Photos (Ron Haviv / VII for washingtonpost.com)

Tomorrow, Haitians will vote to establish a new presidency and parliament. The new president will be in office from 2006 to 2011. The hope on the street is that this president will be able to serve his full term, something not always guaranteed in Haiti.

On the streets of Port-au-Prince and through the countryside, posters representing more than 30 candidates are plastered on every wall space. Murals and giant portraits wrap street corners. The slogans of front-runner René Préval (a message of hope) and of parliamentary candidate Ronald Jonauel ("No Free Lunch") are made into songs. The campaign, low-key by Haitian standards, ended officially on Sunday with rallies and meetings across the country. Préval, who hadn't been seen in Port-au-Prince in a number of days, left for the countryside to vote.

Préval, a slight man with a graying beard and easy smile, met with people along the road near Gonaives before making his way to Ennery for a rally, where he was welcomed like a king. People lined the main street to meet him. Guarded by Argentinean United Nations troops and Haitian police, Préval took every chance to jump into the crowd, exchanging words and rubbing elbows.




A Hatian child at a René Préval rally in Ennery. >>More Photos (Ron Haviv / VII for post.com)

Rallies were also held without the candidate. In the Bel Air section of Port-au-Prince, a Préval rally was canceled, reinstated and canceled again. His core supporters, having no interest in being told they couldn't march, gathered and headed toward the palace. Haitians, many waving flags, followed a truck laden with speakers and another displaying a giant, smiling Préval. Music led the crowd as the number of marchers grew into the thousands. Intermittent political slogans pierced the air above the sounds of song.

The energy level increased as the marchers approached downtown. At one point, another candidate's supporters emerged from a side street. The police, there to prevent any violence, limited the demonstrators to good-natured cat calling. A few blocks away, Haitians rallied for yet another candidate, a good sign for democracy.

As Préval's supporters marched back to Bel Air, the slogans and shouts began to change. This time the Préval supporters were talking about former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide -- how Préval and Aristide are one and the same. Préval has distanced himself from Aristide, but many supporters maintain hope that if Préval is elected, Aristide will return from exile.


Haitian students at a René Préval rally in Ennery. >>More Photos (Ron Haviv / VII for post.com)

In the countryside, after traveling for hours on pothole-filled roads, Préval arrived at Ennery. The quintessential politician, Préval didn't miss a chance to be photographed kissing babies and hugging children. At times he seemed reluctant to be there, each step toward the crowd appearing measured and precise. It was as if he realized perhaps he might be the only one to help, whether he wants to or not.

Occasionally, women would jump into his path to grab, hug or kiss any part of him they could grasp. Calmly and quietly, Préval made his way to the stage to address the crowd.

Award-winning photojournalist Ron Haviv is on the ground in Port-au-Prince documenting the run-up to Haiti's presidential and legislative elections. >>About This Blog

By washingtonpost.com |  February 6, 2006; 10:30 AM ET
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Comments

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There is no reason why Aristide shouldn't have finished his term. I think it's a mistake to let it slide.

Posted by: Silver Spring | February 6, 2006 01:13 PM

I think Aristide should had finished his term. I see no benefit in removing him. As a principle, elected official should not be removed from office by any means other thru the electoral process. Hence, the involvement of the international community if facilitating Aristide's departure is detrimental to the democratic process and a dis-service to Haiti.

Posted by: Silver Spring | February 6, 2006 01:31 PM

Being elected doesn't give a president the right to destroy a country. In the US if a president is taking position that goes against the National Security or Unity, he/she will be impeach.

Why can't Haiti do the same? The biggest lie in this whole theater is the fact the mass is being used by the so call humanitarian and human right groups.

Posted by: Gregory Calixte | February 6, 2006 04:47 PM

A Freedom of Information Act revealed that USAID is currently manipulating Haiti's upcoming election.

Check this link for additional details:

http://www.freehaiti.net/

Posted by: margarette rateau | February 6, 2006 06:54 PM

I think Prťval is not the good choice at this time. He is one of them who caused all the problems we have now.

Posted by: Gonzalez | February 6, 2006 07:19 PM

Aristide wasn't impeached. He was forcibly removed by a small group of people who were trained and aided by the United States government. That's against international law. And, Calixte, WE in the US have a president who has done much to destroy our country, going against the national security and he is not being impeached. Do you not see the hypocrisy in this line of reasoning? Aristide wasn't ruining the country, the so-called opposition parties bolstered by the IRI (International Republican Institute), an arm of the Republcan Party ruined Haiti. They are responsible for the chaos in Haiti today. Not Aristide. Haiti's politics are as much a sham as ours is turning out to be. Only the people can make a difference. God bless the people!

Posted by: Lakat | February 6, 2006 09:10 PM

I'm afraid the masses in Haiti have not learned their lesson from the past. They are voting based on race and not qualifications. Clearly, Charlito Baker is the right man for the job, but Haitians can't see beyond their hate and racism; they just don't want to see a white man lead Haiti no matter his qualifications nor his integrity. Let's hope, i'm wrong and that Haitians vote with their head and elect Charlito Baker !!!

Posted by: Jetto | February 6, 2006 09:32 PM

Preval will be elected, because he offers the only sliver of hope available to the poor - the great majority of the people - of Haiti. The only real question is how the cynical Bush administration will discredit the results, and how soon they will destabilize his presidency... If you read the front-page story in the Sunday NY Times of January 29th, you will understand that this is not a paranoid scenario...

Posted by: Boston | February 6, 2006 11:41 PM

Please let's stop the finger pointing. Each and everyone of us (Haitian) has something to do with the way Haiti is right now. Hatred, revenge, selfishness, just to name a few are the very thing that destroy our beautiful island. Until we put aside our differences and join together in what we have in common (Haiti), we will never get throw this crisis. Let's pray that God will change the heart of every Haitian. May God Bless and heal our land.

One True Haitian...

Posted by: Lanham, Maryland | February 6, 2006 11:42 PM

LAKAT, good to see you're still out there buying into leftist propaganda and spreading it amongst those with little inside knowledge on the situation in Haiti.

My only hope for these elections in Haiti is that the winners are graceful in victory and the losers graceful in defeat. Hopefully everyone else in Haiti is battle weary and tired of the bickering and ready to work with the opposition in strengthening Haiti's fledgling democracy and building a better, safer future for La Perle des Antilles.

Posted by: contradiktion | February 7, 2006 09:36 AM

I'm really glad that American newspapers are finally drawing attention to the wretched conditions in Haiti. It's been too easy to ignore or reduce to seven-paragraph articles over the past few years. Thanks, Washington Post, for covering this story.

Posted by: US reader | February 7, 2006 10:00 AM

A comment has been removed from this blog. The Washington Post does not allow personal attacks, the use of profanity and hate speech.

Posted by: Washington Post Editor | February 7, 2006 10:45 AM

Lakat, I will not waste my time in answering you tack to tack. I donít believe it is productive.

I will ask you one thing, being president "so called elected" doesn't give you the right to destroy the country.

We are eating today the seeds that Mr. Aristide has implanted in Haiti: Thugs, gangs, guns to stay in power. He failed and we need to move on.

I hope that your family does not get kidnap in that violent situation. I wish them well.

Listen, I'm not here to defend any body especially the one that you are defending. I will rather push for fundamental changes in the way the diaspora does thing. They are sending almost 1.2 billion in Haiti/year. What are the outcomes? Not much! PovertyÖÖ.

We need to come together as a community converging our force to impact the political process in Haiti. The best way to do it is through economical development.

Lakat did you ever think on investing in Haiti?
Did you ever think on using probably the lands that your mother and father own in Haiti?
Did you ever think on having the peasant as a shareholder in an agro-industry company?
Ask yourself why? Why not? And how can it be done?

I would implore you to stop praising one person (specially a bad one) but a country. Not a man but an ideology that can help Haiti progress.

I believe in changes and actions. I hope that we can start working on Venture Firm that will invest in many areas in Haiti:

1.Agro-industry
2.Energy (ethanol, wind, etc)
3.Airports (Cap, Port au Prince, Jacmel)
4.Telecom (50% of our telecom come from St Domingue while we are defending a man)
5. Modernization of customs

Lakat, Iím not your enemy but someone who believe that Haitians can do great things. I hope that weíll wake up and start working. Stop blaming the blanc (White man, IRI, USAID and so on), what have you done for the country (all of us not only lakat)?

Good luck!

Posted by: Gregory | February 7, 2006 12:29 PM

Wonderful photos and sound brought us into the scene fully. Thanks for these excellent photos.

Posted by: Anne Pearson | February 7, 2006 01:56 PM

RENE GARCIA PREVAL , ES PROGRESO PARA HAITI ,

Posted by: PEDRO JOSE | February 7, 2006 03:02 PM

I think you were a little too harsh on Lakat, Gregory. As someone that has invested in Haiti, I must say that it is a risky thing. Because corruption is rampant and the justice system is a joke. You have to be willing to lose to get involved there. That is the reason most Haitians don't invest more in Haiti. The leadership there has failed miserably. On top of that the people that are capable of leading are just too scared to go there because of the insecurity.

Posted by: Silver Spring | February 7, 2006 04:42 PM

I totally agree with you Silver Spring. We need true leaders in Haiti. It's about time some leaders step in.

Posted by: Chico | February 8, 2006 10:56 AM

I didnít mean to be harsh on Lakat. The problem is the following:
We have people that only do one thing complaint
We have people who are using the people by feeding them lies (business donít pay taxes, business donít this and that).
We have certain so call-leaders who brain wash the people and who creates more problems in Haiti.

None of them are willing to do something for the country. They talked, talked and do it every day. They blame others and never take any resposability themselves.

My approach is clear if you really want to help Haiti, do something about the situation. Not talking things that are irrelevant, build programs mostly in investment that can create jobs. If not then please stop complaining. We have enough people at home who are complaining because they canít eat. I rather focus on them then people who are using the Internet and human rights group for propaganda.

We are writing on the Washington post, Iím more than sure the level of education is advance enough. Thank outside of the box and bring some innovative ideas on how to help the country, especially in the areas that I mentioned earlier:

Energy (alternative energy: wind, ethanol)
Infrastructure (roads, airport, seaport etc)
Agro-industry (goya type of company where all the shareholders could be: the peasants who own the land, Haitian Business people, the diaspora, and the government.

So the diaspora will use their time in a more efficient way to help Haiti!

Posted by: Gregory | February 8, 2006 01:04 PM

Haitians, Brothers and sisters,
Let's stop blamning others for our troubles. The international community is getting tired of us. They always help and more help, but in end the situation is not getting any better. Let's do not justify the fact that we cannot govern ourselves. We know that there are so many well educated Haitians, graduated from the most prestigious universities around the world. If you can do something, do it if you can't, don't blame anybody. We have to know what we want for our country.
Thanks to The Washington Post

Posted by: Mathieu | February 8, 2006 11:23 PM

I think the Haitian people rely too heavily on the individual and not on the institutions that are there to serve them. By that I mean we need a boby of checks and balances to curb corruption and incompetence. And, since no one is never happy with the outcome of any elections there. I think they need to better taylor the electoral process to curb dissatisfactions with the outcome

Posted by: Silver Spring | February 9, 2006 02:57 PM

I dream of one day all Haitians from all sides of the color spectrum will be able to stand and answer this question with no hesitation, where are you from. I hope that this election brings unity, pride, focus and a sence of accomplisment for Haiti. Let this be the catalyst that this country needs to show its true potential. It is time for all Haitians to come together and speak the words that were so hard to say. I WAS BORN IN HAITI.

Posted by: Henri | February 9, 2006 04:17 PM

Mr. Preval promised to fight the gangs first with dialogues instead of fighting them with arms. This will be a difficult task and Mr. Preval may be lying to himself, since most of the gangs' members are not fighting for any ideology or do not have any ideology, they are just doing what they are doing for money and some may even be obeying to international orders.

Posted by: Dr. Roger Qualo | February 12, 2006 12:37 AM

we need to stop talking about aristide.he was the one who oncle sam for help .Therefore,he got help.

Posted by: garry | February 12, 2006 08:15 PM

THE WRITER HAVE MADE A MISTAKE ON MY NAME MY NAME IS RONALD JOANUEL NOT RONALD JONANUEL AND MY SLOGAN NO FREE LUNCH MEANS WE DON'T NEED NO FREENESS WE NEED TO WORK WE WANT TO GIVE DJOB TO OUR PEOPLE WE NEED FOREIGN INVESTOR TO COME DOWN TO HATI TO OPEN FACTORY INDISTRUAL WORK SCRAP METAL TO STOP THE PEOPLE TAKING BOAT TO AUTHERS COUNTRY STOP THE EXODE RURALE HAVE A EFFECTIVE DECENTRLISATION FOR THE COUNTRY
RONALD JOANUEL
CANDIDAT FOR THE PARLIAMENT WITH THE POLITICAL PARTY MOCRHENA

Posted by: RONALD JOANUEL | February 13, 2006 05:46 PM

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