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Brazil Brings Haitian Foes to the Bargaining Table

After ten years, the major political groups in Haiti resumed their dialogue, and the meetings to discuss the electoral process are coordinated by the Brazilian mediator, Ricardo Seintenfus, an International Relations specialist and author of the book, “Haiti, The Sovereignty of the Dictators.”

Seintenfus has been in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince for ten days, at the request of the Brazilian Minister of Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim.


Seitenfus, who directs the Santa Maria Faculty of Law, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, commemorates the opening of negotiations, but he recalls that the tense climate still persists.


“We managed to get this political dialogue started without the exclusion of any of the country’s political forces. Only the movements and groups that espouse the use of violence will be excluded.”


The Brazilian mediator in Haiti disclosed that the meetings even include the participation of politicians connected with the Lavalas, the party of ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, ousted early this year.


In Seintenfus’s view, political stabilization depends upon greater participation by the international community, including economic assistance for social reorganization.


“Our big effort is to get Haitians to accept the electoral contest as something normal in a democracy. Rivals need to be seen as political adversaries, to be fought on the field of ideas,” the specialist explains.


“Opposition to the process is masked, opportunistic, coming from those who are unable to win the election. Therefore, it is important for the international community to follow the situation closely.”


Brazil has been in command of the United Nations Peace Force in Haiti since May of this year.


The situation in the country has become tense in recent months after a hurricane killed 3 thousand people and left thousands of people homeless.


In September the activities of gangs obliged the Brazilian soldiers to intensify their support for police operations.


The commander of the Peace Force, General Augusto Heleno Pereira, believes that these episodes are related to criminal groups, not political parties. Even so, he sees the electoral process as a big challenge.


“The experience with democracy here was transitory and brief. There is no habit of referring to democratic institutions and human rights,” the general recounts.


“Everything has to be sought. If it weren’t difficult, there wouldn’t be a peace mission here.”


Haiti has around 5 million inhabitants, 95% of whom live in precarious conditions, below the poverty line. A transitional government is preparing elections for the final months of next year.


It is expected that a government elected by the people will take over the country’s administration in February, 2006.


Agência Brasil
Translator: David Silberstein

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