The Miami Herald
November 30, 2000

Voters back Aristide massively, believing he will relieve troubles


 PORT-AU-PRINCE -- An overwhelming majority of the Haitians who went to the
 polls Sunday apparently believe former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his
 Family Lavalas party will improve their lives, effectively giving them a mandate to
 rebuild their decaying economy and their society.

 A fractured opposition boycotted the vote, but elections officials said that more
 than half of the 4.2 million eligible voters went out to cast ballots despite threats
 of violence, with 2.6 million, or 92 percent, picking Aristide.

 The closest candidate among four others who participated in the presidential
 contest was pastor Arnold Dumas with 58,678 votes, or 2.04 percent of the total.

 Yvon Neptune, Lavalas' spokesman and the leader of the Haitian Senate, said the
 landslide was a vote of confidence that Aristide can lead the country into a better
 future. He spoke of pep la, the Creole word meaning the common people, the
 thousands without jobs, growing up in slums and in pockets of the countryside
 who have no experience with schools or medical services.

 ``Jean-Bertrand Aristide remains a symbol for the Haitian people,'' Neptune said.
 ``They realize that everything he does, he does it in the interest of the people.''

 This will be Aristide's second try at leading Haiti, as he puts it, out of misery into
 poverty. Haitians elected him in 1990, but a military junta sent him into exile
 seven months later. Aristide returned triumphant to Haiti in 1994 behind 20,000
 American soldiers.

 In a meeting with journalists the previous day, he acknowledged the extent of his
 challenges. His people are poor and hungry. Too many people, eight million
 according to the latest count, are making too many demands on the environment
 and the cities, stressing both past their limits. More than three quarters of the
 population are either unemployed or underemployed.

 Members of an opposition coalition said they did not contest the elections
 because the decks were stacked against them. They said members of the
 council that runs the elections were not independent, and they wanted new
 legislative elections held to replace those held in May, which Lavalas candidates
 won by huge margins.

 Neptune described as being without value the opposition coalition's argument that
 the vote was illegitimate because the opposition boycotted it. The only way for the
 people to choose their leaders are through elections, he said.

 ``If they don't show up, how can the Haitian people choose them?'' he said.
 ``There is no other place to do that.''