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Cablegate: Lavalas Torn Between Boycotting Elections And

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/07/2015

Classified By: Ambassador James B. Foley, reasons 1.4 (B) and (D)

1. (C) Summary: The Lavalas movement remains divided between
leaders who argue for moving beyond Aristide and
participating in elections this fall, and those who continue
to call for Aristide's return and threaten a boycott of
elections if their hard-line conditions are not met. The
division is not clear-cut. There are indications that some
of the principal hard-liners are in fact interested in
participating in elections; this is especially true of Father
Gerard Jean-Juste, who has emerged as a hard-line leader. A
group of Lavalas moderates around former PM Cherestal
continues to lay the groundwork for a new party that would
attempt to capture the Lavalas vote, but some of them still
hope to unite both factions under one umbrella. The many
U.S.-based Lavalas members and "solidarity" activists
complicate the picture; they are pushing a tough boycott
position, but their distance from the process on the ground
is likely to limit their influence. Aristide's shadow
continues to hang over the movement, with most people
defining their positions in relation to him and many trying
to use his name to rally for their position. We anticipate
it will not be clear for several more months how and whether
the Lavalas movement -- either as Fanmi Lavalas or another
party, or both -- will be represented in the elections. End

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2. (C) In the wake of Aristide's departure, the movement and
party he led are still trying to figure out their future.
The internal debates and public arguments have now begun to
focus on the concrete question of whether Lavalas should
participate in this fall's elections or boycott them
entirely. The degree to which the Lavalas constituency
participates in the election will be a large factor in the
legitimacy of the elections, and we are therefore following
developments inside the movement closely. Over the past
three weeks, we have spoken with a number of contacts --
Lavalas leaders, politicians from other parties, local
analysts, U.S.-based activists, and others -- to put together
a picture of the movement seven months ahead of the first
(local) elections.

Elections yes, elections no

3. (C) The two main factions inside Lavalas can be outlined
fairly simply. Broadly speaking, hard-liners reject the
legitimacy of the IGOH and electoral process and insist that
elections cannot take place until Aristide is returned to
power. They focus on Fanmi Lavalas (FL) the registered
political party and insist that only FL represents the
legitimate Lavalas voice. Father Gerard Jean-Juste, a
longtime Lavalas activist and priest, has emerged in recent
weeks as the most significant hard-line leader (spurred by
his imprisonment last fall and his visit earlier this year to
Aristide in South Africa). He outlined his position at a
March 5-6 conference of Haitian political parties (reftel):
FL would boycott elections unless Aristide is returned to
power, political prisoners are released, "persecution" of
Lavalas partisans stops, and several other conditions are
fulfilled. He reiterated these in a March 10 conversation
with PolCounselor, arguing that it was not only illegitimate
to participate in elections, it was also impossible, since FL
members could not meet or campaign safely. The hard-line
position is shared, at least publicly, by the leadership of
the National Reflection Cell of Lavalas Popular
Organizations, by pro-Aristide activists in Bel-Air and other
neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, and by pro-Aristide
activists in other parts of Haiti (e.g. Milot mayor
Jean-Charles Moise). Some of these people are suspected of
being involved in the pro-Aristide violence that has occurred
in the capital since last fall.

4. (C) Those in the moderate faction, more diverse and less
vocal, insist they want to participate in the elections, that
they represent the original spirit of the Lavalas movement,
and that FL itself has been discredited by Aristide and his
misgovernance. The most significant group is coalescing
around former Prime Minister Jean-Marie Cherestal, who has
been quietly and cautiously preparing the groundwork to
launch a new "Lavalas Renewed" party (ref B). Cherestal told
PolCounselor March 13 that he was satisfied with his progress
in building support and said he was not worried that
elections were only seven months away. The party's basic
message to Haiti's poor majority would be that Aristide's
power had been a deceit; he was able to speak their language
and raise their expectations, but he had not been able to
deliver any true benefits to them. Initial reactions to the
draft Lavalas Renewed manifest had been positive, and
Cherestal said he would soon "widen the circle" to bring more
in, including former Lavalas Senators and Deputies like
Gerald Gilles, Yvon Feuille, Rudy Heriveaux and others. He
said he was still hesitant about some of the these since he
was not convinced they had fully distanced themselves from
Aristide, but he knew it was important to bring them in if

5. (C) For their part, Feuille, Gilles, Heriveaux, and former
Chamber of Deputies President Yves Cristallin told us March
17 that they were still uncertain whether a new party was the
right direction. Feuille was the most convinced, saying he
was committed to working with Cherestal, but he noted that
financial resources were extremely limited for building a new
party (a complaint not shared by Cherestal). Gilles and
Heriveaux said they worried about violent reactions from
Aristide supporters, and also about the lack of funds. All
noted with some pain that Cherestal had not kept them very
well informed about his activities.

Hidden agendas make clarity difficult

6. (C) This being Haiti, the division between hard-liners and
moderates is not precise. In a political culture where
hidden agendas are the norm, several appear to be at work
inside the Lavalas movement; the most important of these may
be Jean-Juste's. Despite his hard-line rhetoric, nearly
everyone we speak with is convinced that Jean-Juste in fact
wants to participate in the elections and sees himself as a
strong Presidential candidate. MIDH President Marc Bazin
told us he came away from an early March meeting with
Jean-Juste convinced the priest was waiting until closer to
the elections to declare his candidacy. Voltaire, who has
met frequently with Jean-Juste, also told us he believes
Jean-Juste is interested in running for President or, failing
that, in playing a power-broker role.

7. (C) Whether all the "moderates" are really committed to
participating in elections is another question. Cherestal's
suspicion of Gilles and Heriveaux is not without reason; both
have acknowledged publicly and privately their continuing
attachment to Aristide even as they portray themselves as
ready to move on, and Heriveaux told us he would rather
campaign with FL than with anybody else, even if Jean-Juste
were the standard-bearer. Voltaire says he supports
Cherestal, but he also describes himself as working to avoid
a split in the movement over elections and to bring the two
factions together. Many in the movement see this as
fence-straddling and dismiss him as an opportunist who has
managed to hold Ministerial positions nearly uninterruptedly
since 1990. (Note: We understand that Voltaire, an
architect by profession, has been considering an offer to
oversee the construction of the new airport in Caracas,
Venezuela. End note). Another professed moderate (and
would-be presidential candidate), Jean-Claude Desgranges, was
Aristide's last chief of staff and is married to a reportedly
hard-line pro-Aristide FL activist who resides in Florida;
Cherestal, among others, questions his "moderate"

Electoral strategies for the post-Aristide era

8. (C) For most of the 1990's, the Lavalas movement
represented the (poor) majority of Haitian voters, and
Lavalas/FL could run on its own. Defections from the
movement and disillusionment with Aristide's record have
diminished the electoral appeal of Fanmi Lavalas, but to a
degree that is unclear. Polling data from August 2004 showed
that 8% of Haitians support FL, more than any other single
party but a far cry from the 20-40% (or even 80%) that many
Lavalas politicians insist the party enjoyed. (That same
poll, however, showed that Aristide was still the only figure
in Haiti with a favorability rating above 50%.) Thus it is
not surprising that all of our contacts acknowledge the need
for electoral alliances.

9. (C) Marc Bazin's MIDH party is most often cited as a
likely partner. Voltaire called Bazin "one of Haiti's most
modern politicians" and said MIDH would give Lavalas
technical credibility that it currently lacked. Cherestal,
too, said he hoped Bazin would join forces with his new
party, but worried that he would make common cause with the
hard-line faction instead. Even Jean-Juste said that Bazin
had become very popular within the Lavalas base because of
his insistence on true reconciliation and his criticism of
the IGOH's perceived harsh approach to Lavalas. Bazin
himself told PolCounselor in early March that he was very
interested in an alliance with Jean-Juste because of the
support it would bring him from the Lavalas base. He
dismissed the possibility of an alliance with Cherestal's
party-in-formation, calling it "dead in the water." (Note:
Bazin frankly acknowledged to the Ambassador that he hopes to
capitalize on the exclusion of Lavalas, especially the
moderates. He would be highly unlikley to step aside in
favor of a Lavalas candidate. End note.) Both MODEREH, the
party of former Lavalas Senators Dany Toussaint and Pierre
Sonson Prince, and KOMBA, the movement of former Lavalas
official Evans Lescouflair and peasant leader Chavannes
Jean-Baptiste, would appear to be potential allies of either
FL or a Cherestal-led moderate Lavalas party. Each has
baggage though: Dany Toussaint is clouded by drug trafficking
allegations and Chavannes Jean-Baptiste is seen by many
hard-liners as a traitor to Lavalas.

The U.S. faction

10. (C) In addition to the hard-line and moderate Lavalas
factions here in Haiti, there is in effect a third "faction"
with agendas and influence that play a significant role: the
U.S.-based community of staunchly pro-Aristide FL
members-in-exile and "solidarity" activists. The former are
grouped together in the "FL Communications Commission"
( that asserts the exclusive right to speak on
behalf of the party. Members include former FL interim
chairman Jonas Petit, former Interior Ministry Angelot Bell,
former government spokesman Mario Dupuy, former Aristide
advisor Maryse Narcisse, and former deputy Gilvert Angervil
(Yvon Feuille and Rudy Heriveaux are also members, but have
effectively been ostracized by the others). The solidarity
activists come from a wide variety of organizations, many of
them with connections to the former Aristide government.
Many are grouped under the Let Haiti Live coalition
( and have been sharply critical of the
IGOH and U.S. policy in Haiti. We believe that some of them
are in regular contact with Aristide.

11. (C) According to a well-placed contact inside this group,
there are regular consultations among key leaders of both
groups, leading hard-line figures in Haiti, including
Jean-Juste and OP leaders such as Lesly Farreau and Lesly
Gustave, and members of Aristide's entourage in South Africa.
According to this same contact, the U.S.-based members
recently "decided" that Lavalas should boycott the elections
this fall and should be prepared for a long-term campaign to
destabilize and delegitimize the IGOH and the government
installed next February. This group's distance from the
process on the ground, however, constricts its influence. We
have seen clear indications, for example, that Jean-Juste has
refused to accept this "decision" and has insisted that
decisions be made by the people on the ground. Nonetheless,
the U.S.-based activists will play an important role in
determining how and whether Lavalas participates in the

The Aristide Shadow

12. (C) Hanging over all of this is the shadow of Aristide,
who remains popular among much of the Lavalas popular base
and remains the legal head of the Fanmi Lavalas party. Many
see Jean-Juste as Aristide's designate ("clone" according to
one businessman), and Jean-Juste has not shied away from
playing the "Titid" card with the faithful. Even those who
say they are committed to moving beyond Aristide fear his
reach; Gilles, for example, makes no bones about his fear for
his physical safety if he is seen as "betraying" Aristide.
But overall we believe Aristide's influence is waning and it
is not clear he can influence events on the ground from South
Africa as much as many think. Jean-Juste's relationship with
Aristide was never close and he gives the distinct impression
of someone looking for his own path. Typically, Aristide has
not made his views on electoral participation known publicly,
leaving his options open for a decision either way. Clearly
his preferred outcome would be to disrupt the electoral
process; second-best would be to delegitimze the process and
the electoral results. However, if it appears that a
successful and legitimate process is underway and cannot be
stopped, participation-by-proxy may become the course he
chooses, especially if he thinks a loyal Lavalas slate of
candidate could win.


13. (C) It will take several months for the differing
divisions and agendas within Lavalas to sort themselves out,
and the results could vary widely depending on a few key
variables. First and foremost is what Aristide decides to
push and the degree to which he is successful. Second is
what Jean-Juste does. If he holds to the hard-line and calls
for a boycott, especially if he does it in the name of
Aristide, then many pro-Lavalas voters will likely heed his
call. If this happens in the context of credible claims of
anti-Lavalas bias by election authorities and/or anti-Lavalas
violence by ex-FADH or other elements, this could call into
question the legitimacy of the election results. A third
variable is how successful Cherestal and his group are in
formulating a compelling message for former Aristide voters.
(Related to this is whether corruption charges will be
brought against him that could take him entirely out of the
running; in the past ten days there have been murmurs in the
press of a series corruption-related arrest warrants being
prepared, including against Cherestal.) Finally, there is
the possibility (which we cannot really judge at this point)
that former Lavalas President Rene Preval could enter the
fray. Preval has been out of the political scene since he
left the Presidency in 2001, but of late has started meeting
with some political leaders. At least a few observers
believe he is interested in getting involved and many tell us
he would be a more formidable Presidential candidate than
either Jean-Juste or Cherestal For what it is worth,
Desgranges told us after meeting with Preval recently that
Preval said he is not going to run.

14. (C) U.S. interests argue for encouraging the maximum
possible voter participation and the active involvement by
the full political spectrum, including the Lavalas sector.
We have made clear to all factions that we will support the
development of a democratic, modern Lavalas political
vehicle, whatever the name, as long as there is a clear break
with Aristide's legacy of violence and misrule.

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