The Group of 184 Civil Society Organizations will survive with its dreams intact despite the decision by its spokesman, Charles Henry Baker, to run as an independent presidential candidate, according to coalition official Andre Apaid. He sounded a warning note in relation to the involvement of the Lavalas Family in the elections, saying it would be hard for the Provisional Electoral Council to prove that Lavalas candidates have rejected violence. The following is an excerpt from a live telephone interview with G-184 official Andre Apaid, Jr. by announcer Rotchild Francois Jr during the “Morning Newscast”, broadcast by Haitian Radio Metropole on August 12, 2005.

Good morning, Mr Apaid. We are pleased to welcome you as our guest this morning.

Good morning, Rotchild, and good morning to all the Radio Metropole listeners.

The first question I would like to ask you is this: Was the candidacy of Charles Henry Baker a surprise to you?

Well, I think that Charlito has always had the attitude of a committed citizen who wants to serve one way or another. Generally, Charlito has always put himself in situations of extreme humility. In order to serve the cause, he put himself on the front line with a lot of tenacity, integrity and, I could say, with a lot of humility by putting himself in the rank and file. I can say that regarding the call to serve, there is no doubt that he has a spirit of service. But as for the fact that he was being tormented over the way he wants to serve today in this particular situation, I can say that it was indeed a surprise to me. Actually, I really do not believe that he has imposed himself on his surroundings with the task to provide him with a hundred thousand signatures in thirty days. So, I think that everybody of good faith can believe that it is a late decision that is making things very difficult for him. There is no doubt that this has come as a surprise.

Would you say that Baker’s candidacy will alter the image of the Group of 184 Civil Society Organizations?

I want to address this issue. I do not know if you are going to ask me questions about the interviews that were given before by other people, because I want to talk about them directly. Concerning the G-184, I can say that Charlito came to see me more than three weeks ago and said that he intended to run in the presidential election. I told him right away that this was going to cause a lot of problems and that this was certainly going to affect our efforts somehow. Because we are in a rallying process. We are in a process that wants the political parties and the community to view us with a lot of credibility. We had various meetings with Charlito. He came to meet the G-184, the foundation and other friends to express his intention. And the comments were strong and honest. And I believe that he appreciated everything that was said, because he is a good democrat. So, I can say that if you feel some emotions on my part and on the part of other people, this is because Charlito is a big asset in our undertakings. So there is no doubt that seeing him go to serve the country in a more specific way, although this may be very useful for the country in the future, but there is no doubt that his decision will affect us somehow.

I believe that the group will survive with all its dreams. Besides, I heard Charlito say that last night on another radio station. Anyway, the dream will continue and will come true, although this might affect what we are doing. Our major concern now, apart from a lot of other goals that we have to pursue, is to help reinforce the institutions of our country.

But the G-184 was very clear on this. It said that it would not support Baker’s presidential candidacy.

Actually, this is not the issue here. I even heard Charlito say on one of the radio stations that he would have been disappointed if the G-184 supported his candidacy. But you know, this issue had to be dealt with. I believe that the community, the parents and friends of Charlito, the people who love him should understand the need to clarify this issue, just as we did concerning the principles.

If you will allow me, I want to express the viewpoint of the G-184 and the coordinator of the group on this issue. This might take two minutes, if you will allow me.

No problem. You may speak.

In an interview with one of the radio stations this week, G-184 Coordinator Anthony Barbier (Thony) said that the group had hoped that Charlito would instead get involved in an institutional framework to help transmit the group’s message more clearly. If Charlito and his staff believe that they were fulfilling a historical duty by launching a late campaign in accordance with the regulations of the Provisional Electoral Council to get a hundred thousand signatures to try to run as an independent candidate, this is something praiseworthy, as far as Charlito is concerned. But it is not what the G-184 had hoped for. And I believe that this is understandable. And in this sense, the reservations expressed by Thony on the way in which Charlito was going to run in the presidential election and the probable consequences were expressed in light of the principles that the G-184 and Charlito always advocated. However, I must admit, and I suppose that Thony will agree with this because we have talked about this together, that the power with which Thony expressed these reservations did not really support the value of the institutional reinforcement that he was encouraging. He spoke with authority, but he failed to talk about the probability of deviation of an independent campaign.

Thony insisted on the issue, but should have spoken instead about the probability of deviation because Charlito supports the idea that we need to support the political parties and reinforce the institutions.

As a parent, I think that I have defended the institutional point of view enough to say that I know Charlito. We had a lot of disagreements on certain things. We did not see things the same way. But Charlito is an honest man who understands the institutional process. I am sure that, if he manages to get the hundred thousand signatures necessary for him to run as a presidential candidate and become president of the republic, Charlito will be an element of acceleration in the institutional process. By the way, nobody even within the G-184 can hope for him to fail. But I must say that there are reasons, especially from a human point of view, to be worried that in such a weak institutional context Charlito, just like anybody else, may be tempted towards deviations. I hope that what I said was clear for everybody.

And in conclusion, I think that Charlito has come to enrich the electoral process. We would have hoped for him to do otherwise. But the future will reveal everything.

You said that you are not going to support the candidacy of Baker or any other candidate for president. If this is the case, then what does the G-184 intend to do in the current process?

I want to be very clear about this. First of all, in the coming weeks, we are going to consolidate the platforms and hold meetings with all the different sectors after visiting all the departments so that we may give more consistency to our social contract text. Efforts are underway to work out the social contract before the end of the electoral campaign. Second, we have done our best to maintain the nonpartisan credibility of the group, because the G-184 has all sorts of people who support different political leanings in it. So, we have done our best to affirm that we will remain a nonpartisan group.

To return to Baker’s candidacy, people may say the G-184 does not support Baker’s candidacy, but this can be done at a personal level.

The G-184 groups together all sorts of associations, organizations and so on. So it would be impossible for us to get the group as a whole to support somebody’s candidacy. This would be impossible. But this can be done at the individual level. But for the G-184, as an institution, it is impossible to support an individual or a political party.

I do hope that, with this interview, this issue will be resolved and that Charlito will be able to pursue the merit of seeking to climb uphill backwards at this minute to obtain so many signatures in such a very short time. If he succeeds, then we can only wish him all the best. But at the same time, we will value all the other political parties, such as the Struggling People’s Organization, the Greater Center-Right Front, the Convention for Democratic Unity, and all the other political parties, as well as their contributions to this process. Our country needs this, and it is our right to dream about a reinforcement of the political process of our country. This is our dream and we will pursue it.

We notice that there are an awful lot of candidates for the presidency. We had thought that we would have four or five candidates, but there are more than ten presidential candidates now. Do you think that this would affect the campaign and make things difficult for the voters?

Charlito came to us and told us that he was leaving the G-184. Actually, we think that it would be a good thing for Haiti or other independent institutional movements to offer the nation a menu of three or four parties for the benefit of the country. It would be a lot better for us to offer the Haitian people a menu from which they can determine whether or not they should give priority either to social development or economic development. Then the people would choose the option they prefer. So, my answer is that, at the end of the tunnel where we are now, we want to help simplify the choice of political parties, the ideological choices or their programs so that the Haitian people may get something simpler. Actually, we are going to fight for this over the next three months.

With regard to the registration of the Lavalas Family party, there are problems at this level. There are three parliamentarians who were elected in the past controversial elections who have gone and registered the Lavalas party to participate in the upcoming elections, but there are other branches of the Lavalas party that do not agree with this decision. What do you think of such a situation? How do you think the CEP should react to this issue? Are you for the Lavalas Family’s participation in the elections?

Yes, I am, personally. What I am going to say may shock certain people but this is my personal view, as I said. Because in the G-184, we have different positions. As I said before, we met with political parties on the social-contract issue and one of the parties we sat with was the Lavalas Family party. We sat with them and explained the social contract. Actually, I heard one of the Lavalas officials say: Wow! They just could not understand why we were wasting so much time. Anyway, other parties thought so, too. But one thing is certain, we were sure that the consultation process was useful. Second, their candidacy is useful. But it seems to me that these party officials did not really distance themselves from those who they specifically know are responsible for the violence that is still going on today. They were told in private and in public to be clearer about their position and to help the police identify those who they know are in possession of illegal arms.

By the way, Andy, Charlito, Anthony, as well as many other victims, knew who was attacking us. So these Lavalas officials, who were right inside the Lavalas fortress, know very well who is actually carrying out the violence. So, as far as we are concerned, they are not clear enough and should do better than that. But their candidacy is preferable, especially for those who agree to reject violence. As for those who do not want to reject violence, then they should be excluded. I believe that it is a very difficult task for the CEP to determine this. We think that, once in the electoral process, it will find itself facing the hard reality that the leader that it had, the road of violence that they advocated, did not pay off in the electoral process. And I believe that the hard reality will be at the end of the tunnel for all of them.

So if former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide would say that he did not give a mandate to Louis Gerald Gilles, Yvon Feuille and Rudy Heriveaux to register his party for the elections, then what should be the attitude of the CEP? Because everybody seems to be in favor of inclusive elections?

You have asked specific questions. So I will try to say something that I hope will not violate a note of reservation. But I believe that meetings were held at the departmental level with the people in charge of the party in those areas and that most of the members were in favor of the party’s participation in the electoral process. Due to the weight of the dictator who was feeding and maintaining crime and corruption from the National Palace in this party, I have no doubt that these people are running some risks for themselves because, although Aristide seems quiet now, he still has means of communication to give instructions and to send mercenaries. So, these men have exposed themselves. They know that, and I believe that they said so, too. But at the same time, I believe that they are going to do their best. They have difficulty saying what they think publicly because they know very well all the dangers they will face because of that. Actually, if I were in their position, I would not use the same name as this party. But they are free to do what they want, of course. Can you imagine a party with the name Lavalas in a country that is opening its eyes? We should think of this.

Thank you very much, Mr Apaid, for being our guest this morning to talk about the Charles Henry Baker situation and the electoral process.

Thank you, Rotchild.