The Hotel Montana as a setting for the Haitian Election Drama: "This is a wonderful day to see the children of Cite Soleil swimming in the pools of Hotel Montana."
—the Hotel Montana website
There is a movie to be made of the Haitian election drama, and one of the key settings in this movie will be Port-au-Prince's Hotel Montana. I first heard of the place on December 15th in correspondence with Valerie Sendecki of the mysterious security contractor Consultants Advisory Group. She wrote:
I wish we could talk about this over a fine cup of Haitian coffee so that you could enjoy the beautiful [view] from the Hotel Montana. It’s breathtaking.
The hotel is the scene of the alleged suicide of General Bacellar, head of MINUSTAH, the UN peacekeeping forces on January 7th. It's my impression that it's the hotel where Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie stayed as they passed through. And it's where that guy "David Reuther," who was trolling in my comment section a while back claimed to be staying.
Watching the Haiti feed on Flickr, I've watched guests come and go at the Montana. I've seen guest's shots of the pool, the restaurant, and that view of which Val Sedecki spoke so highly.
About a week ago, just before the election, I wrote a fictionalized account of the Haitian election drama, revolving around one "Hotel California," entitled "Duck Soup in the 21st Century." It is currently on submission (as fiction) to a major magazine. The ending of this first draft involves a crowd bursting into the hotel lobby and shots being fired (just as Mrs. Teasdale is checking out).
Supporters of Haitian presidential candidate Rene Preval erected smoldering roadblocks across the capital and occupied a luxury hotel Monday. At least one protester was killed, but U.N. peacekeepers denied witness accounts that they had shot him.
Now. Who speaks for the UN Peacekeepers? My God, if it isn't David Wimhurst. (For anyone who has been following this space, Wimhurst has zero credibility with me.) And was it the Hotel Montana? Oh. Yes. It was.
"MINUSTAH killed my brother. MINUSTAH, killed my brother," a woman wailed.
Meanwhile, in the Petionville neighbourhood above Port-au-Prince, protesters converged on the upscale Montana Hotel where election officials have announced results of Tuesday's elections.
UN peacekeepers kept close watch from a driveway and rooftops as protesters squeezed into the hotel's lobby and down the steep sloping driveway, waving posters and tree branches and chanting: "Now is the time! Now is the time!"
South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, who had appealed for calm at church services Sunday, was seen on a balcony surveying the crowd as helicopters landed on the roof to evacuate people.
But of course life is stranger than fiction: I never could have anticipated Desmond Tutu on the balcony calming the crowds. (I wonder if they gave him Bacellar's suite.)
To those staying at the Montana: I know you've all got digital cameras. Please go up to your rooms and upload your pictures of the incident to the Internet. David Wimhurst needs to know that the whole world is watching; that now all of us are the Eye in the Sky; that in the 21st Century, things will be different and better.
Also from AP, via Forbes:
With about 90 percent of the vote counted, Preval was leading with 48.7 percent, Haiti's electoral council said on its Web site. His nearest opponent was Leslie Manigat, another former president, who had 11.8 percent.
But of the 2.2 million ballots cast, about 125,000 ballots have been declared invalid because of irregularities, raising suspicion among Preval supporters that polling officials were rigging the election.
Another 4 percent of the ballots were blank but were still added into the total, making it harder for Preval to obtain the 50 percent plus one vote needed.
Jacques Bernard, director-general of the nine-member electoral council, denied accusations that the council voided many votes for Preval.
Council member Patrick Fequiere said Bernard was releasing results without notifying other council members, who did not know where Bernard was obtaining his information. And another council member, Pierre Richard Duchemin, said he was being denied access to the tabulation process.
"According to me, there's a certain level of manipulation," Duchemin said, adding that "there is an effort to stop people from asking questions."
Here's a photo of the pool scene today:
Anyone got GPS coordinates of the Hotel Montana? I would love to be able to mark some of this stuff one Google Earth.
FROM JEB SPRAUGUE at Free Haiti:
This is a wonderful day to see the children of Cite Soleil swimming in the pools of Hotel Montana. Today, after officials within the CEP have criticized other officials for vote tampering and one demonstrator was killed (reportedly by UN MINUSTAH forces), the Haitian masses from Bel Air, Cite Soleil, Delmas, and other neighborhoods have marched on Hotel Montana. UN troops were landed by helicopter on the Hotel's roof. Here are some photos from Yahoonews.
The people came down the road meaning buisness. They demanded that their vote be respected.
Please post links to additional photos in the comment section. (See also the Yahoo photo feed.)