THE WHITE HOUSE
(San Francisco, California)
PRESS BRIEFING BY ANTHONY LAKE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT Aboard Air Force One En Route to San Francisco, California
5:30 P.M. PDT
MR. LAKE: On Haiti, let me just give you a readout that we've gotten so far. And all of this --
Q Are you on the record?
MR. LAKE: Yes, I'm now on the record. And all of this is preliminary. The polls are just closing about now, aren't they? Yes, I would think so.
First of all, there have been some isolated incidents of violence, but only a very few, and no reports of casualties thus far. Secondly, there have been reports of some logistical problems with regard to getting ballots to the polling places on time, et cetera. But our embassy has not reported any immediately visible political patterns in those logistical problems. I think it is not surprising -- and we're not making any final judgments yet on the elections. We have to hear from our observers and others. I think it's not -- I would say, however, that it's not surprising that there would be logistical problems when you're speaking about getting out some 14 million ballots, and when you're dealing with some 11,000 candidates in an election in a country which was so recently in the grip of endemic violence.
In fact, I would argue that we really ought to be, besides looking at the trees here, looking at the forest, and seeing how -- what an extraordinary act it is to have conducted elections in Haiti on time when a year ago, if a Haitian expressed freely a political view, he or she risked having his or her face cut. And today millions of Haitians express those political views in safety.
So I think -- well, I could have made a lot of money if a month or two ago I had bet people on whether or not the elections would take place today and in circumstances of relative calm. But I did not do so only because gambling is illegal. (Laughter.)
Q Is there a U.S. monitoring delegation there, Tony?
MR. LAKE: -- except off the record on baseball.
Q Is there a U.S. monitoring delegation there?
MR. LAKE: Yes, yes.
Q Who heads that?
MR. LAKE: Brian Atwood, AID.
Q What about the --
MR. LAKE: (inaudible) -- tonight.
Q Would the U.S. military -- the, actually U.N. military, but primarily U.S. soldiers, what role are they playing in terms of any monitoring?
MR. LAKE: Well, they have been out very actively, both in the cities and in the countryside to make sure that there were conditions of security. And apparently, very effectively so, working with the new Haitian police forces.
Q Can you say at this point that they were free and fair elections?
MR. LAKE: No, I cannot. We should not rush to a judgment here, not because I I'm implying that they were not free and fair, but we simply want -- the observers should do their work, and we should do all this in an orderly fashion.
Q I mean, have you had any indications that there may not have been totally free and fair --
MR. LAKE: What we have so far are indications of logistical problems. And as I said, the embassy has not reported any political patterns in those logistical patterns. But we'll have to -- and problems -- but we'll have to see and wait for the report of the observers.
Q What kind of a turnout have you got?
MR. LAKE: We have reports -- and again, this is early -- of a moderate turnout in the cities, and we don't know yet in the countryside.
Q What sort of logistical problems -- what's an example? What are you talking about?
MR. LAKE: Oh, the ballots not being available in time as the voters were waiting in lines, for example.
Q -- main problem? Is that the main -- the most frequently --
MR. LAKE: The main logistical problem, I was saying, one example was ballots not being ready in time as the voters were standing in line.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Polling places not opening on time, ballots not getting there on time, running out of ballots.
Q Is there a reason you know why there was only a moderate turnout in Haiti? Is there anything you can put that on?
MR. LAKE: No -- (inaudible)
Q Going back -- just one last thing --
MR. LAKE: -- get the implication of your remark, there's no sign that there was -- that violence deterred people from voting ---
Q -- worry of it or anything --