Subject: BosNet ARTICLE: Voting Includes Areas Annexed by Zagreb (NYTimes)

From: Davor <dwagner@MailBox.Syr.Edu>

Date: 1997/06/16

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Newsgroups: bit.listserv.bosnet

B o s N e t - June 16, 1997

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Croatian Voting Includes Bosnia Area Annexed by Zagreb

"Tudjman is the father of our country," said Drago Pezic, 76, a former platoon commander during the fascist Ustashe regime. "He gave to us our state after 900 years of being ruled by others. He brought all Croats under one roof. He got rid of the Serbs. He finally won the war we started in 1941 and lost to the Communists."


June 16, 1997

Croatian Voting Includes Bosnia Area Annexed by Zagreb


MOSTAR, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- The red and white flags hanging along the tree-lined streets were Croatian. The posters of President Franjo Tudjman were the same as those plastered on billboards in the Croatian capital, Zagreb. And throngs of voters filed through the gate of the Mostar polling station Sunday by showing their blue Croatian passports to police.

In theory this region is part of the American-brokered federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In fact, it has been annexed by Croatia, in one of the most flagrant violations of the Dayton peace agreement. The Bosnian Croats vote in Croatian elections and have their local leadership as well as their military financed and directed by Zagreb.

In the voting for president, Tudjman, 75 and seriously ill with cancer, appeared Sunday night to be headed toward a landslide victory for a second five-year term. He has been increasingly criticized by Washington, and it was in this city that the raw intolerance of his hard-line nationalism and the duplicity of his dealings with the outside world were most visible.

"You have Bosnian Croats in the diaspora, who have never lived in Croatia, voting in this election," a Western diplomat said of the some 400,000 voters who live here and in other countries, "while hundreds of thousands of Serb citizens from Croatia, who spent their whole lives here, are denied the right to vote."

Croatia's economy, burdened by outdated industry and mismanagement, is limping along at 55 percent of its capacity before the Bosnian war. The currency is overvalued, the foreign trade deficit is widening and unemployment is at least 20 percent.

Tudjman is, nevertheless, lionized as the man who in 1991 led Croatia's independence from the old Yugoslavia and created the modern Croatian state.

"He is the father of our country," said Drago Pezic, 76, a former platoon commander during the fascist Ustashe regime that ruled Croatia in World War II. "He gave to us our state after 900 years of being ruled by others. He brought all Croats under one roof. He got rid of the Serbs. He finally won the war we started in 1941 and lost to the Communists."

In the process, Tudjman purged 500,000 of 600,000 ethnic Serbs from the country and carried out the de facto annexation of the largely Catholic region of Herzegovina. In short, he gave Croats an "ethnically pure" state.

"What have I promised that I have not fulfilled?" the president asked a cheering crowd in his last campaign rally on Thursday in Zagreb.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, during a visit to Croatia this month, strongly condemned recent violent attacks on remaining minority Serbs, most of them elderly, who were driven from their homes. She also expressed her displeasure with Tudjman's refusal to hand over indicted war criminals, many of whom have taken refuge in Mostar, to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Washington, which considered Zagreb an ally during the war in Bosnia, in large part because of its willingness to permit clandestine shipments of Iranian arms to the Bosnian Muslims, now appears to have lost patience.

Senior American officials say they intend to begin blocking development loans, applications into Western trade bodies and military alliances. A $13 million loan granted to Croatia a few days ago was approved several weeks ago and was not large enough to reconvene international lender organizations to block, those diplomats said.

"Most Croatians do not yet realize what this isolation will cost them in economic and security terms," a senior Western diplomat said. The election campaign has been as bombastic and stilted as those once waged by the Communists. The state-run media, including all nationwide radio and television stations, have slavishly exalted Tudjman and his governing Croatian Democratic Union.

While Tudjman was deified, his two opponents, who rarely appeared in the state-run media, were darkly described as "enemies of the state."

If none of the candidates wins over 50 percent of the votes, the two top finishers are scheduled to compete again on June 29. But such a runoff, given Tudjman's popularity, is unlikely.

The two opposition candidates are expected to receive no more than 30 percent of the vote when the final results are released Monday. The beleaguered opposition candidates, Vlado Gotovac of the Social Liberal Party and Zdravko Tomac of the Social Democrats, were even assaulted by enraged Croats during the campaign.

Gotovac, 66, a poet who has called for the return of ethnic Serbs, was knocked unconscious and hospitalized by a captain in Tudjman's presidential guard at a rally in the city of Pula. During the assault, during which the officer punched Gotovac and beat him over the head with the metal buckle on his army belt, the officer shouted, "Long live Ante Pavelic!" Pavelic was the fascist dictator who ruled Croatia in the Second World War and oversaw the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Gypsies, Jews and Croatian opposition leaders.

For Tomac, the head of the reconstituted Communist Party who campaigned from a van, his vehicle was twice stoned by angry mobs. He was denied a permit to hold a campaign rally in Zagreb on Friday.

Tudjman, during his second term, will oversee the reintegration of the last Serbian enclave, now administered by a U.N. mission, into Croatia. The enclave, called Eastern Slavonia, was seized by rebel Serbs at the start of the 1991 war. Two other rebel enclaves were taken by force in 1995 by the Croatian army. During the capture, the army drove 250,000 Serbs who lived in the enclaves out of the country.

The refusal by Zagreb to permit all but a handful of the exiled Serbs to return home, as called for in the Dayton agreement, has led Washington to call for an extension of the U.N. mandate in Eastern Slavonia beyond the scheduled July 15 turnover date.

There are, however, other disturbing consequences of this unbridled nationalism.

The looting and seizure of tens of thousands of Serbian homes, especially in southern Croatia, has empowered a lawless and dangerously violent segment of Croatian society that has taken over cities like Mostar. The city remains divided between ethnic Croats and Muslims, who live in what is little more than an eastern ghetto and have no access to the Croatian section of Mostar.

Luxury cars, many stolen from Italy, Germany and Switzerland, according to international police monitors, clog Mostar's streets. And local mafias in Croat-controlled west Mostar, despite some arrests by Zagreb, collect protection money from shop owners, intimidate local officials and run vast prostitution, counterfeiting and drug rackets that reach into Italy and Germany.

The leaders of Tudjman's party, including members of his family, along with this growing mafia, have acquired vast riches in the state's murky privatization program.