CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot writes in The Guardian today:
Corruption takes many forms, and if the United States seems like it has less of it than many developing countries, this is partly because we have legalized so much of it. Election campaign contributions are only the most costly and debilitating form, a legalized bribery that, for example, gives the pharmaceutical and insurance companies a veto over health care policy and generally hollows out our limited form of democracy.
This legalization of corruption reached a new milestone last December when one Lewis Lucke, a long-time U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) official turned influence peddler, sued a consortium of firms operating in Haiti for $492,000, for breach of contract. As Lucke would have it (sorry!), he was promised $30,000 a month, plus incentives, to use his influence to secure contracts for these nice fellas. He got them $20 million dollars worth of contracts, but they cut him off after two months. The defendants in the case are Ashbritt, a U.S. contractor with a questionable track record, and the GB Group, one of the largest Haitian conglomerates. Together they formed the Haiti Recovery Group, which they incorporated in the Cayman Islands, to bid on reconstruction contracts.
Lucke was well positioned for the job, having formerly been in charge of the multi-billion dollar reconstruction effort in Haiti for the U.S. government. (He was also previously the USAID Iraq Mission Director – we know how that reconstruction turned out.) His lawsuit states that when he worked for USAID "He met with Haitian officials, former United States Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the State Department, World Bank, and other participants . . .”. He was then hired by Ashbritt to, among other things, make “strategic introductions to key stakeholders, organizers, and brokers of Haitian recovery efforts…” Bill Clinton and George W. Bush established the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund to help Haiti “build back better,” and Clinton is co-chair of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), which has met about six times since the earthquake, and has been widely criticized for its lack of Haitian representation in decision-making.
Today, fifty-three Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton underscoring the gross inadequacy of relief efforts of USAID, International Organization of Migration (IOM) and other aid organizations in Haiti’s camps for the internally displaced (IDPs).
Co-sponsored by Representatives Yvette Clarke (NY), Donald Payne (NJ) and Frederica Wilson (FL), the letter urges the administration to focus its attention on the deteriorating situation in the camps, in particular the lack of water, sanitation and other basic services; the increase in gender-based violence; and the frequent occurrence of forced evictions of camp residents.
In December 2010, the AP conducted an analysis of Haitian earthquake contracts given out by the US government, finding that only $1.60 out of every $100 went to Haitian companies. In the story, USAID responded:
US AID says it is committed to increasing the amount of contracts going to Haitians.
“We already are engaging with Haitian communities to make them aware of how they can partner with us,” said Janice Laurente, a spokeperson for US AID.
Yet a new analysis from Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch shows that since December 2010, not a single contract has been awarded to a Haitian firm, according to the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS). As of April 14, 2011, 1490 contracts had been awarded, since the January 2010 earthquake, for a total of $194,458,912. Of those 1490 contracts, only 23 have gone to Haitian companies, totaling just $4,841,426, or roughly 2.5 percent of the total.
Several times per year, we at the Center for Economic and Policy Research ask our friends and supporters to consider making a donation to sustain our work. This spring, we are asking for support for a crucial part of CEPR’s international work, our Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch blog.
CEPR created the Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch blog in the first few weeks after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, with a focus on ensuring that the most urgent needs of the Haitian people are being met. Through direct traffic as well as a partnership with Wired magazine, Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch has been able to reach thousands of people, including policymakers, journalists and aid workers on the ground in Haiti. From the very first post (there are now over 275 posts), the blog has focused extensively on the issue of adequate shelter and sanitation.
Lucke claims he "played an integral role" in securing two $10 million contracts -- the one from the Haitian government and a second from the World Bank -- along with a third with CHF International worth $366,000. He said he fulfilled his obligations under the contract by performing such services as "providing an understanding of the recovery efforts, making key introductions, and identifying sources of funding for HRG projects."
The incentives under the contract provided he would be paid a bonus if the HRG earned contracts worth more than $6 million. Lucke says he is owed about $492,483 as well as attorney's fees for the breach of contract.
Before the lawsuit was settled, however, Lucke was back at it. In December 2010, Lucke became a board member of MC Endeavor Inc. and its subsidiary, CENTIUUM Holdings Inc. The company describes itself as an "international Smart-Home Builder and Sustainable Community Developer utilizing green technologies". In a press release announcing Lucke's decision to join the board, the company touts Lucke's work in Haiti:
Ambassador Lucke most recently served as U.S. Response Coordinator for the Haiti earthquake, leading the United States’ $1.0 billion to date relief and recovery program. The reconstruction phase is next and is expected to take about $10 Billion to build interim and permanent housing for over 1 million homeless earthquake victims.
As Bill Clinton heads to Haiti to participate in the second day of meetings of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), the exclusion of Haitian and civil society input should be on top of the agenda. Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald reported yesterday, “Almost nine months after a battered Haiti approved a U.S.-backed blueprint for its recovery, small nongovernmental and grassroots community organizations essential to the country’s long-term reconstruction are being left behind in the nearly $2 billion in reconstruction projects that have been approved.” But not only are they missing out on the funding, they are being overlooked in the decision making process as well.
In December the 12 Haitian members of the IHRC wrote a formal letter outlining their marginalization within the IHRC. They wrote:
The twelve Haitian members present here feel completely disconnected from the activities of the IHRC. There is a critical communication and information shortage at the TIC [Information and Communication Technology] on the part of the Executive Secretary and even more from the Executive Committee. In spite of our role in the governance structure of the institution, we have so far received no follow-up on the IHRC activities.
In general, contact is only established one day before the board meetings. Board members have time neither to read, nor analyze, nor understand--and much less to respond intelligently--to projects submitted at the last minute, despite all the complaints expressed and promises made on this subject.
The letter adds that, “In reality, Haitians members of the board have one role: to endorse the decisions made by the Director and Executive Committee.”
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos chaired a UN Security Council meeting today, reportedly attended by representatives of 14 countries (including the foreign ministers of MINUSTAH members Argentina and Chile) and UN Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton, that focused on Haiti. According to Colombia Reports, Santos said:
"Think of what we could achieve if instead of having a high percentage of military personnel, the mission had more civilian personnel and more engineers to assist the removal of debris, a task which is starting to show significant progress thanks to the efforts of the Haitian authorities," the president said.
"If we have a United Nations operation in Haiti, why don't we use it to serve their immediate needs and begin to cement its transition towards development?" Santos continued.
"Today, the proliferation of organizations operating on this island without any coordination between themselves or the Haitian authorities, undermines any effort to strengthen the institutions of the country and they affect the ability to undertake long-term initiatives which means that their efforts do not lead to anything concrete."
"It does not help Haiti if the international community does not take into account the vision of the Haitians about their own problems. For this reason if the Haitian people accept the renewed support of the international community, we propose that it be based on a foundation that guarantees the effectiveness of our joint action," Santos added.
Preliminary results announced by the CEP last night showed Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly with 67.6 percent of the vote, while Mirlande Manigat received 31.5 percent. While news headlines focus on the “landslide” victory for Martelly, he actually received the support of only 16.7 percent of registered voters -- far from a strong mandate -- as early reports show Martelly with just 716,986 votes to Manigat’s 336,747. Reports indicate that turnout was even lower than in the first round, when it was a historically low 22.8 percent, and Martelly’s percent of votes (as well as Manigat’s) would have been even smaller were it not for the use of new electoral lists which removed some 400,000 people from the rolls.
Nevertheless, media reports have largely ignored the issue of turnout. AOL’s Emily Troutman reported last night that, “Martelly's 67 percent of the vote is nearly unprecedented in Haiti and a clear mandate for his leadership”. Not only is the 67 percent number misleading in terms of his overall support, it is also far from unprecedented (as other reporters have also stated). In 1990 Aristide was elected with 67 percent of the vote, but with significantly higher turnout. Aristide received over one million votes in 1990 even though there were over one million fewer registered voters at the time. In 1995, Preval was elected with over 87 percent of the vote. In 2000, Aristide received over 3.5 times as many votes as Martelly did in the runoff elections last month. Even Preval’s most recent term began with a greater mandate than Martelly’s; in 2006 he received nearly one million votes with 700,000 fewer registered voters.
Given the immense problems with the relief effort, many of which were discussed yesterday, it is encouraging to see the “Assessing Progress in Haiti Act” making its way through the US Congress. The bill (H.R. 1016), citing the level of devastation, the slow pace of reconstruction and the massive amount of money pledged, requests that:
Not later than six months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President, in consultation with the heads of all relevant agencies, including the Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development, the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shall transmit to Congress a report on the status of post-earthquake humanitarian, reconstruction, and development efforts in Haiti, including efforts to prevent the spread of cholera and treat persons infected with the disease.
The report “shall include a description, analysis, and evaluation” of the overall relief efforts, specific USG projects, projects to “protect vulnerable populations, such as internally displaced persons, children, women and girls, and persons with disabilities” and projects in health, sanitation and water. The report would also require the government to measure the “extent to which United States and international efforts are in line with the priorities of the Government of Haiti and are actively engaging and working through Haitian ministries and local authorities.”
The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee [D-CA] and has 13 cosponsors, has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The full text of the bill can be read here.
"[T]he second round of the presidential and legislative elections was quite an improvement in many ways on the first round," according to the joint OAS-CARICOM observation mission. Yet reports are now emerging that a high number of tally sheets (PVs) have been excluded due to fraud or irregularities. Le Nouvelliste and Radio Kiskeya both reported that 18 percent of the tally sheets that have been counted thus far have been quarantined. Le Nouvelliste added, however, that many of these are subject to continuing analysis that could allow them to eventually be counted. The problems associated with the excluded sheets include missing signatures of polling station members, ballot stuffing, and missing voter identification numbers, among other problems.
Radio Kiskeya reports that 4,427 tally sheets have been counted, out of a total of 11,182 and that of those, 18.7 percent (830), have been excluded for fraud or other irregularities. In the first round of the election, the CEP quarantined just 312 tally sheets, while the OAS recommended excluding an additional 234. Since the CEP never actually published detailed final results, it is impossible to determine how many sheets were actually excluded. Either way, with just a fraction of the tally sheets having been counted, it appears the number of irregular tally sheets already greatly exceeds the number from the first round. If the current rate of exclusion holds, then over 2,000 tally sheets will be excluded. If the current rate of exclusion holds, then over 2000 tally sheets will be discarded. Given a similar turnout to the first round, this would equal roughly 200,000 votes.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) latest “Humanitarian Bulletin” provides some insight into just how much the relief efforts have struggled to provide results over the last year. Despite grandiose aid pledges, complete with the customary sound bites, the situation on the ground has not greatly improved. A few days after the earthquake President Obama stated:
“To the people of Haiti, we say clearly, and with conviction, you will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten. In this, your hour of greatest need, America stands with you.”
That reality that is described by OCHA is one where the greatest needs of Haitians have, in fact, been forgotten. Although world leaders pledged over $5 billion dollars last April, and private donations from Americans alone topped $1 billion, OCHA reports that:
A Water, Hygiene and Sanitation (WASH) and CCCM Cluster analysis reveals that most of the funding to partners to support sanitation, water trucking activities and camp management will be exhausted by June 2011. As a result, it is expected that the number of humanitarian actors able to continue activities will be drastically reduced, which in turn will have serious consequences on the living conditions of camps residents. Their level of vulnerability will be particularly high due to the rain and hurricane season.
But how much worse can the “living conditions” of those in the camps really get? The same OCHA bulletin notes that only 29% of the camps have waste removal, only 43% of the camps have water tanks or trucks bringing water in, and less than 30% of those in the camps have received chlorination tablets in the last month. For a more independent analysis of the situation in the camps, see Mark Schuller’s report, “Foreign Responsibility in the Failure to Protect Against Cholera and Other Man-Made Disasters”. In addition, over 230,000 people have either been evicted, or are threatened by eviction, and the “eviction rate is increasing,” according to OCHA. The report discusses the evictions in the context of the reduction in the IDP population, a subject covered at length last week.
Georgianne Nienaber has an extremely important article on the housing crisis that will confront whoever is the next president. As Nienaber writes, "The bottom line is that half a million Haitians will be living in "tent" (tarp) cities at least through 2012." The article focuses on a new report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that dispels the myth that a reduction in camp population is necessarily a good thing. The day before the one year anniversary of the earthquake, the IOM released a statement that read, "A significant drop in the number of Haitians living in displacement camps one year on after the devastating earthquake is a welcome sign of progress in recovery efforts" and that, "It is also the first time that the camp population in Haiti has dropped to well below one million." To be fair, the IOM was not all positive, with the spokesperson saying:
“At first sight, these figures are a positive development," said Pandya. "People are leaving the camps because they are moving into transitional shelters or permanent homes or damaged homes that have now been repaired or because they have received other forms of assistance. Or, it is also because of storms, evictions, fear of evictions or the cholera outbreak that is forcing them to leave.”
Those who have fled the camp crime, including the euphemistically labeled "gender-based violence" (think brutal rapes), filth, and leaking tarps have moved to housing that is no better. Some have taken over abandoned housing in damaged shantytowns, set up tents on rubble-strewn family property, or gone to live with relatives. Meanwhile, cholera is set to make a return with the coming rainy season, and basic infrastructure needs of clean water and sanitation remain unaddressed. Already vulnerable families face eviction from landowners who have seen property values increase due to scarcity of buildable land. Preliminary findings from a sample survey of 1,033 heads of households who have left IDP sites over the past months indicate that about 50 percent of them have moved from camp settings to precarious housing situations.
Looking a little deeper at the report shows just how little the "moving into transitional shelters or permanent homes or damaged homes that have now been repaired or because they have received other forms of assistance" has actually helped reduce the camp population. The study shows that only 7 percent cited "Assistance package was provided" (2.0%), "my home was repaired" (4.7%) or "transitional shelter was provided" (0.3%) as reasons for leaving IDP sites. On the other hand, "Poor conditions in the IDP site", "eviction", "high incidence of crime/insecurity in the IDP site", and "rain/hurricane" were cited by 77.9 percent of respondents.
Supporters of presidential candidate Michel Martelly (including military contractors) have been complaining of allegedly “fraudulent” polls showing Mirlande Manigat with a lead over Martelly. Instead, Martelly backers claim that “real numbers show Martelly with 70% to low double-digits for Manigat.” Martelly supporters such as Hotel Oloffson proprietor (and Martelly’s cousin) Richard Morse claim that even some polls showing Martelly leading are fraudulent, and that his support is actually much higher. AFP reports:
Poll results released Thursday showed Martelly with a comfortable lead -- 53 percent support against 47 percent for Manigat. However, experts warn that historically weak voter turnout makes forecasts unreliable: just 23 percent of 4.7 million eligible voters cast ballots in the first round November 28.AFP also reports that “singer Michel Martelly …has a strong following among Haiti's youth,” although providing no information to support this statement. Martelly is well-known for his music, but this did not seem to lead to popularity at the ballot box in November; he received only 4.5 percent of votes from registered voters.
The elections have now passed, in what has generally been described as a more peaceful election day than the first round. There were still many problems however, and most reports from on the ground indicate that turnout was very low. It is important to keep in mind that the first round saw just a 23 percent turnout, with the two right-wing run-off candidates receiving a combined 11 percent of support from all registered voters. The exclusion of the largest party, Fanmi Lavalas, the inadequate efforts to allow those living in IDP camps to vote and massive irregularities contributed not only to the low turnout, but to 12 percent of tally sheets never even being counted. The preliminary results were then arbitrarily overturned due to pressure from the international community, especially the US. The second round then is based on an illegitimate electoral process and a deeply flawed first round. New, inclusive elections remain the only way to ascertain the true will of the Haitian people. Although the elections have passed, we will continue to update this space with the latest election related news and analysis.
Tuesday 5:35 PM: A nice bit of analysis, from The Economist:
The biggest difficulties could await after the outcome is announced. Whoever is proclaimed the victor may have trouble establishing their legitimacy. A few legal corners were cut during the horse-trading over Mr Martelly’s inclusion in the run-off: the first-round results were not published in the state’s official news outlet, as the constitution requires, and allegedly only four members of the electoral council, rather than a majority, have signed off on the result. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former president who returned to Haiti two days before the vote after spending seven years in exile, cast further doubt on the vote’s credibility by decrying the “exclusion” of his political party, Fanmi Lavalas. (Some diplomats say the party could have fielded a candidate but did not). And even if all these concerns can be brushed aside, turnout in the run-off was estimated at just a smidge higher than the 22% registered in the first round. Hopes for a Haitian government with a broad mandate still remain a long way from fruition.
Tuesday - Update 12:58 PM: Dan Caughlin has a nice piece in The Nation on Sunday's election, which provides some of the critical background that has been lacking from most of the media coverage. Coughlin writes that, "Despite a massive UN mobilization, Haitians stayed away from controversial presidential elections in large numbers on March 20, raising serious questions about the legitimacy of the new government now poised to take power." Coughlin also speaks with Patrick Elie, who comments:
“But the victor of these elections will have very little popular legitimacy,” Elie said, arguing that the electoral process has been a farce. “And because of that the victor will be the puppet of the international community and will have no card to play and no real popular support.”
To read the entire article, click here.
Tuesday - Update 10:55 AM: The OAS has released their preliminary observations, and the Miami Herald provides a nice write-up, while pointing some of the things that have been stressed on this blog. It is good to see caution coming from the U.S. as well, with Mark Toner saying ,“We’ll wait for …the assessment of the monitoring teams’ full assessment,’’ before declaring the elections free and fair. After the first round, despite the debacle of election day, OAS observers said that the irregularities had not necessarily invalidated the results. This was taken as an endorsement of the first round and is one reason why it would be smart to wait until preliminary results are announced and full observations are released before making declarations as to the legitimacy of the vote. The Miami Herald also notes the ongoing debate over turnout:
One area that remained a debate was turnout. Both the heads of the Provisional Electoral Council and the U.N. Peacekeeping Mission told journalists Sunday that participation was high. But Granderson said while the participation appears to be slightly higher than for the first round — 22 percent nationwide — it doesn’t appear to coincide with the more than 1 million inquiries via telephone calls and text messages election officials received from voters wanting to locate their polling stations.
“The final numbers were a bit disappointing,’’ he said, adding that they will have to wait for preliminary results for the actual turnout figure.
It is important to point out though that assuming there actually was a lower number of polling stations that were destroyed or closed on election day, the registered turnout would be higher even if the same number of people came out to vote. In the first round nearly 12 percent of the tally sheets where either never counted or thrown out due to fraud; since these votes were not counted they did not go into the participation rate of 22.8 percent. In a report released after the first round, we estimated that this corresponds to about 160,000 voters. If the same number of people tried to vote as in the first round, and assuming the OAS is correct in saying that overall the election was improved, we would expect turnout to be roughly 26 percent. This would not, however, mean that more people tried to vote, only that a higher percent of the actual vote was counted. If the participation rate is at or below the first round, it is an indication that far fewer people actually took part in the election.
Monday - Update 5:35 PM: Although candidates have pledged not to declare themselves as the winner before results are announced, the Martelly camp has taken to twitter to do just that. Antonio Sola, the director of Ostos & Sola, the campaign managers of Martelly, tweeted, "Overwhelming victory of Michel Martelly in the Haitian elections. Another triumph for the OstosSola family. The era of change has arrived in Haiti." Martelly's twitter page has also linked to news reports about partial results showing Martelly winning (an issue we brought up here).
The Martelly campaign has benefitted greatly from the services of Ostos and Sola. Sola, who also worked on the campaign of Felipe Calderon in Mexico and has worked extensively with the Popular Party and former right-wing president Aznar in Spain. The executive director of Ostos & Sola and Martelly's campaign manager is Damien Merlo. Merlo worked on the McCain campaign in 2008 and previously worked for the International Republican Institute. Merlo was also the Vice President of Otto Reich Associates, the company of the former Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere under George Bush, Otto Reich. Ostos & Sola, together with Otto Reich Associates is actually lobbying for Raytheon in Chile. Raytheon is working with the National Emergency Office, which Chile wants strengthened after the
earthquake last year.
It remains unclear who is paying for the high profile campaign team. In an interview with the Toronto Star, Sola said, "A friend, a businessman, presented Michel to us in the U.S..”. Martelly has been asked multiple times by reporters, responding to the Miami Herald, "They are here. They are paid by people who believe in us. But who do not want to give us the money. Friends from out of Haiti, the States who decided to give us support." When asked directly who was funding him, Martelly responded, "You talk to them." A New York Times report after that interview reported that, "the first round ultimately cost him and his supporters $1 million and the second, backed by donors he refused to name, around $6 million." That is about .1 percent of Haiti's GDP.
Monday - Update 4:35 PM: In Allyn Gaestel's latest piece, she notes, almost as an aside that "On Sunday crowds swarmed the voting center where Martelly voted, and he enjoyed one last chance to clamber atop a truck and dance and wave to his followers. He mouthed, "Go vote!" to his supporters, as they waved pink cards and placards." As was pointed out previously, according to electoral law, "all public manifestations in favor of one or several candidates, one or several political parties, grouping or regroupings are formally banned on Election Day and until the proclamation of the results." It would seem worth mentioning that when reporting on the election.
Monday - Update 1:41 PM: AFP reports today that, "Michel Martelly, a singer and carnival entertainer with a colorful past, may have triumphed in quake-hit Haiti's presidential elections, partial results indicated Monday." Nevermind that the CEP had called on media not to publish partial results, something AFP noted in their French language article on the same topic. Unfortunately, it looks like AFP is engaging in exactly the sort of reporting that the CEP about. AFP reports:
Tally sheets read out on television and radio indicated Martelly was well ahead of his rival, former first lady Mirlande Manigat, in key urban areas including Petionville and the Cite Soleil slum in the capital.
"I think he has won the election. From everything that I've heard it looks like it may even be a landslide, at least in the urban areas," said US-based Haiti expert Robert Fatton.
Although Fatton then says it is "not fully representative but it indicates a trend", AFP uses some seriously flawed polling to report:
Out of 50 people questioned by AFP in Port-au-Prince after polls closed on Sunday at 5:00 pm local time (2200 GMT), not a single one said they had voted for Manigat, a soft-spoken 70-year-old and long-time opposition figure.It may have been worth pointing out that although Martelly looked particularly popular in Petionville and Cite Soleil, he also was particularly popular in those areas in the first round. Martelly received nearly 50 percent of the votes in those areas, despite winning just over 20 percent nationwide (you can download the first round database, here). Furthermore, the total votes counted in Petionville and Cite Soleil accounted for roughly 5 percent of the total votes counted nationwide, a significant portion but certainly not representative of the total. If the AFP does decide to defy the CEP and report on partial results, it should at least provide the context necessary to interpret those results.
Publishing articles that try to definitevely declare a winner before official results are announced could lead to the sort of street protests that occurred after the first round. As the same AFP article notes, "Even before voting stations closed on Sunday, Martelly supporters were triumphantly taking to the streets".
Monday - Update 11:31 AM: Also from Nick Miroff's article in the Washington Post, reports that Martelly supporters are already "sure that Preval...was scheming to cheat them," something we covered here. Miroff writes:
It was unclear whether the problems Sunday were caused by dirty tricks, Haiti's general disorganization, or a bit of both. Voters, particularly Martelly supporters, said they were sure that Preval - who called Sunday for "cool heads" to prevail - was scheming to cheat them.Also worth mentioning the fact that there were reports of campaining on election day, something expressly warned about the day before the election by the OAS mission. The OAS warned that:
"If they don't know how to count, we'll show them how to count," warned Pierre Yonel, 25, who wore a pink-and-white bracelet - Martelly's colors - with the slogan "Tet Kale" (Bald Head), a reference to the candidate's appearance.
Monday - Update 10:57 AM: Although announcements from the CEP, OAS, France, and MINUSTAH, all noted higher turnout in yesterday's election this contradicts most reports from the ground. The Washington Post's Nick Miroff provides a more nuanced view:
Haiti struggled once more to pull off an orderly election Sunday, as confusion broke out at polls and turnout appeared low, but when the day ended quietly without major violence, election officials and foreign observers called it a success.Although noting that at "many voting stations, the process seemed to unfold relatively smoothly", Miroff adds that, "it was not difficult to find voters in the capital who had been turned away." The low turnout was noted in othe reports as well. Jacqueline Charles and Frances Robles write in the Miami Herald that in most voting stations there were "more political observers and roving operatives present than voters". A midday report from observers from Let Haiti Live, Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and International Action Ties also reported "Participation is very low in most locations, lower than it was during to first round on November 28th. In some locations there were more workers and/or security than voters."
As has been widely reported, former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is now back in Haiti, ending his seven year exile in South Africa. We'll be updating this space throughout the evening and over the weekend with the latest updates from twitter, news reports and sources on the ground. Please check back often, as the situation continues to change rapidly.
Sunday, Update 9:53 AM: Haitians head to the polls today to vote for president and we'll be updating throughout the day here, with the latest observations from the ground as well as news reports and analysis.
Although a new study today from The Lancet has brought the cholera epidemic back to the attention of the media, the story had faded from the headlines, replaced by elections, returns of former presidents (and dictators) and reconstruction projects. Many commentators have also failed to mention that the rainy season is set to begin in two weeks. One year ago, the Christian Science Monitor headlined a story,"Haiti races to house post-quake homeless before the rainy season." One year later, the story would read much the same. Although overly optimistic reports from the International Organization of Migration have noted a decrease in the number of IDPs in the camps, even their rosy estimates put the number around 800,000. It may be the case that a large number of IDPs returned to homes that had been marked either Red (needing to be destroyed) or Yellow (needing repairs). This is hardly a solution. In terms of transitional shelters, the most recent data show 43,000 of the planned 111,000 having been built. Even the most optimistic acknowledge that there will still be hundreds of thousands left without any meaningful shelter at the end of 2011, let alone in two weeks for the onset of the rainy season.
A report today in The Lancet medical journal sheds new light on the extent of the cholera epidemic and should come as a wake up call to an international community that has seemed more focused on imposing election results and impeding the constitutional return of former president Aristide than solving the crisis on the ground of inadequate shelter and an inadequate response to the cholera epidemic. The inadequate response was well documented by Mark Schuller and researchers from City University of New York and Faculte d'Ethnologie. Their report noted that:
Still using the random sample of 108 IDP camps from this summer, a team of three State University of Haiti students investigated 45 camps that lacked either water or toilets from the summer. The results show a minimum of progress: 37.6 percent instead of 40.5 percent still do not have water, and 25.8 instead of 30.3 percent of camps still do not have a toilet.
The cholera outbreak – combined with the continued lack of services – is a key factor in the rap-id depopulation of the IDP camps. According to the IOM only 810,000 remain as of January 7. One in four camps researchers visited disappeared since the last visit, eight because of IDPs’ fear of cholera, and three because of landowner pressure.
New research from Harvard Medical School and the University of California shows that the far from leveling off, the cholera epidemic could infect as many as one million Haitians:
By contrast with the UN projection of 400 000 cases of cholera from December, 2010, to December, 2011, our dynamic model of cholera, which incorporates key features of disease transmission and pathogenesis, projected more than 750 000 cases in the 9 months from March to December, 2011. Although the prevalence of cholera is decreasing in Haiti, the projections from our model suggest that this is the expected natural course of the epidemic, and should not necessarily be interpreted as indicative of successful intervention.
The estimate of 400,000, according to the study, “is essentially a guess—based on no data, and ignoring the dynamics of cholera epidemics, such as where people acquire the infection, how they gain immunity, and the role of human interventions such as water allocation or vaccination.”
From the website of a State Representative for the (ruling) Workers’ Party in Brazil, a flier promotes a rally for “the withdrawal of troops from Haiti”.
The March 28 event will feature speakers from, among others, State Representatives for the Workers’ Party, a leading officer of the Central Unica dos Trabalhadores (CUT - the main trade union federation), and representatives of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) – one of the largest social movement organizatons in Latin America, and a major force in Brazilian politics -- and the Unified Black Movement, perhaps Brazil’s most influential Afro-descendant organization, among others.
The rally for Brazilian troops to leave Haiti would be the latest manifestation of what Wikileaked State Department cables have described as “a lack of domestic support for the [Peace Keeping Operation]”, and the explosion of opposition in Haiti to MINUSTAH’s ongoing presence following its suspected (with strong evidence) role in causing the cholera outbreak last year, in addition to its record of various human rights abuses.
The planned rally follows recent news that the Defense Council of South America (CDS), under the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), has decided to
form a dialogue commission composed of six countries (Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Colombia), whose mission will be to gather opinions of the haitian [sic] society about the Stabilization Mission in United Nations (Minustah).
Once the information gathered by the dialogue commission, the members of the Defence Council of South America (CDS) will meet once again to determine their own decisions in the future of the Minsutah [sic] in Haiti.
The AP’s Ben Fox has a story today on hopes by various former members of the Haitian army (Forces Armée de Haiti, or FADH) that the next president will reconstitute the military force. Haiti has been without an army since President Aristide disbanded it in 1994 following the results of polling that showed 62 percent in favor of the move.
Describing men who “represent nothing more than an informal movement of Haitians eager to re-establish an army - an idea that unnerves Haitians who remember times darkened by military coups, oppression and abuse,” Fox notes that both presidential candidates seem to favor reviving the army, despite its record of human rights abuses:
Presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat, a university administrator and former first lady, says that if elected, she would favor the formation of a military to protect the security of the nation. But, she stressed, it would have to honor human rights.
"Nobody would like the armed forces as they existed before," she told The Associated Press. "There's no way the old practices could be renewed in Haiti."
Martelly, who in the past has suggested he could have dictatorial tendencies as president (abolishing congress and outlawing all strikes and demonstrations in a “Fujimori-style solution”), and who openly supported the coups against Aristide, wants the Haitian army to replace MINUSTAH, which itself has committed a variety of serious rights abuses since arriving in Haiti in 2004:
Her rival, former singer Michel "Sweet Mickey" Martelly, says a new national security force could include engineers and a medical corps to respond to natural disasters. He also would like to see Haitian troops replace the U.N. force, known by the acronym MINUSTAH, that has kept order since Aristide was deposed.
After world food prices rose to a record level in February, World Bank President Robert Zoellick commented that food prices have risen to “dangerous levels and threaten tens of millions of poor people”. The FAO warned that, “The low-income food deficit countries are on the front line of the current surge in world prices.” Haiti, which imports nearly 50 percent of its food, according to the WFP, could be especially vulnerable. Already in Haiti, an estimated 2.5-3.3 million people are food insecure. The combination of the earthquake, rising international prices, the cholera epidemic and the upcoming rainy season could push this already too large a number, even higher.
Although the effects of the rise in prices will be felt in the short term, the problem of food sovereignty is a long term one. Haiti was not always a food-deficit country; although it now imports over 80 percent of rice consumed, in 1988 it was closer to 50 percent. After the rice market was opened up, cheap imports from the US flooded the market, devastating local production capabilities and discouraging investment. Just last year, Bill Clinton publicly apologized for the policies saying, “It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake,” adding, “I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else.” Chief humanitarian officer of the UN John Holmes echoed this assessment, noting that, “A combination of food aid, but also cheap imports have ... resulted in a lack of investment in Haitian farming, and that has to be reversed.”
Despite these high profile endorsements for investment in agriculture, little has been done. The 2010 UN humanitarian appeal included nearly $60 million for the agricultural sector, yet despite the overall appeal being 75 percent funded, the agriculture sector was just 54 percent funded, a lower percent than 10 of the 13 sectors. In comparison to the $30 million in funding for agriculture, an astonishing $365 million was given for food aid, which predominantly comes in the form of foreign foodstuffs and has a negative effect on the productivity of local farmers. Proposals for food aid that would simultaneously give Haitian rice production a boost have been passed over so far. The UN launched a new funding drive for 2011 in December 2010 and is asking for an additional $43 million for agriculture. Thus far, only $500,000 has been funded. Despite the urgent need for investment in agriculture, which accounts for nearly 25 percent of Haiti’s GDP, the sector grew just 0.03 percent last year. It is clear that much more needs to be done to secure the investment that is needed for long term food security.
As we – unlike the major U.S. media – have noted in previous posts (here, here and here), an ongoing political scandal has emerged in Haiti following revelations that, contrary to statements by CEP spokesperson Richardson Dumel, only four of eight CEP members appear to have signed the official statement regarding the Council’s determinations regarding a second round. This would mean that, legally, the CEP did not actually reach an official decision, and that preparations for a second round of elections between two candidates are illegitimate.
In the wake of legal challenges against Dumel that would require him to prove the authenticity of the document he cited in making public pronouncements regarding the second round -- and following our February 9 blog post noting that the CEP had not by then posted anything on its website regarding the supposed decision on the runoff -- we noticed with surprise last week when the CEP actually did post a press release on its site affirming its decision regarding the second round. More surprising was that the statement was followed by the names of all eight CEP members, including the four "dissenters": Ginette Chérubin, Jean-Pierre Toussaint Thélève, Jacques Belzin, and Ribel Pierre.
As we have pointed out previously, the English language media has all but ignored the news that – as reported by Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste – four CEP members may never have signed the document affirming the Council’s decision regarding the second round of elections. Given the major media's neglect in covering this story, one could be forgiven for thinking that the second round is a foregone conclusion, however in Haiti the controversy is very much still alive.
Last week, according to L'Agence Haitien de Presse (AHP), two presidential candidates, Jean Henry Ceant and Yves Cristalin filed a legal challenge that would require Richardson Dumel (the CEP spokesperson) to prove the authenticity of the document he read with the final results on February 3. After failing to come to court, on Friday the police were sent to bring him in. According to AHP, however, he has yet to present the evidence that was asked of him.