HaitiHaiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch is a blog that tracks multinational aid efforts in Haiti with an eye towards ensuring they are oriented towards the needs of the Haitian people, and that aid is not used to undermine Haitians' right to self-determination.

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One week after the earthquake, as three million survivors anxiously awaited water and other aid while the U.S. prioritized getting security teams in place first, Secretary Clinton sent a cable – made available by Wikileaks through The Guardian - to all U.S. embassies instructing diplomats to “push back” against “distorted” media coverage of the U.S. response to the quake:

I am deeply concerned by instances of inaccurate and unfavorable international media coverage of America's role and intentions in Haiti. This misinformation threatens to undermine the international partnership needed to help the people of Haiti, and to damage our international engagement across the range of issues. It is imperative to get the narrative right over the long term. Where you see ill-informed or distorted perspectives in your host country media, I direct you as Chief of Mission to personally contact media organizations at the highest possible level - owners, publishers, or others, as appropriate - to push back and insist on informed and responsible coverage of our actions and intentions, and to underscore the U.S. partnership with the Government of Haiti, the United Nations, and the world community. It is important that you and other members of your Embassy team engage opinion-makers in setting the record straight on America's commitment to assist the Haitian people and government in recovering from this disaster.

There were very serious problems with the U.S. effort that were not merely “distorted perspectives” or “misinformation”, however. The cable is dated the same day that Doctors Without Borders reported that one of its "plane[s] carrying 12 tons of medical equipment, including drugs, surgical supplies and two dialysis machines, was turned away three times from Port-au-Prince airport” in two days. The U.S., in control of the airports, also turned away other planes carrying relief supplies to Port-au-Prince and Jacmel. A USA Today report that day stated that the U.S. had only airlifted 70,000 bottles of water into Port-au-Prince in the week since the earthquake. NGO’s engaged in the relief effort at the time said "Right now the U.S. is blocking aid.”

Last week the Associated Press reported, "Out of every $100 of U.S. contracts now paid out to rebuild Haiti, Haitian firms have successfully won $1.60". The AP focused on two of the largest contractors with USAID, Chemonics and DAI, two companies we had previously reported on. The AP article cites a USAID Inspector General (IG) report that showed that both Chemonics and DAI were hiring significantly fewer Haitians in the Cash-for-Work programs than what was originally thought. A closer look at the Inspector General report (PDF) finds that this was only one of many problems with these two companies.

First, it is important to highlight the distinction between Chemonics, DAI and other contractors providing Cash-for-Work (CFW) services.  There are a total of four contractors who are providing CFW programs in Haiti, two of them through USAID/Haiti and two through USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI). While USAID's website describes their role as the primary U.S. agency to "extend assistance to countries recovering from disaster, trying to escape poverty, and engaging in democratic reforms," the Office of Transition Initiatives has a more overtly political aspect.  OTI describes itself as supporting "U.S. foreign policy objectives by helping local partners advance peace and democracy in priority countries in crisis. Seizing critical windows of opportunity, OTI works on the ground to provide fast, flexible, short-term assistance targeted at key political transition and stabilization needs." USAID documents, examined by Haiti Grassroots Watch, also betray a political motive behind the CFW programs: they "decrease chances of unrest." In this way, they may have a similar function as past USAID/OTI programs such as OTI sponsorship of soccer games during the 2004-2006 post-coup regime that OTI saw as undermining support for Fanmi Lavalas and protests against the undemocratic government (and, we would add, the rampant human rights abuses it was perpetrating).

According to the USAID IG report, while the contractors under USAID/Haiti were relatively more successful, the OTI contractors (Chemonics and DAI) had numerous problems. Both DAI and Chemonics operate under an Indefinite Quantity Contract with USAID/OTI that allows them to bypass the traditional bidding process and begin operations on the ground quickly when an opportunity for engagement arises.

The Indefinite Quantity Contract with Chemonics provides some insight into the role that OTI plays in US foreign policy and in regards to foreign disaster assistance. The contract specifies the four "criteria for engagement":

·    Is the country important to U.S. national interests?
·    Is there a window of opportunity?
·    Can OTI's involvement significantly increase the chances of success?
·    Is the operating environment sufficiently stable?

The contract continues, going into more detail on each criterion. Under the first criterion, the contract states "OTI seeks to focus its resources where they will have the greatest impact on U.S. diplomatic and security interests." When assessing if there is a "window of opportunity", the contract states that "OTI cannot create a transition or impose democracy, but it can identify and support key individuals and groups who are committed to peaceful, participatory reform. In short, OTI acts as a catalyst for change where there is sufficient indigenous political will."

These ominous words should raise the eyebrows of anyone unfamiliar with OTI, an interventionist arm of USAID that has been used in democracies such as Venezuela (2002-present), and Bolivia (2004-2007). The U.S. government’s desire to promote “transition” in such democratic countries has aroused considerable controversy, and understandably: the above language frames OTI’s activities in terms of something short of a coup d’etat or other government destabilization (a “create[d] transition” or “impose[d] democracy”). This raises questions also regarding why the U.S. government feels an OTI presence is called for in Haiti.

CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot writes in The Guardian (UK):
The polarization of the debate around Wikileaks is pretty simple, really. Of all the governments in the world, the United States government is the greatest threat to world peace and security today. This is obvious to anyone who looks at the facts with a modicum of objectivity. The Iraq war has claimed hundreds of thousands, and most likely more than a million lives. It was completely unnecessary and unjustifiable, and based on lies. Now, Washington is moving toward a military confrontation with Iran.

As Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, pointed out in an interview recently, in the preparation for a war with Iran, we are at about the level of 1998 in the build-up to the Iraq war.

On this basis, even ignoring the tremendous harm that Washington causes to developing countries in such areas as economic development (through such institutions as the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization), or climate change, it is clear that any information which sheds light on U.S. “diplomacy” is more than useful. It has the potential to help save millions of human lives.

You either get this or you don’t. Brazil’s president Lula da Silva, who earned Washington’s displeasure last May when he tried to help defuse the confrontation with Iran, gets it.  That’s why he defended and declared his “solidarity” with embattled Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, even though the leaked cables were not pleasant reading for his own government.

One area of U.S. foreign policy that the Wikileaks cables help illuminate, which the major media has predictably ignored, is the occupation of Haiti.  In 2004 the country’s democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was overthrown for the second time, through an effort led by the United States government. Officials of the constitutional government were jailed and thousands of its supporters were killed.

An excellent Associated Press article by Martha Mendoza yesterday looks at how Haitian contractors have fared since the earthquake. The verdict: not so well at all. Beltway contractors on the other hand have made out extremely well. The AP report found that:
Out of every $100 of U.S. contracts now paid out to rebuild Haiti, Haitian firms have successfully won $1.60, The Associated Press has found in a review of contracts since the earthquake on Jan. 12. And the largest initial U.S. contractors hired fewer Haitians than planned.
The article focuses on the two largest recipient of post-earthquake contracts, Development Alternatives Inc.(DAI) and Chemonics, both based in the Washington, DC area. We first reported on these two organizations and the millions in contracts they had received back in February and March. Chemonics has past ties to one of the companies most responsible for the invasion of Miami Rice into Haiti in the 80s and 90s, while DAI has its own questionable past. We also questioned the disbursement of funds to a company that the Government Accountability Office and USAID Inspector General have found to have a poor track record of program implementation. In addition to the Cash-for-Work programs that Chemonics is implementing in Haiti, they have also received agricultural aid contracts. Yet this is the same area for which they have come under scrutiny in Afghanistan. As we wrote in March:
Chemonics has been tapped by USAID in Afghanistan as well, in an effort to improve the agricultural sector. Chemonics received a $153 million contract in 2003.

In 2005 the Government Accountability Office found that Chemonics had failed to "address a key program objective", and that "consequently, during its first 15 months, the project`s progress in strengthening Afghanistan`s market chain was limited."

Despite this, Chemonics received a contract in 2006 for $102 million. Once again, the USAID Inspector General found significant problems with the program:
Chemonics reported results for all eight indicators for the first year of the program. However, the audit identified that for two of the eight indicators, reported results fell considerably short of intended results. Targets had not been established for the other six indicators making it difficult to tell how well the project was proceeding. In addition, Chemonics did not have documentation to adequately support reported results for six indicators. In two of the six cases, the support was inadequate, while in four cases there was no support at all. For example, Chemonics had inadequate support for the reported result that 1,719 individuals had received short-term agricultural training, and no support for the reported result that project activities had generated an economic value in excess of $59 million. In addition, the audit found that a major program activity—the Mazar foods initiative—was behind schedule. This $40 million initiative to cultivate 10,000 hectares for a commercial farm was not finalized in time to take advantage of the summer planting season as initially planned.

Last night the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced preliminary results from last Sunday's flawed elections. The results: Mirlande Manigat, and President Rene Preval's hand-picked successor, Jude Celestin, would compete in a run-off election scheduled for January. Finishing in third place was Michel Martelly, just 6,800 votes - or less than one percentage point - behind Celestin. The United States Embassy was quick to offer a response:
Like others, the Government of the United States is concerned by the Provisional Electoral Council’s announcement of preliminary results from the November 28 national elections that are inconsistent with the published results of the National Election Observation Council (CNO), which had more than 5,500 observers and observed the vote count in 1,600 voting centers nationwide, election-day observations by official U.S. observers accredited by the CEP, and vote counts observed around the country by numerous domestic and international observers.
The National Election Observation Council, whose observations from election day can be seen here, announced their own preliminary results yesterday. According to the CNO, based on a sample of 15 percent of polling stations, Manigat and Martelly would reach the second round, with Celestin falling short.

Demonstrations have been ongoing since the announcement last night, and many news reports have been focusing on the election day fraud and apparent manipulation of results by the CEP, however few have noted that these elections were not free nor fair even before election day. Writing in the New York Daily News, Beatrice Lindstrom notes that:
The Election Day irregularities are just the latest in a long line of actions by the CEP to maximize the ruling party's electoral success by excluding popular opponents and reducing voter participation. The CEP rejected 15 political parties from participating in the election's parliamentary races, and efforts to re-register displaced voters were inconsistent.

In light of these problems, political parties, human rights groups and Haitian voters warned that these elections would be a sham. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and 44 other members of Congress expressed grave concern, and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) warned that the "absence of democratically elected successors could potentially plunge the country into chaos."

Haitian voters deserve better. It is not too late for the Joint Mission to condemn the flawed process and call for new, fair elections. It is critical that it does so. Truly democratic elections are a prerequisite to ensuring peace and stability through the difficult rebuilding process that lies ahead.

As MINUSTAH attempts to blackmail Haiti’s political parties, candidates, and wider population into accepting the soon-to-be-announced results of November 28’s deeply flawed elections, secret State Department communications recently revealed by Wikileaks reveal further waning support for the UN mission among participating countries – including Brazil.

We previously noted that Wikileaked documents suggest that Brazil’s leadership of MINUSTAH lacks domestic support and that Brazil maintains that position in order to prove its worth for a possible seat on the UN Security Council. Another document from January 2009, available here, goes further, suggesting that the Brazilian Army itself has “frustration with the lack of an exit strategy in Haiti.” And another newly released cable from a year ago states (Hat tip, again, to Ansel Herz):

Less obviously, Brazil remains uncomfortable in its leadership on MINUSTAH. To the constant refrain of ‘we cannot continue this indefinitely,’ Brazil has been increasingly insistent that international efforts to promote security must go hand in hand with commitments to economic and social development-a theme it will take to the UNSC in January.

The document also notes Brazil’s goal regarding the UNSC:

Brazil's top foreign policy priority remains obtaining a seat on the UN Security Council and, as it takes its place in January as a non-permanent UNSC member for the tenth time, it is aware that its actions will be closely watched.

It started early Sunday morning. Polling stations were late to open, voters were not finding their names on the lists, and general confusion reigned. In Corail, the "model" IDP camp, only 39 people were registered out of a camp population of thousands. The voting center was closed soon after it opened. Despite the chaotic scene on the ground, the head of MINUSTAH, Edmond Mulet offered his rosy view that "In general everything is going well, everything is peaceful," adding that "MINUSTAH is here. There is no reason to be frightened. It's an electoral celebration."

But soon after, to the surprise of many, 12 of the 18 presidential candidates, from all sides of the political spectrum, held a press conference denouncing fraud and calling for the annullment of the elections. As Reuters described it on election day, "The repudiation of the elections dealt a blow to the credibility of the U.N.-supported poll."

Yet the next morning, two of the leading candidates going into the election, Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly both walked back considerably from their previous position. Many news accounts have credited the about-face to the candidates likely ascension to the second round of voting, but Reuters provides a possible alternative motive:
But after 24 hours of intense pressure from UN officials and other foreign diplomats, two presidential front-runners, opposition matriarch Mirlande Manigat and popular musician Michel Martelly backed down and said they wanted the vote to be counted, saying they expected to be the election race leaders.

Much has been made of the preliminary observation report from the OAS-CARICOM joint observation mission, yet very little attention has been paid to reports from national electoral monitors. While the OAS mission had just 120 observers, national observers from six organizations numbered around 6,000. The national observers had previously warned the OAS about the potential for fraud, and even participated in an OAS event to brief the "Group of Friends of Haiti" on the upcoming election. The national observers released the following statement the day after the election, as translated by Haiti Libre:
The signatory institutions of the present deplore the disastrous way in which the legislative and presidential elections was held this November 28, 2010. Many citizens have lost their lives or were seriously injured. Parallel ballots were smuggled in the circuit, polling stations were ransacked or burned, regular ballots have been washed away or torn. Many polling stations were closed so early without the minutes. A wind of revolt and rebellion blew within ten departments. Thirteen presidential candidates have sought the annulment of the elections. Rather than end in the serene recount of ballot boxes, the day ended in protests and clashes in the streets.

CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot writes in The Guardian (UK):
The “election” in Haiti shows once again how low Washington’s standards are for democracy in countries that they want to control politically. And there is no doubt who is in charge there. There is a government, to be sure, but since the elected government in 2004 was overthrown, and even more since the earthquake, it is the “international community” that calls the shots – Hillary Clinton’s code for the U.S. State Department.

The election was a farce to begin with, once the non-independent CEP (Provisional Electoral Council) decided to exclude the country’s largest political party from participating – along with other parties. Fanmi Lavalas is the party of Haiti’s most popular political leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. It has won every election that it has contested. Aristide himself remains in exile – unable to return since the U.S.-sponsored overthrow of his government in 2004.

Imagine holding an election in the United States with both the Democratic and Republican parties prohibited from participating. If we look at other troubled elections in the world – Iran in 2009, or Afghanistan more recently – Haiti’s is even less legitimate. It is perhaps most comparable to the recent election in Burma.

A newly-available State Department cable leaked by Wikileaks supports what many critics of MINUSTAH have long alleged: that Brazil maintains its leadership of the mission out of political motives – in particular, to prove its worthiness for a seat on the UN Security Council. The document, from March 2008, also reveals that State Department officials acknowledged that there is very little public support for Brazil’s role in MINUSTAH back home in Brazil [Hat tip: Ansel Herz]:

7. (C) Brazil has stayed the course as leader of MINUSTAH in Haiti despite a lack of domestic support for the PKO. The MRE has remained committed to the initiative because it believes that the operation serves FM Amorim's obsessive international goal of qualifying Brazil for a seat on the UN Security Council. The Brazilian military remains committed as well, because the mission enhances its international prestige and provides training and operational opportunities. So far, President Lula has backed the Foreign Ministry's position, and Brazil will likely continue to provide leadership and troops to MINUSTAH for the conceivable future. Despite the success of the MINUSTAH deployment, Brazil has not shown any interest in undertaking further peacekeeping operations, although Brazilian contributions to UN operations in such places as Darfur have been requested.

[Glossary: PKO = Peace Keeping Operation; MRE = Ministry of External Relations; FM = Foreign Minister]

After cancelling a press conference set for Sunday evening, the OAS-CARICOM Joint Observation Mission announced their preliminary findings yesterday. There was a long list of irregularities on election day that echoed numerous media reports and what was witnessed by foreign observers, such as CEPR's Alex Main, including:
- late opening of Polling Stations

- inability of many voters to find the correct Voting Centre and/or Polling Station;

- inability of voters to find their names on the electoral registers posted up outside the Polling Stations;

- saturation of the call centres overwhelmed by callers seeking where to vote;

- instances of incorrect application of voting procedures ( the signing of the ballots by BV Presidents before the arrival of the voter);

- instances of voter manipulation – repeat voting of some voters facilitated by complicit poll workers and unidentified party agents;

- the lack of control of already limited voting space by the poll workers , as well as the indiscipline of many mandataires, led to clogged polling stations where control of the process became tenuous and facilitated misconduct.
The mission also noted that "There were also deliberate acts of violence and intimidation to derail the electoral process both in Port-au-Prince and the provinces." Yet despite this, the mission reached the conclusion that "the Joint Mission does not believe that these irregularities, serious as they were, necessarily invalidated the process."

A full day after polls closed in Haiti, MINUSTAH issued a statement describing its account of what happened yesterday. For the first time, the organization acknowledges some of the more serious irregularities in the vote [Google translation]:
If everyone wants to use the power of the polls, very few of them succeed. Because their name is not on the electoral register. "I have my card, I can not vote. Yet it is in this camp that I had signed up, "says one voter, visibly angry. A similar situation in the camp Jean-Marie Vincent had resulted in an early event and widespread panic despite a very noticeable presence of the Haiti National Police (HNP) and MINUSTAH peacekeepers.
The statement goes on to acknowledge other problems, and to cite presidential candidates’ condemnation of the elections and protests and “unrest” by thousands of Haitians. But it also falls far short of acknowledging the scale of the problems that beset yesterday’s vote, and cites CEP head Gaillot Dorsinvil downplaying the instances of irregularities.

CEPR’s statement, citing Co-Director Mark Weisbrot’s calling for the international community to reject Haiti’s flawed elections, and describing the numerous irregularities that CEPR’s Alex Main witnessed and others that were reported in the press, has been cited in numerous media reports today. The Miami Herald, BBC, Reuters, AFP, Radio France, and Deutsche Welle are among the outlets reporting on it, and it has received a good deal of attention in Brazilian and other Latin American media as well. Alex, Mark and other CEPR staff have been doing interviews today on the situation in Haiti with a number of radio, TV, and press outlets – you can listen, e.g. to Alex’s interview with WBAI’s Wake Up Call this morning here (Alex joins the program at 33:40).
Official election observers from the OAS and CARICOM are staying quiet on their assessment on the elections, but others are beginning to express their concern over the numerous serious problems that affected yesterday’s vote. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) – soon expected to head the House Foreign Affairs Committee -- issued a statement today saying:
I am deeply concerned about and deeply regret reports of serious irregularities in today's elections in Haiti. They must be investigated immediately and steps taken to correct this wrong perpetrated against the democratic aspirations of the Haitian people.
Meanwhile Haiti Libre is reporting that a total of 15 presidential candidates are now calling for the election results to be annulled, with Génard Joseph (Groupement Solidarité), Yves Cristalin (Oganizasyon Lavni -LAVNI) and Yvon Neptune (Ayisyen Pou Ayiti) endorsing the sentiments of the previous 12 candidates. Various media reports have noted that annulment is favored by “all of the major contenders but one: Jude Celestin, who is backed by the Unity party of President Rene Preval.” 

Today, Haiti heads to the polls and CEPR's Alex Main, who has been in Haiti all week with delegates from the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, TransAfrica Forum, and other organizations, will be providing reports throughout the day. The delegates are observing events surrounding the elections, including the police and UN response to any protests, possible voter boycotts, voter access and participation levels. This space will be updated throughout the day with on the ground reports so please check back frequently, or follow Relief and Reconstruction Watch on Twitter.

UPDATE 11:07 PM: The Los Angeles Times' Joe Mozingo reports:

The electoral observation mission headed by the Organization of American States and Caribbean Community postponed a news conference it had scheduled in the afternoon. Colin Granderson, the chief of the observer mission, said it was still analyzing information from observers and would make a statement Monday.

One OAS official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak, said observers were called back in the middle of the day due to security concerns.

UPDATE 10:52 PM: AP is reporting signs of concern from the international community:

The United Nations said that it "and the international community expressed their deep concern at the numerous incidents that marred the elections." The chief OAS/Caribbean Community observer, Colin Granderson, added that observers were "in the process of evaluating and analyzing the information gathered on the conduct of the vote."

UPDATE 10:49 PM: Deutsche Presse Agentur reports:

It was not clear how many of the 4.7 million eligible voters were able to cast their ballots, given that many hadn't received their identification cards, which were lost in the earthquake.

'These are the worst elections I have ever seen,' an international observer told dpa.

DPA also reports:

One foreign journalist said he saw the head of a polling station open ballots before placing them in the ballot box in the Cite Soleil neighbourhood.

If the ballot was not in favour of the party preferred by the woman, she tore it up, the journalist claimed.

UPDATE 9:13 PM: The Globe and Mail reports on the political conflict between the 12 presidential candidates and thousands of frustrated Haitians, on the one hand, and the CEP, on the other:

“The CEP is comfortable with the vote,” council president Gaillot Dorsainvil said, deepening the standoff between the government and its opposition, a rivalry that was magnified in the streets of the capital.

The Globe and Mail also quotes IJDH's Brian Concannon on what could be done to rectify the situation:

“They could appoint a new electoral council, reopen registration for candidates and hold another election in four or five months,” Mr. Concannon said. “It would be expensive but we are essentially financing this election and we want it to be a good election.”

UPDATE 6:44 PM: The Financial Times' Benedict Mander has a new article citing Alex on an incident of a voting center trashing in Carrefour, and on voter turn-out. The article, headlined "Haiti poll denounced as ‘massive fraud’", also includes this comment from the OAS:

“We’re looking at the best elections possible under the circumstances,” Albert Ramdin, Organisation of American States assistant secretary-general, who is in Haiti to monitor the elections, told The Associated Press. “We know that the [voter] list is not complete. We know that the list is inflated. We know that much more needed to be done to be on time in terms of training of polling station workers.”

UPDATE 6:25 PM: Don't go to USAID's Twitter page if you're looking for information on any of the numerous and widely reported irregularities, protests, or violence today, or the exclusion of political parties, or calls for election cancellation by 12 of the presidential candidates. If, however, you want to see photos of what appears to be a well-organized, orderly, and calm process, USAID has that, as well as information on how USAID "is spending $14 million to support elections in Haiti today."

UPDATE 5:43 PM: Reuters' Joseph Guyler Delva and Pascal Fletcher are reporting that at least two people were killed in election-related violence today, and a polling station "trashed" by would-be voters who did not find their names on the voter lists. Reuters:

Voters' frustration at not being able to cast their ballots due to organizational problems at many polling stations in the capital Port-au-Prince boiled over into street protests.
...

One protest of several thousand people in the Petionville district was led by Martelly, joined by Haitian-American hip-hop star Wyclef Jean, who was barred from standing in the presidential race by electoral officials in August.

Presidential candidate Charles Henri Baker also joined Martelly and Wyclef in the march - see a photo here.

UPDATE 4:55 PM:
The New York Times' latest - Damien Cave and Randal C. Archibold report:

Citing what they said was an effort by the party of President Rene Preval to stuff ballot boxes and turn away voters who did not support Mr. Preval’s chosen candidate, the [presidential] candidates called for protests if the election was not canceled.

“This is an earthquake of an election,” said Leslie Voltaire, one of the candidates. “This will divide the country, not unite it.”

UPDATE 3:41 PM: AP's Jonathan Katz and Ben Fox have more details on the presidential candidates' press conference today, video of which is available here. AP reports:

Nearly all the major candidates in Haiti's presidential election called for Sunday's election to be voided amid allegations of fraud and reports that large numbers of voters were turned away from polling stations throughout the quake-stricken country.

Twelve of the 19 candidates endorsed a joint statement denouncing the voting as fraudulent and calling on their supporters to show their anger with demonstrations against the government and the country's Provisional Electoral Council.

The statement included all of the major contenders but one: Jude Celestin, who is backed by the Unity party of President Rene Preval.

UPDATE 2:16 PM: Reuters reports that "twelve out of the 18 presidential candidates in Haiti’s elections on Sunday demanded the vote be canceled, alleging widespread fraud." Reuters notes that this is a "serious blow to the credibility of the United Nations-supported elections."

UPDATE 1:54 PM:
[Alex had reported to us just before 2:00pm] Waney 93, Carrefour: cops swinging pistols around in front of center as we arrive. Very tense atmosphere. People out in front tell us that a group of unidentified thugs entered the center and kicked and crushed ballot boxes and wreaked general havoc. They appear to have left but the police think there may still be some thugs inside and prevent us from entering.

UPDATE 1:28 PM:
CBC is reporting more details on the presidential candidates' press conference this afternoon "to denounce 'massive fraud happening all over the country,' according to the Martelly camp." Along with Michel Joseph Martelly, Mirlande Manigat, Charles-Henri Baker and Jean Henry Ceant are expected to take part. CBC reports:

Most polls opened an hour or more after their 6 a.m. start time. Confusion reigned at many: Observers from dozens of parties crowded voting areas and furious voters were turned away from stations where poll workers could not find their names on lists.

UPDATE 1:11 PM: In Carrefour, close to epicenter of earthquake, at voting center located at Ecole Nationale de Merger. Everything is calm here though we are told that participation is fairly low. No big complaints from any of the political party election witnesses. Talk to group that's sitting in the shade and they say that they've voted. But they know many people who came to vote but didn't find their names on the official list and headed back home. I ask a young man why he's decided to vote and, like many other voters I talk to, he says: so that things change.  Back in car we hear that some of the presidential candidates are about to hold a press conf and announce that, because of massive fraud, elections need to be annulled.

UPDATE 12:59 PM:
Jacqueline Charles, of the Miami Herald, just Tweeted that presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat is calling for the elections to be annulled.

UPDATE 12:58 PM: Agence France Presse reports on MINUSTAH head Edmund Mulet’s rosy view of the elections so far:

"In general everything is going well, everything is peaceful," Mulet, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSTAH which is helping to police the elections, told AFP.

"I see a great passion of citizens and from citizens for democracy in this country. MINUSTAH is here. There is no reason to be frightened. It's an electoral celebration," Mulet said.

"The decision of the people will be respected. There are some small administrative problems, but no big problem that is going to reduce participation."

AFP reports, however, that

Mulet said there had been some "minor incidents" in the northern city of Desdunes.

The mayor there, Wesner Archelus, a member of an opposition party, described a hostage-taking incident which left several people injured and caused him to take refuge in a police station.

"There was shooting all night. Clashes erupted in a voting station where an election monitor from the ruling party was briefly taken hostage," he told AFP.

And the Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles just Tweeted: “At least one person killed, maybe 3 so far in #haiti #election day violence.”

News articles report widespread voter ID card problems, late openings of polling stations, and other challenges similar to what we’ve already posted today. The New York Times’ Randal C. Archibold writes:

People waited in long lines on Saturday to pick up new or replacement identification cards, and many people said they had already endured a confusing odyssey to apply for them.

As one office in the Pétionville neighborhood closed at the designated hour, people still in line screamed in anger and disbelief. Workers tossed away several receipts that had been turned in to pick up the cards and carted away boxes of cards they had failed to give out.

The Times also noted that the U.S. Ambassador admitted some serious problems with the electoral process yesterday:

“You have people who are registered to vote in their old neighborhoods but living somewhere else,” the ambassador, Kenneth H. Merten, said in an interview on Saturday. “I’m not sure that all of them know where they have to go. We will see tomorrow.”

“They have been doing what they can, but I am not sure that it is enough,” Mr. Merten said of the government.

Reuters reported this morning:

At the Alexandre Petion high school in Port-au-Prince, electoral workers were still arranging the desks and urns half an hour after polls were officially due to open at 6 a.m. . The voters list and ballot papers had not yet arrived, the workers said.

At another station without electricity guarded by Brazilian U.N. peacekeepers beside the Champs de Mars earthquake survivors’ camp in the city center, poll officials had used their mobile phone lights as they rushed to prepare the center in the early morning darkness.

Long past the official opening time, a small group of young voters waited patiently outside, far outnumbered by electoral officials, party observers and U.N. troops.

And the Miami Herald’s Charles described incidents yesterday including:

In the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville, government workers walked out at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, leaving dozens of disgruntled voters at the window with no cards.

Earlier in the day, frustrated voters took to the streets in Cap-Haitien, marching from the local Office of National Identification to the mayor's office after they were unable to get their cards.

UPDATE 12:12 PM: Ecole nationale de Thor in Kafou: fairly quiet. 50 or so ballots in boxes except one that appears to be stuffed. Some folks who aren't on lists.

UPDATE 11:45 AM: Just visited Licee Henri Christophe in Dikuini 63: again big groups of disgruntled voters that aren't on the lists and waiting, it seems, for CEP to announce measure allowing them to vote. Also, another phenomenon: big group of mandataires that say they're not on lists in this center but should be allowed to vote in bureau where they are observing. Most seem to be from Ansamn Nou Fo and a "leader" has provided many of them with meals (spaghetti) and beverages. They are also just waiting outside (rather than observing bureaux). In most bureaux there is no voter activity and people who couldn't find names on lists just waiting in front.

UPDATE 11:30 AM: Partners relaying reports of early morning violence in Desdunes in Artibonite Valley. Shots fired in the air to disperse lines of voters; some were injured including the mayor after confrontations between parties.

UPDATE 11:07 AM: Greeted by group of potential voters as we enter Alta Kindergarten but it turns out they are not on the lists. INITE controls the polling center and witnesses from other parties complain that they have been unable to vote and accuse INITE witnesses of voting several times. Big argument breaks out in front of a polling station where an apparently illiterate voter is "helped" in filling out ballot by a member of the bureau. The police intervene.

UPDATE 10:50 AM: Just left Ecole George Washington. There was a big fight going on in front. Some said it was INITE vs. Cean supporters; others said it was INITE vs. everyone else. Eventually the cops showed up and cocked their shotguns; people started running, cops arressted a guy and took him away. The fighting continues and many folks outside say they're not on the voter lists. I Managed to get inside eventually, but there were hardly any voters. Mandataires [party witnesses] tell us that there's been major fraud and that bureaux [polling location] should be closed. We are told that militants from INITE have been showing up with fake mandataire cards in order to take place of mandataires from other parties and that the police have arrested four false mandataires here.

UPDATE 10:45 AM: Numerous reports of people not being able to vote because they were not on voting lists. In Corail, voting was stopped. Many people wanted to vote, but only 39 people were registered.


The following is the fourth installment of Alex Main's triplog from Haiti, click here for the first, here for the second, or here for the third:

Today, elections are being held in Haiti.  The country’s electoral authority, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP by its French initials), has approved 19 presidential candidacies and 950 legislative candidacies.  Though this may seem like a lot, a number of other candidates were barred from running by the CEP without real justification, including the list of parliamentary candidates presented by Haiti’s largest political party, Fanmi Lavalas. 

The U.S. and Organization of American States (OAS) criticized the unwarranted exclusion of Fanmi Lavalas from the 2009 legislative elections, though they still ended up endorsing the election results.  This time around, neither the U.S., nor OAS, nor any other major international actor has denounced the CEP’s decision to exclude candidates, though U.S. members of Congress and a number of civil society organizations have done so.   

Leading up to the elections on Sunday we will be posting commentary from CEPR's Alex Main, who is in Haiti this week. The following is the third installment, click here for the first or here for the second:

After a heavy dose of meetings with foreign aid workers at the UN Log base we decide that it’s time that we heard from some of the Haitians most affected by the January 12 earthquake.  Over two days we visit a few of the tent and tarp camps around Port-au-Prince that are now home to nearly a million and a half individuals who lost their homes during the quake. Everywhere we go we ask camp dwellers – referred to in a clinical manner by the international aid community as internally displaced people, or IDPs – what they think of the elections, the cholera epidemic and the general situation of their country following the earthquake. 

Chanmas 

Located in the heart of downtown Port-au-Prince in the Chanmas public park, this camp lodges hundreds of families that lost their homes in the nearby neighborhoods of Kafou Fey and Fò Nasyonal which were hit particularly hard by the earthquake.  As is frequently the case with most of the camps throughout the city, Chanmas is an informal camp; in other words, the Haitian government never authorized the use of the site for temporary shelter.  According to camp dwellers and outside witnesses, Haitian authorities, with the backing of MINUSTAH and the Haitian police, have done everything they can to discourage people from staying by restricting aid and intimidating residents.  But for many of those who set up camp here in the days following the earthquake there was no other available space in the area and, to this day, there is nowhere else for them to go.  And so, despite the discomfort, hostility and lack of basic services they have for the most part stayed put.

Leading up to the elections on Sunday we will be posting updates and commentary from CEPR's Alex Main, who is in Haiti this week. The following is the second installment, click here for the first:

Every Tuesday morning at the UN Log base representatives of international agencies and relief organizations involved in post-quake relief operations meet in “cluster” meetings, where they share news regarding their various projects and discuss ways in which to coordinate and improve delivery of humanitarian assistance on the ground.  If there’s any place that can be considered the strategic hub of the relief effort, this is it.  We arrive at the base at 8am eager to learn more about how organizations are responding to the cholera crisis and what is being done, if anything, in relation to the November 28 legislative and presidential elections.  

At the UN General Assembly discussion on Haiti next Friday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in keeping with past practice, is likely to heap praise on MINUSTAH and the elections process. As we noted yesterday, MINUSTAH’s position on the rigged nature of the elections through party exclusion is to pretend there is no controversy: “Mulet said there have been no allegations of government manipulation of the campaign or any other wrongdoing,"  Bloomberg's Bill Varner reported yesterday. Voter access and registration? Miraculously, close the entire eligible voting population has already registered, disease outbreaks, homelessness, and other obstacles be damned.

Since MINUSTAH is doing such an amazing job at fulfilling their mission, perhaps it’s time to ask: when is MINUSTAH going to leave? Bob Naiman at Just Foreign Policy proposes that it’s time for a timetable for MINUSTAH’s withdrawal, and some foreign leaders are also calling for the UN troops to leave Haiti.

Naiman writes:
Haitian protesters have been chanting: "MINUSTAH go home," MINUSTAH being the name of the UN force.

Why do UN troops remain in Haiti? What are their plans for leaving? Is there a timetable for the withdrawal of UN forces from Haiti? If not, why not?

If the demands by Haitian protesters for UN forces to leave are not just, shouldn't someone have to explain why? No explanation is being given for why UN troops should remain in Haiti indefinitely.

The UN General Assembly is set to have a post-elections discussion on Haiti on December 3. No doubt the UN will again urge the international community to contribute to its emergency fund to fight cholera – an appeal that has largely fallen on deaf ears. As CBC reported yesterday:
Deaths from the cholera epidemic in Haiti could rise above 10,000 if help doesn't quicken, but bureaucracy is slowing aid down, says a Canadian who heads the United Nations humanitarian efforts in the Caribbean country.

"All the conditions for a massive cholera epidemic are present in Haiti," Nigel Fisher told CBC News. "It is exploding."

The United Nations puts the reported cholera death toll at 1,344, but says experts believe the tally could be as high as 2,000. Though official numbers state about 50,000 Haitians have been stricken by the disease, Fisher believes the true number could be closer to 70,000.

"If we don't move — we, the whole community and national counterparts — don't accelerate the process, we could see deaths going above 10,000 or so."

While additional funds are necessary to combat the outbreak, Fisher said the key to tackling the treatable disease are setting up more treatment centres and moving resources from future projects and reconstruction to cholera.

"This today is the most urgent crisis Haiti is facing," he said. "Put the resources in now. Let's worry about next year next year."

CORRECTION: Please note that the last paragraph of this post originally mistakenly referred to CRS when it should have referred to the American Red Cross. We apologize for the error, and have corrected the information below.

Leading up to the elections on Sunday we will be posting updates and commentary from CEPR's Alex Main, who is in Haiti this week. The following is the first installment:


It is a sunny Monday afternoon in Port-au-Prince and we are bouncing through a maze of small streets in a bruised Daihatsu SUV.  Since rubble continues to clog many of the main arteries of the city, we are taking bumpy, unpaved backroads through dusty neighborhoods rendered temporarily colorful by the multitude of campaign posters and signs that plaster nearly every available wall.  Everywhere we turn we see the faces and broad smiles of legislative and presidential candidates like popular compa musician Michel “Sweet Micky” Martely, the pearly white businessman – and 2004 coup supporter – Charles Baker and, most of all, public works minister Jude Celestin, the INITE party candidate endorsed by outgoing president Preval, among others.  Nearly as ubiquitous are tent camps clinging to hills or lining the roadway, bursting with thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) made homeless by the January 12 earthquake, or tranbleman deté in Haitian Creole.  Along with frequent piles of rubble mixed with layers of trash, these camps are a constant reminder of the quake’s tragic aftermath and the glaring failure of both Haiti’s authorities and well-endowed relief organizations to respond effectively to the human and material devastation. 

We are here – a small group of us from the Washington NGO and think tank community – to get a better picture of the situation in Haiti and, in particular, of the electoral process that will unfold on November 26th.  As Haitians struggle to cope with the quake’s aftermath as well as the recent onset of a major cholera epidemic that has already killed at least 1400, they are also being called on to participate in legislative and presidential elections that many observers consider to be unfair and uninclusive.   Our goal is to meet with representatives of a wide array of sectors – from the burgeoning grassroots movements in IDP camps to international organizations tasked with administering the multibillion dollar relief and reconstruction efforts – and try to assess the potential impact of these elections and why, over ten months after the earthquake, the human emergency in Haiti seems to be worsening.


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