Haiti: 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.
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.
article 122.2 of the Electoral Law states that “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”. The candidates have the responsibility to inform their supporters about this stipulation and warn them not to wear any clothes or carry any visible signs that indicate their political preferences on Election Day.
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."
On the other hand, here are some comments from the CEP, MINUSTAH, and France:
CEP: "Haiti's top electoral officer, Gaillot Dorsinvil, hailed what he called the large turnout of voters in the first presidential run-off vote in the Caribbean nation"
MINUSTAH:AFP quotes Edmond Mulet, head of MINUSTAH, as saying, "I've seen a lot of differences compared to November 28. Participation is greater."
France: "The second round of elections in Haiti took place in a satisfactory manner” and “the mobilisation of a large number of voters, which resulted in an increase in participation is a success” said foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero.
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.
Although much of the recent press coverage of Haiti has focused on the election, there remain serious humanitarian concerns that have yet to be adequately addressed. A cholera epidemic continues to spread across Haiti, now accounting for some 4,000 deaths. Meanwhile, according to the International Organization of Migration (IOM), some 800,000 people remain in tarpaulin camps. Let Haiti Live reported in January that the 800,000 number was actually overly optimistic, writing:
The decrease in camps or spontaneous settlements of homeless earthquake survivors in reality reflects a very sad fact. Despite humanitarian efforts, an entire year and billions of dollars spent, many Haitians still find camps unsuitable for life. Despite the humanitarian efforts and the international attention, Haitians would rather displace themselves again than stay in camps that are ostensibly receiving services from the humanitarian community. The only way a second displacement can be considered a success is perhaps because it releases the IOM of its responsibility for the livelihoods and living conditions of the estimated 700,000 former camp residents.
Over the weekend, IOM tempered their success, reporting that:
"Hundreds of thousands of Haitians are likely still to be living in displacement camps by the end of 2011," Luca Dall'Oglio, IOM Haiti's Chief of Mission warned.
Numbers of displaced people living in camps had fallen from an estimated high of 1.5 million in July 2010 to 810,000 in January 2011. However, after a year of storms, cholera and political unrest, those remaining in camps are the most vulnerable of Haiti's earthquake victims, with no alternative but to stay where they are.
"Furthermore, many of those who have already left camps may not have found a lasting housing solution, living instead with friends and family, or in tents in their neighbourhoods," Dall'Oglio added.
It seems the IOM is finally acknowledging that a reduction in the IDP population alone is not a true indicator of success. Yet despite the dire situation, IOM points out that:
The warning comes as many partner agencies of IOM working on camp management are phasing out their operations. Facing increasing cost constraints and funding shortfalls, their departure is leading to a growing gap in capacity to provide services for those remaining in camps.
“I am pleased that my colleagues agreed to conduct oversight over the dire economic situation facing the people of Haiti and the efforts of international donors to rebuild the country. Unfortunately, one year after Haiti’s tragic earthquake, the country is still devastated. More than 800,000 displaced people are still living in tent camps, and the conditions in many of these camps are appalling. A cholera epidemic has spread across the country. Mountains of rubble are piled in the streets, and there is a critical need for food, clean water and sanitation facilities. Meanwhile, little if any of the money that was pledged by international donors has reached the people of Haiti,”
The release notes further that
Following last year’s earthquake, an international donors’ conference was convened to raise funds for Haiti’s reconstruction. World governments and international organizations pledged $9 billion to rebuild Haiti. The World Bank pledged $399 million, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) pledged $170 million, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) pledged $2.2 billion. Within the House of Representatives, the Financial Services Committee has oversight responsibilities over the IMF, the World Bank, and the IDB.
“Effective oversight is critical if the billions pledged by the IMF, the World Bank and other international donors are to be disbursed in a timely manner and used effectively to improve the lives of the Haitian people,” said Congresswoman Waters.
Please note the figures listed here on political violence, as there has been a lot of misreporting on this in the press. He writes, in the longer, online version:
In 1915, the US Marines invaded Haiti, occupying the country until 1934. US officials rewrote the Haitian constitution, and when the Haitian national assembly refused to ratify it, they dissolved the assembly. They then held a "referendum" in which about 5% of the electorate voted and approved the new constitution – which conveniently changed Haitian law to allow foreigners to own land – with 99.9% voting for approval.
The situation today is remarkably similar. The country is occupied, and although the occupying troops wear blue helmets, everyone knows that Washington calls the shots. On 28 November an election was held in which the country's most popular political party was excluded; but still the results of the first round of the election were not quite right. The OAS – under direction from Washington – then changed the results to eliminate the government's candidate from the second round. To force the government to accept the OAS rewrite of the results, Haiti was threatened with a cutoff of aid flows – and, according to multiple sources, President Préval was threatened with being forcibly flown out of the country – as happened to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004.
Save for a few brief mentions (New York Times, Associated Press), the major 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. This is despite the fact that one of the four, Ginette Chérubin, released a public statement to the media (available here in English and here in French), and that she revealed – with his permission – that CEP Vice President Jean-Pierre Toussaint Thélève did not sign either. Le Nouvelliste reported that the two other CEP members who did not sign were Treasurer Jacques Belzin and member Ribel Pierre.
As we noted on Monday, the implications of this are far from trivial. In the opinions of some legal experts, such as the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, the even split within the CEP would mean that there was in fact no decision taken. As IJDH notes
Article 8 of the CEP’s bylaws requires that the Council’s decisions be made by an “absolute majority of its members.” Therefore, a valid decision regarding the run-off would require five votes.
It appears that the only basis for earlier reports of a CEP “decision” on a second round was the Thursday morning statement by CEP spokesperson Richardson Dumel. It is unclear why the words of a CEP member such as Chérubin should not be given, if not equal weight to Dumel’s, more serious consideration in the media than to be reported as mere hearsay. Since Chérubin identified Toussaint Thélève as another who did not sign, presumably the press could contact him for more information – not to mention Jacques Belzin and Ribel Pierre, to confirm the reports that they are the other non-signers.
Despite the announcement last week by CEP spokesperson Richardson Dumel, numerous media reports, and laudatory statements from by the United States, France and other foreign governments, it now appears that the CEP did not in fact make a decision as to which Haitian presidential candidates should proceed to the runoff election. As the New York Times reported yesterday:
At least one of the eight C.E.P. members, Ginette Chérubin, also sent a letter to Haitian news outlets this week saying she and three of her colleagues did not sign on to the decision adding Mr. Martelly to the runoff, casting further doubt on its legitimacy.
But if what Chérubin says is true, “further doubt on its legitimacy” is an understatement. It would in fact mean that the CEP did not make a decision.
Chérubin’s brief statement is available here in English (unofficial translation), and we are pasting the original in French, below.
Following the tragic death of Wildrick Guerrier on January 22 following his deportation from the U.S. to Haiti, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States is urging the U.S. government to stop deporting people to Haiti who have serious illnesses. A press release from the Center for Constitutional Rights, Alternative Chance/Chans Alternativ, Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, and University of Miami School of Law reads:
Today, in response to an emergency petition filed on January 6, 2011 by six rights groups, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) took a rare step and urged the U.S. government to cease deportations to Haiti immediately for persons with serious illnesses or U.S. family ties. The action follows the first reported death of a person deported by the U.S. since removals resumed on January 20, 2011. In its decision, the IACHR expressed concern that “detention centers in Haiti are overcrowded, and the lack of drinking water and adequate sanitation or toilets could facilitate the transmission of cholera, tuberculosis, and other diseases.”
The deceased, Wildrick Guerrier, 34, exhibited cholera-like symptoms but is believed to have received no medical treatment while in a Haitian police station cell in the midst of a cholera epidemic. A second deported person was reportedly exhibiting cholera-like symptoms and released without medical attention.
Guerrier, AP reported, “had participated in a hunger strike while detained in the U.S. and wrote to immigration attorneys that returning to Haiti amounted to a death sentence.” He may have been healthy when he arrived in Haiti, as AP earlier had reported
Immigration advocates complain that Haiti's notoriously unsanitary jails pose a grave risk for those sent back. They say Guerrier was healthy when he was deported before being crowded into a cell along with 17 other men.
For anyone who missed it, our press release from yesterday, in reaction to the CEP's decision, is below. What has received little attention so far is that not all CEP members signed the statement; in fact, it may be that only four out of eight actually did so. We will post more details and analysis as the information becomes available.
"Big Setback" for Haitian Democracy as U.S. Gets Its Way; Forces Runoff Elections Between Two Right-Wing Candidates, CEPR Co-Director Says
Second Round Will Be Between Candidates Who Received Around 6.4% and 4.5% Percent Support from Registered Voters in First Round, Respectively
Washington, D.C. - Haiti's democracy and national sovereignty were severely undermined today, Mark Weisbrot, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), said today, reacting to news that Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) had given in to external pressure and announced that government-backed candidate Jude Celestin will not proceed to the second round of elections.
"What a disgrace this is to the United States government: the richest country in the world has forced one of the poorest to change the results of its presidential election, literally under the threat of starvation," Weisbrot said. "Now two right-wing candidates, who received votes from around 6.4 and 4.5 percent of registered voters, respectively, will compete for the presidency, in another farcical 'election.'
"This is a big setback for democracy in Haiti. Far from fixing the problems with the first elections, this is simply an attempt to impose an illegitimate government on Haiti, and it will backfire," Weisbrot said.
"Washington also continues to try to keep former President Aristide, the country's first democratically elected president, out of the country. This is equally inexcusable and will also fail," Weisbrot also stated.
Read the rest here.
- Written by Alan Barber
CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot writes in The Guardian (UK) today:
It didn’t get much attention in the media, but U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did something quite surprising on Sunday. After taping interviews on five big Sunday talk shows about Egypt, she then boarded a plane to Haiti. Yes, Haiti. The most impoverished country in the hemisphere, not exactly a “strategic ally” or a global player on the world’s political stage.
Inquiring minds might want to know why the United States’ top foreign policy official would have to go to Haiti in the midst of the worst crisis she has faced. The answer is that there is also a crisis in Haiti. And it is a crisis that – unlike the humanitarian crisis that Haiti has suffered since the earthquake last year – Washington really cares about.
Like the Egyptians, Haitians are calling for free and fair elections. But in this case Washington will not support free and fair elections, even nominally. Quite the opposite, in fact. For weeks now the U.S. government has been threatening the government of Haiti with various punishments if it refuses to reverse the results of the first round of its presidential elections. Washington wants Haiti to eliminate the government’s candidate and leave only two right-wing candidates to compete in the second round.
Just three weeks ago it looked like a done deal. The Organization of American States (OAS) “Expert Verification Mission” did a report on Haiti’s Nov. 28 presidential elections, and on Jan. 10 it was leaked to the press. The report recommended moving the government’s candidate, Jude Celestin, into third place by just 0.3 percent of the vote; leaving right-wing candidates Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady, and Michel Martelly, a popular musician, in first and second place, respectively. This was followed with various statements and threats from U.S. and French officials that Haiti must accept this change of result. U.S. officials strongly implied that aid to Haiti would be cut if the government didn’t do as told. It looked as if desperately poor Haiti would have to give in immediately.
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Task Force on Foreign Policy and International Affairs has called on the US administration and the international community to support new elections in Haiti and states that, "the will of the people of Haiti was not, in good faith, represented. We believe that the recommendation of a new election should be included in the OAS report, and it should not be endorsed, in its entirety, as it currently stands." The full text of the just distributed CBC Task Force statement follows:
On Sunday, Hillary Clinton, speaking with Bob Schieffer of CBS's Face the Nation urged Egypt's authoritarian ruler, Hosni Mubarak, to begin the process for "free, fair, and credible elections." Protestors have taken to the streets for over a week calling for democratic change and for Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt with US support for nearly 30 years, to step down.
Yet on the same day that she made those comments Hillary Clinton also traveled to Haiti to discuss a different election, one that was not free, fair nor credible, but that she never the less supports. Clinton was not in Haiti to call for new elections, nor was she pressuring the government to make the necessary changes (reforming the CEP, allowing all political parties to participate) to ensure an actual free, fair and credible electoral process.
- Written by CEPR
CEPR's paper, "Haiti's Fatally Flawed Election", which received significant media attention upon its release last month, has been updated and re-released with an accompanying data set that contains the totals from each tally sheet posted on the CEP's website. The data is easily sortable and search-able to allow users to analyze the preliminary results in any geographical sub set. Many election observers noted irregularities in specific voting centers or specific areas or the country. The data set would allow the observers to easily access the preliminary results from areas where they witnessed irregularities on election day. Additionally, the numbers in the paper have been updated to reflect the new, more complete, data set. In the graph below, the average number of votes for each of the top three candidates in each tally sheet is presented, broken down by department.
The statement does not state that Celestin is withdrawing. Nor does it say, as has been reported, that INITE “ is no longer supporting its presidential candidate,” rather, it is vague, suggesting that Celestin is welcome to withdraw -- but there is nothing in the communiqué itself that conveys that the party is requiring, or even pressuring him to do so.
Some reports have left out any mention of the communique’s explicit references to international pressure and “intimidation”, complaints against which form the central theme of the communiqué. The communiqué makes it quite clear that the decision to “agree to see [Celestin] withdraw his candidacy for president” is a reluctant one, which the party says it makes “because INITE does not want the people’s suffering to increase even more” – a credible response to implied threats of aid cutoffs. It is perhaps notable that the U.S. is widely rumored to have revoked the visas of one of the signers, Jean Joseph Moliere, as part of a pressure campaign on the Préval government and INITE.
Here is the full text of the communiqué, in English, followed by kreyol:
Today in the Huffington Post, Laura Flynn, writer, activist, and board member of the Aristide Foundation for Democracy, writes movingly about the "constant terror" of life under Jean-Claude Duvalier and the hope of many Haitians that Aristide will be allowed to return. Flynn writes:
To read the entire article, click here.
In the 1980s, when the armed forces of Jean-Claude Duvalier's regime set about exterminating "Haiti's Creole pigs", they would come to Haiti's rural villages, seize all of the "pigs", pile them up, one on top of the other, in large pits and set fire to them, burning them alive.
A Haitian friend recounted this story to me this week. It was an image that she could not get out of her head since Jean-Claude Duvalier returned to Haiti. Because that's what it was like for her, to watch Duvalier be greeted like a dignitary at the Port-au-Prince airport, and then escorted to his hotel by UN military forces -- like being burned alive.
In 1968, when my friend was 3 years old, members of Duvalier's Ton Ton Macoutes came to her home at 3 o'clock in the afternoon as her extended family shared a meal in the courtyard of their house in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Martissant. The Macoutes dragged her father and two of her uncles away. They then went to two other houses on her block, and took away all the men from those families as well. Her father and the other men in the neighborhood were members of MOP, the mass political party of Haitian populist leader Daniel Fignolé, which Duvalier wiped out, along with all other forces of opposition in the country.