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 Washington Post posted an editorial last evening on Haiti’s elections (which is in today's print edition). Not surprisingly, the Post's editorial writers -- who in the recent past have praised the deceased Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, and presented a “positive view of the Colombian government’s human rights record” despite major human rights scandals, including killings of thousands of civilians by the Colombian military – support the conclusions of the OAS Expert Mission’s report, which we found to be methodologically and statistically flawed and not conclusive.
The Post’s support for the OAS’ conclusions comes despite the fact that the writers have apparently not read the report. The editorial states:
The OAS report is expected to be publicly released this week. Diplomats and international aid officials who have seen it describe it as a careful work, based on a review of nearly a fifth of the more than 1 million ballots cast.
Nevertheless, the Post was ready to wholeheartedly endorse the integrity of the mission and its findings:
The OAS was invited by the government to sort out the electoral mess, and its report is based on an extensive sampling of ballots and statistical analysis by a team of specialists from the United States, France, Canada, Jamaica, Spain and Chile. Mr. Preval, who so far has said he knows nothing of the report, should embrace it clearly, audibly and publicly for the sake of stability and Haiti's long-term chances of recovery. To do otherwise would be to invite mayhem.
Shouldn’t President Preval take the time to determine whether the report is credible before quickly “embracing” it?
Of course readers of this blog knew the report was publicly available – on our site – yesterday, hours before the Post went to print with its editorial. Nor did the Post amend the article to note that the report is publicly available.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research has posted the full OAS election report on its website [PDF], and after analyzing the report, released the following press release. Also see Robert Naiman's analysis on the parallels between what the OAS is advocating for in Haiti and the Bush vs. Gore recount in 2000.
Washington, D.C.- The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) has analyzed the Expert Verification Mission's Final Report from the Organization of American States (OAS) on Haiti’s presidential elections, which has not been released to the public but is now available on the CEPR website here [PDF]. CEPR’s analysis found that the OAS report cannot help determine the outcome of the first round of Haiti’s election.
“This report can’t salvage an election that was illegitimate, where nearly three-quarters of the electorate didn’t vote, and where the vote count of the minority that did vote was severely compromised,” said Mark Weisbrot, CEPR Co-Director and co-author of the report, “Haiti’s Fatally Flawed Election.”
CEPR has been unable to find a presidential election in the Western Hemisphere, including Haiti, with such a low turnout, going back to 1947. Haiti’s parliamentary election of 2009, in which the country’s most popular political party was also banned, had a turnout of less than 10 percent.
The OAS report does confirm some of the most important conclusions from CEPR’s analysis of the elections, which was published on Sunday. For example, the OAS finds that 12 percent of the tally sheets were either not received by the Provisional Electoral Council or were quarantined – a much larger number of lost votes than the OAS or the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) had previously publicly acknowledged.
What is it about Haiti that makes the “international community” think they have the right to decide the country’s fate without the consent of the governed? Yes, Haiti is a poor country, but Haitians have fought very hard and lost many lives for the right to vote and elect a government.
Yet on November 28, nearly three-quarters of Haitians did not vote in the presidential and parliamentary elections. That is what we found when we went through 11,181 tally sheets from the election. This is a ridiculously low turnout for a presidential election.
Now the Organization of American States (OAS) has decided that the election should go to a runoff, finding that the top two finishers were former first lady Mirlande Manigat and the popular singer Michel Martelly. The OAS is proposing a runoff between presidential candidates who received about 6 and 4 percent, respectively, of the electorate's votes in the first round.
One reason that most Haitians did not vote is that the most popular political party in the country, Fanmi Lavalas, was arbitrarily excluded from the ballot. This was also done in April 2009, in parliamentary elections, and more than 90 percent of voters did not vote. By contrast, in the 2006 presidential elections, participation was 59.3 percent. And it has been higher in the past, even for the parliamentary (non-presidential) election in 2000.
Haitians have taken great risks to vote when there was political violence, and have been pragmatic about voting even when their first choice was not on the ballot (as in 1996 and 2006). But the majority won’t vote when they are denied their right to choose. This is the big story of the election that most of the major media have missed entirely.
Today we released the full report of our independent recount of vote tally sheets from Haiti’s November 28 presidential election. It found massive irregularities and errors in the vote tallies, including that 11.9 percent of tallies were not counted, while 8.4 percent were irregular. The report concludes that based on the numbers of irregularities, it is impossible to determine who should advance to a second round. If there is a second round, it will be based on arbitrary assumptions and/or exclusions.
“The amount of votes not counted or counted wrong in this election is huge – much larger than has been reported by either the Organization of American States or the Provisional Electoral Council,” CEPR Co-Director, and co-author of the report, Mark Weisbrot stated. “I don’t see how any professional observers could legitimately certify this election result.”
As the paper notes, the number of votes not counted actually is far more than has previously been stated by the OAS: “Nearly 4 percent of polling place tally sheets used to calculate the results were thrown out for alleged fraud at the tabulation center, [OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert] Ramdin said.”
The OAS is expected to announce the results of its recount as early as today, and Haitian Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive has reportedly said "his government was striving to leave a stable country for the next administration and will accept the results of the ...re-count that is expected to be completed in a few days." Meanwhile, the U.S. government signalled on Friday that it may support throwing out the November 28 election entirely depending in part on the OAS' conclusions:
Cheryl Mills, Hillary Rodham Clinton's chief of staff, said the U.S. is waiting for the 12-member election team from the Organization of American States to finish its report, expected next week. Mills said U.S. officials will evaluate any steps deemed necessary by the panel.
"If the OAS mission concludes that cancellation or redo ... needs to be considered, we obviously would be interested to understand how they came to those conclusions," Mills told reporters.
The U.S., then, "would want to review whether or not those conclusions were ones that we, too, could support," she added. "Those are the things we'd be willing to entertain, though I wouldn't be able to tell you what we are going to do until we know what they conclude."
Ahead of Wednesday’s one-year anniversary of the earthquake, NGO’s, international agencies, and media outlets are issuing various summaries of what has been (and has not been) accomplished over the past year in terms of relief and reconstruction. Here’s a sampling of some of what has been released so far. We will post more summaries in the coming days.
Assessing NGO Efforts:
The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Caroline Preston and Nicole Wallace reported yesterday that "In the year after a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, Americans gave more than $1.4-billion to aid survivors and help the impoverished country rebuild, according to a Chronicle survey of 60 major relief organizations. Roughly 38 percent of that sum has been spent to provide recovery and rebuilding aid." They go on to say:
The share of Haiti donations that has been spent is roughly the same as the amount spent one year after the tsunamis. A year after Hurricane Katrina, charities had spent about 80 percent of donations.
But the percentage of funds spent in Haiti varies widely among organizations.
While a few charities have distributed all the money they raised, others have big sums still on hand. For example, by the end of November, the American Red Cross, in Washington, had committed $188-million of its $479-million in private donations. It expects to have committed $245-million by the one-year anniversary of the earthquake this month.
On Wednesday, the Disaster Accountability Project (DAP) issued a report entitled "One Year Followup Report on the Transparency of Relief Organizations Responding to the 2010 Haiti Earthquake"
seek[ing] to determine (1) Whether 196 organizations that solicited donations for Haiti disaster relief produced regular, factual reports on their activities; and, if so (2) How comprehensive, frequent, factual, and publicly accessible such reports were. (3) Determine how much money has been raised for Haiti relief, how much of that has been spent, and on what (i.e., healthcare, food, clean water, etc.).
The findings? According to DAP’s press release:
Ricardo Seitenfus, the Organization of American States' Special Representative in Haiti, seems to have lost his job after an interview in which he sharply criticized the role of MINUSTAH, and NGO’s, in Haiti (in a December 29 interview he said he had received no official word of his status).
The story of Seitenfus' controversial comments has gone all but completely unnoticed by the U.S. media, and one remark in particular has been completely ignored. In an interview with BBC Brasil, Seitenfus revealed that diplomats proposed Preval’s forced removal – a suggestion that Seitenfus says he found shocking (Google translation):
In addition, on November 28, election day, was discussed at the meeting of Core Group (donor countries, UN and OAS), something that seemed just creepy. Some representatives suggested that President Rene Preval should leave the country and we should think of an airplane for that. I heard it and was appalled.
The prime minister of Haiti, Jean-Max Bellerive, and soon arrived said he did not count on any solution to the margins of the Constitution and asked if the term of President Preval was being negotiated. It was a silence in the room.
Seitenfus seemed especially shocked by the reaction of his superiors at the OAS to this proposal of what would be a clear violation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and of Haiti’s sovereignty (Google translation):
Beside me was [Albert Ramdin], deputy secretary of the OAS, ie I could not speak, as the OAS was being represented by him. But face to silence him and the rest, I asked to speak and remembered the existence of the Democratic Charter and that any discussion on the mandate of President Preval, to me it would be a coup. I was very surprised with the fact that Deputy Secretary of the OAS to remain silent before the possibility of shortening the term of a legitimately elected president.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research put out the following press release today:
Election Outcome In Doubt
WASHINGTON - December 30 - An independent recount and review of 11,171 tally sheets from Haiti’s November 28 election shows that the outcome of the election is indeterminate. The review, conducted by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), found massive irregularities and errors in the tally. A report detailing the recount’s findings, and methodology, will be made available next week.
“With so many irregularities, errors, and fraudulent vote totals, it is impossible to say what the results of this election really are,” said Mark Weisbrot, economist and CEPR Co-Director.
“If the Organization of American States certifies this election, this would be a political decision, having nothing to do with election monitoring,” said Weisbrot. “They would lose all credibility as a neutral election-monitoring organization.” Among the preliminary findings:
• While OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that “Nearly 4 percent of polling place tally sheets used to calculate the results were thrown out for alleged fraud at the tabulation center,” the actual number is closer to 12 percent. CEPR found that 11.9 percent (1,324) of the tally sheets were either never received by the CEP (Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council) or were quarantined by the CEP due to irregularities. These tally sheets added up to more than 15 percent of the total votes counted.
As we’ve described in other posts, U.S. State Department documents made available by Wikileaks demonstrate that international support for MINUSTAH is an important priority for the U.S. government. A new cable recently released by Wikileaks may help explain why: Latin American alliance with a U.S.-objective that “completely excludes [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez” (h/t Ansel Herz):
11. (C) An increasingly unifying theme that completely excludes Chavez, and isolates Venezuela among the militaries and security forces of the region, is participation in international and regional peacekeeping operations. The Southern Cone is doing very well in this area, with all countries active contributors to PKO missions worldwide. Argentina and Chile have even formed a combined peacekeeping brigade, which is expected to be available for deployment sometime in 2008. Uruguay is the highest per-capita contributor of PKO troops. We should make more GPOI funds available to Southern Cone countries to increase and strengthen their peacekeeping capabilities and cooperation.
The cable also suggests that MINUSTAH could be an opening foray into such U.S.-promoted multilateral operations “on a broader scale”:
Additionally, we should explore using the mechanism that the region's contributors to MINUSTAH (Haiti) have established to discuss ways of increasing peacekeeping cooperation on a broader scale.
If these documents accurately reflect U.S. government goals regarding the mission, then Brazilian leadership is perhaps especially desirable, considering the Brazil-Venezuela rivalry that some in the U.S. foreign policy community believe – despite much evidence to the contrary – and perhaps desire, to exist. While other cables reveal that the U.S. sees Brazil’s main motivation in leading the force to be proving its worth for a UN Security Council seat, another cable from September 2009 - just released - describes what could be another motive:
ARMY GENERAL SUGGESTS ARMY SOLDIERS HELP PACIFY FAVELAS
4. (U) During a September 18 seminar hosted by Brazilian development bank BNDES entitled "Opportunities for Favelas," Brazilian Army General Alvaro de Souza Pinheiro (retired) stated the Brazilian Army was prepared to cooperate with Rio de Janeiro state and municipal officials and police to occupy and maintain control of favelas (Note: Rio de Janeiro state currently maintains special police units -UPP - that are controlling five favelas. End Note). Citing the Brazilian army's role in United Nations Peacekeeping operations in Haiti, he said many officers and units were specifically trained and prepared to undertake operations related to public security and general policing in communities lacking state control.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
- late opening of Polling StationsThe 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."
- 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.
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.