Haiti has had two elected presidents since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986: Preval and the now-exiled Jean- Bertrand Aristide. Their Unity and Lavalas parties are divided, which means that for the first time there is no clear front-runner. Jean could play a constructive role in the wide-open race, either by endorsing another candidate, which would catapult that person into the lead, or by simply advocating for political participation. Either way, he would continue to build sorely needed legitimacy for the electoral system.These statements would suggest that Fanmi Lavalas is running a presidential candidate. But Fanmi Lavalas is doing no such thing - apparently in reaction to past Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) rulings that arbitrarily disbar the party's participation based on technical criteria. As has been reported in various newspapers, and criticized by numerous U.S. observers, including Senator Richard Lugar [PDF], the most influential Republican in Congress on foreign affairs – to say nothing of the numerous Haitian protesters and people interviewed by international media -- the CEP is also continuing to bar Fanmi Lavalas, along with 14 other political parties, from participating in the parliamentary elections.
Food distributions have come to a halt and many aid agencies are intentionally withholding necessary and fundamental services such as latrines, water, food and medical aid, in order to force earthquake victims to abandon the camps that currently exist in former parks, school grounds and churchyards. However, no feasible plans exist to relocate these families.
“Haitians who lost loved ones, homes and all their belongings are now out in the merciless summer sun all day, then soaked to the bone by rains each night,” explains Melinda Miles, director of Let Haiti Live and Coordinator of the Haiti Response Coalition. “They are deprived of fundamental human rights – access to food, water, shelter – and have no other place to go.”
A new column by CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot was published in the Sacramento Bee and several other newspapers today. It examines Washington’s silence on the CEP’s exclusion of Fanmi Lavalas from the upcoming elections, and also notes that
six months after the catastrophe, less than 2 percent of the 1.6 million homeless have homes. Hundreds of thousands have nothing at all; and 80 percent of the homeless that do have shelter are living under tarps where the ground under them turns to mud when it rains. And less than 2.9 percent of all aid money has gone to the Haitian government, which makes reconstruction nearly impossible. With a hundred thousand children wounded from the earthquake, public hospitals are closing.
Read the entire column here.
While most of the media – from news wires, papers, and TV and radio broadcasts, to entertainment and gossip programs and blogs – focused on musician Wyclef Jean’s announcement that he would run for president of Haiti, numerous other, less well-known (outside of Haiti, anyway) candidates entered the presidential race, little noticed by the press.
A Miami Herald article over the weekend described the entry of 34 candidates, who include Jacques Edouard Alexis, the Prime Minister who was ousted in 2008 during the food price spike; Jude Celestin, “founder and executive director of the government's road-building outfit, the National Center of Equipment” on the INITE ticket; former first-lady Mirlande Manigat, (the wife of former puppet president and anti-Aristide activist Leslie Manigat); and Yvon Neptune, former prime minister who was ousted from his office in the 2004 coup d’etat against President Aristide, and later imprisoned on bogus charges relating to a “massacre” (supposedly state-sanctioned) that never took place. Perhaps because the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) is continuing to arbitrarily keep Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas (FL), and 14 other parties off the ballot as the November elections draw near, Neptune has announced he will run as the candidate for the Haitians for Haiti Party.
"The ambassador here is the representative of the U.S. government in Haiti," said Lionel Etienne, a former Fanmi Lavalas congressman. "We come here today to question the behaviour of the U.S. government. We're asking if they will continue to finance the exclusion of Lavalas by the CEP with Préval."Yesterday, however, the OAS announced they will be sending an Electoral Observation Mission to Haiti, and that:
The United States and Spain made specific offers of financial assistance while other Member States and Permanent Observers pledged to support the effort through contributions in kind or financial resources towards covering its costs, which are an estimated $5.3 million.
Too often, Farmer argued, proliferating aid agencies and foreign nations have failed to establish enduring partnerships with Haiti’s government.
“Our historical failure to do so is one of the primary reasons that trying to help the public sector now is like trying to transfuse whole blood through a small-gauge needle or, in popular parlance, to drink from a fire hose,’’ Farmer, a UN deputy special envoy for Haiti, said on Capitol Hill.
“How can there be public health and public education without a stronger government at the national and local levels?’’ Farmer said in prepared remarks.
“The IMF is taking two steps forward and one step back. This is a precedent-setting moment as the IMF has agreed to use internal resources to cancel the debt of a country facing extraordinary need. But, unfortunately, this good news is undermined by the IMF’s new loan. The role of the IMF in Haiti has been long criticized, and this new loan could set Haiti on the wrong path toward a new cycle of debt. The IMF must go further by using its new Post-Catastrophe Trust Fund to provide assistance on grant terms and ensure that this comes without harmful conditions,” says [Eric] LeCompte [Executive Director of Jubilee USA Network].
Yesterday the CEP, the Provisional Elections Commission, reiterated a decision made in 2009 to exclude Fanmi Lavalas, the party of exiled president Aristide, from this year's legislative elections that were originally scheduled earlier this year but postponed. Although not to the extent of giving out medals, the UN proclaimed last year's elections that also excluded Fanmi Lavalas and where almost no one voted, a success.Meanwhile, the gaps between rich and poor have only become starker. While hundreds of thousands are fighting for cash-for-work jobs:
Haiti's educated middle class, Diaspora, and foreign consultant zoom by in new air-conditioned cars, some making as much as $1000 per day. Some foreign aid workers even stayed at the "Love Boat" - a U.N. ship costing $112,500 per day, or the price of 100 "T-shelters."
“Food aid has its place in an emergency,” says Ms. Ashmore. “But it’s not a sustainable solution because it puts the local people out of business.”
The promises made included a tent as a transition, so they are in those tents in transition. And they would then be moved into temporary shelters into another sector in the same camp. Those were also the promises that we are still pushing to have go forward, and its something that I want the media to look at everyday. Because these people were promised temporary shelters, and they should get them.Heavy rains last night showed the danger associated with the absence of the promised transitional shelters. Yesterday’s storm flooded the area, and IOM reports:
Flying debris from the storm caused six people to be injured and damaged or destroyed 344 tents, forcing around 1,700 people to seek emergency shelter overnight.While plans had called for 125,000 transitional shelters to be built, still not enough to house all of the displaced, thus far less than five percent have actually been built. Furthermore, with the hurricane season having begun, less than two percent of the displaced have been housed in transitional shelters.
By far the biggest threat to people’s living conditions is the failure to provide any substantial, robust shelter. Sheeting and tents were never anything more than a very temporary solution. They [sheeting and tents] have a life expectancy of around six months.
"With respect to the NGOs operating out of Haiti, we called on the U.N. secretary-general to do all that he can to bring some level of order to the situation, because while we speak about maintaining democracy in Haiti we can't at the same time be affording NGOs to undermine the democratic institutions in Haiti."
The Miami Herald reports on the role of Venezuela in the relief and reconstruction of Haiti. The article notes that Venezuela was "the first nation to respond", "became the first country to forgive Haiti's foreign debt", and pledged more than the US, EU or World Bank at the UN Donor Conference in New York. These are all amazing achievements, however the Miami Herald focuses on how "the aid is likely to slow" with an ongoing recession (which is global - this, like many other news articles, treats Venezuela's economy as if it's in a vacuum) and upcoming elections in Venezuela - a prediction for which no evidence is offered. Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue is also quoted in the article, speaking about the political use of Venezuelan aid.
None of these things are characteristics that only apply to Venezuela, however. The United States is also facing a poor economic situation back home, and elections in November, yet aid from the United States is rarely subject to the same analysis. Unlike Venezuelan aid, USAID, the main avenue for US aid projects, has an expressly political goal. The USAID website says that, "U.S. foreign assistance has always had the twofold purpose of furthering America's foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developing world."