Writing in the Toronto Star, Catherine Porter reports on revelations from former Haitian President René Préval in Raoul Peck’s documentary film Fatal Assistance that UN head Edmond Mulet tried to remove him from the country on election day in November 2010:
“I got a phone call from Mr. (Edmond) Mulet, who was head of MINUSTAH, saying: ‘Mr. President, this is a political problem. We need to get you on a plane and evacuate you,’” Préval says in the documentary, Fatal Assistance. “I said: ‘Bring your plane, collect me from the palace, handcuff me, everyone will see that it’s a kidnapping.’”
The comments from Préval echo those made at the time by Organization of American States special representative Ricardo Seitenfus, who told BBC Brasil in January 2011 that Mulet and other representatives of the “core group” of donor countries, “suggested that President Rene Préval should leave the country and we should think of an airplane for that. I heard it and was appalled.” The forced departure of Préval wouldn’t have been the first time a Haitian president was spirited out of the country, as former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was flown out of Haiti in 2004 on a U.S. airplane and taken to the Central African Republic in what he described as a “kidnapping” and “coup d’etat.” There is no doubt that it was a coup d’etat – the New York Times, among others, documented the U.S. role in bringing about the coup. And Aristide’s charges that it was a kidnapping are credible and backed up by witnesses.
In response, Edmond Mulet told the Star, “I never said that, he [Préval] never answered that,” adding “I was worried if he didn’t stop the fraud and rioting, a revolution would force him to leave. I didn’t have the capability, the power or the interest of putting him on a plane.”
The first round of voting for president in November 2010 was plagued by irregularities. A CEPR statistical analysis found that some three-quarters of Haitians did not vote, over 12 percent of votes were never even received by the electoral authorities and that more than 8 percent of tally sheets contained irregularities. Perhaps most importantly, Haiti’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas, was excluded from the election. At the time, 45 Democratic members of Congress wrote to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warning that political party “exclusion[s] will undermine both Haitians' right to vote and the resulting government's ability to govern.” These warnings fell on deaf ears, but diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks reveal the international community’s thinking at the time. At an early December 2009 meeting, Haiti’s largest donors concluded that “the international community has too much invested in Haiti’s democracy to walk away from the upcoming elections, despite its imperfections.”
These imperfections proved even greater than anticipated. Based on the pervasiveness of the irregularities and the close results, we concluded at the time that “it is impossible to determine who should advance to a second round” and that if “there is a second round, it will be based on arbitrary assumptions and/or exclusions.”
After intense international pressure to exclude the government-backed candidate for the second round and to include now President Martelly, the Haitian government agreed to let a group from the OAS come to the country to review the results and determine who should advance to the second round. As Porter notes in the Star, Préval alleges that the UN and U.S. rigged the results and overturned the first round, leading to Martelly’s inclusion in the second round and eventually winning the Presidency.
In the film, Préval states that after they agreed to let the OAS review the results:
“I summoned him [Mulet] to come: ‘Problem solved?’ He said: ‘No, it isn’t. If the OAS isn’t in line with the American mission’s recommendations we won’t accept the election results,’” Préval says in documentary.
“I told him whatever candidate wins, wins. And he replied that they wouldn’t accept those results. I asked: ‘So why hold elections?’”
Indeed, a CEPR statistical analysis of the OAS decision to replace the government candidate with Martelly in the second round found that the OAS “had no statistical evidence to do so,” and that in fact the “results showed that Célestin [the government-backed candidate], not Martelly, was by far the most likely second place finisher in the first round.”
The director of the documentary in which Préval makes these comments, Raoul Peck, explains to Porter the history and rationale of international meddling in Haiti’s politics:
“You have a bunch of ambassadors who feel they are governors of Haiti…They are the ones crafting politics in Haiti. They are the ones creating government there. We have a long history of this. They’d rather have a dictator, if he’s our man and we can control the country.”
Porter notes in her article that:
Foreign powers, notably the United States, have a long record of meddling with Haitian politics. The country was occupied for 19 years by American marines, ending in 1934. More recently, an American plane whisked away dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier during the popular uprising of 1986 and, 18 years later, president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was facing a coup. Afterward, Aristide called his evacuation a “kidnapping.”
Tomorrow marks two years since Martelly came to office. Legislative elections, delayed for over a year, have yet to be scheduled. Former President Aristide, who spoke publicly last week for the first time since his return from exile in South Africa in 2011 stated that "if there are free, fair and democratic elections,” then “there is a good chance” that Fanmi Lavalas "can win the majority of posts that are in play." The international community is expected to pick up the tab on the forthcoming elections, as they did in 2010. Though elections have yet to be scheduled, the United States has already awarded over $2 million to the National Democratic Institute and the International Federation for Electoral Systems – U.S. government-linked institutions with a problematic history [PDF] in Haiti and other countries -- to “support” the electoral process
Meanwhile, Fanmi Lavalas supporters have voiced concern that a new attempt to exclude the party from the upcoming elections could be underway, via the renewed investigation into the murder of radio journalist Jean Dominique, who like Aristide was a fierce critic of Haiti’s wealthy elite, the Haitian army, and other powerful interests. Although some have suggested that attempts to link Aristide to the murder are a political smear, Aristide was called before a judge for questioning in the case last week. The AP’s Trenton Daniel wrote:
An open case against Aristide, the official leader of the Lavalas party, could make it difficult for candidates to register under the party in elections that are supposed to be held before year's end.
"We hope this isn't political, that the government isn't using the Jean Dominique case so Lavalas can't qualify for the elections," an Aristide supporter, Jean Cene, said while pressed against a barricade.