Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

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.

Last week, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon travelled to Haiti to raise awareness of the ongoing cholera epidemic that scientific studies have continually shown the U.N. troops in Haiti to be responsible for introducing. In an interview before his trip, Ban told Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald that the U.N. and international community had a “moral responsibility” to help Haiti eradicate the disease, already the world’s worst cholera epidemic having killed over 8,500 and sickened more than 700,000. Also last week, the U.N. quietly posted a document online (PDF) which provides information on its follow up to the Independent Panel of Expert’s recommendations, made in May 2011. The U.N. convened the panel in the aftermath of cholera’s introduction to study how it was introduced, how it can be stopped and efforts to prevent future epidemics.

In Haiti, during remarks at a church service in Las Palmas, the Secretary General told those present that, “I know that the epidemic has caused much anger and fear. I know that the disease continues to affect an unacceptable number of people.” Ban later ensured the Haitian people that, “You can count on me and the United Nations to do our part.”

But the visit by the Secretary General also put the spotlight on the U.N.’s own efforts to evade responsibility for cholera’s introduction, the subject of multiple lawsuits. “It is an insult to all Haitians for the Secretary-General to come to Haiti for a photo-op when he refuses to take responsibility for the thousands of Haitians killed and the hundreds of thousands sickened by the UN cholera epidemic,” said Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and one of the leading lawyers working to hold the U.N. accountable for cholera’s introduction to Haiti.

In December 2012, Ban pledged to “use every opportunity” to raise funds for an ambitious $2.2 billion ten-year cholera eradication plan. Yet over a year-and-a-half later, the plan remains woefully underfunded. According to the U.N. Office of the Secretary General’s Coordinator for Cholera Response in Haiti, at the current rate of disbursement, it “would take more than 40 years to fund the water, sanitation and hygiene” sectors of the elimination plan. Even the $485 million needed for the critical first two years of the plan, now nearing its end, is only 40 percent funded.

As part of the Secretary General’s trip, Ban launched a “Total Sanitation Campaign.” While it was presented as another new effort, according to the Office of the Secretary General’s Coordinator for Cholera Response in Haiti, it “is part of the sanitation component of the overall elimination plan.” Further, the U.N. itself has committed just 1 percent of the funds needed for the eradication plan. Meanwhile, since the earthquake, the U.N. troops that introduced cholera have cost the international community well over the $2.2 billion needed to fully fund the plan.

The Independent Panel’s Recommendations

In October 2010, the U.N. appointed an independent panel of scientific experts to study the introduction of cholera to Haiti. The panel concluded that it occurred as “a result of human activity,” and likely began in a river near a U.N. troop base, but that the “outbreak was caused by the confluence of circumstances” and that no single party should be blamed. Two years later, after additional scientific research was published, the authors followed up with a report that determined the U.N. was the “most likely” source.

As part of the Independent Panel’s original report, the author’s offered seven recommendations for the U.N.: using prophylactic antibiotics or screening U.N. personnel deployed from cholera endemic regions, use of antibiotics or the cholera vaccine when deploying personnel to locations with concurrent epidemics, improving on-site treatment of fecal waste at U.N. installations, taking the lead in improving case management, prioritizing programs to provide piped drinking water and sanitation, investigating the potential of cholera vaccines and increasing the use of advanced microbial techniques to improve surveillance and detection of cholera.

Upon the report’s release in May 2011, Ban announced that he would convene another task force to review the report and “ensure prompt and appropriate follow-up.” The Task Force was made up of senior U.N. officials from various agencies, including personnel from the UN Haiti team. However there has been little information as to what has been implemented in the intervening three-years, at least until a nine-page fact sheet was posted online last week by the U.N.

The U.N. has adopted some of the recommendations, but did not accept others. The U.N. has supported vaccination campaigns as well as increased use of advanced microbial techniques, as per the panel’s recommendations. The U.N. has also changed policies on the treatment of waste water at their bases around the world, noting that “All [U.N.] missions have provided action plans to ensure that all their wastewater facilities meet the minimum required standards set by the Organization’s Environmental Policy,” and that actions include “improvements to and better monitoring of existing facilities, installation of independent wastewater treatment plants, and inspection and closer supervision of contractors involved in wastewater disposal.”

The U.N. cites its work supporting the national elimination plan in response to the recommendations that it invest in water and sanitation infrastructure. But as described above, the lack of financial resources and the U.N.’s own role in the disease’s introduction have prevented a more robust response on this front.

A Second, Secretive Panel of Experts

“Overall, it does seem like progress is being made,” says Dr. Rishi Rattan, Chair of the Advocacy Committee for Physicians for Haiti. In a report he authored last year, Dr. Rattan evaluated the U.N.’s response to the independent panel’s recommendations, concluding that of the seven recommendations “the UN has not implemented three and only partially implemented two others.” The recently released fact sheet provides a glimpse into the rationale behind the lack of implementation and the role of a secretive second task force that was convened after the panel of experts presented its report.

While the formation of the Task Force was announced publicly at the time, little has been revealed about its actions. Though the Task Force was meant to implement the independent panel’s recommendations, in reality it had little contact with the panel members. In their follow up report (PDF) last year, the original panel members wrote that:

The Task Force did submit one request for additional information from the Independent Panel, which was answered. To date, no further contact has been initiated, and no results from the Task Force released.

Despite this, the U.N. decided against following recommendations one and two, which concerned the use of antibiotics, screening and vaccinations of U.N. personnel deployed from cholera endemic regions or into areas with cholera outbreaks. The U.N. cited the work of the Task Force, determining that there is a lack of scientific evidence to support the panel’s recommendations. While the Task Force’s original stated goal was to ensure “appropriate follow up,” the fact sheet provides an alternative explanation, describing the Task Force as being formed to “review the recommendations,” of the Independent Panel.

According to Dr. Rattan, while the U.N. may be “technically correct,” he added that there “is a lack of evidence to support either position.” For Dr. Rattan the bigger issue is the lack of transparency around this Task Force and how it has reached their decisions. Given that the U.N. itself selected the panel members because of their unique expertise on cholera-related issues, any decision in the opposite direction should be well documented.

“When a topic is controversial, complete transparency is ideal and when disagreements arise, each party goes back to the lab, conducts more tests, and presents all data. This is not what is happening here,” says Dr. Rattan. Even if the most likely outcome would be to agree with the U.N. interpretation, “the fact they are not doing it leaves a very bad taste in the mouth,” he adds.

While the fact that the U.N. has, after three years, publicly released a status update is welcome, says Beatrice Lindstrom of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, “it doesn’t provide nearly enough information to explain why their internal experts’ views should trump the findings of the panel of independent experts they appointed in 2011.”

A request for further information on the makeup of the U.N. Task Force, and any documentation of its work was not answered by the U.N. cholera team. Members of the Independent Panel, contacted by e-mail, declined to comment.

Last week, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon travelled to Haiti to raise awareness of the ongoing cholera epidemic that scientific studies have continually shown the U.N. troops in Haiti to be responsible for introducing. In an interview before his trip, Ban told Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald that the U.N. and international community had a “moral responsibility” to help Haiti eradicate the disease, already the world’s worst cholera epidemic having killed over 8,500 and sickened more than 700,000. Also last week, the U.N. quietly posted a document online (PDF) which provides information on its follow up to the Independent Panel of Expert’s recommendations, made in May 2011. The U.N. convened the panel in the aftermath of cholera’s introduction to study how it was introduced, how it can be stopped and efforts to prevent future epidemics.

In Haiti, during remarks at a church service in Las Palmas, the Secretary General told those present that, “I know that the epidemic has caused much anger and fear. I know that the disease continues to affect an unacceptable number of people.” Ban later ensured the Haitian people that, “You can count on me and the United Nations to do our part.”

But the visit by the Secretary General also put the spotlight on the U.N.’s own efforts to evade responsibility for cholera’s introduction, the subject of multiple lawsuits. “It is an insult to all Haitians for the Secretary-General to come to Haiti for a photo-op when he refuses to take responsibility for the thousands of Haitians killed and the hundreds of thousands sickened by the UN cholera epidemic,” said Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and one of the leading lawyers working to hold the U.N. accountable for cholera’s introduction to Haiti.

In December 2012, Ban pledged to “use every opportunity” to raise funds for an ambitious $2.2 billion ten-year cholera eradication plan. Yet over a year-and-a-half later, the plan remains woefully underfunded. According to the U.N. Office of the Secretary General’s Coordinator for Cholera Response in Haiti, at the current rate of disbursement, it “would take more than 40 years to fund the water, sanitation and hygiene” sectors of the elimination plan. Even the $485 million needed for the critical first two years of the plan, now nearing its end, is only 40 percent funded.

As part of the Secretary General’s trip, Ban launched a “Total Sanitation Campaign.” While it was presented as another new effort, according to the Office of the Secretary General’s Coordinator for Cholera Response in Haiti, it “is part of the sanitation component of the overall elimination plan.” Further, the U.N. itself has committed just 1 percent of the funds needed for the eradication plan. Meanwhile, since the earthquake, the U.N. troops that introduced cholera have cost the international community well over the $2.2 billion needed to fully fund the plan.

The Independent Panel’s Recommendations

In October 2010, the U.N. appointed an independent panel of scientific experts to study the introduction of cholera to Haiti. The panel concluded that it occurred as “a result of human activity,” and likely began in a river near a U.N. troop base, but that the “outbreak was caused by the confluence of circumstances” and that no single party should be blamed. Two years later, after additional scientific research was published, the authors followed up with a report that determined the U.N. was the “most likely” source.

As part of the Independent Panel’s original report, the author’s offered seven recommendations for the U.N.: using prophylactic antibiotics or screening U.N. personnel deployed from cholera endemic regions, use of antibiotics or the cholera vaccine when deploying personnel to locations with concurrent epidemics, improving on-site treatment of fecal waste at U.N. installations, taking the lead in improving case management, prioritizing programs to provide piped drinking water and sanitation, investigating the potential of cholera vaccines and increasing the use of advanced microbial techniques to improve surveillance and detection of cholera.

Upon the report’s release in May 2011, Ban announced that he would convene another task force to review the report and “ensure prompt and appropriate follow-up.” The Task Force was made up of senior U.N. officials from various agencies, including personnel from the UN Haiti team. However there has been little information as to what has been implemented in the intervening three-years, at least until a nine-page fact sheet was posted online last week by the U.N.

The U.N. has adopted some of the recommendations, but did not accept others. The U.N. has supported vaccination campaigns as well as increased use of advanced microbial techniques, as per the panel’s recommendations. The U.N. has also changed policies on the treatment of waste water at their bases around the world, noting that “All [U.N.] missions have provided action plans to ensure that all their wastewater facilities meet the minimum required standards set by the Organization’s Environmental Policy,” and that actions include “improvements to and better monitoring of existing facilities, installation of independent wastewater treatment plants, and inspection and closer supervision of contractors involved in wastewater disposal.”

The U.N. cites its work supporting the national elimination plan in response to the recommendations that it invest in water and sanitation infrastructure. But as described above, the lack of financial resources and the U.N.’s own role in the disease’s introduction have prevented a more robust response on this front.

A Second, Secretive Panel of Experts

“Overall, it does seem like progress is being made,” says Dr. Rishi Rattan, Chair of the Advocacy Committee for Physicians for Haiti. In a report he authored last year, Dr. Rattan evaluated the U.N.’s response to the independent panel’s recommendations, concluding that of the seven recommendations “the UN has not implemented three and only partially implemented two others.” The recently released fact sheet provides a glimpse into the rationale behind the lack of implementation and the role of a secretive second task force that was convened after the panel of experts presented its report.

While the formation of the Task Force was announced publicly at the time, little has been revealed about its actions. Though the Task Force was meant to implement the independent panel’s recommendations, in reality it had little contact with the panel members. In their follow up report (PDF) last year, the original panel members wrote that:

The Task Force did submit one request for additional information from the Independent Panel, which was answered. To date, no further contact has been initiated, and no results from the Task Force released.

Despite this, the U.N. decided against following recommendations one and two, which concerned the use of antibiotics, screening and vaccinations of U.N. personnel deployed from cholera endemic regions or into areas with cholera outbreaks. The U.N. cited the work of the Task Force, determining that there is a lack of scientific evidence to support the panel’s recommendations. While the Task Force’s original stated goal was to ensure “appropriate follow up,” the fact sheet provides an alternative explanation, describing the Task Force as being formed to “review the recommendations,” of the Independent Panel.

According to Dr. Rattan, while the U.N. may be “technically correct,” he added that there “is a lack of evidence to support either position.” For Dr. Rattan the bigger issue is the lack of transparency around this Task Force and how it has reached their decisions. Given that the U.N. itself selected the panel members because of their unique expertise on cholera-related issues, any decision in the opposite direction should be well documented.

“When a topic is controversial, complete transparency is ideal and when disagreements arise, each party goes back to the lab, conducts more tests, and presents all data. This is not what is happening here,” says Dr. Rattan. Even if the most likely outcome would be to agree with the U.N. interpretation, “the fact they are not doing it leaves a very bad taste in the mouth,” he adds.

While the fact that the U.N. has, after three years, publicly released a status update is welcome, says Beatrice Lindstrom of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, “it doesn’t provide nearly enough information to explain why their internal experts’ views should trump the findings of the panel of independent experts they appointed in 2011.”

A request for further information on the makeup of the U.N. Task Force, and any documentation of its work was not answered by the U.N. cholera team. Members of the Independent Panel, contacted by e-mail, declined to comment.

While Haitian President Michel Martelly has unilaterally scheduled long-delayed elections for October 26, 2014, the composition of the electoral council continues to cause controversy in Haiti. The current problems stem from the deeply flawed electoral process in 2010 that saw Martelly emerge victorious after the intervention of the international community. There have yet to be elections since then, with one-third of the 30 member Senate having their terms expire in 2011 while some 130 local mayors have been replaced by Martelly appointments. Another one-third of the Senate and the entire lower house will see their terms expire in January 2015 if elections are not held. In a “frequently asked questions” document released last week, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) provides a legal analysis of the reasons behind the delays and why the current electoral council is unconstitutional. In an accompanying press release, IJDH notes:

According to Mario Joseph, managing lawyer for the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, “Prompt elections are much needed, but elections will only remedy Haiti’s political crisis if they are run fairly by a constitutionally-mandated electoral council. President Michel Martelly has delayed elections for three years because he does not want to lose the political control he has enjoyed without full parliamentary oversight.”

Joseph explains that “The current Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) put into place by President Martelly per the El Rancho Accord is unconstitutional.” The El Rancho Accord, which rules the government’s plan for elections, has not been approved by Parliament and the procedure for selecting a CEP conflicts with the Haitian Constitution. The CEP only has seven of the required nine members due to these legitimacy concerns. Parliamentarians and political opposition call the El Rancho Accord a political coup d’état.

Despite the problems associated with the “El Rancho Accord,” the international community has been supportive of the process. After praising the accord in March, the U.N. issued a statement in early May, co-signed with the “Friends of Haiti” grouping of countries, warning “that certain important decisions to advance toward the holding of the elections have yet to be made.” Days later Martelly announced the formation of the electoral council, unilaterally. In early June, the date of October 26 was announced by the government, even though the electoral body is tasked with scheduling elections. Last week, after meeting with Martelly, the Secretary General of the OAS committed “to back the holding of free and fair elections, in a process planned for October.” The OAS also said they would send an electoral observation mission.


The international community is also providing the lion’s share of the funds for the election. IJDH, for its part, has called on the U.S. and other members of the international community to “support rule of law and democracy by conditioning election funding on a lawful and independent electoral council that can run fair and inclusive elections.” Haiti’s last several elections have been criticized for not being inclusive, as several political parties – including the most popular, Fanmi Lavalas – have been arbitrarily kept off the ballot under various pretexts.              

The U.S. has pledged $10 million toward the elections, but a review of contract spending shows that a significant portion of this has already been allocated and spent in coordination with a previous electoral body that no longer exists. In April of 2013, USAID awarded $2.3 million to the International Federation of Electoral Systems (IFES) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) for “electoral process support.” In April 2014, the award was raised to $3.4 million. An IFES press release from October 2013, well before elections had been scheduled, notes that the organization had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Transitional College of the Permanent Electoral Council (CTCEP) to provide technical assistance. The CTCEP has since been replaced by the electoral body that emerged from the controversial “El Rancho Accord.” Repeated requests for comment to clarify IFES’s support have yet to be answered.

Additionally, a USAID factsheet reports that $6.5 million will go toward “pre-election planning and capacity building for the” CTCEP. Those funds are part of a multi-donor project run by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Previously called “Support to Electoral Process in Haiti: 2012-2013”, the only recent update to the project’s webpage has been to change to dates to “2013-2014.” Overall, the UNDP project will have a budget of $32 million and had already spent over a $1 million as of October 2013. It remains unclear if the donors – the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the EU – have already deposited their contributions with the UNDP.

While Haitian President Michel Martelly has unilaterally scheduled long-delayed elections for October 26, 2014, the composition of the electoral council continues to cause controversy in Haiti. The current problems stem from the deeply flawed electoral process in 2010 that saw Martelly emerge victorious after the intervention of the international community. There have yet to be elections since then, with one-third of the 30 member Senate having their terms expire in 2011 while some 130 local mayors have been replaced by Martelly appointments. Another one-third of the Senate and the entire lower house will see their terms expire in January 2015 if elections are not held. In a “frequently asked questions” document released last week, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) provides a legal analysis of the reasons behind the delays and why the current electoral council is unconstitutional. In an accompanying press release, IJDH notes:

According to Mario Joseph, managing lawyer for the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, “Prompt elections are much needed, but elections will only remedy Haiti’s political crisis if they are run fairly by a constitutionally-mandated electoral council. President Michel Martelly has delayed elections for three years because he does not want to lose the political control he has enjoyed without full parliamentary oversight.”

Joseph explains that “The current Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) put into place by President Martelly per the El Rancho Accord is unconstitutional.” The El Rancho Accord, which rules the government’s plan for elections, has not been approved by Parliament and the procedure for selecting a CEP conflicts with the Haitian Constitution. The CEP only has seven of the required nine members due to these legitimacy concerns. Parliamentarians and political opposition call the El Rancho Accord a political coup d’état.

Despite the problems associated with the “El Rancho Accord,” the international community has been supportive of the process. After praising the accord in March, the U.N. issued a statement in early May, co-signed with the “Friends of Haiti” grouping of countries, warning “that certain important decisions to advance toward the holding of the elections have yet to be made.” Days later Martelly announced the formation of the electoral council, unilaterally. In early June, the date of October 26 was announced by the government, even though the electoral body is tasked with scheduling elections. Last week, after meeting with Martelly, the Secretary General of the OAS committed “to back the holding of free and fair elections, in a process planned for October.” The OAS also said they would send an electoral observation mission.


The international community is also providing the lion’s share of the funds for the election. IJDH, for its part, has called on the U.S. and other members of the international community to “support rule of law and democracy by conditioning election funding on a lawful and independent electoral council that can run fair and inclusive elections.” Haiti’s last several elections have been criticized for not being inclusive, as several political parties – including the most popular, Fanmi Lavalas – have been arbitrarily kept off the ballot under various pretexts.              

The U.S. has pledged $10 million toward the elections, but a review of contract spending shows that a significant portion of this has already been allocated and spent in coordination with a previous electoral body that no longer exists. In April of 2013, USAID awarded $2.3 million to the International Federation of Electoral Systems (IFES) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) for “electoral process support.” In April 2014, the award was raised to $3.4 million. An IFES press release from October 2013, well before elections had been scheduled, notes that the organization had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Transitional College of the Permanent Electoral Council (CTCEP) to provide technical assistance. The CTCEP has since been replaced by the electoral body that emerged from the controversial “El Rancho Accord.” Repeated requests for comment to clarify IFES’s support have yet to be answered.

Additionally, a USAID factsheet reports that $6.5 million will go toward “pre-election planning and capacity building for the” CTCEP. Those funds are part of a multi-donor project run by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Previously called “Support to Electoral Process in Haiti: 2012-2013”, the only recent update to the project’s webpage has been to change to dates to “2013-2014.” Overall, the UNDP project will have a budget of $32 million and had already spent over a $1 million as of October 2013. It remains unclear if the donors – the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the EU – have already deposited their contributions with the UNDP.

Speaking in early May at the “Who ‘Owns’ Haiti?” symposium at George Washington’s Elliot School of International Affairs, Colin Granderson, the head of the CARICOM-OAS Electoral Mission in Haiti in 2010-2011 confirmed previous accounts that the international community tried to force then-president Réné Préval from power on election day.

That the international community had “offered” President Préval a plane out of the country during Haiti’s chaotic first-round election in November 2010 was first revealed by Ricardo Seitenfus, the former OAS Special Representative to Haiti. Seitenfus subsequently lost his position with the OAS, but Préval himself soon confirmed the story, telling author Amy Wilentz:

“At around noon, they called me,” he said in an interview at the palace recently. “‘It’s no longer an election,’ they told me. ‘It’s a political problem. Do you want a plane to leave?’ I don’t know how they were going to explain my departure, but I got rid of that problem for them by refusing to go. I want to serve out my mandate and give the presidency over to an elected president.”

Despite accounts of the story from three different high-level sources who were there, the story has gained little international traction in the media.

In filmmaker Raoul Peck’s documentary “Fatal Assistance,” Préval revealed that it was the head of the U.N. mission in Haiti at the time, Edmond Mulet, who made the threat. (Seitenfus recently offered his recollection of discussions with Mulet and other high-level officials that day in an exclusive interview with CEPR and freelance Georgianne Nienaber.) For his part, Mulet categorically denied the event, telling Catherine Porter of the Toronto Star:

“I never said that, he never answered that,” Mulet told the Star when asked about Préval’s allegation. “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 election, plagued by record-low turnout, problems with voter registration and massive irregularities, was in doubt on election day when, around noon, 12 of 18 presidential candidates held a press conference calling for the election to be cancelled. Speaking at last month’s symposium, Granderson discussed what happened next (just past the 11 minute mark in this video):

The international community intervened, working with representatives of the private sector, and managed to get two of the candidates to reverse themselves, to renege on their commitment, and this rescued the electoral process.

But what I think was most unsettling, was that following this attempt to have these elections cancelled, was the intervention of certain members of the international community basically calling on President Préval to step down.

This wouldn’t be the end of the international community’s intervention in the electoral process. After first-round results were announced showing Mirlande Manigat and Préval’s successor Jude Célestin moving on to the second round, a team from the OAS was brought in to analyze the results. Despite having no statistical evidence, and instead of cancelling the elections, the OAS team overturned the first round results, replacing Célestin in the second round with Michel Martelly. Seitenfus has described in detail how this intervention was carried out, in his recent interview with CEPR and in his forthcoming book, International Crossroads and Failures in Haiti.

Speaking in early May at the “Who ‘Owns’ Haiti?” symposium at George Washington’s Elliot School of International Affairs, Colin Granderson, the head of the CARICOM-OAS Electoral Mission in Haiti in 2010-2011 confirmed previous accounts that the international community tried to force then-president Réné Préval from power on election day.

That the international community had “offered” President Préval a plane out of the country during Haiti’s chaotic first-round election in November 2010 was first revealed by Ricardo Seitenfus, the former OAS Special Representative to Haiti. Seitenfus subsequently lost his position with the OAS, but Préval himself soon confirmed the story, telling author Amy Wilentz:

“At around noon, they called me,” he said in an interview at the palace recently. “‘It’s no longer an election,’ they told me. ‘It’s a political problem. Do you want a plane to leave?’ I don’t know how they were going to explain my departure, but I got rid of that problem for them by refusing to go. I want to serve out my mandate and give the presidency over to an elected president.”

Despite accounts of the story from three different high-level sources who were there, the story has gained little international traction in the media.

In filmmaker Raoul Peck’s documentary “Fatal Assistance,” Préval revealed that it was the head of the U.N. mission in Haiti at the time, Edmond Mulet, who made the threat. (Seitenfus recently offered his recollection of discussions with Mulet and other high-level officials that day in an exclusive interview with CEPR and freelance Georgianne Nienaber.) For his part, Mulet categorically denied the event, telling Catherine Porter of the Toronto Star:

“I never said that, he never answered that,” Mulet told the Star when asked about Préval’s allegation. “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 election, plagued by record-low turnout, problems with voter registration and massive irregularities, was in doubt on election day when, around noon, 12 of 18 presidential candidates held a press conference calling for the election to be cancelled. Speaking at last month’s symposium, Granderson discussed what happened next (just past the 11 minute mark in this video):

The international community intervened, working with representatives of the private sector, and managed to get two of the candidates to reverse themselves, to renege on their commitment, and this rescued the electoral process.

But what I think was most unsettling, was that following this attempt to have these elections cancelled, was the intervention of certain members of the international community basically calling on President Préval to step down.

This wouldn’t be the end of the international community’s intervention in the electoral process. After first-round results were announced showing Mirlande Manigat and Préval’s successor Jude Célestin moving on to the second round, a team from the OAS was brought in to analyze the results. Despite having no statistical evidence, and instead of cancelling the elections, the OAS team overturned the first round results, replacing Célestin in the second round with Michel Martelly. Seitenfus has described in detail how this intervention was carried out, in his recent interview with CEPR and in his forthcoming book, International Crossroads and Failures in Haiti.

Last month Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald reported that the U.S. government had changed its plan for the development of a new port in support of the Caracol industrial park in Haiti’s north. The Herald report began:

After months of unsuccessfully trying to get private investors to cough up millions of dollars for the construction of a new, multimillion dollar port in northeastern Haiti, the U.S. government is scratching its plans and will instead revamp the existing port in the city of Cap-Haitien.

“The private sector was markedly unenthusiastic about investing in a new port,” said a U.S. government official familiar with the decision, but not authorized to speak publicly.

The new Fort Liberté port would have cost between $185 million and $257 million, and the U.S. government had committed to investing $70 million. A new port was viewed as being critical to the success of the nearby $300 million Caracol Industrial Park because the park’s five companies mostly ship out of ports in the neighboring Dominican Republic, a loss of valuable dollars to the Haitian treasury.

But while the Herald report points to a lack of private sector enthusiasm for the project as a key reason for its failure, an analysis of Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports and contractor documents reveals that this project has been plagued by a lack of in-house expertise and planning from the beginning.

It began in September 2011 when USAID awarded a contract to MWH Americas to conduct a feasibility study for port infrastructure in northern Haiti. MWH had previously been found by the New Orleans inspector general to have overcharged the city on reconstruction contracts related to hurricane Katrina. As HRRW reported in February 2013, “Within two weeks of receiving the $2.8 million contract, MWH Americas turned around and gave out $1.45 million in subcontracts to four different firms, all headquartered in Washington DC or Virginia.” The contract was extended multiple times, with the overall cost increasing to over $4.25 million. Still, the GAO later found that further studies “still need to be performed,” because the USAID “did not require the contractor to obtain all the information necessary to help select a port site,” according to the GAO.

USAID was overly reliant on the work of MWH and its cadre of beltway-based subcontractors because, as the GAO pointed out in 2011:

USAID’s program in Haiti has not previously involved port construction activities. With no staff who have port construction expertise or experience, USAID will rely on (1) a private firm to conduct a feasibility study and make recommendations regarding, among other things, port design, economic feasibility, and financial viability; and (2) a public private partnership to construct a new port.

A subsequent GAO report, from June 2013 reported that USAID had “not constructed a port anywhere in the world since the 1970s.” Further, the 2013 report found that a ports engineer and advisor position had been vacant for over two years. Nevertheless, the U.S. government’s post-earthquake reconstruction plan earmarked over $70 million to help construct a new port in northern Haiti. The investment was seen as a “critical to the success” to the Caracol industrial park – the flagship reconstruction project of the international community in Haiti.

The GAO also found that while USAID initially had planned on construction of the new port beginning within 2.5 years, after consulting with the Army Corp of Engineers, the agency “learned that port construction may take up to 10 years.” In addition to the time frame being grossly underestimated, the expected costs skyrocketed from the initial plan.

While USAID initially believed the money it had allocated to the ports sector would be a significant portion of the costs of any new port construction, it later found that the amount allocated would be a “significantly smaller portion,” of the overall cost. The GAO estimated that the financing gap for a new port was in the range of $117-$189 million, jeopardizing the chances of finding a private sector actor willing to invest.

Last month Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald reported that the U.S. government had changed its plan for the development of a new port in support of the Caracol industrial park in Haiti’s north. The Herald report began:

After months of unsuccessfully trying to get private investors to cough up millions of dollars for the construction of a new, multimillion dollar port in northeastern Haiti, the U.S. government is scratching its plans and will instead revamp the existing port in the city of Cap-Haitien.

“The private sector was markedly unenthusiastic about investing in a new port,” said a U.S. government official familiar with the decision, but not authorized to speak publicly.

The new Fort Liberté port would have cost between $185 million and $257 million, and the U.S. government had committed to investing $70 million. A new port was viewed as being critical to the success of the nearby $300 million Caracol Industrial Park because the park’s five companies mostly ship out of ports in the neighboring Dominican Republic, a loss of valuable dollars to the Haitian treasury.

But while the Herald report points to a lack of private sector enthusiasm for the project as a key reason for its failure, an analysis of Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports and contractor documents reveals that this project has been plagued by a lack of in-house expertise and planning from the beginning.

It began in September 2011 when USAID awarded a contract to MWH Americas to conduct a feasibility study for port infrastructure in northern Haiti. MWH had previously been found by the New Orleans inspector general to have overcharged the city on reconstruction contracts related to hurricane Katrina. As HRRW reported in February 2013, “Within two weeks of receiving the $2.8 million contract, MWH Americas turned around and gave out $1.45 million in subcontracts to four different firms, all headquartered in Washington DC or Virginia.” The contract was extended multiple times, with the overall cost increasing to over $4.25 million. Still, the GAO later found that further studies “still need to be performed,” because the USAID “did not require the contractor to obtain all the information necessary to help select a port site,” according to the GAO.

USAID was overly reliant on the work of MWH and its cadre of beltway-based subcontractors because, as the GAO pointed out in 2011:

USAID’s program in Haiti has not previously involved port construction activities. With no staff who have port construction expertise or experience, USAID will rely on (1) a private firm to conduct a feasibility study and make recommendations regarding, among other things, port design, economic feasibility, and financial viability; and (2) a public private partnership to construct a new port.

A subsequent GAO report, from June 2013 reported that USAID had “not constructed a port anywhere in the world since the 1970s.” Further, the 2013 report found that a ports engineer and advisor position had been vacant for over two years. Nevertheless, the U.S. government’s post-earthquake reconstruction plan earmarked over $70 million to help construct a new port in northern Haiti. The investment was seen as a “critical to the success” to the Caracol industrial park – the flagship reconstruction project of the international community in Haiti.

The GAO also found that while USAID initially had planned on construction of the new port beginning within 2.5 years, after consulting with the Army Corp of Engineers, the agency “learned that port construction may take up to 10 years.” In addition to the time frame being grossly underestimated, the expected costs skyrocketed from the initial plan.

While USAID initially believed the money it had allocated to the ports sector would be a significant portion of the costs of any new port construction, it later found that the amount allocated would be a “significantly smaller portion,” of the overall cost. The GAO estimated that the financing gap for a new port was in the range of $117-$189 million, jeopardizing the chances of finding a private sector actor willing to invest.

Two weeks after the Associated Press reported that the “old political party founded under the Duvalier dictatorship says it plans to enter candidates in Haitian elections,” President Martelly issued an executive decree naming one of Duvalier’s lawyers, Frizto Canton, as a member on the body overseeing said elections.

The holding of local and legislative elections, now more than two years overdue, continues to cause controversy and political gridlock in Haiti and consternation for the international community.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and head of MINUSTAH, Sandra Honore recently warned in a press release, co-signed by the so-called “Friends of Haiti” group of countries, “that certain important decisions to advance toward the holding of the elections have yet to be made” and that the “inability to hold elections in 2014 could lead to the dissolution of Parliament in January 2015 which would engender yet another political crisis, with unpredictable consequences for the future of Haitian democracy.” This followed visits by members of the U.S. Congress, U.S. State Department representatives and the Club de Madrid, ostensibly to push elections forward.

The gridlock between the senate and the president stems from the composition of Haiti’s electoral body, tasked with organizing and overseeing the electoral process. The international community and President Martelly have continually referred to the “El Rancho Accord,” which was the result of negotiations brokered by the Catholic Church, as outlining the composition of the electoral council. However, the president of the Senate, Simon Dieuseul Desras recently stated, as reported by Haiti Liberté, that, “the El Rancho Accord has no binding force and cannot override either the Constitution or the Electoral Law.” Desras added that a “trusted electoral council of consensus would not take one week to set up.”

Martelly, apparently frustrated by the Senate’s position, decided to move unilaterally today. The AP reports:

Haitian President Michel Martelly announced Tuesday he has appointed a new council to oversee legislative and local elections that are two years overdue, an important step to organizing a vote whose tardiness has frustrated many.

In a posting on his Facebook page and in a separate email, the leader said that the newest member of the council is Frizto Canton, a high-profile attorney who is defending former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier against human rights abuse and embezzlement charges.

Although the international community and U.S. State Department have largely blamed the electoral delays on the Haitian parliament rather than on Martelly, the press release from the “Friends of Haiti” also urged “all actors involved to make the concessions required to create a climate of mutual trust and serenity to facilitate the work of an Electoral Council which can provide the necessary guarantees for transparent and inclusive elections.”

It’s hard to believe the appointment of Canton will help “create a climate of mutual trust” between all parties, especially given the prominent role many officials during the Duvalier era have been given in the current administration. Martelly announced he would address the nation at 8 PM tonight, with elections expected to be the topic.

[Editor’s Note: The original post cited the AP in refering to Canton as the new head of the electoral council. While Canton took the place of the the previous head, it is unclear who will now occupy the top spot. The AP article has since been corrected.]


Two weeks after the Associated Press reported that the “old political party founded under the Duvalier dictatorship says it plans to enter candidates in Haitian elections,” President Martelly issued an executive decree naming one of Duvalier’s lawyers, Frizto Canton, as a member on the body overseeing said elections.

The holding of local and legislative elections, now more than two years overdue, continues to cause controversy and political gridlock in Haiti and consternation for the international community.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and head of MINUSTAH, Sandra Honore recently warned in a press release, co-signed by the so-called “Friends of Haiti” group of countries, “that certain important decisions to advance toward the holding of the elections have yet to be made” and that the “inability to hold elections in 2014 could lead to the dissolution of Parliament in January 2015 which would engender yet another political crisis, with unpredictable consequences for the future of Haitian democracy.” This followed visits by members of the U.S. Congress, U.S. State Department representatives and the Club de Madrid, ostensibly to push elections forward.

The gridlock between the senate and the president stems from the composition of Haiti’s electoral body, tasked with organizing and overseeing the electoral process. The international community and President Martelly have continually referred to the “El Rancho Accord,” which was the result of negotiations brokered by the Catholic Church, as outlining the composition of the electoral council. However, the president of the Senate, Simon Dieuseul Desras recently stated, as reported by Haiti Liberté, that, “the El Rancho Accord has no binding force and cannot override either the Constitution or the Electoral Law.” Desras added that a “trusted electoral council of consensus would not take one week to set up.”

Martelly, apparently frustrated by the Senate’s position, decided to move unilaterally today. The AP reports:

Haitian President Michel Martelly announced Tuesday he has appointed a new council to oversee legislative and local elections that are two years overdue, an important step to organizing a vote whose tardiness has frustrated many.

In a posting on his Facebook page and in a separate email, the leader said that the newest member of the council is Frizto Canton, a high-profile attorney who is defending former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier against human rights abuse and embezzlement charges.

Although the international community and U.S. State Department have largely blamed the electoral delays on the Haitian parliament rather than on Martelly, the press release from the “Friends of Haiti” also urged “all actors involved to make the concessions required to create a climate of mutual trust and serenity to facilitate the work of an Electoral Council which can provide the necessary guarantees for transparent and inclusive elections.”

It’s hard to believe the appointment of Canton will help “create a climate of mutual trust” between all parties, especially given the prominent role many officials during the Duvalier era have been given in the current administration. Martelly announced he would address the nation at 8 PM tonight, with elections expected to be the topic.

[Editor’s Note: The original post cited the AP in refering to Canton as the new head of the electoral council. While Canton took the place of the the previous head, it is unclear who will now occupy the top spot. The AP article has since been corrected.]


The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and its Haiti-based partner Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) have released a report outlining recent cases of persecution of organized workers in Haiti as well as Haitian government complicity in allowing illegal attacks against, and terminations of labor activists to occur without judicial consequences.  The report, titled “Haitian labor movement struggles as workers face increased anti-union persecution and wage suppression,” documents attacks and firings of union organizers by both public and private sector companies. 

In mid-December of 2013, garment workers staged a walkout and demonstrations to protest the low wages and subpar working conditions in Haiti’s garment factories.  As Better Work Haiti revealed in its 2013 Biannual Review of Haitian garment companies’ compliance with labor standards, only 25 percent of workers receive the minimum daily wage of 300 Haitian gourdes (equivalent to $6.81). They also found a 91 percent non-compliance rate with basic worker protection norms.  The BAI/IJDH report explains that on the third day of the December protests, “the Association of Haitian Industries locked out the workers, claiming they had to shut the factories for the security of their employees.”  In late December and January, IJDH/BAI documented “at least 36 terminations in seven factories throughout December and January in retaliation for the two-day protest, mostly of union representatives. The terminations continue.”

The report notes that union leaders at Electricity of Haiti (EDH) – Haiti’s biggest state-run enterprise – have also been illegally terminated and even physically attacked.   As BAI/IJDH describe,

On January 10, 2014, the leaders of SECEdH [Union of Employees of l’EDH] held a press conference at EDH, as they had countless times over the last several years. The purpose of the January 10 press conference was to allege mismanagement and corruption at EDH. At the last minute, EDH management refused to let journalists in the building, although they had given permission for the press conference the day before. SECEdH’s leaders joined journalists on the street outside EDH’s parking lot gate to convene the press conference. EDH security guards pushed down the metal gate onto the crowd, hitting SECEdH’s treasurer in the head and knocking him unconscious. The security guards stood by while the employee lay on the ground bleeding and witnesses urged them to help. Some journalists took the injured employee to the hospital in one of their vehicles. He was released from the hospital but suffers constant pain in his head, shoulders, arms, and back from the heavy gate falling on him.

The following week, SECEdH’s executive committee, including the injured officer, received letters of termination dated January 10, 2014.

The report goes on to describe government complicity with employer infractions of labor laws at the level of the judicial system, where “public and private employers enjoy impunity” and where workers continue to have extremely limited access to the justice system as “court fees and lawyers are too expensive for the poor to afford” and “proceedings are conducted in French, which most Haitians do not speak.”  Moreover, the Ministry of Labor as well as the Tripartite Commission for the Implementation of the HOPE agreement (which mandates garment factory compliance with international labor standards and Haitian labor law) have “backpedalled on the 2009 minimum wage law and issued public statements that support factory owners’ interpretations and non-compliance with the piece rate wage.”  The reports suggests that part of this backpedalling may be caused by President Michel Martelly’s efforts to promote increased international investment in Haitian sweatshops:

Making Haiti “open for business” was a core piece of President Michel Martelly’s election platform that has won him political and economic support from the U.S. government, despite low voter turnout and flawed elections in 2010 and 2011. Part of the Martelly administration’s strategy to attract foreign investment has been to keep wages low so that Haiti can be competitive with the global low-wage market. Haiti has the third lowest monthly wages in the apparel industry, surpassing only Cambodia and Bangladesh. This U.S.-backed “sweat shop” economic model is similar to the model in the 1970s and 1980s under former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and its Haiti-based partner Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) have released a report outlining recent cases of persecution of organized workers in Haiti as well as Haitian government complicity in allowing illegal attacks against, and terminations of labor activists to occur without judicial consequences.  The report, titled “Haitian labor movement struggles as workers face increased anti-union persecution and wage suppression,” documents attacks and firings of union organizers by both public and private sector companies. 

In mid-December of 2013, garment workers staged a walkout and demonstrations to protest the low wages and subpar working conditions in Haiti’s garment factories.  As Better Work Haiti revealed in its 2013 Biannual Review of Haitian garment companies’ compliance with labor standards, only 25 percent of workers receive the minimum daily wage of 300 Haitian gourdes (equivalent to $6.81). They also found a 91 percent non-compliance rate with basic worker protection norms.  The BAI/IJDH report explains that on the third day of the December protests, “the Association of Haitian Industries locked out the workers, claiming they had to shut the factories for the security of their employees.”  In late December and January, IJDH/BAI documented “at least 36 terminations in seven factories throughout December and January in retaliation for the two-day protest, mostly of union representatives. The terminations continue.”

The report notes that union leaders at Electricity of Haiti (EDH) – Haiti’s biggest state-run enterprise – have also been illegally terminated and even physically attacked.   As BAI/IJDH describe,

On January 10, 2014, the leaders of SECEdH [Union of Employees of l’EDH] held a press conference at EDH, as they had countless times over the last several years. The purpose of the January 10 press conference was to allege mismanagement and corruption at EDH. At the last minute, EDH management refused to let journalists in the building, although they had given permission for the press conference the day before. SECEdH’s leaders joined journalists on the street outside EDH’s parking lot gate to convene the press conference. EDH security guards pushed down the metal gate onto the crowd, hitting SECEdH’s treasurer in the head and knocking him unconscious. The security guards stood by while the employee lay on the ground bleeding and witnesses urged them to help. Some journalists took the injured employee to the hospital in one of their vehicles. He was released from the hospital but suffers constant pain in his head, shoulders, arms, and back from the heavy gate falling on him.

The following week, SECEdH’s executive committee, including the injured officer, received letters of termination dated January 10, 2014.

The report goes on to describe government complicity with employer infractions of labor laws at the level of the judicial system, where “public and private employers enjoy impunity” and where workers continue to have extremely limited access to the justice system as “court fees and lawyers are too expensive for the poor to afford” and “proceedings are conducted in French, which most Haitians do not speak.”  Moreover, the Ministry of Labor as well as the Tripartite Commission for the Implementation of the HOPE agreement (which mandates garment factory compliance with international labor standards and Haitian labor law) have “backpedalled on the 2009 minimum wage law and issued public statements that support factory owners’ interpretations and non-compliance with the piece rate wage.”  The reports suggests that part of this backpedalling may be caused by President Michel Martelly’s efforts to promote increased international investment in Haitian sweatshops:

Making Haiti “open for business” was a core piece of President Michel Martelly’s election platform that has won him political and economic support from the U.S. government, despite low voter turnout and flawed elections in 2010 and 2011. Part of the Martelly administration’s strategy to attract foreign investment has been to keep wages low so that Haiti can be competitive with the global low-wage market. Haiti has the third lowest monthly wages in the apparel industry, surpassing only Cambodia and Bangladesh. This U.S.-backed “sweat shop” economic model is similar to the model in the 1970s and 1980s under former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.

A new report from USAID’s Office of the Inspector General (IG) found that a U.S. government program to build thousands of new homes in Haiti after the earthquake of 2010 is woefully behind schedule and over budget, reports the Associated Press. The report’s findings echo those made by the Government Accountability Office in June 2013. USAID’s housing program was also the subject of an investigation published in the Boston Review in January 2014 by HRRW contributor Jake Johnston.

The IG’s audit found that USAID “did not achieve its goals” of providing permanent housing for Haitians and that “the mission had substantially completed construction of only 816 of the planned 4,000 houses—21 percent of the goal.” To compensate for the shortfalls, USAID increased funding for the project from $55 to $90 million and extended the deadline from December 2012 to October 2014. Still, the IG report found that, “it is unlikely that USAID will be able to meet its original goals even by the new target dates.” USAID mission director John Groarke told the AP that USAID “will now try to build homes through the use of mortgages.”

The IG’s audit takes USAID to task for failing to monitor quality control and environmental mitigation plans put forward by the contractors tasked with carrying out the project. The IG found that, for example, cement testing was improperly documented and that USAID “personnel did not review the contractor’s quality control procedures.” This could lead to “the use of substandard material in USAID-funded construction projects, affecting structural integrity,” according to the IG.

The IG also found that while the contractor tasked with monitoring environmental mitigation, CEEPCO, consistently found faults with the work of Thor Construction, tasked with building 750 of the new homes, USAID staff failed to follow up or adequately address the concerns. While CEEPCO, “issued citations” to Thor, the IG found that USAID “did not do detailed follow-up” on the problems identified.

Despite the project being over budget and behind schedule, the IG found that USAID had failed to even conduct basic performance evaluations of any of the four contractors involved in the program. Per contracting regulations, the evaluations were due between July 2012 and April 2013, yet had still not been completed by the time of the IG’s audit.

The audit from the IG is the latest to find that USAID has failed to adequately monitor its contractors and grantees in Haiti, resulting in substandard outputs. Responding to these findings, in December 2013 the House of Representatives passed the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, which calls for greater accountability and transparency in USAID’s programs in Haiti. The bill is currently in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

A new report from USAID’s Office of the Inspector General (IG) found that a U.S. government program to build thousands of new homes in Haiti after the earthquake of 2010 is woefully behind schedule and over budget, reports the Associated Press. The report’s findings echo those made by the Government Accountability Office in June 2013. USAID’s housing program was also the subject of an investigation published in the Boston Review in January 2014 by HRRW contributor Jake Johnston.

The IG’s audit found that USAID “did not achieve its goals” of providing permanent housing for Haitians and that “the mission had substantially completed construction of only 816 of the planned 4,000 houses—21 percent of the goal.” To compensate for the shortfalls, USAID increased funding for the project from $55 to $90 million and extended the deadline from December 2012 to October 2014. Still, the IG report found that, “it is unlikely that USAID will be able to meet its original goals even by the new target dates.” USAID mission director John Groarke told the AP that USAID “will now try to build homes through the use of mortgages.”

The IG’s audit takes USAID to task for failing to monitor quality control and environmental mitigation plans put forward by the contractors tasked with carrying out the project. The IG found that, for example, cement testing was improperly documented and that USAID “personnel did not review the contractor’s quality control procedures.” This could lead to “the use of substandard material in USAID-funded construction projects, affecting structural integrity,” according to the IG.

The IG also found that while the contractor tasked with monitoring environmental mitigation, CEEPCO, consistently found faults with the work of Thor Construction, tasked with building 750 of the new homes, USAID staff failed to follow up or adequately address the concerns. While CEEPCO, “issued citations” to Thor, the IG found that USAID “did not do detailed follow-up” on the problems identified.

Despite the project being over budget and behind schedule, the IG found that USAID had failed to even conduct basic performance evaluations of any of the four contractors involved in the program. Per contracting regulations, the evaluations were due between July 2012 and April 2013, yet had still not been completed by the time of the IG’s audit.

The audit from the IG is the latest to find that USAID has failed to adequately monitor its contractors and grantees in Haiti, resulting in substandard outputs. Responding to these findings, in December 2013 the House of Representatives passed the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, which calls for greater accountability and transparency in USAID’s programs in Haiti. The bill is currently in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

By Jake Johnston

USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) has recently been in the news after a covert “Cuban Twitter” program “aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government,” was revealed last week by the Associated Press. As my colleague Dan Beeton has written on CEPR’s Americas Blog, this is not the only time OTI has been implicated in destabilization campaigns in Latin America.

OTI has also been extremely active in Haiti since the earthquake in 2010. Two private companies, Chemonics International and Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI) began operations on the ground in Haiti, with USAID OTI funding, within a week of the earthquake. When the project came to a close this past November, the total spending through OTI totaled nearly $150 million, making it the largest post-earthquake U.S. government funded program in Haiti. And yet, very little is known as to the exact nature of how that money was spent, despite multiple USAID Inspector General reports showing delays, improper oversight and other associated problems.

The OTI website is explicit in describing the difference between it and other branches of USAID:

While humanitarian aid is distributed on the basis of need alone, transition assistance is allocated with an eye to advancing U.S. foreign policy objectives and priorities.

The website adds:

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, it acts as a catalyst for change where there is sufficient indigenous political will. In most cases, a key event occurs – an election, a peace accord, or the rise of a nonviolent protest movement – that signals a fundamental realignment of power or direction. Before initiating a new country program, OTI analyzes the extent to which the ingredients for success are in place.

OTI Will “No Longer Post Monthly Written Reports From Our Partners.”

As OTI explains on its website, in “exchange for the flexibility granted OTI, Congress demands and deserves complete, accurate, and real-time information” concerning its activities. To this end, OTI posted monthly, quarterly and annual reports from its various programs on its website. It even explicitly states this on its website, noting that, “OTI posts reports on its website at least monthly for its country programs.” However, according to an e-mail from OTI today, the office will “no longer post monthly written reports from our partners.” The e-mail added that the website will be changed accordingly. The website was indeed updated today, however no changes to that specific language were made.

In reality, at least in the case of Haiti, these reporting requirements had not been posted publicly for multiple years. Even when they were posted, they often contained contradictory information. Following inquiries from HRRW into discrepancies between two quarterly reports in late 2011, I was copied on an e-mail intended for an OTI employee’s superiors. It stated, bluntly:

Given the recent CEPR blog on Haiti and Chemonics, do you think I should follow up with Jake below, or refer him to LPA [Legislative and Public Affairs]?

The e-mail came just days after I had posted the final installment of a threepart blog series on some of USAID’s largest contractors in Haiti, including Chemonics. I was referred to LPA. [Side note: The employee who sent that e-mail previously worked for Chemonics.]

Almost exactly one year later, after having noticed that these reports were no longer being posted on OTI’s website, I followed up with LPA, asking for a clarification as to why these transparency measures, which are required in Chemonics’ contract with USAID, were not being followed. The response was, “Due to USAID’s website overhaul, more information will be available in the New Year.”

Now, silently, OTI has simply stopped posting these reports and has changed its policy to not post them from any of its country programs at all. In the AP investigation of the “Cuban Twitter” program, the authors note that it wasn’t just the public that was kept in the dark, but policymakers as well:

In 2009, a report by congressional researchers warned that OTI’s work “often lends itself to political entanglements that may have diplomatic implications.” Staffers on oversight committees complained that USAID was running secret programs and would not provide details.

“We were told we couldn’t even be told in broad terms what was happening because ‘people will die,’” said Fulton Armstrong, who worked for the Senate Foreign Relations committee.

This echoes what USAID wrote to me when justifying the redaction of the entire Statement of Work in Chemonics’ USAID contract, which I had filed a Freedom of Information Act to obtain. The response was that:

The release of information in the Statement of Work would likely instigate demonstrations and create an unsafe environment in which to implement and/or develop programs.

A separate FOIA, filed in August 2012 requesting the monthly, quarterly and annual reports that were supposed to be publicly posted, as well as other contractually-mandated reporting requirements, has yet to receive a full response.

By Jake Johnston

USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) has recently been in the news after a covert “Cuban Twitter” program “aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government,” was revealed last week by the Associated Press. As my colleague Dan Beeton has written on CEPR’s Americas Blog, this is not the only time OTI has been implicated in destabilization campaigns in Latin America.

OTI has also been extremely active in Haiti since the earthquake in 2010. Two private companies, Chemonics International and Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI) began operations on the ground in Haiti, with USAID OTI funding, within a week of the earthquake. When the project came to a close this past November, the total spending through OTI totaled nearly $150 million, making it the largest post-earthquake U.S. government funded program in Haiti. And yet, very little is known as to the exact nature of how that money was spent, despite multiple USAID Inspector General reports showing delays, improper oversight and other associated problems.

The OTI website is explicit in describing the difference between it and other branches of USAID:

While humanitarian aid is distributed on the basis of need alone, transition assistance is allocated with an eye to advancing U.S. foreign policy objectives and priorities.

The website adds:

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, it acts as a catalyst for change where there is sufficient indigenous political will. In most cases, a key event occurs – an election, a peace accord, or the rise of a nonviolent protest movement – that signals a fundamental realignment of power or direction. Before initiating a new country program, OTI analyzes the extent to which the ingredients for success are in place.

OTI Will “No Longer Post Monthly Written Reports From Our Partners.”

As OTI explains on its website, in “exchange for the flexibility granted OTI, Congress demands and deserves complete, accurate, and real-time information” concerning its activities. To this end, OTI posted monthly, quarterly and annual reports from its various programs on its website. It even explicitly states this on its website, noting that, “OTI posts reports on its website at least monthly for its country programs.” However, according to an e-mail from OTI today, the office will “no longer post monthly written reports from our partners.” The e-mail added that the website will be changed accordingly. The website was indeed updated today, however no changes to that specific language were made.

In reality, at least in the case of Haiti, these reporting requirements had not been posted publicly for multiple years. Even when they were posted, they often contained contradictory information. Following inquiries from HRRW into discrepancies between two quarterly reports in late 2011, I was copied on an e-mail intended for an OTI employee’s superiors. It stated, bluntly:

Given the recent CEPR blog on Haiti and Chemonics, do you think I should follow up with Jake below, or refer him to LPA [Legislative and Public Affairs]?

The e-mail came just days after I had posted the final installment of a threepart blog series on some of USAID’s largest contractors in Haiti, including Chemonics. I was referred to LPA. [Side note: The employee who sent that e-mail previously worked for Chemonics.]

Almost exactly one year later, after having noticed that these reports were no longer being posted on OTI’s website, I followed up with LPA, asking for a clarification as to why these transparency measures, which are required in Chemonics’ contract with USAID, were not being followed. The response was, “Due to USAID’s website overhaul, more information will be available in the New Year.”

Now, silently, OTI has simply stopped posting these reports and has changed its policy to not post them from any of its country programs at all. In the AP investigation of the “Cuban Twitter” program, the authors note that it wasn’t just the public that was kept in the dark, but policymakers as well:

In 2009, a report by congressional researchers warned that OTI’s work “often lends itself to political entanglements that may have diplomatic implications.” Staffers on oversight committees complained that USAID was running secret programs and would not provide details.

“We were told we couldn’t even be told in broad terms what was happening because ‘people will die,’” said Fulton Armstrong, who worked for the Senate Foreign Relations committee.

This echoes what USAID wrote to me when justifying the redaction of the entire Statement of Work in Chemonics’ USAID contract, which I had filed a Freedom of Information Act to obtain. The response was that:

The release of information in the Statement of Work would likely instigate demonstrations and create an unsafe environment in which to implement and/or develop programs.

A separate FOIA, filed in August 2012 requesting the monthly, quarterly and annual reports that were supposed to be publicly posted, as well as other contractually-mandated reporting requirements, has yet to receive a full response.

Last month, the U.N. Independent Expert of Human Rights in Haiti, Gustavo Gallon, released his first report since taking over his post. As the BBC reports, Gallon called for “full compensation” for those who have been victims of the cholera epidemic in Haiti. Gallon added that, “The diplomatic difficulties around this question have to be resolved to stop the epidemic as soon possible and pay full compensation for suffering experienced,” adding that “It is advisable to shed light on what really happened and to punish those responsible, whoever they may be.” Finally, Gallon stated that the U.N. “should be the first to honor” these principles. As the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), points out, Gallón has become “first to make the demand [for compensation] in a publicly available official UN document.”

However, while the human rights expert Gallón encouraged compensation, the U.N. itself has continued to evade responsibility. After the U.N. dismissed claims against it brought on behalf of over 5,000 cholera victims, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), IJDH and civil rights law firm Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzelli & Pratt filed a lawsuit in October 2013 against the U.N., MINUSTAH and two officials on behalf of the victims. In a press release concerning Gallón’s report, IJDH notes that:

Gallón’s report comes as the deadline to answer the lawsuit has lapsed for MINUSTAH and the individual defendants. The UN itself has failed to respond to a motion that service of process is complete.

“The defendants’ failure to accept service or to respond to the lawsuit continues the UN’s pattern of avoiding justice despite its clear-cut responsibility for the epidemic,” said plaintiffs’ co-counsel and IJDH Staff Attorney Beatrice Lindstrom. Amidst reports that the UN has asked the U.S. government to defend its position, the United States is currently weighing whether to take a position in the lawsuit by their March 7 deadline.

When the U.N. was asked about Gallón’s report, the response from Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General was typical of the way the U.N. has handled media requests on the cholera epidemic:

The Human Rights Council-appointed special rapporteurs and other special advisers of various kinds are independent and they are not appointed by the Secretary-General and I don’t have anything further to say on that.

The U.N. has also sought to deflect criticism and separate the legal issues from the current response on the ground. In a long interview by former AP correspondent Jonathan Katz, the U.N. Senior Coordinator for the Cholera Response in Haiti, Pedro Medrano stated:

[W]e have two things here: I am not dealing with the legal issue; I am dealing with the response. We will have plenty of opportunities to continue to discuss the legal issue. But at this stage … when we have an epidemic like this, which is the largest in the whole hemisphere, we need to deal with the response.

But, as Katz reports, there has been little movement forward on the 10-year $2.2 billion cholera elimination plan that the U.N. “put its name on in December 2012.” Of the estimated $448 million needed for 2013 and 2014, less than 50 percent has been mobilized. Katz reports that overall, just $180 million has thus far been disbursed. Medrano’s staff later told Katz that the amount of funds committed to the project is “vastly insufficient to meet urgent needs.”

When Katz inquired as to why the U.N. was unable to come up with more funds for the cholera response, Medrano stated that “Major donors think this is not an emergency anymore.” Katz then pressed, asking if it was “possible that part of the reason why other donors aren’t coming forward is because they think that it should be the UN’s responsibility to pay for the cleanup?” Medrano stated that “The resources we have [are] a function of how much support we get from the member states,” adding that, “In a way, we [the U.N.] are a reflection of what the international community wants us to do in Haiti.” The interview concluded with Medrano telling Katz, “certainly it was never the intention of the United Nations to bring cholera in Haiti.”

The issue of cholera and U.N. responsibility also came up in a recent interview of former Organization of American States representative Ricardo Seitenfus. The interview, conducted by Dan Beeton and Georgianne Nienaber and published in Dissent, contains numerous revelations from the former insider, Seitenfus. For example, he states that:

There is no doubt that the fact that the United Nations – especially Edmond Mulet and Ban Ki-moon – systematically denied its direct and scientifically-verified responsibility for the introduction of the Vibrio cholera into Haiti, projects a lasting shadow over that peace operation. What is shocking is not MINUSTAH’s carelessness and negligence. What is shocking is the lie, turned into strategy, by the international community. The connivance of the alleged “Group of Friends of Haiti” (integrated at first by Argentina, the Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Chile, the United States, Guatemala, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, as well as Germany, France, Spain and Norway, in their role as Permanent Observers before the OAS) in this genocide by negligence, constitutes an embarrassment that will forever mark their relations with Haiti.

Seitenfus adds:

With the contempt for Haitian constitutional rights and for the legal principles that govern the Law of Treaties, the United Nations demonstrated, once again, the constant levity with which it treats Haitian matters. Responsible for establishing the rule of law in the country, according to its own mission, the U.N. does not follow even its own fundamental provisions, thus making the text that it supports and that should legalize its actions in Haiti void and ineffective.

Last month, the U.N. Independent Expert of Human Rights in Haiti, Gustavo Gallon, released his first report since taking over his post. As the BBC reports, Gallon called for “full compensation” for those who have been victims of the cholera epidemic in Haiti. Gallon added that, “The diplomatic difficulties around this question have to be resolved to stop the epidemic as soon possible and pay full compensation for suffering experienced,” adding that “It is advisable to shed light on what really happened and to punish those responsible, whoever they may be.” Finally, Gallon stated that the U.N. “should be the first to honor” these principles. As the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), points out, Gallón has become “first to make the demand [for compensation] in a publicly available official UN document.”

However, while the human rights expert Gallón encouraged compensation, the U.N. itself has continued to evade responsibility. After the U.N. dismissed claims against it brought on behalf of over 5,000 cholera victims, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), IJDH and civil rights law firm Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzelli & Pratt filed a lawsuit in October 2013 against the U.N., MINUSTAH and two officials on behalf of the victims. In a press release concerning Gallón’s report, IJDH notes that:

Gallón’s report comes as the deadline to answer the lawsuit has lapsed for MINUSTAH and the individual defendants. The UN itself has failed to respond to a motion that service of process is complete.

“The defendants’ failure to accept service or to respond to the lawsuit continues the UN’s pattern of avoiding justice despite its clear-cut responsibility for the epidemic,” said plaintiffs’ co-counsel and IJDH Staff Attorney Beatrice Lindstrom. Amidst reports that the UN has asked the U.S. government to defend its position, the United States is currently weighing whether to take a position in the lawsuit by their March 7 deadline.

When the U.N. was asked about Gallón’s report, the response from Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General was typical of the way the U.N. has handled media requests on the cholera epidemic:

The Human Rights Council-appointed special rapporteurs and other special advisers of various kinds are independent and they are not appointed by the Secretary-General and I don’t have anything further to say on that.

The U.N. has also sought to deflect criticism and separate the legal issues from the current response on the ground. In a long interview by former AP correspondent Jonathan Katz, the U.N. Senior Coordinator for the Cholera Response in Haiti, Pedro Medrano stated:

[W]e have two things here: I am not dealing with the legal issue; I am dealing with the response. We will have plenty of opportunities to continue to discuss the legal issue. But at this stage … when we have an epidemic like this, which is the largest in the whole hemisphere, we need to deal with the response.

But, as Katz reports, there has been little movement forward on the 10-year $2.2 billion cholera elimination plan that the U.N. “put its name on in December 2012.” Of the estimated $448 million needed for 2013 and 2014, less than 50 percent has been mobilized. Katz reports that overall, just $180 million has thus far been disbursed. Medrano’s staff later told Katz that the amount of funds committed to the project is “vastly insufficient to meet urgent needs.”

When Katz inquired as to why the U.N. was unable to come up with more funds for the cholera response, Medrano stated that “Major donors think this is not an emergency anymore.” Katz then pressed, asking if it was “possible that part of the reason why other donors aren’t coming forward is because they think that it should be the UN’s responsibility to pay for the cleanup?” Medrano stated that “The resources we have [are] a function of how much support we get from the member states,” adding that, “In a way, we [the U.N.] are a reflection of what the international community wants us to do in Haiti.” The interview concluded with Medrano telling Katz, “certainly it was never the intention of the United Nations to bring cholera in Haiti.”

The issue of cholera and U.N. responsibility also came up in a recent interview of former Organization of American States representative Ricardo Seitenfus. The interview, conducted by Dan Beeton and Georgianne Nienaber and published in Dissent, contains numerous revelations from the former insider, Seitenfus. For example, he states that:

There is no doubt that the fact that the United Nations – especially Edmond Mulet and Ban Ki-moon – systematically denied its direct and scientifically-verified responsibility for the introduction of the Vibrio cholera into Haiti, projects a lasting shadow over that peace operation. What is shocking is not MINUSTAH’s carelessness and negligence. What is shocking is the lie, turned into strategy, by the international community. The connivance of the alleged “Group of Friends of Haiti” (integrated at first by Argentina, the Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Chile, the United States, Guatemala, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, as well as Germany, France, Spain and Norway, in their role as Permanent Observers before the OAS) in this genocide by negligence, constitutes an embarrassment that will forever mark their relations with Haiti.

Seitenfus adds:

With the contempt for Haitian constitutional rights and for the legal principles that govern the Law of Treaties, the United Nations demonstrated, once again, the constant levity with which it treats Haitian matters. Responsible for establishing the rule of law in the country, according to its own mission, the U.N. does not follow even its own fundamental provisions, thus making the text that it supports and that should legalize its actions in Haiti void and ineffective.

It has been 10 years since the February 29, 2004 coup d’etat that ousted the democratically-elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti. Paramilitary groups – including many former members of Haiti’s disbanded army and/or CIA-funded death squads – had engaged in a campaign of violence directed against supporters of the government, and the Haitian National Police (HNP), for years before. Supported by the Dominican government and advised by groups based in Washington, they unleashed a wave of terror, killing innocent civilians including children and women, assaulting and brutalizing others, and burning down police stations and other government buildings. In the end, however, these groups seem to have realized they could not mount a successful incursion into Port-au-Prince, and it was a U.S. plane that flew Aristide out of the country.

As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot wrote after the coup, Washington also directed international financial institutions to withhold funds from the Aristide government (some of which were designated for potable water – their being withheld helping to create the conditions for the cholera epidemic several years later):

[T]he Administration has been working on toppling Aristide for the past three years, plunging the country into chaos in the process.

The major international financial institutions (IFI’s) — including the IMF, World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, supported the administration’s destabilization efforts by cutting off hundreds of millions of dollars in credit to one of the most desperately poor countries in the world.

The pretext was a dispute over the election of seven senators of Aristide’s party in 2001. Aristide offered every possible solution but it didn’t matter. With Washington and the IFI’s backing them, the opposition refused any agreement short of Aristide’s resignation.

In the end, Aristide did not resign – although the Bush administration claimed he did. Aristide himself claimed instead that he was the victim of a “kidnapping in the service of a coup d’etat.” His account is verified by witnesses, as Randall Robinson has pointed out in his account of events related to the coup. Bundled onto a plane, he and First Lady Mildred Aristide were flown to an unknown destination, what turned out to be the Central African Republic.

The coup took place amidst what can only be seen as a massive disinformation campaign against Haiti’s popular and democratic government. Scholars such as Jeb Sprague and Peter Hallward have combed through previously classified U.S. government documents and conducted countless interviews with people involved. Often the perpetrators of the destabilization of the Aristide government have been open in discussing their activities and who supported them. Accounts of grave human rights abuses by the Aristide government – often promoted by Haitian organizations that had essentially been bought off – have now been shown to be false, but at the time they were carried in the domestic and international media and did much to harm Aristide’s reputation. They also served as a pretext for the political persecution of members of Aristide’s government, including Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, Interior Minister Jocelerme Privert,  and leaders and prominent supporters of the Fanmi Lavalas party such as Annette Auguste and the late Father Gerard Jean-Juste.

In the coup’s wake, the people of Haiti experienced one of the country’s worst human rights disasters in recent times. Human rights researchers estimate that some 4,000 people were killed for political reasons, with killings targeting members of Fanmi Lavalas and opponents of the coup and of the interim government imposed on the country; some massacres carried out in broad daylight. Others were falsely imprisoned, or forcibly disappeared. Some 35,000 women and girls reported having been the victim of sexual assault; of these “officers from the Haitian National Police accounted for 13·8% and armed anti-Lavalas groups accounted for 10·6% of identified perpetrators” according to a study in The Lancet. Some of the same paramilitaries who had rampaged through Haiti from 2000 up to the coup carried out the violence while the interim government and international community stood by. (Many of them would be integrated into the HNP, as Sprague explains in detail.) Other atrocities were committed by the HNP, sometimes with the involvement or tacit support of MINUSTAH (U.N. mission) troops. At the urging of Haiti’s powerful elite, HNP officers and MINUSTAH troops carried out deadly raids into slums in order to eliminate “gang” leaders, often killing bystanders in the process.

International human rights organizations paid little attention to what was almost certainly the largest human rights crisis in the hemisphere at the time, and the international media even less. A few brave journalists – usually independent – documented some of these events.

While the intensity of the post-coup human rights crisis may have been greater, this period of political persecution and repression never really ended. Fanmi Lavalas leaders and supporters have continued to find themselves targeted. In 2007, when René Préval was president, human rights activist and Fanmi Lavalas supporter Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine was kidnapped and disappeared. International cries of alarm were met with rumors that it was a “fake” kidnapping, and that Lovinsky was trying to get attention. He has never been found. More recently, leading human rights activist Daniel Dorsainvil and his wife Girldy Lareche were murdered, and a new round of bogus accusations have been leveled against Annette Auguste, Mirlande Libérus Pavert and others relating to the still-unsolved murder of journalist Jean Dominique in 2000, while some of the individuals that evidence links most closely to the crime are ignored. More well-known is that Fanmi Lavalas as a party has been arbitrarily excluded from elections since the coup.

Aristide’s return to Haiti from forced exile in 2011 – against the U.S. government’s wishes and efforts to convince the South African government to stop him – has undermined the various false accusations leveled at him and Fanmi Lavalas. For years, we heard that Aristide would likely face charges of corruption and human rights crimes if he ever returned to Haiti. Nearly three years later, he has yet to be charged with anything. As Aristide’s attorney Ira Kurzban wrote before Aristide’s return to Haiti – and as still holds true, he is “charged with no crime” and “The New York Times noted during his first exile (1991-1994), [Aristide] ‘won Haiti’s first and only democratic election overwhelmingly,’ followed by a “seven-month tenure [that] was marked by fewer human-rights violations and fewer boat people than any comparable period in modern Haitian history.’”

The coup and the events after also are part of a pattern of foreign intervention in Haiti going back centuries, and such interference continues today as well, as the U.S. government seeks to “manage Haiti” through the ongoing MINUSTAH presence and other means. Along with the U.S. government, France and Canada also overtly supported the undermining and removal of the Aristide government (France motivated in part by Aristide’s call for it to pay back the ransom it demanded Haiti hand over as a price for its independence). This intervention has continued, notably – as recently recounted by former Organization of American States (OAS) Special Representative to Haiti Ricardo Seitenfus — in the 2010 threatened removal of then-President Préval (via airplane, a la Aristide) and the blatant intervention by the OAS – led by the U.S., Canada and France – in Haiti’s elections, resulting in the arbitrary replacement of governing party candidate Jude Célestin with Michel Martelly in the run-off. Martelly would go on to win the presidency despite receiving votes from less than 17 percent of the electorate in the second round.

In order for Haiti to be able to move beyond the 2004 coup and the subsequent political and human rights crisis, this foreign intervention must end. Fanmi Lavalas and other political parties must be allowed to participate in elections, and the Haitian people’s will freely expressed in choosing its government and its own path forward. This is called national sovereignty and democracy, and it is unfortunately what powerful outside interests have been trying to impede in Haiti for over 210 years.

It has been 10 years since the February 29, 2004 coup d’etat that ousted the democratically-elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti. Paramilitary groups – including many former members of Haiti’s disbanded army and/or CIA-funded death squads – had engaged in a campaign of violence directed against supporters of the government, and the Haitian National Police (HNP), for years before. Supported by the Dominican government and advised by groups based in Washington, they unleashed a wave of terror, killing innocent civilians including children and women, assaulting and brutalizing others, and burning down police stations and other government buildings. In the end, however, these groups seem to have realized they could not mount a successful incursion into Port-au-Prince, and it was a U.S. plane that flew Aristide out of the country.

As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot wrote after the coup, Washington also directed international financial institutions to withhold funds from the Aristide government (some of which were designated for potable water – their being withheld helping to create the conditions for the cholera epidemic several years later):

[T]he Administration has been working on toppling Aristide for the past three years, plunging the country into chaos in the process.

The major international financial institutions (IFI’s) — including the IMF, World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, supported the administration’s destabilization efforts by cutting off hundreds of millions of dollars in credit to one of the most desperately poor countries in the world.

The pretext was a dispute over the election of seven senators of Aristide’s party in 2001. Aristide offered every possible solution but it didn’t matter. With Washington and the IFI’s backing them, the opposition refused any agreement short of Aristide’s resignation.

In the end, Aristide did not resign – although the Bush administration claimed he did. Aristide himself claimed instead that he was the victim of a “kidnapping in the service of a coup d’etat.” His account is verified by witnesses, as Randall Robinson has pointed out in his account of events related to the coup. Bundled onto a plane, he and First Lady Mildred Aristide were flown to an unknown destination, what turned out to be the Central African Republic.

The coup took place amidst what can only be seen as a massive disinformation campaign against Haiti’s popular and democratic government. Scholars such as Jeb Sprague and Peter Hallward have combed through previously classified U.S. government documents and conducted countless interviews with people involved. Often the perpetrators of the destabilization of the Aristide government have been open in discussing their activities and who supported them. Accounts of grave human rights abuses by the Aristide government – often promoted by Haitian organizations that had essentially been bought off – have now been shown to be false, but at the time they were carried in the domestic and international media and did much to harm Aristide’s reputation. They also served as a pretext for the political persecution of members of Aristide’s government, including Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, Interior Minister Jocelerme Privert,  and leaders and prominent supporters of the Fanmi Lavalas party such as Annette Auguste and the late Father Gerard Jean-Juste.

In the coup’s wake, the people of Haiti experienced one of the country’s worst human rights disasters in recent times. Human rights researchers estimate that some 4,000 people were killed for political reasons, with killings targeting members of Fanmi Lavalas and opponents of the coup and of the interim government imposed on the country; some massacres carried out in broad daylight. Others were falsely imprisoned, or forcibly disappeared. Some 35,000 women and girls reported having been the victim of sexual assault; of these “officers from the Haitian National Police accounted for 13·8% and armed anti-Lavalas groups accounted for 10·6% of identified perpetrators” according to a study in The Lancet. Some of the same paramilitaries who had rampaged through Haiti from 2000 up to the coup carried out the violence while the interim government and international community stood by. (Many of them would be integrated into the HNP, as Sprague explains in detail.) Other atrocities were committed by the HNP, sometimes with the involvement or tacit support of MINUSTAH (U.N. mission) troops. At the urging of Haiti’s powerful elite, HNP officers and MINUSTAH troops carried out deadly raids into slums in order to eliminate “gang” leaders, often killing bystanders in the process.

International human rights organizations paid little attention to what was almost certainly the largest human rights crisis in the hemisphere at the time, and the international media even less. A few brave journalists – usually independent – documented some of these events.

While the intensity of the post-coup human rights crisis may have been greater, this period of political persecution and repression never really ended. Fanmi Lavalas leaders and supporters have continued to find themselves targeted. In 2007, when René Préval was president, human rights activist and Fanmi Lavalas supporter Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine was kidnapped and disappeared. International cries of alarm were met with rumors that it was a “fake” kidnapping, and that Lovinsky was trying to get attention. He has never been found. More recently, leading human rights activist Daniel Dorsainvil and his wife Girldy Lareche were murdered, and a new round of bogus accusations have been leveled against Annette Auguste, Mirlande Libérus Pavert and others relating to the still-unsolved murder of journalist Jean Dominique in 2000, while some of the individuals that evidence links most closely to the crime are ignored. More well-known is that Fanmi Lavalas as a party has been arbitrarily excluded from elections since the coup.

Aristide’s return to Haiti from forced exile in 2011 – against the U.S. government’s wishes and efforts to convince the South African government to stop him – has undermined the various false accusations leveled at him and Fanmi Lavalas. For years, we heard that Aristide would likely face charges of corruption and human rights crimes if he ever returned to Haiti. Nearly three years later, he has yet to be charged with anything. As Aristide’s attorney Ira Kurzban wrote before Aristide’s return to Haiti – and as still holds true, he is “charged with no crime” and “The New York Times noted during his first exile (1991-1994), [Aristide] ‘won Haiti’s first and only democratic election overwhelmingly,’ followed by a “seven-month tenure [that] was marked by fewer human-rights violations and fewer boat people than any comparable period in modern Haitian history.’”

The coup and the events after also are part of a pattern of foreign intervention in Haiti going back centuries, and such interference continues today as well, as the U.S. government seeks to “manage Haiti” through the ongoing MINUSTAH presence and other means. Along with the U.S. government, France and Canada also overtly supported the undermining and removal of the Aristide government (France motivated in part by Aristide’s call for it to pay back the ransom it demanded Haiti hand over as a price for its independence). This intervention has continued, notably – as recently recounted by former Organization of American States (OAS) Special Representative to Haiti Ricardo Seitenfus — in the 2010 threatened removal of then-President Préval (via airplane, a la Aristide) and the blatant intervention by the OAS – led by the U.S., Canada and France – in Haiti’s elections, resulting in the arbitrary replacement of governing party candidate Jude Célestin with Michel Martelly in the run-off. Martelly would go on to win the presidency despite receiving votes from less than 17 percent of the electorate in the second round.

In order for Haiti to be able to move beyond the 2004 coup and the subsequent political and human rights crisis, this foreign intervention must end. Fanmi Lavalas and other political parties must be allowed to participate in elections, and the Haitian people’s will freely expressed in choosing its government and its own path forward. This is called national sovereignty and democracy, and it is unfortunately what powerful outside interests have been trying to impede in Haiti for over 210 years.

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