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.

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An Interview with Ricardo Seitenfus by Dan Beeton and Georgianne Nienaber

[Excerpts of this interview were originally published by Dissent Magazine on February 24, 2014. The full interview follows.]

The title of Brazilian professor Ricardo Seitenfus’ book, HAITI: Dilemas e Fracassos Internacionais (“International Crossroads and Failures in Haiti,” to be published in Brazil by the Editora Unijui (Universite de Ijui) dans la Serie Globalisation et Relations Internationales) appropriately opens with a reference to existentialist philosopher Albert Camus. Camus’ third great novel, The Fall, is a work of fiction in which the author makes the case that every living person is responsible for any atrocity that can be quantified or named. In the case of Haiti, the January 2010 earthquake set the final stage for what amounted to what Seitenfus says is an “international embezzlement” of the country.

The tragedy began over 200 years ago in 1804, when Haiti committed what Seitenfus terms an “original sin,” a crime of lèse-majesté for a troubled world: it became the first (and only) independent nation to emerge from a slave rebellion. “The Haitian revolutionary model scared the colonialist and racist Great Powers,” Seitenfus writes. The U.S. only recognized Haiti’s independence in 1862, just before it abolished its own slavery system, and France demanded heavy financial compensation from the new republic as a condition of its honoring Haiti’s nationhood. Haiti has been isolated and manipulated on the international scene ever since, its people “prisoners on their own island.”

To understand Seitenfus’ journey into the theater of the absurd, it is necessary to revisit the months after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. As the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Special Representative in Haiti, Seitenfus lost his job in December 2010 after an interview in which he sharply criticized the role of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the devastated country. But it appears that the author also had insider information about international plans for a “silent coup d’etat,” electoral interference and more.

On the Ground in Haiti: October – December 2010

It was not yet one year since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed 220,000 or more, left infrastructure in chaos, and 1.5 million people homeless. Accusations were rampant in October international press reports that the United Nations mission to Haiti (MINUSTAH) had introduced cholera into Haiti’s river system; the resulting epidemic would kill over 8,500 and sicken over 696,865 by the time of this writing.[1] Ground zero for the outbreak was negligent sewage disposal at the Nepalese Mirebalais MINUSTAH camp. The malfeasance was first documented by the Associated Press and ultimately provided crucial proof of the U.N.’s guilt. Thousands were infected and the number of dead rose exponentially. On November 28, the national election was contested in what can only be termed an electoral crisis. Hundreds of thousands of voters were either shut out of the electoral process or boycotted the vote after the most popular party in the country – Fanmi Lavalas – was again banned from competing. Many of those displaced by the earthquake were not allowed to vote, and in the end less than 23 percent of registered voters had their vote counted.

Eyewitness testimony on election day reported numerous electoral violations: ballot stuffing, tearing up of ballots, intimidation and fraud. Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council, responsible for overseeing elections, announced that former first lady Mirlande Manigat won but lacked the margin of victory needed to avoid a runoff. An OAS “experts” mission was dispatched to examine the results. Even though it was indeterminate that he should advance, due to the OAS’ intervention, candidate and pop musician Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly was selected to compete in the runoff instead of the governing party’s candidate Jude Célestin. 

The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) subsequently released a report showing that there were so many problems with the election tallies that the OAS’ conclusions represented a political, rather than an electoral decision.

CEPR reported that for some 1,326 voting booths, or 11.9 percent of the total, tally sheets were either never received by the CEP, or were quarantined for irregularities.  This corresponded to about 12.7 percent of the vote not being counted and not included in the final totals that were released by the CEP on December 7, 2010 and reported by the press. CEPR also noted that in its review of the tally sheets, the OAS Mission chose to examine only a portion, and that those it discarded were from disproportionately pro-Célestin areas. Nor did the OAS mission use any statistical inference to estimate what might have resulted had it examined the other 92 percent of tally sheets that it did not examine.

The runoff was finally scheduled for March 20, 2011 and Martelly was declared the winner with 67.6% of the vote versus Manigat’s 31.5%. Turnout was so low that Martelly was declared president-elect after receiving the votes of less than 17% of the electorate in the second round.

Into the fray stepped Brazilian professor Ricardo Seitenfus. Seitenfus, a respected scholar, made statements to Swiss newspaper Le Temps criticizing international meddling in Haiti in general and by MINUSTAH and NGOs in particular. He was abruptly ousted on Christmas Day. The press was equivocal on whether Seitenfus was fired or forced to take a two-month “vacation” before his tenure ended in March 2011.

Was Seitenfus let go for citing a “maléfique ou perverse” (evil or perverse) relationship between the government of Haiti and NGOs operating amidst fraud and waste; his accusations about the cholera cover-up; or more troubling, knowledge of a silent coup being orchestrated against then-President René Préval by a secret “Core Group?” Was he silenced because of his knowledge of covert meetings between the then Special Representative of the Secretary-General and MINUSTAH chief Edmond Mulet, then U.S Ambassador Kenneth Merten, and then-Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive?

Seitenfus’ passionate accounting of the events in the year after the January 2010 earthquake reveals a man seemingly at odds with his internal moral compass and what he describes as “the black hole of western consciousness” in relations between Haiti and the international community of donor nations. This is a book written by a man enthralled by the beauty and promise of Haiti. It is also a book written by a professor serving as a diplomat struggling to be a whistleblower in the absurd and troubling world of international diplomacy.

Q: You write about international collusion in plans for a “silent coup.” Why wait until now to name the perpetrators? Does the fact that Mulet, Bellerive and Merten have all moved on from their offices have anything to do with your timing? You state emphatically that you opposed the coup plans.

RS: No. It is not true that I kept quiet. I gave various interviews to the Brazilian and international press, in late December 2010 and early January 2011, mentioning this and other episodes. See, for example,

The problem is that the international press was manipulated during the electoral crisis and never had an interest in doing investigative journalism. In the interviews that I gave, and especially in my book (“International Crossroads and Failures in Haiti”), soon to be published in Brazil and other countries, I describe the electoral coup in great detail.

Furthermore, the vast majority of the elements I reveal, I discovered in a scientific research project over the past three years. Many questions were hanging in the air, without adequate answers. I believe I managed to connect the different views and actors, providing the reader a logical and consistent interpretation about what happened. We are dealing with a work that is required by the historical memory, without any shadow of revenge or settling of scores.

Q: Were you the background press source on early reports of the cholera epidemic being caused by MINUSTAH in October 2010? You write about the “shameless” attitude of the United Nations (including Edmond Mulet and Ban Ki-moon) and ambassadors of the so-called “friends of Haiti;” countries that refused to take responsibility after MINUSTAH introduced cholera to Haiti. You say that this “transforms this peace mission into one of the worst in the history of the United Nations.” Would you be willing to testify in the current class action lawsuit, filed in a U.S. federal court, accusing the U.N. of gross negligence and misconduct on behalf of cholera victims in Haiti?

RS: 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.

Even former President Clinton, in a visit in early March 2012 to a hospital in the central region of Haiti, publicly admitted that

“I don’t know that the person who introduced cholera in Haiti, the U.N. peacekeeper, or [U.N.] soldier from South Asia, was aware that he was carrying the virus. It was the proximate cause of cholera. That is, he was carrying the cholera strain. It came from his waste stream into the waterways of Haiti, into the bodies of Haitians.[2]

Although soon after he stated that the absence of a sanitation system in Haiti propagated the epidemic, these statements by the Special Envoy of the U.N. Secretary General for Haiti represent the first major fissure in the denial strategy of the crime committed by the United Nations.

Currently, the United Nations hides behind the immunity clause conferred by the July 9, 2004 agreement signed with Haiti legalizing MINUSTAH’s existence. Now, this agreement is void, since it was not signed, as provided in the Haitian Constitution (Article 139), by the Acting President of Haiti, Boniface Alexandre, but by the PM [Prime Minister] Gerard Latortue. According to the 1969 and 1986 Vienna Conventions on the Law of Treaties, any treaty signed by someone who lacks jus tractum – that is, treaty making power – is null and considered ineffective.

As with any legal action, without validity it has no [legal] effect. The existence of a lack of consent – whether due to the inability of state representatives to conclude a treaty or to an imperfect ratification – results in the absolute voiding of the action (Vienna Convention, Article 46, paragraph 1). 

With the contempt for Haitian constitutional rites 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. 

Therefore, the U.N.’s last recourse in trying to deny its responsibility for introducing cholera in Haiti can be easily circumvented, since MINUSTAH’s very existence is plagued with illegalities.

Clearly, I am and will always be available to any judicial power that deals with this case. Even federal courts in the United States. If asked, I will testify, with the goal of contributing to establish the truth of the facts and the search for justice.

Q: Were you threatened in any way prior to your departure from Haiti? Since you were effectively fired, why not name names and discuss the actions of the “Core Group” in 2010?

RS: As a coordination agency for the main foreign actors (states and international organizations) in Haiti, a limited Core Group (which includes Brazil, Canada, Spain, the United States, France, the U.N., the OAS and the European Union) is an indispensable and fundamental instrument in the relations between the international community and the Haitian government. It is not about questioning its existence. What I was able to verify was that on [election day] November 28, 2010, in the absence of any discussion or decision about the matter, [then head of MINUSTAH] Edmond Mulet, speaking on behalf of the Core Group, tried to remove [then president of Haiti] René Préval from power and to send him into exile. Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince published a press release at 9 pm the same day dismissing the voting results and imposing its position on the whole Core Group. Still, the majority of the decisions in which I participated as representative to the OAS in the Core Group during the years 2009 and 2010 were sensible and important.

Q: You write about the “maléfique ou perverse” (evil or perverse) relationship between NGOs and Haiti. In your view, has this problem become institutionalized? You said some of the NGOs exist only because of Haitian misfortune?

RS: There is a will – deliberate or tacit – by the international community to bypass the Haitian institutions and to give preference to Transnational Non-Governmental Organizations (TNGOs).[3] Their overwhelming invasion following the earthquake reached levels never before imagined. [Then] U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, herself pointed out in an interview some months after the earthquake that more than 10,000 TNGOs were operating in Haiti. This means that there was an increase in their presence of over 4,000% in the course of a short period of time. This NGOization turns Haiti into what many have called a true “Republic of the TNGOs.”

In the face of a weakened state and one that was almost destroyed by the earthquake, the emergency aid apparatus had no option but to directly confront reality. Direct connections were established with the victims and even those in charge of the U.N. system in Haiti were not taken into account. A true pandemonium came into being in which everyone decided on his own what to do, and when and how to do it.

An optimistic and official report, presented by Ban Ki-moon to the U.N. Security Council in October 2012, recognizes that of the alleged US$ 5.78 billion in contributions made over the 2010-2012 period by bilateral and multilateral donors, a little less than 10% (US$ 556 million) was given to the Haitian government. It is worth mentioning that the governments of the donor states use both private donations and public resources to cover the spending of their own interventions in Haiti. As such, for example, more than US$ 200 million in private donations from U.S. citizens served to finance the transportation and stay of U.S. soldiers in Haiti soon after the earthquake.

Traditionally in Haiti, the “goods” such as hospitals, schools and humanitarian aid are delivered by the private sector, while the “bads” – that is, police enforcement – is the state’s responsibility. The earthquake further deepened this terrible dichotomy.

The circle was closed with the ideological discourse to justify this way of proceeding. According to this [discourse], the transfer of resources is done through the TNGOs for the simple reason that the Haitian state suffers from total and permanent corruption. Sometimes, the lack of managerial capacity is cited. Therefore, there is nothing more logical than to bypass public authorities without even thinking that without a structured and effective state, no human society has managed to develop.

The former Governor General of Canada, Michäelle Jean – of Haitian origin – is one of the rare voices in the international community to propose a complete change of strategy. To her,

Charity comes from the heart, but sometimes, when it’s poorly organized, it contributes more to the problems than to the solutions. Haiti is among the countries that’s been transformed into a vast laboratory of all the experiments, all the tests, and all the errors of the international aid system; of the faulty strategies that have never generated results, that have never produced or achieved anything that’s really sustainable despite the millions of dollars amassed in total disorder, without long term vision and in a completely scattered fashion.”[4]   

Certainly, direct financial cooperation with a state that has a lack of administrative capacity increases the risk that resources will be misused. However, there is no other solution: either the public management capacity of the Haitian state is strengthened or we will keep plowing the sea.

Unfortunately, the international community prefers to continue with the strategy that has already proved to be thoroughly inefficient. It not only impedes financial transfers to Haitian institutions, but it also tries to force them to channel their own meager resources to be administrated by international organizations. There was, for example, an attempt to transfer the PetroCaribe fund resources for Haiti to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission. The determined resistance by Préval and Bellerive terminated this move. Nonetheless, in every election campaign, the donor countries insist on having the resources of the Haitian treasury be administered by the U.N. Development Program (UNDP). Therefore, the strategy of the international community not only impedes institutional strengthening, but it also takes away from the Haitian state the little financial autonomy that it possesses.

The model imposed on Haiti since 2004 has two elements. On the one hand, there is the military presence through MINUSTAH, and on the other the civil presence in the form of the TNGOs and the alleged private development corporations. Added to these are the bilateral strategies of the member states in the so-called Group of Friends of Haiti. In interpreting the popular sentiment, it is impossible to disagree with these words by Liliane Pierre-Paul:

The great majority of Haitians weren’t mistaken and the promises ultimately did nothing to change the disastrous perception of an international community that was bureaucratic, condescending, wasteful, inefficient, and lacking in soul, modesty and creativity.”[5]    

As long as this model is not significantly revamped there will be no solution. Social vulnerability and the precariousness of the state continue to be major Haitian characteristics. With the model applied by the international community through the U.N. system, the TNGOs and the United States, we are deceiving ourselves, misleading world public opinion and frustrating the Haitian people.

Q: What are your thoughts on the amount of agricultural land taken out of production to make way for the Caracol Industrial Park, a $300 million public-private partnership among a diverse set of stakeholders??

RS: Caracol symbolizes a development policy far more than any loss of mainly agricultural lands. It so happens that the Caracol model was used during the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier and its results are known to everyone. As a complement to agricultural production, Caracol is acceptable. Nonetheless, to want to turn Haiti into a “Taiwan of the Caribbean”[6] is to completely disregard the social, anthropological, historical and economic characteristics of the country.

Q: You write that Venezuela’s PetroCaribe initiative was a key motive for the U.S. government’s turn against Préval. Why then do you think the U.S. and the OAS wanted a candidate – Michel Martelly – in the second round of elections who would ultimately be even friendlier with Venezuela? Do you think Martelly’s relations with Venezuela might pose a threat to him as well?

RS: Compared to the alleged development cooperation model imposed by the international community on Haiti, Cuba and Venezuela follow absolutely opposite paths. Whatever our opinion about the domestic policies of these countries, it cannot be denied that their form of cooperation takes into account more the demands and needs expressed by Haitians themselves. Cuba – lacking financial resources and rich in human resources –since 1998 has implemented a local family health and medicine program that reaches the most remote places in Haiti. Cuban medical diplomacy directly benefits the most humble of the Haitian people and attempts to compensate for the brain drain in the health sector promoted by certain western countries, particularly Canada.

In turn, although recent, the Venezuelan development cooperation offered to Haiti asserts itself as a new paradigm in the Caribbean Basin. It is sustained through the following trilogy: on the one hand, Caracas listens to the Haitian claims and strives to make its offers and possibilities compatible with these demands. On the other, nothing is carried out without the knowledge and previous consent of the public institutions and the Haitian government. Finally, the cooperation aims to bring direct benefits to the Haitian people without taking into consideration any ideological discrepancy there may be with the incumbent government in Haiti. This is a principle equally espoused by Cuba and it explains not only the absence of any interference by the two countries during the election crisis of 2010, but also the excellent relations maintained, both by Havana and Caracas, with the Martelly administration.

The PetroCaribe program is the crown jewel of Haitian-Venezuelan cooperation. Everything is put into it. Everything depends on it. In the face of a true boycott of Haitian public power promoted by the so-called Group of Friends of Haiti, the resources made available by the PetroCaribe program represented, in 2013, 94% of the investment capacity of the Haitian state.[7]

Most of the beneficiary countries – as with Haiti – do not include the resources from the PetroCaribe program in the national budget, preventing legal and accounting oversight. This situation generates distrust and criticism, both domestic and foreign, due to the lack of transparency in using them.

Far beyond its results, the philosophy on which the Venezuelan cooperation is based contrasts with that of the developed countries. The energetic Pedro Antonio Canino Gonzalez, Venezuelan ambassador in Port-au-Prince since 2007, highlights the principles that guide the actions of the ALBA countries in Haiti:

We did not come to carry out an electoral campaign in Haiti. Why would we make spurious commitments? Venezuela’s assistance aims to attenuate the Haitian people’s misery without any strings attached.  My government isn’t even interested in the Haitian Republic’s diplomatic relations with other countries, including the U.S.  This is a prerogative of the Haitian authorities, who are free to have relations with whomever they wish.[8]

This is the exact opposite of the long and constantly increasing list of conditionalities that characterizes the cooperation offered by the west. With disregard for national idiosyncrasies, the idea of democracy is used as a screen to camouflage their own national interests.

The United States and its allies in Haiti should pay attention to the lessons of the young Venezuelan cooperation because, in addition to respect for the public institutions of the host state, as a current Haitian leader bluntly states, Friendship with a country as poor and with as many needs as Haiti isn’t measured in the number of years of domination, but in how many millions are on the table.[9]

Although the PetroCaribe program is based on an anti-imperialist and liberationist discourse to mark a break between Monroe and Bolivar, it is, in fact, a counter model to traditional development aid from the developed countries and international organizations. In the universe of the international cooperation provided to Haiti, Venezuela constitutes an exception, being the only one that provides, regularly, financial resources directly to the Haitian state.[10]

Q: You describe a “Core Group” who you say had decided who the next president of Haiti would be before the elections even took place. Who is in this Core Group, and what else can you tell us about them? What other kinds of decisions do they make for Haiti?

RS: On Sunday, November 28, 2010 [election day], when visiting a voting center in the city of Léogane, at around 8:30 am, Mulet reiterated in interviews with radio and TV stations that everything was going normally, in spite of timely complaints by some voters who could not find their names in the list of the voting station where, as they thought, they were supposed to vote. According to Mulet,

“In general everything is going well, everything is peaceful. I see a great passion of citizens and from citizens for democracy in this country. MINUSTAH is here. There is no reason to be frightened. It’s an electoral celebration. There are some small administrative problems, but no big problem that is going to reduce participation.” [11]

Only four hours after these statements, Mulet covened the Core Group for an urgent meeting in view of an alleged crisis. Before the gathering started he confided in me, with some concern, in a natural and calm way, as if what he was about to tell me was in the order of things, that:

“I just finished talking on the phone with Préval informing him that an airplane would be at his disposal to leave the country. In 48 hours, at the latest – that is, until Tuesday, the 30th – Prevál will have to leave the presidency and abandon Haiti.”

I don’t know how I managed to hide my indignant surprise in the face of such an absurdity. I kept calm, hiding behind a false sense of casualness, in order to find out what had been Préval’s reaction. Mulet responded: “President Préval says he is not Aristide, but that he is Salvador Allende.” [12]

And, sounding disheartened, Mulet concluded, in Spanish: “Ricardo, we are not doing very well.”

When Bellerive arrived at the meeting he asked directly, without beating about the bush, bluntly: I would like to know whether President Prevál’s mandate is on the negotiation table?  Yes or no?”

He looked across the room at his audience, who remained in silence. A heavy and very long silence. Glances met. It was a moment of extreme seriousness. Well beyond the fate of the then-president, the response was going to be decisive, both for the future of Haiti and for the integrity of MINUSTAH.

Mulet’s words, Préval’s alleged reaction and the assertions by some of those present – in apparent agreement with Préval’s departure, were all still echoing in me.

The presence of [OAS Assistant Secretary General] Albert Ramdin – a major official in the OAS present in the meeting – tied my hands and silenced my voice. What to do? In the face of Bellerive’s direct question, the exalted coup plotters of the Core Group fell silent; their words still echoing in the room. A sense of the unusual was met by cowardice. Yet, it was necessary to act quickly because the first action in this tense environment would guide the debate.

To break a silence that seemed to have no end, and convinced that I was interpreting basic principles and not mere circumstantial interests, I took the initiative and asked to speak. It was necessary to do so, for we were about to commit a moral disgrace and a gross political error. With the active and crucial participation of the international community, we would be once again throwing Haiti toward the precipice mentioned by the American Luigi R. Einaudi (then- Acting Secretary General of the OAS) during the February 2004 crisis. I did not even consider the possibility of unpleasant consequences, both personal and professional, that could affect me. It was the opposite. To oppose the absurdity that was intended by the international community appeared to me a simple obligation. A democratic conscience and the respect for the Haitian institutions guided my attitude. It was not going to be the OAS representative in Haiti who would speak. It would be the Brazilian and the university professor.

Taking care to state that I was speaking on my own behalf and not on behalf of the OAS, I told them that I was doing this out of a duty of loyalty to colleagues. Moreover, everyone knew the work I had done in Haiti in the preparation of the voter registry, in conditions of great difficulty. I had legitimacy, therefore, to speak. Essentially speaking to the non-Americans [i.e., those not from the Americas] present who, in theory, were not used to our political and judicial rules, I pointed out that:

In 2001, in the Americas, a document entitled the Inter-American Democratic Charter was signed.  This Charter signals that any modification to the mandate of a democratically-elected president, outside of the constitutional precepts, should be considered to be a putsch.”

There was silence once again. A long and heavy silence. Before it got too long again, I looked at the Brazilian ambassador, who had positioned himself in front of me in this imaginary circle that we were forming, and asked: I would like to know Brazil’s position.

Igor Kipman said immediately: Brazil shares the same interpretation.”

I was relieved, I was no longer alone. Next in line was the Argentinian Rodolfo Matarollo, the UNASUR representative, who made a similar statement. Looking desolate, [then-U.S. Ambassador to Haiti] Kenneth Merten was shaking his head, signalling his dissatisfaction with how the meeting was unfolding. When he broke his silence it was to recognize that the coup by the Core Group against Préval would fail and he said:  We’re not going to talk about this anymore.”

After aborting the maneuver to repeat with Préval what had been done with Aristide in February 2004, I was confident in defending my position. Outraged by the prospect that presented itself and still shocked and stunned by what I was experiencing, I concluded that when it comes to Haiti, the international community does not have limits for the actions it takes. Legality and common sense had prevailed. Until when? My hopes were still alive and I did not notice that a common international front had formed that would decide the electoral path to be followed by Haiti.

Q: You suggest that the press conference by the various presidential candidates – excluding the governing party’s candidate Jude Célestin – on the day of the election was planned beforehand. If the Core Group already had a plan to bar a Célestin victory, why did all these candidates take part in the press conference? Were they unaware of the Core Group plan? Did the plan not involve any Haitian politicians? Was the plan always to have Martelly win, or was it simply to not let Célestin win?

RS: In my presence, the Core Group, until the fateful meeting in Edmond Mulet’s residence on the early afternoon of November 28, 2010, had not taken any decision or even discussed a strategy to give Martelly Haiti’s presidency. What did happen, constantly, was an undercutting of Jude Célestin’s candidacy. They accused him of being Préval’s son-in-law and of being his puppet. Mulet, despite having no evidence, said that ministers would travel to the countryside with “suitcases full of money to buy votes”.

Inite’s [the party of Préval and Célestin] electoral campaign, being a major political party and considering the situation, was also more visible, the most well organized and the one with the most resources. Later, these advantages would become disadvantages. The version of rampant corruption was gaining credibility.

The main leader in the process of dismantling the incumbent party’s candidacy was MINUSTAH’s chief himself. Mulet always spoke negatively when mentioning Jude Célestin. It was in this breeding ground that two major factors intervened during the day of the election. On the one hand, there was the gathering of 12 of the 18 candidates denouncing an alleged electoral fraud and demanding the annulment of the election. On the other, and much more decisive, were the demonstrations – mostly peaceful – that supposedly forced the members of the Core Group to seek refuge in their homes. In that moment, a dilemma presented itself and the atavistic fear of foreigners reemerged: what to do if Martelly’s youth movement were to degenerate? Would MINUSTAH be willing to control it? Would it have the capacity? And at what cost?

Convinced that it would be less risky to retract itself, the Core Group decided to sacrifice the elections. Their cowardice served as an inexhaustible source of inspiration to throw away the hard work of thousands of individuals to organize the elections in extreme conditions. The logic of this strategy was to reward the main grave-diggers of the young Haitian democracy.

In short, for the international community, Haiti is not worth the trouble. Or better said, its recurring crises have made us grow accustomed to act, moved by principles that we always condemn. For someone who arrived in Haiti as a professor of democracy, our lessons leave much to be desired. 

Q: What can you tell us about the OAS Expert Mission that intervened in Haiti’s elections? How were these “experts” chosen? How was their mandate to look at the results negotiated?

RS: There is little I can say since I was no longer in Haiti. I know that Brazil, Spain and the European Union pressured, in vain, to place their specialists in the OAS/CARICOM vote recount mission. The suggestion by the CEP Advisor Ginette Chérubin proposing the formation of a Special Verification Commission (SVC), fully independent from the executive and formed exclusively by Haitians,[13] was not even considered, starting with President Préval. The nationalism and foreign non-interventionism underlying the formation of this SVC is not an item on the agenda. It would be the foreigners, and them exclusively, who were to define the will of the Haitian voter.

Although the foreign technicians, hired by the UNDP, were responsible for counting the votes, it was not enough. It was necessary to change the result of the first round. The only possibility was to annul the results in certain ballot boxes that favored Célestin. That way, he would fall back to third place at the same time that the candidate anointed by the international community would go on to participate in the second round, along with Mirlande Manigat.

After making the decision of transforming the OAS/CARICOM Observation Mission into a vote Recounting Mission, it became necessary to sign an agreement to complement and reinforce the original one. A first draft of the agreement, written under the supervision of Albert Ramdin, OAS Deputy Secretary – in spite of the inevitable and very harsh conditions imposed on the Haitian electoral authorities – made explicit in the second article, in an unprecedented manner in the annals of the organization’s electoral cooperation, that the mission would be formed by specialists “chosen by the OAS Office of the Secretary General in consultation with the governments of Canada, France and the United States of America.”

What to everyone should be an unacceptable condition is an object of criticism by the European Union and Spain. However, the reserve soldiers do not interfere with the electoral diktat imposed on Haiti by the Imperial Trident (Canada, the United States and France). Much to the contrary. The claims originated in Brussels and Madrid derived from the absence of any specific mention providing for the ex officio presence of their supposed specialists in being part of the new mission.

Insulza realizes that he should not allow — formally and legally –the Recount Mission to put itself at the exclusive service of the interests of three states, one of them not an OAS member. He then accepts Préval’s considerations to demand a new version of the agreement. The agreement changes in form; never in its objectives or contents. Rewritten, the supplementary agreement is signed on December 29 by Gaillot Dorsainvil, CEP President; by Jean-Max Bellerive and by the Chief of the Electoral Observation Mission (EOM), Colin Granderson.

Formed by nine individuals, two of them OAS career officials – from the United States and Chile – it is interesting to note the nationality of the others: there were three citizens from the United States, two from France, one from Canada and one from Jamaica. The traditional powers that control Haitian politics reserved for themselves the lion’s share, since seven out of nine participants were nationals from these countries.

Latin America, in turn, who aspired to play a dominant role, returned to her historical insignificance and was conspicuous by her absence. In effect, although Brazil tried to include one or two ministers from the Supreme Electoral Court in the Recount Mission, backed both by its financial contribution to the EOM as well as by the technical expertise of these individuals, the fact is that the OAS did not take into account the suggestion. It is very likely that the Brazilian presence would have made it difficult for the Imperial Trident to attain the Mission’s political objectives.

Once the agreement was signed, there was the challenge of making it operational. This was a complex task since the Mission, with its new clothes and functions, was to replace the country’s electoral authorities. Accordingly, it was essential to maintain the appearance that the CEP’s autonomy and independence remained unharmed. This “Corneille’s choice”[14] was impossible to fulfill without the connivance of the CEP advisors, who opposed the maneuver.

The Recount Mission had two objectives. On the one hand, to get Jude Célestin out of the second round, and on the other, to impose this as if it were legal before the Haitian Constitution and Electoral Law.

Given that there could be no doubt about the results of the recount, the Mission was to invent rules and principles that were nonexistent in the Haitian electoral regulations and entirely unknown in all other electoral systems. We are talking about an unprecedented and innovative operation that will remain in the annals of electoral audits. Thus, it decided that no candidate could have more than 225 votes – even when the average number of registered voters was 460 – in each polling station. It was of little importance what level of local and regional approval each candidate had.

Still unsatisfied, the Mission applied this innovative method to the candidate Jude Célestin, dismissing ex officio those ballot boxes in which he obtained 225 or more votes. To maintain a good appearance, they decided, nonetheless, to eliminate some of the votes for Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly. Thus, 13,830 votes were eliminated from the former and 7,150 from the latter, while Jude Célestin saw 38,541 votes disappear, or 60% of all the votes that were eliminated.

Although having applied a revolutionary method, the Recount Mission, unfortunately, did not reach the percentages needed to reverse the official results announced by the CEP. Since it had already abandoned all qualms and principles, the Mission decided then to reduce to 150 the cutoff for the votes going to Célestin. Next, they extrapolated the votes obtained in these ballot boxes to the other candidates through simple prorating. When the reversal of Célestin’s and Martelly’s places was accomplished, it decided it was satisfied, and concluded the operation.

It was never a concern for the Recount Mission to identify the existence of fraud. It did not perform any analysis of the voting tallies, of the data transfer or of the voters’ identity cards. It also had no interest in auditing the results of the ballot boxes. Despite calling itself a recount instrument, it did not perform any audit of the votes or count of them. It simply acted until it reached its objective and decided its work was completed. Therefore, the number of votes obtained by each of the candidates will never be known.

Swiftly, promptly and in bad faith, on January 13 the EOM, equipped with its unprecedented powers and applying a methodology below any suspicion, decided that Mirlande Manigat remained in first place with 31.6%, with the second place now going to Michel Martelly (22.2%). Jude Célestin was relegated to third place, after obtaining 21,9%. There was a slight reversion of the percentages, enough to get rid of that candidate from being in the second round.

The magnitude of the endeavor’s absurdity and the flagrant weakness of the opponent, allowed for abandoning all caution. Simply, votes were exchanged across recipients and small percentages reversed.

Once again, the international community had behaved in Haiti as if it were in conquered territory. It boldly put into practice, absent any legal, technical or moral basis, a white coup and a blatant electoral intervention.

Once its alleged recount work was over and anticipating the official release of its recommendations to the Haitian authorities, the results of the Recount Mission were leaked out to the press through two international news agencies. Coinciding with the nationality of a good portion of the alleged experts in the Mission, the American Associated Press (AP) and the French Agence France-Presse (AFP) were selected, agencies which lent themselves willingly to the maneuver.

Since in this game no one is naïve, the leaks had the clear objective of becoming accomplished facts. Later they did.

In the 50 years of electoral cooperation offered by the OAS to the member states, it had never dared to adopt these procedures. It had never so evidently and shamelessly replaced not only the electoral authorities of the sponsoring state, but also the voters themselves.

The basic rules that guide the OAS observation and electoral monitoring missions were violated. Its procedures manual was not followed. As a result of the debacle of one of the most respected instruments of the American [i.e., Americas] system, the Director of the OAS Department of Electoral Cooperation, the Chilean Pablo Gutiérrez, presented his resignation.

This episode marked the OAS with a permanent stain and became the most regretful, though little known, event in [OAS Secretary General] José Miguel Insulza’s administration.

One cannot disagree with René Préval when, faced with the ratification of the election of a candidate imposed by the United States through the international community, he asked himself: In this case, why were elections held?”

Q: We know from the Wikileaks release of U.S. State Department cables that the U.S. government sees MINUSTAH as a priority in the region, for “managing” Haiti on the cheap. Why do you think left-leaning South American nations such as Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador and Argentina continue to participate in it? Do you think some of them may soon follow Uruguay’s lead and start to scale back or pull their troops and officers completely?

RS: Not only why do these countries continue participating in MINUSTAH, but most of all, why, in 2004, did they decide to participate? This was one of the many questions – maybe the most important – I asked myself throughout my research. The answer was furnished by the analysis of the records and archives of the São Paulo Forum [an informal organization created in 1990 that gathered leftist political parties and movements from Latin America and the Caribbean]. I explain in my book, in great detail, the evolution of the Haitian question in the Forum’s discussions. Since Haiti was represented only by the OPL [the Organization of the People in Struggle][15] of Gérard-Pierre Charles, when the rupture between him and [former president] Jean-Bertrand Aristide occurred in 2000, the Forum aligned itself with Charles and radically rejected Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas [party]. The Brazilian Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores do Brasil) played a crucial role. When Luis Inácio Lula da Silva conquered the presidency in 2002, he nominated as his diplomatic advisor the then-Secretary General of the Forum, Marco Aurélio Garcia. Since then, the Forum’s position on Haiti had become the Brazilian state’s position. After assuming command of MINUSTAH’s military branch, Brazil was to make an effort to implement a multifaceted cooperation plan, as well as to fight – without success – to make the Peace Operation in Haiti an instrument to attack the causes, not only the consequences, of the chronic Haitian political instability.

Today there are whispers – not yet voices – within the Brazilian state demanding a revision. However, each Latin American government has its reasons, calculations and expectations when it comes to their participation in MINUSTAH. They are selfish calculations based on an alleged national interest – for example, Brazil hopes to support its claim to become a permanent member in the U.N. Security Council. As long as there is not a strong movement of Latin American public opinion, the governments will continue participating in MINUSTAH. 

Georgianne Nienaber is a freelance writer and author and frequent contributor to the Huffington Post. (www.huffingtonpost.com/georgianne-nienaber)

Dan Beeton is International Communications Director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (www.cepr.net) and a frequent contributor to its “Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch” blog.

[Translation of Ricardo Seitenfus’ answers from Portuguese were by Luis Sandoval. Translation of portions from French by Alexander Main.]


[1] Estimates from the Haitian Ministry of Health. Accessed January 13, 2014.

[2] ABC News, March 9, 2012. Accessed January 7, 2014.

[3] Seitenfus: “I prefer the term TNGO because I am only referring to the foreign non-governmental organizations that operate in Haiti.”

[4] In Le Nouvelliste, « Michaelle Jean: Présidente d`Haïti ? », Port-au-Prince, March 25, 2013.

[5] « La grande manip » in Pierre Buteau, Rodney Saint-Eloi and Lyonel Trouillot, Refonder Haïti ?, Mémoire d`encrier, Montréal, 2010, p. 290.

[6] Duvalier – and backers such as the Reagan administration – famously promised to transform Haiti into the “Taiwan of the Caribbean” through low-wage apparel production in the 1980s.

[7] In Le Nouvelliste, June 28, 2013.

[8] In Le Nouvelliste, March 11, 2013.

[9] In Le Nouvelliste, March 5, 2013.

[10] Seitenfus: “Taiwan’s cooperation to Haiti occupies a special place. Devoid of bureaucratic obstacles, it is quick and is preferably used with the turnkey (clef en mains) model.”

[11] Quoted in Agence France Press, November 28, 2010. Accessed January 7, 2014.

[12] Haiti’s democratically-elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was flown out of Haiti in 2004 in what he called a “kidnapping in the service of a coup d’etat.” Chile’s democratically-elected president Salvador Allende committed suicide in the presidential palace during the country’s September 11, 1973 coup.

[13] See the memoirs of Ginette Chérubin, Dans le ventre pourri de la bête, Editions de l’Université d’État d’Haïti, Port-au-Prince, 2014.  

[14] This is a French expression referring to a difficult choice.

[15] The OPL broke off from the Lavalas political movement that had originally propelled Aristide into the presidency in 1991.

En français

An Interview with Ricardo Seitenfus by Dan Beeton and Georgianne Nienaber

[Excerpts of this interview were originally published by Dissent Magazine on February 24, 2014. The full interview follows.]

The title of Brazilian professor Ricardo Seitenfus’ book, HAITI: Dilemas e Fracassos Internacionais (“International Crossroads and Failures in Haiti,” to be published in Brazil by the Editora Unijui (Universite de Ijui) dans la Serie Globalisation et Relations Internationales) appropriately opens with a reference to existentialist philosopher Albert Camus. Camus’ third great novel, The Fall, is a work of fiction in which the author makes the case that every living person is responsible for any atrocity that can be quantified or named. In the case of Haiti, the January 2010 earthquake set the final stage for what amounted to what Seitenfus says is an “international embezzlement” of the country.

The tragedy began over 200 years ago in 1804, when Haiti committed what Seitenfus terms an “original sin,” a crime of lèse-majesté for a troubled world: it became the first (and only) independent nation to emerge from a slave rebellion. “The Haitian revolutionary model scared the colonialist and racist Great Powers,” Seitenfus writes. The U.S. only recognized Haiti’s independence in 1862, just before it abolished its own slavery system, and France demanded heavy financial compensation from the new republic as a condition of its honoring Haiti’s nationhood. Haiti has been isolated and manipulated on the international scene ever since, its people “prisoners on their own island.”

To understand Seitenfus’ journey into the theater of the absurd, it is necessary to revisit the months after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. As the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Special Representative in Haiti, Seitenfus lost his job in December 2010 after an interview in which he sharply criticized the role of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the devastated country. But it appears that the author also had insider information about international plans for a “silent coup d’etat,” electoral interference and more.

On the Ground in Haiti: October – December 2010

It was not yet one year since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed 220,000 or more, left infrastructure in chaos, and 1.5 million people homeless. Accusations were rampant in October international press reports that the United Nations mission to Haiti (MINUSTAH) had introduced cholera into Haiti’s river system; the resulting epidemic would kill over 8,500 and sicken over 696,865 by the time of this writing.[1] Ground zero for the outbreak was negligent sewage disposal at the Nepalese Mirebalais MINUSTAH camp. The malfeasance was first documented by the Associated Press and ultimately provided crucial proof of the U.N.’s guilt. Thousands were infected and the number of dead rose exponentially. On November 28, the national election was contested in what can only be termed an electoral crisis. Hundreds of thousands of voters were either shut out of the electoral process or boycotted the vote after the most popular party in the country – Fanmi Lavalas – was again banned from competing. Many of those displaced by the earthquake were not allowed to vote, and in the end less than 23 percent of registered voters had their vote counted.

Eyewitness testimony on election day reported numerous electoral violations: ballot stuffing, tearing up of ballots, intimidation and fraud. Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council, responsible for overseeing elections, announced that former first lady Mirlande Manigat won but lacked the margin of victory needed to avoid a runoff. An OAS “experts” mission was dispatched to examine the results. Even though it was indeterminate that he should advance, due to the OAS’ intervention, candidate and pop musician Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly was selected to compete in the runoff instead of the governing party’s candidate Jude Célestin. 

The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) subsequently released a report showing that there were so many problems with the election tallies that the OAS’ conclusions represented a political, rather than an electoral decision.

CEPR reported that for some 1,326 voting booths, or 11.9 percent of the total, tally sheets were either never received by the CEP, or were quarantined for irregularities.  This corresponded to about 12.7 percent of the vote not being counted and not included in the final totals that were released by the CEP on December 7, 2010 and reported by the press. CEPR also noted that in its review of the tally sheets, the OAS Mission chose to examine only a portion, and that those it discarded were from disproportionately pro-Célestin areas. Nor did the OAS mission use any statistical inference to estimate what might have resulted had it examined the other 92 percent of tally sheets that it did not examine.

The runoff was finally scheduled for March 20, 2011 and Martelly was declared the winner with 67.6% of the vote versus Manigat’s 31.5%. Turnout was so low that Martelly was declared president-elect after receiving the votes of less than 17% of the electorate in the second round.

Into the fray stepped Brazilian professor Ricardo Seitenfus. Seitenfus, a respected scholar, made statements to Swiss newspaper Le Temps criticizing international meddling in Haiti in general and by MINUSTAH and NGOs in particular. He was abruptly ousted on Christmas Day. The press was equivocal on whether Seitenfus was fired or forced to take a two-month “vacation” before his tenure ended in March 2011.

Was Seitenfus let go for citing a “maléfique ou perverse” (evil or perverse) relationship between the government of Haiti and NGOs operating amidst fraud and waste; his accusations about the cholera cover-up; or more troubling, knowledge of a silent coup being orchestrated against then-President René Préval by a secret “Core Group?” Was he silenced because of his knowledge of covert meetings between the then Special Representative of the Secretary-General and MINUSTAH chief Edmond Mulet, then U.S Ambassador Kenneth Merten, and then-Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive?

Seitenfus’ passionate accounting of the events in the year after the January 2010 earthquake reveals a man seemingly at odds with his internal moral compass and what he describes as “the black hole of western consciousness” in relations between Haiti and the international community of donor nations. This is a book written by a man enthralled by the beauty and promise of Haiti. It is also a book written by a professor serving as a diplomat struggling to be a whistleblower in the absurd and troubling world of international diplomacy.

Q: You write about international collusion in plans for a “silent coup.” Why wait until now to name the perpetrators? Does the fact that Mulet, Bellerive and Merten have all moved on from their offices have anything to do with your timing? You state emphatically that you opposed the coup plans.

RS: No. It is not true that I kept quiet. I gave various interviews to the Brazilian and international press, in late December 2010 and early January 2011, mentioning this and other episodes. See, for example,

The problem is that the international press was manipulated during the electoral crisis and never had an interest in doing investigative journalism. In the interviews that I gave, and especially in my book (“International Crossroads and Failures in Haiti”), soon to be published in Brazil and other countries, I describe the electoral coup in great detail.

Furthermore, the vast majority of the elements I reveal, I discovered in a scientific research project over the past three years. Many questions were hanging in the air, without adequate answers. I believe I managed to connect the different views and actors, providing the reader a logical and consistent interpretation about what happened. We are dealing with a work that is required by the historical memory, without any shadow of revenge or settling of scores.

Q: Were you the background press source on early reports of the cholera epidemic being caused by MINUSTAH in October 2010? You write about the “shameless” attitude of the United Nations (including Edmond Mulet and Ban Ki-moon) and ambassadors of the so-called “friends of Haiti;” countries that refused to take responsibility after MINUSTAH introduced cholera to Haiti. You say that this “transforms this peace mission into one of the worst in the history of the United Nations.” Would you be willing to testify in the current class action lawsuit, filed in a U.S. federal court, accusing the U.N. of gross negligence and misconduct on behalf of cholera victims in Haiti?

RS: 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.

Even former President Clinton, in a visit in early March 2012 to a hospital in the central region of Haiti, publicly admitted that

“I don’t know that the person who introduced cholera in Haiti, the U.N. peacekeeper, or [U.N.] soldier from South Asia, was aware that he was carrying the virus. It was the proximate cause of cholera. That is, he was carrying the cholera strain. It came from his waste stream into the waterways of Haiti, into the bodies of Haitians.[2]

Although soon after he stated that the absence of a sanitation system in Haiti propagated the epidemic, these statements by the Special Envoy of the U.N. Secretary General for Haiti represent the first major fissure in the denial strategy of the crime committed by the United Nations.

Currently, the United Nations hides behind the immunity clause conferred by the July 9, 2004 agreement signed with Haiti legalizing MINUSTAH’s existence. Now, this agreement is void, since it was not signed, as provided in the Haitian Constitution (Article 139), by the Acting President of Haiti, Boniface Alexandre, but by the PM [Prime Minister] Gerard Latortue. According to the 1969 and 1986 Vienna Conventions on the Law of Treaties, any treaty signed by someone who lacks jus tractum – that is, treaty making power – is null and considered ineffective.

As with any legal action, without validity it has no [legal] effect. The existence of a lack of consent – whether due to the inability of state representatives to conclude a treaty or to an imperfect ratification – results in the absolute voiding of the action (Vienna Convention, Article 46, paragraph 1). 

With the contempt for Haitian constitutional rites 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. 

Therefore, the U.N.’s last recourse in trying to deny its responsibility for introducing cholera in Haiti can be easily circumvented, since MINUSTAH’s very existence is plagued with illegalities.

Clearly, I am and will always be available to any judicial power that deals with this case. Even federal courts in the United States. If asked, I will testify, with the goal of contributing to establish the truth of the facts and the search for justice.

Q: Were you threatened in any way prior to your departure from Haiti? Since you were effectively fired, why not name names and discuss the actions of the “Core Group” in 2010?

RS: As a coordination agency for the main foreign actors (states and international organizations) in Haiti, a limited Core Group (which includes Brazil, Canada, Spain, the United States, France, the U.N., the OAS and the European Union) is an indispensable and fundamental instrument in the relations between the international community and the Haitian government. It is not about questioning its existence. What I was able to verify was that on [election day] November 28, 2010, in the absence of any discussion or decision about the matter, [then head of MINUSTAH] Edmond Mulet, speaking on behalf of the Core Group, tried to remove [then president of Haiti] René Préval from power and to send him into exile. Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince published a press release at 9 pm the same day dismissing the voting results and imposing its position on the whole Core Group. Still, the majority of the decisions in which I participated as representative to the OAS in the Core Group during the years 2009 and 2010 were sensible and important.

Q: You write about the “maléfique ou perverse” (evil or perverse) relationship between NGOs and Haiti. In your view, has this problem become institutionalized? You said some of the NGOs exist only because of Haitian misfortune?

RS: There is a will – deliberate or tacit – by the international community to bypass the Haitian institutions and to give preference to Transnational Non-Governmental Organizations (TNGOs).[3] Their overwhelming invasion following the earthquake reached levels never before imagined. [Then] U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, herself pointed out in an interview some months after the earthquake that more than 10,000 TNGOs were operating in Haiti. This means that there was an increase in their presence of over 4,000% in the course of a short period of time. This NGOization turns Haiti into what many have called a true “Republic of the TNGOs.”

In the face of a weakened state and one that was almost destroyed by the earthquake, the emergency aid apparatus had no option but to directly confront reality. Direct connections were established with the victims and even those in charge of the U.N. system in Haiti were not taken into account. A true pandemonium came into being in which everyone decided on his own what to do, and when and how to do it.

An optimistic and official report, presented by Ban Ki-moon to the U.N. Security Council in October 2012, recognizes that of the alleged US$ 5.78 billion in contributions made over the 2010-2012 period by bilateral and multilateral donors, a little less than 10% (US$ 556 million) was given to the Haitian government. It is worth mentioning that the governments of the donor states use both private donations and public resources to cover the spending of their own interventions in Haiti. As such, for example, more than US$ 200 million in private donations from U.S. citizens served to finance the transportation and stay of U.S. soldiers in Haiti soon after the earthquake.

Traditionally in Haiti, the “goods” such as hospitals, schools and humanitarian aid are delivered by the private sector, while the “bads” – that is, police enforcement – is the state’s responsibility. The earthquake further deepened this terrible dichotomy.

The circle was closed with the ideological discourse to justify this way of proceeding. According to this [discourse], the transfer of resources is done through the TNGOs for the simple reason that the Haitian state suffers from total and permanent corruption. Sometimes, the lack of managerial capacity is cited. Therefore, there is nothing more logical than to bypass public authorities without even thinking that without a structured and effective state, no human society has managed to develop.

The former Governor General of Canada, Michäelle Jean – of Haitian origin – is one of the rare voices in the international community to propose a complete change of strategy. To her,

Charity comes from the heart, but sometimes, when it’s poorly organized, it contributes more to the problems than to the solutions. Haiti is among the countries that’s been transformed into a vast laboratory of all the experiments, all the tests, and all the errors of the international aid system; of the faulty strategies that have never generated results, that have never produced or achieved anything that’s really sustainable despite the millions of dollars amassed in total disorder, without long term vision and in a completely scattered fashion.”[4]   

Certainly, direct financial cooperation with a state that has a lack of administrative capacity increases the risk that resources will be misused. However, there is no other solution: either the public management capacity of the Haitian state is strengthened or we will keep plowing the sea.

Unfortunately, the international community prefers to continue with the strategy that has already proved to be thoroughly inefficient. It not only impedes financial transfers to Haitian institutions, but it also tries to force them to channel their own meager resources to be administrated by international organizations. There was, for example, an attempt to transfer the PetroCaribe fund resources for Haiti to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission. The determined resistance by Préval and Bellerive terminated this move. Nonetheless, in every election campaign, the donor countries insist on having the resources of the Haitian treasury be administered by the U.N. Development Program (UNDP). Therefore, the strategy of the international community not only impedes institutional strengthening, but it also takes away from the Haitian state the little financial autonomy that it possesses.

The model imposed on Haiti since 2004 has two elements. On the one hand, there is the military presence through MINUSTAH, and on the other the civil presence in the form of the TNGOs and the alleged private development corporations. Added to these are the bilateral strategies of the member states in the so-called Group of Friends of Haiti. In interpreting the popular sentiment, it is impossible to disagree with these words by Liliane Pierre-Paul:

The great majority of Haitians weren’t mistaken and the promises ultimately did nothing to change the disastrous perception of an international community that was bureaucratic, condescending, wasteful, inefficient, and lacking in soul, modesty and creativity.”[5]    

As long as this model is not significantly revamped there will be no solution. Social vulnerability and the precariousness of the state continue to be major Haitian characteristics. With the model applied by the international community through the U.N. system, the TNGOs and the United States, we are deceiving ourselves, misleading world public opinion and frustrating the Haitian people.

Q: What are your thoughts on the amount of agricultural land taken out of production to make way for the Caracol Industrial Park, a $300 million public-private partnership among a diverse set of stakeholders??

RS: Caracol symbolizes a development policy far more than any loss of mainly agricultural lands. It so happens that the Caracol model was used during the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier and its results are known to everyone. As a complement to agricultural production, Caracol is acceptable. Nonetheless, to want to turn Haiti into a “Taiwan of the Caribbean”[6] is to completely disregard the social, anthropological, historical and economic characteristics of the country.

Q: You write that Venezuela’s PetroCaribe initiative was a key motive for the U.S. government’s turn against Préval. Why then do you think the U.S. and the OAS wanted a candidate – Michel Martelly – in the second round of elections who would ultimately be even friendlier with Venezuela? Do you think Martelly’s relations with Venezuela might pose a threat to him as well?

RS: Compared to the alleged development cooperation model imposed by the international community on Haiti, Cuba and Venezuela follow absolutely opposite paths. Whatever our opinion about the domestic policies of these countries, it cannot be denied that their form of cooperation takes into account more the demands and needs expressed by Haitians themselves. Cuba – lacking financial resources and rich in human resources –since 1998 has implemented a local family health and medicine program that reaches the most remote places in Haiti. Cuban medical diplomacy directly benefits the most humble of the Haitian people and attempts to compensate for the brain drain in the health sector promoted by certain western countries, particularly Canada.

In turn, although recent, the Venezuelan development cooperation offered to Haiti asserts itself as a new paradigm in the Caribbean Basin. It is sustained through the following trilogy: on the one hand, Caracas listens to the Haitian claims and strives to make its offers and possibilities compatible with these demands. On the other, nothing is carried out without the knowledge and previous consent of the public institutions and the Haitian government. Finally, the cooperation aims to bring direct benefits to the Haitian people without taking into consideration any ideological discrepancy there may be with the incumbent government in Haiti. This is a principle equally espoused by Cuba and it explains not only the absence of any interference by the two countries during the election crisis of 2010, but also the excellent relations maintained, both by Havana and Caracas, with the Martelly administration.

The PetroCaribe program is the crown jewel of Haitian-Venezuelan cooperation. Everything is put into it. Everything depends on it. In the face of a true boycott of Haitian public power promoted by the so-called Group of Friends of Haiti, the resources made available by the PetroCaribe program represented, in 2013, 94% of the investment capacity of the Haitian state.[7]

Most of the beneficiary countries – as with Haiti – do not include the resources from the PetroCaribe program in the national budget, preventing legal and accounting oversight. This situation generates distrust and criticism, both domestic and foreign, due to the lack of transparency in using them.

Far beyond its results, the philosophy on which the Venezuelan cooperation is based contrasts with that of the developed countries. The energetic Pedro Antonio Canino Gonzalez, Venezuelan ambassador in Port-au-Prince since 2007, highlights the principles that guide the actions of the ALBA countries in Haiti:

We did not come to carry out an electoral campaign in Haiti. Why would we make spurious commitments? Venezuela’s assistance aims to attenuate the Haitian people’s misery without any strings attached.  My government isn’t even interested in the Haitian Republic’s diplomatic relations with other countries, including the U.S.  This is a prerogative of the Haitian authorities, who are free to have relations with whomever they wish.[8]

This is the exact opposite of the long and constantly increasing list of conditionalities that characterizes the cooperation offered by the west. With disregard for national idiosyncrasies, the idea of democracy is used as a screen to camouflage their own national interests.

The United States and its allies in Haiti should pay attention to the lessons of the young Venezuelan cooperation because, in addition to respect for the public institutions of the host state, as a current Haitian leader bluntly states, Friendship with a country as poor and with as many needs as Haiti isn’t measured in the number of years of domination, but in how many millions are on the table.[9]

Although the PetroCaribe program is based on an anti-imperialist and liberationist discourse to mark a break between Monroe and Bolivar, it is, in fact, a counter model to traditional development aid from the developed countries and international organizations. In the universe of the international cooperation provided to Haiti, Venezuela constitutes an exception, being the only one that provides, regularly, financial resources directly to the Haitian state.[10]

Q: You describe a “Core Group” who you say had decided who the next president of Haiti would be before the elections even took place. Who is in this Core Group, and what else can you tell us about them? What other kinds of decisions do they make for Haiti?

RS: On Sunday, November 28, 2010 [election day], when visiting a voting center in the city of Léogane, at around 8:30 am, Mulet reiterated in interviews with radio and TV stations that everything was going normally, in spite of timely complaints by some voters who could not find their names in the list of the voting station where, as they thought, they were supposed to vote. According to Mulet,

“In general everything is going well, everything is peaceful. I see a great passion of citizens and from citizens for democracy in this country. MINUSTAH is here. There is no reason to be frightened. It’s an electoral celebration. There are some small administrative problems, but no big problem that is going to reduce participation.” [11]

Only four hours after these statements, Mulet covened the Core Group for an urgent meeting in view of an alleged crisis. Before the gathering started he confided in me, with some concern, in a natural and calm way, as if what he was about to tell me was in the order of things, that:

“I just finished talking on the phone with Préval informing him that an airplane would be at his disposal to leave the country. In 48 hours, at the latest – that is, until Tuesday, the 30th – Prevál will have to leave the presidency and abandon Haiti.”

I don’t know how I managed to hide my indignant surprise in the face of such an absurdity. I kept calm, hiding behind a false sense of casualness, in order to find out what had been Préval’s reaction. Mulet responded: “President Préval says he is not Aristide, but that he is Salvador Allende.” [12]

And, sounding disheartened, Mulet concluded, in Spanish: “Ricardo, we are not doing very well.”

When Bellerive arrived at the meeting he asked directly, without beating about the bush, bluntly: I would like to know whether President Prevál’s mandate is on the negotiation table?  Yes or no?”

He looked across the room at his audience, who remained in silence. A heavy and very long silence. Glances met. It was a moment of extreme seriousness. Well beyond the fate of the then-president, the response was going to be decisive, both for the future of Haiti and for the integrity of MINUSTAH.

Mulet’s words, Préval’s alleged reaction and the assertions by some of those present – in apparent agreement with Préval’s departure, were all still echoing in me.

The presence of [OAS Assistant Secretary General] Albert Ramdin – a major official in the OAS present in the meeting – tied my hands and silenced my voice. What to do? In the face of Bellerive’s direct question, the exalted coup plotters of the Core Group fell silent; their words still echoing in the room. A sense of the unusual was met by cowardice. Yet, it was necessary to act quickly because the first action in this tense environment would guide the debate.

To break a silence that seemed to have no end, and convinced that I was interpreting basic principles and not mere circumstantial interests, I took the initiative and asked to speak. It was necessary to do so, for we were about to commit a moral disgrace and a gross political error. With the active and crucial participation of the international community, we would be once again throwing Haiti toward the precipice mentioned by the American Luigi R. Einaudi (then- Acting Secretary General of the OAS) during the February 2004 crisis. I did not even consider the possibility of unpleasant consequences, both personal and professional, that could affect me. It was the opposite. To oppose the absurdity that was intended by the international community appeared to me a simple obligation. A democratic conscience and the respect for the Haitian institutions guided my attitude. It was not going to be the OAS representative in Haiti who would speak. It would be the Brazilian and the university professor.

Taking care to state that I was speaking on my own behalf and not on behalf of the OAS, I told them that I was doing this out of a duty of loyalty to colleagues. Moreover, everyone knew the work I had done in Haiti in the preparation of the voter registry, in conditions of great difficulty. I had legitimacy, therefore, to speak. Essentially speaking to the non-Americans [i.e., those not from the Americas] present who, in theory, were not used to our political and judicial rules, I pointed out that:

In 2001, in the Americas, a document entitled the Inter-American Democratic Charter was signed.  This Charter signals that any modification to the mandate of a democratically-elected president, outside of the constitutional precepts, should be considered to be a putsch.”

There was silence once again. A long and heavy silence. Before it got too long again, I looked at the Brazilian ambassador, who had positioned himself in front of me in this imaginary circle that we were forming, and asked: I would like to know Brazil’s position.

Igor Kipman said immediately: Brazil shares the same interpretation.”

I was relieved, I was no longer alone. Next in line was the Argentinian Rodolfo Matarollo, the UNASUR representative, who made a similar statement. Looking desolate, [then-U.S. Ambassador to Haiti] Kenneth Merten was shaking his head, signalling his dissatisfaction with how the meeting was unfolding. When he broke his silence it was to recognize that the coup by the Core Group against Préval would fail and he said:  We’re not going to talk about this anymore.”

After aborting the maneuver to repeat with Préval what had been done with Aristide in February 2004, I was confident in defending my position. Outraged by the prospect that presented itself and still shocked and stunned by what I was experiencing, I concluded that when it comes to Haiti, the international community does not have limits for the actions it takes. Legality and common sense had prevailed. Until when? My hopes were still alive and I did not notice that a common international front had formed that would decide the electoral path to be followed by Haiti.

Q: You suggest that the press conference by the various presidential candidates – excluding the governing party’s candidate Jude Célestin – on the day of the election was planned beforehand. If the Core Group already had a plan to bar a Célestin victory, why did all these candidates take part in the press conference? Were they unaware of the Core Group plan? Did the plan not involve any Haitian politicians? Was the plan always to have Martelly win, or was it simply to not let Célestin win?

RS: In my presence, the Core Group, until the fateful meeting in Edmond Mulet’s residence on the early afternoon of November 28, 2010, had not taken any decision or even discussed a strategy to give Martelly Haiti’s presidency. What did happen, constantly, was an undercutting of Jude Célestin’s candidacy. They accused him of being Préval’s son-in-law and of being his puppet. Mulet, despite having no evidence, said that ministers would travel to the countryside with “suitcases full of money to buy votes”.

Inite’s [the party of Préval and Célestin] electoral campaign, being a major political party and considering the situation, was also more visible, the most well organized and the one with the most resources. Later, these advantages would become disadvantages. The version of rampant corruption was gaining credibility.

The main leader in the process of dismantling the incumbent party’s candidacy was MINUSTAH’s chief himself. Mulet always spoke negatively when mentioning Jude Célestin. It was in this breeding ground that two major factors intervened during the day of the election. On the one hand, there was the gathering of 12 of the 18 candidates denouncing an alleged electoral fraud and demanding the annulment of the election. On the other, and much more decisive, were the demonstrations – mostly peaceful – that supposedly forced the members of the Core Group to seek refuge in their homes. In that moment, a dilemma presented itself and the atavistic fear of foreigners reemerged: what to do if Martelly’s youth movement were to degenerate? Would MINUSTAH be willing to control it? Would it have the capacity? And at what cost?

Convinced that it would be less risky to retract itself, the Core Group decided to sacrifice the elections. Their cowardice served as an inexhaustible source of inspiration to throw away the hard work of thousands of individuals to organize the elections in extreme conditions. The logic of this strategy was to reward the main grave-diggers of the young Haitian democracy.

In short, for the international community, Haiti is not worth the trouble. Or better said, its recurring crises have made us grow accustomed to act, moved by principles that we always condemn. For someone who arrived in Haiti as a professor of democracy, our lessons leave much to be desired. 

Q: What can you tell us about the OAS Expert Mission that intervened in Haiti’s elections? How were these “experts” chosen? How was their mandate to look at the results negotiated?

RS: There is little I can say since I was no longer in Haiti. I know that Brazil, Spain and the European Union pressured, in vain, to place their specialists in the OAS/CARICOM vote recount mission. The suggestion by the CEP Advisor Ginette Chérubin proposing the formation of a Special Verification Commission (SVC), fully independent from the executive and formed exclusively by Haitians,[13] was not even considered, starting with President Préval. The nationalism and foreign non-interventionism underlying the formation of this SVC is not an item on the agenda. It would be the foreigners, and them exclusively, who were to define the will of the Haitian voter.

Although the foreign technicians, hired by the UNDP, were responsible for counting the votes, it was not enough. It was necessary to change the result of the first round. The only possibility was to annul the results in certain ballot boxes that favored Célestin. That way, he would fall back to third place at the same time that the candidate anointed by the international community would go on to participate in the second round, along with Mirlande Manigat.

After making the decision of transforming the OAS/CARICOM Observation Mission into a vote Recounting Mission, it became necessary to sign an agreement to complement and reinforce the original one. A first draft of the agreement, written under the supervision of Albert Ramdin, OAS Deputy Secretary – in spite of the inevitable and very harsh conditions imposed on the Haitian electoral authorities – made explicit in the second article, in an unprecedented manner in the annals of the organization’s electoral cooperation, that the mission would be formed by specialists “chosen by the OAS Office of the Secretary General in consultation with the governments of Canada, France and the United States of America.”

What to everyone should be an unacceptable condition is an object of criticism by the European Union and Spain. However, the reserve soldiers do not interfere with the electoral diktat imposed on Haiti by the Imperial Trident (Canada, the United States and France). Much to the contrary. The claims originated in Brussels and Madrid derived from the absence of any specific mention providing for the ex officio presence of their supposed specialists in being part of the new mission.

Insulza realizes that he should not allow — formally and legally –the Recount Mission to put itself at the exclusive service of the interests of three states, one of them not an OAS member. He then accepts Préval’s considerations to demand a new version of the agreement. The agreement changes in form; never in its objectives or contents. Rewritten, the supplementary agreement is signed on December 29 by Gaillot Dorsainvil, CEP President; by Jean-Max Bellerive and by the Chief of the Electoral Observation Mission (EOM), Colin Granderson.

Formed by nine individuals, two of them OAS career officials – from the United States and Chile – it is interesting to note the nationality of the others: there were three citizens from the United States, two from France, one from Canada and one from Jamaica. The traditional powers that control Haitian politics reserved for themselves the lion’s share, since seven out of nine participants were nationals from these countries.

Latin America, in turn, who aspired to play a dominant role, returned to her historical insignificance and was conspicuous by her absence. In effect, although Brazil tried to include one or two ministers from the Supreme Electoral Court in the Recount Mission, backed both by its financial contribution to the EOM as well as by the technical expertise of these individuals, the fact is that the OAS did not take into account the suggestion. It is very likely that the Brazilian presence would have made it difficult for the Imperial Trident to attain the Mission’s political objectives.

Once the agreement was signed, there was the challenge of making it operational. This was a complex task since the Mission, with its new clothes and functions, was to replace the country’s electoral authorities. Accordingly, it was essential to maintain the appearance that the CEP’s autonomy and independence remained unharmed. This “Corneille’s choice”[14] was impossible to fulfill without the connivance of the CEP advisors, who opposed the maneuver.

The Recount Mission had two objectives. On the one hand, to get Jude Célestin out of the second round, and on the other, to impose this as if it were legal before the Haitian Constitution and Electoral Law.

Given that there could be no doubt about the results of the recount, the Mission was to invent rules and principles that were nonexistent in the Haitian electoral regulations and entirely unknown in all other electoral systems. We are talking about an unprecedented and innovative operation that will remain in the annals of electoral audits. Thus, it decided that no candidate could have more than 225 votes – even when the average number of registered voters was 460 – in each polling station. It was of little importance what level of local and regional approval each candidate had.

Still unsatisfied, the Mission applied this innovative method to the candidate Jude Célestin, dismissing ex officio those ballot boxes in which he obtained 225 or more votes. To maintain a good appearance, they decided, nonetheless, to eliminate some of the votes for Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly. Thus, 13,830 votes were eliminated from the former and 7,150 from the latter, while Jude Célestin saw 38,541 votes disappear, or 60% of all the votes that were eliminated.

Although having applied a revolutionary method, the Recount Mission, unfortunately, did not reach the percentages needed to reverse the official results announced by the CEP. Since it had already abandoned all qualms and principles, the Mission decided then to reduce to 150 the cutoff for the votes going to Célestin. Next, they extrapolated the votes obtained in these ballot boxes to the other candidates through simple prorating. When the reversal of Célestin’s and Martelly’s places was accomplished, it decided it was satisfied, and concluded the operation.

It was never a concern for the Recount Mission to identify the existence of fraud. It did not perform any analysis of the voting tallies, of the data transfer or of the voters’ identity cards. It also had no interest in auditing the results of the ballot boxes. Despite calling itself a recount instrument, it did not perform any audit of the votes or count of them. It simply acted until it reached its objective and decided its work was completed. Therefore, the number of votes obtained by each of the candidates will never be known.

Swiftly, promptly and in bad faith, on January 13 the EOM, equipped with its unprecedented powers and applying a methodology below any suspicion, decided that Mirlande Manigat remained in first place with 31.6%, with the second place now going to Michel Martelly (22.2%). Jude Célestin was relegated to third place, after obtaining 21,9%. There was a slight reversion of the percentages, enough to get rid of that candidate from being in the second round.

The magnitude of the endeavor’s absurdity and the flagrant weakness of the opponent, allowed for abandoning all caution. Simply, votes were exchanged across recipients and small percentages reversed.

Once again, the international community had behaved in Haiti as if it were in conquered territory. It boldly put into practice, absent any legal, technical or moral basis, a white coup and a blatant electoral intervention.

Once its alleged recount work was over and anticipating the official release of its recommendations to the Haitian authorities, the results of the Recount Mission were leaked out to the press through two international news agencies. Coinciding with the nationality of a good portion of the alleged experts in the Mission, the American Associated Press (AP) and the French Agence France-Presse (AFP) were selected, agencies which lent themselves willingly to the maneuver.

Since in this game no one is naïve, the leaks had the clear objective of becoming accomplished facts. Later they did.

In the 50 years of electoral cooperation offered by the OAS to the member states, it had never dared to adopt these procedures. It had never so evidently and shamelessly replaced not only the electoral authorities of the sponsoring state, but also the voters themselves.

The basic rules that guide the OAS observation and electoral monitoring missions were violated. Its procedures manual was not followed. As a result of the debacle of one of the most respected instruments of the American [i.e., Americas] system, the Director of the OAS Department of Electoral Cooperation, the Chilean Pablo Gutiérrez, presented his resignation.

This episode marked the OAS with a permanent stain and became the most regretful, though little known, event in [OAS Secretary General] José Miguel Insulza’s administration.

One cannot disagree with René Préval when, faced with the ratification of the election of a candidate imposed by the United States through the international community, he asked himself: In this case, why were elections held?”

Q: We know from the Wikileaks release of U.S. State Department cables that the U.S. government sees MINUSTAH as a priority in the region, for “managing” Haiti on the cheap. Why do you think left-leaning South American nations such as Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador and Argentina continue to participate in it? Do you think some of them may soon follow Uruguay’s lead and start to scale back or pull their troops and officers completely?

RS: Not only why do these countries continue participating in MINUSTAH, but most of all, why, in 2004, did they decide to participate? This was one of the many questions – maybe the most important – I asked myself throughout my research. The answer was furnished by the analysis of the records and archives of the São Paulo Forum [an informal organization created in 1990 that gathered leftist political parties and movements from Latin America and the Caribbean]. I explain in my book, in great detail, the evolution of the Haitian question in the Forum’s discussions. Since Haiti was represented only by the OPL [the Organization of the People in Struggle][15] of Gérard-Pierre Charles, when the rupture between him and [former president] Jean-Bertrand Aristide occurred in 2000, the Forum aligned itself with Charles and radically rejected Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas [party]. The Brazilian Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores do Brasil) played a crucial role. When Luis Inácio Lula da Silva conquered the presidency in 2002, he nominated as his diplomatic advisor the then-Secretary General of the Forum, Marco Aurélio Garcia. Since then, the Forum’s position on Haiti had become the Brazilian state’s position. After assuming command of MINUSTAH’s military branch, Brazil was to make an effort to implement a multifaceted cooperation plan, as well as to fight – without success – to make the Peace Operation in Haiti an instrument to attack the causes, not only the consequences, of the chronic Haitian political instability.

Today there are whispers – not yet voices – within the Brazilian state demanding a revision. However, each Latin American government has its reasons, calculations and expectations when it comes to their participation in MINUSTAH. They are selfish calculations based on an alleged national interest – for example, Brazil hopes to support its claim to become a permanent member in the U.N. Security Council. As long as there is not a strong movement of Latin American public opinion, the governments will continue participating in MINUSTAH. 

Georgianne Nienaber is a freelance writer and author and frequent contributor to the Huffington Post. (www.huffingtonpost.com/georgianne-nienaber)

Dan Beeton is International Communications Director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (www.cepr.net) and a frequent contributor to its “Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch” blog.

[Translation of Ricardo Seitenfus’ answers from Portuguese were by Luis Sandoval. Translation of portions from French by Alexander Main.]


[1] Estimates from the Haitian Ministry of Health. Accessed January 13, 2014.

[2] ABC News, March 9, 2012. Accessed January 7, 2014.

[3] Seitenfus: “I prefer the term TNGO because I am only referring to the foreign non-governmental organizations that operate in Haiti.”

[4] In Le Nouvelliste, « Michaelle Jean: Présidente d`Haïti ? », Port-au-Prince, March 25, 2013.

[5] « La grande manip » in Pierre Buteau, Rodney Saint-Eloi and Lyonel Trouillot, Refonder Haïti ?, Mémoire d`encrier, Montréal, 2010, p. 290.

[6] Duvalier – and backers such as the Reagan administration – famously promised to transform Haiti into the “Taiwan of the Caribbean” through low-wage apparel production in the 1980s.

[7] In Le Nouvelliste, June 28, 2013.

[8] In Le Nouvelliste, March 11, 2013.

[9] In Le Nouvelliste, March 5, 2013.

[10] Seitenfus: “Taiwan’s cooperation to Haiti occupies a special place. Devoid of bureaucratic obstacles, it is quick and is preferably used with the turnkey (clef en mains) model.”

[11] Quoted in Agence France Press, November 28, 2010. Accessed January 7, 2014.

[12] Haiti’s democratically-elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was flown out of Haiti in 2004 in what he called a “kidnapping in the service of a coup d’etat.” Chile’s democratically-elected president Salvador Allende committed suicide in the presidential palace during the country’s September 11, 1973 coup.

[13] See the memoirs of Ginette Chérubin, Dans le ventre pourri de la bête, Editions de l’Université d’État d’Haïti, Port-au-Prince, 2014.  

[14] This is a French expression referring to a difficult choice.

[15] The OPL broke off from the Lavalas political movement that had originally propelled Aristide into the presidency in 1991.

The leader of the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), Daniel Dorsinvil and his wife Girldy Lareche were killed Saturday in Canapévert, Haiti. POHDH is an association of 8 leading Haitian human rights groups. The Associated Press reports today that Haitian police spokesman Gary Desrosiers “held back on citing a motive for the killing, though he acknowledged reports that they were either killed in a robbery or targeted.” President Martelly released a statement, “deploring” the murder and called on the police to be more vigilant in combatting all forms of crime.

Antonal Mortimer, the executive secretary of POHDH, told the Haitian press that the couple had not visited a bank, as had been reported, but “even if that were the case, that is not a reason why someone should be killed.” Mortimer referred to the murder as an “attack against the human rights sector” and a “political crime.” Human rights lawyers André Michel and Louis Newton St Juste also released a statement, condemning the murder and noting that reports that Dosinvil and his wife were returning from a bank “in no case should be put forward to guarantee impunity and hide the true nature of the crime.” Further, Michel and St Juste recall that “it is a political crime to intimidate the human rights sector that is considered an inconvenience for the powers that be.”

This is not the first time that human rights activists in Haiti have faced violence and intimidation while carrying out their jobs. In October 2012 it was revealed that Mario Joseph, the director of Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, was facing constant death threats as well as “harassment and intimidation” from the National Police. In November, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) “requested that precautionary measures be adopted in favor of Patrice Florvilus and the members of the organization “Défense des Opprimés” (DOP). The IACHR request notes that:

The request for precautionary measures alleged that these persons were in a situation of risk, due to a series of threats, harassment and persecution in retaliation of the activities they carry out in defense of human rights in Haiti. On October 2, 2013, the IACHR requested information from the State, but did not receive a response.

Joseph was also granted precautionary measures from the IACHR. From Canada, where he has been staying since the increased threats, Patrice Florvilus released a statement, calling for a thorough investigation:

DOP demands that an investigation be opened and that public action be taken against the authors and co-authors of this hideous crime, regardless of their socio-political background. Given the position of Mr. Dorsainvil, it’s important that every lead be explored in the framework of any serious judicial inquest. It is important too that security measures be taken in favor of the entire team at PODHDH and all of the members of their families. We certainly can’t rely on Haitian authorities with regard to security, but it is their duty to protect all Haitian citizens.

Radio Kiskeya reports on comments from Pierre Esperance, the director of RNDDH, one of the human rights groups that make up POHDH:

Pierre Esperance can’t reject the hypothesis of a direct attack on the human rights sector. Given that there was no struggle and that the Dorsinvil complied with the orders given by the aggressor, the thesis that this was merely an act of banditry is unsustainable. “This is nothing less than an execution arising from impunity”, he added, before demanding that justice and the police assert their responsibilities.

The Haitian government’s efforts against Human Rights activists was acknowledged in the U.S. State Department’s 2012 report on Haiti:

There were reports of governmental efforts to restrict or otherwise suppress criticism by human rights activists. Some human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, criticized the Martelly government for intimidating and harassing human rights activists. In September human rights lawyers alleged they had received numerous death threats and that their homes, offices, and movements were being monitored. They said the threats and harassment came in response both to their efforts to have former president Jean Claude Duvalier prosecuted for human rights violations and to their calls for an investigation into possible misappropriation of public funds by the Martelly family. After being dismissed in September, Port-au-Prince Prosecutor Jean Renal Senatus claimed CEP president and presidential advisor Josue Pierre-Louis instructed him to arrest three human rights lawyers, noting that doing so would please the Martelly family.

The murder occurred just after President Martelly returned from the United States, where he met with President Obama and members of congress. In a joint statement, President Obama said he was “looking forward to hearing where we can help in other reforms that I know he cares about — such areas as human rights, prison reform, the judiciary…”

The leader of the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), Daniel Dorsinvil and his wife Girldy Lareche were killed Saturday in Canapévert, Haiti. POHDH is an association of 8 leading Haitian human rights groups. The Associated Press reports today that Haitian police spokesman Gary Desrosiers “held back on citing a motive for the killing, though he acknowledged reports that they were either killed in a robbery or targeted.” President Martelly released a statement, “deploring” the murder and called on the police to be more vigilant in combatting all forms of crime.

Antonal Mortimer, the executive secretary of POHDH, told the Haitian press that the couple had not visited a bank, as had been reported, but “even if that were the case, that is not a reason why someone should be killed.” Mortimer referred to the murder as an “attack against the human rights sector” and a “political crime.” Human rights lawyers André Michel and Louis Newton St Juste also released a statement, condemning the murder and noting that reports that Dosinvil and his wife were returning from a bank “in no case should be put forward to guarantee impunity and hide the true nature of the crime.” Further, Michel and St Juste recall that “it is a political crime to intimidate the human rights sector that is considered an inconvenience for the powers that be.”

This is not the first time that human rights activists in Haiti have faced violence and intimidation while carrying out their jobs. In October 2012 it was revealed that Mario Joseph, the director of Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, was facing constant death threats as well as “harassment and intimidation” from the National Police. In November, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) “requested that precautionary measures be adopted in favor of Patrice Florvilus and the members of the organization “Défense des Opprimés” (DOP). The IACHR request notes that:

The request for precautionary measures alleged that these persons were in a situation of risk, due to a series of threats, harassment and persecution in retaliation of the activities they carry out in defense of human rights in Haiti. On October 2, 2013, the IACHR requested information from the State, but did not receive a response.

Joseph was also granted precautionary measures from the IACHR. From Canada, where he has been staying since the increased threats, Patrice Florvilus released a statement, calling for a thorough investigation:

DOP demands that an investigation be opened and that public action be taken against the authors and co-authors of this hideous crime, regardless of their socio-political background. Given the position of Mr. Dorsainvil, it’s important that every lead be explored in the framework of any serious judicial inquest. It is important too that security measures be taken in favor of the entire team at PODHDH and all of the members of their families. We certainly can’t rely on Haitian authorities with regard to security, but it is their duty to protect all Haitian citizens.

Radio Kiskeya reports on comments from Pierre Esperance, the director of RNDDH, one of the human rights groups that make up POHDH:

Pierre Esperance can’t reject the hypothesis of a direct attack on the human rights sector. Given that there was no struggle and that the Dorsinvil complied with the orders given by the aggressor, the thesis that this was merely an act of banditry is unsustainable. “This is nothing less than an execution arising from impunity”, he added, before demanding that justice and the police assert their responsibilities.

The Haitian government’s efforts against Human Rights activists was acknowledged in the U.S. State Department’s 2012 report on Haiti:

There were reports of governmental efforts to restrict or otherwise suppress criticism by human rights activists. Some human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, criticized the Martelly government for intimidating and harassing human rights activists. In September human rights lawyers alleged they had received numerous death threats and that their homes, offices, and movements were being monitored. They said the threats and harassment came in response both to their efforts to have former president Jean Claude Duvalier prosecuted for human rights violations and to their calls for an investigation into possible misappropriation of public funds by the Martelly family. After being dismissed in September, Port-au-Prince Prosecutor Jean Renal Senatus claimed CEP president and presidential advisor Josue Pierre-Louis instructed him to arrest three human rights lawyers, noting that doing so would please the Martelly family.

The murder occurred just after President Martelly returned from the United States, where he met with President Obama and members of congress. In a joint statement, President Obama said he was “looking forward to hearing where we can help in other reforms that I know he cares about — such areas as human rights, prison reform, the judiciary…”

The Associated Press reports today:

President Barack Obama is hosting Haitian President Michel Martelly for talks on Haiti’s economic and political future.

Martelly will be at the White House on Thursday, a day after he met with Secretary of State John Kerry. It’s the first official sit-down between Obama and Martelly.

As the AP and Miami Herald report, Martelly met yesterday with Secretary of State John Kerry as well as with key members of the House of Representatives. At the top of the agenda, reports the Miami Herald, is the holding of long overdue legislative and local elections, originally scheduled to take place in April 2011 and May 2012. White House Assistant Press Secretary Jonathan Lalley told reporters that the U.S. wants to see elections “that are free, fair and transparent, that allow Haitians to express their views as part of the political process, and that provide the political stability that is critical for Haiti’s continued progress.”

Kerry, meanwhile, praised Martelly for “the enormous commitment that he has made to transition from reconstruction into a long-term development program. And under his leadership, elections are now on the horizon, which could for the first time provide the filling out of all of the electoral positions to Haiti.”

2014 is now the third straight year that the Haitian government has pledged to hold elections, with similar pledges in 2012 and 2013 proving hollow. The last election in Haiti, conducted within the first year after the devastating 2010 earthquake, was plagued by low turnout, political parties being prevented from participating and serious problems with voter registration, among other issues. On election day, 12 of the 19 presidential candidates called a press conference to denounce the election and call for their annulment. Mirlande Manigat, a constitutional law professor and Martelly, the two highest profile candidates to denounce the election each received a call the day afterward from the head of the U.N. military contingent in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Edmond Mulet. Mulet, desperately trying to keep the electoral process moving, told each of them that they were ahead in the race. They both quickly walked back from their statements from the previous day.

After the problematic first round of voting, a CEPR statistical analysis found that “based on the numbers of irregularities, it is impossible to determine who should advance to a second round,” and that “If there is a second round, it will be based on arbitrary assumptions and/or exclusions.” Eventually, and following a visit by Secretary of State Clinton and other more explicit threats, Haiti agreed to have an expert panel from the Organization of American States (OAS) come and determine who would proceed to the election’s second round. That panel’s report, in which there was neither a recount nor even a statistical analysis of the results, overturned the decision of the Haitian electoral authority, replacing Celestin with Martelly. It was an unprecedented usurpation for any review body – domestic or international. Normally, in a disputed election, the results are either accepted or, there is a recount, and the results can be changed. If the results are too flawed to correctly determine a winner, new elections can be held. Never have election results simply been reversed according to the preferences of an international commission.

In response, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) issued a statement urging “the United States and the international community to uphold the ideals of fairness and support a new Haiti election process that is free and fair, respecting the rights of the Haitian people.” The CBC had warned before the first round that the holding of such unfair elections “will come back to haunt the international community later.”

Martelly would go on to handily win in the run-off election, albeit with record low voter participation.

The U.S. was the largest funder of the 2010 elections and is again funding the current electoral process through the United Nations Development Program as well as through the National Democratic Institute and the International Federation of Electoral Systems. But despite the millions of dollars in support, and previous high-level calls for elections to be held as soon as possible, elections currently remain unscheduled.

The Associated Press reports today:

President Barack Obama is hosting Haitian President Michel Martelly for talks on Haiti’s economic and political future.

Martelly will be at the White House on Thursday, a day after he met with Secretary of State John Kerry. It’s the first official sit-down between Obama and Martelly.

As the AP and Miami Herald report, Martelly met yesterday with Secretary of State John Kerry as well as with key members of the House of Representatives. At the top of the agenda, reports the Miami Herald, is the holding of long overdue legislative and local elections, originally scheduled to take place in April 2011 and May 2012. White House Assistant Press Secretary Jonathan Lalley told reporters that the U.S. wants to see elections “that are free, fair and transparent, that allow Haitians to express their views as part of the political process, and that provide the political stability that is critical for Haiti’s continued progress.”

Kerry, meanwhile, praised Martelly for “the enormous commitment that he has made to transition from reconstruction into a long-term development program. And under his leadership, elections are now on the horizon, which could for the first time provide the filling out of all of the electoral positions to Haiti.”

2014 is now the third straight year that the Haitian government has pledged to hold elections, with similar pledges in 2012 and 2013 proving hollow. The last election in Haiti, conducted within the first year after the devastating 2010 earthquake, was plagued by low turnout, political parties being prevented from participating and serious problems with voter registration, among other issues. On election day, 12 of the 19 presidential candidates called a press conference to denounce the election and call for their annulment. Mirlande Manigat, a constitutional law professor and Martelly, the two highest profile candidates to denounce the election each received a call the day afterward from the head of the U.N. military contingent in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Edmond Mulet. Mulet, desperately trying to keep the electoral process moving, told each of them that they were ahead in the race. They both quickly walked back from their statements from the previous day.

After the problematic first round of voting, a CEPR statistical analysis found that “based on the numbers of irregularities, it is impossible to determine who should advance to a second round,” and that “If there is a second round, it will be based on arbitrary assumptions and/or exclusions.” Eventually, and following a visit by Secretary of State Clinton and other more explicit threats, Haiti agreed to have an expert panel from the Organization of American States (OAS) come and determine who would proceed to the election’s second round. That panel’s report, in which there was neither a recount nor even a statistical analysis of the results, overturned the decision of the Haitian electoral authority, replacing Celestin with Martelly. It was an unprecedented usurpation for any review body – domestic or international. Normally, in a disputed election, the results are either accepted or, there is a recount, and the results can be changed. If the results are too flawed to correctly determine a winner, new elections can be held. Never have election results simply been reversed according to the preferences of an international commission.

In response, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) issued a statement urging “the United States and the international community to uphold the ideals of fairness and support a new Haiti election process that is free and fair, respecting the rights of the Haitian people.” The CBC had warned before the first round that the holding of such unfair elections “will come back to haunt the international community later.”

Martelly would go on to handily win in the run-off election, albeit with record low voter participation.

The U.S. was the largest funder of the 2010 elections and is again funding the current electoral process through the United Nations Development Program as well as through the National Democratic Institute and the International Federation of Electoral Systems. But despite the millions of dollars in support, and previous high-level calls for elections to be held as soon as possible, elections currently remain unscheduled.

The Office of the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) released its “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community” [PDF] for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today. The assessment’s section on Haiti is longer this year, due to concerns that the DNI apparently has regarding what it sees as a need for an ongoing foreign military presence there, support for which is waning internationally. The assessment cites chronic factors such as poverty and “weak institutions” as reasons why foreign military intervention is still warranted:

Stability in Haiti will remain fragile due to extreme poverty and weak governing institutions.  Meaningful long-term reconstruction and development in Haiti will need to continue for many years.  Haiti remains vulnerable to setbacks in its reconstruction and development goals due to the possibility of natural disasters.  Food insecurity, although improving, also has the potential to be a destabilizing factor.  Periods of political gridlock have resulted due to distrust between President Michel Martelly, in office since May 2011, and opponents in Parliament.  Martelly is generally still popular, but politically organized protests, possibly violent, might occur before the elections, scheduled for 2014.

While the assessment claims (as it also did last year) that Martelly “is generally still popular,” no evidence is provided. Indeed there have been protests and other signs of public discontent with his administration in recent months. Contrary to what the assessment says, there are as yet no elections scheduled; the delay in elections has been a key issue behind the demonstrations.

The long delay in scheduling the elections has also contributed to “donor fatigue” among countries that contribute to MINUSTAH – something the assessment acknowledges apparently for the first time:

During the next decade, Haiti will remain highly dependent on assistance from the international community for security, in particular during elections.  Donor fatigue among contributors to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), however, will likely lead to reductions in force, evident by the 2013 mandate which calls for consolidating and downsizing forces.

This comes after Uruguay’s recent, public announcement that it will withdraw its troops from the mission. The mention of waning regional interest in MINUSTAH participation is presumably a concern for the U.S. since it has been seen as a way to “manage” Haiti on the cheap, as we know from State Department cables made available by Wikileaks.

The Office of the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) released its “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community” [PDF] for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today. The assessment’s section on Haiti is longer this year, due to concerns that the DNI apparently has regarding what it sees as a need for an ongoing foreign military presence there, support for which is waning internationally. The assessment cites chronic factors such as poverty and “weak institutions” as reasons why foreign military intervention is still warranted:

Stability in Haiti will remain fragile due to extreme poverty and weak governing institutions.  Meaningful long-term reconstruction and development in Haiti will need to continue for many years.  Haiti remains vulnerable to setbacks in its reconstruction and development goals due to the possibility of natural disasters.  Food insecurity, although improving, also has the potential to be a destabilizing factor.  Periods of political gridlock have resulted due to distrust between President Michel Martelly, in office since May 2011, and opponents in Parliament.  Martelly is generally still popular, but politically organized protests, possibly violent, might occur before the elections, scheduled for 2014.

While the assessment claims (as it also did last year) that Martelly “is generally still popular,” no evidence is provided. Indeed there have been protests and other signs of public discontent with his administration in recent months. Contrary to what the assessment says, there are as yet no elections scheduled; the delay in elections has been a key issue behind the demonstrations.

The long delay in scheduling the elections has also contributed to “donor fatigue” among countries that contribute to MINUSTAH – something the assessment acknowledges apparently for the first time:

During the next decade, Haiti will remain highly dependent on assistance from the international community for security, in particular during elections.  Donor fatigue among contributors to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), however, will likely lead to reductions in force, evident by the 2013 mandate which calls for consolidating and downsizing forces.

This comes after Uruguay’s recent, public announcement that it will withdraw its troops from the mission. The mention of waning regional interest in MINUSTAH participation is presumably a concern for the U.S. since it has been seen as a way to “manage” Haiti on the cheap, as we know from State Department cables made available by Wikileaks.

Writing in Boston Review yesterday, CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston looks back at the international community’s efforts to provide housing to those displaced by the earthquake, finding that:

By September 2013, nearly four years after the earthquake, only 7,500 new homes had been built and 27,000 repaired—an incredibly small achievement when set against the billions of dollars and grand plans put together by the international community in the wake of the catastrophe.

Adding that:

The number of displaced persons is down to 200,000 from its 1.5 million peak, according to the U.N. But only 25 percent of that decrease has anything to do with official programs to provide housing. Many were given a paltry subsidy and evicted from their camps. The highest profile and most visible camps were closed down, but those tucked in alleys, out of the view of the convoys of aid workers’ vehicles, remain forgotten. Fifty-five thousand Haitians who moved to areas known as Canaan, Jerusalem, and Onaville were recently removed from the “official” list of Internally Displaced Persons camps. Though those who were pushed out of the camps simply returned to their old homes, the international community claims progress….In fact, if another quake happened today, they’d be more likely to die than they were living under tents in clearings.

But how this came to be wasn’t simply “the problems of reconstruction in a poor country,” but rather what happens when political priorities are put before the needs of those on the ground. The Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, led by Bill Clinton, was formed to coordinate all the various aid projects and ensure they were aligned with the Haitian government’s goals, but instead, Johnston writes:

The commission’s formation was handled not by the Haitian government, but by the staff of the Clintons, mainly Cheryl Mills and Laura Graham, as well as a team of U.S.-based private consultants. The commission’s bylaws were drafted by a team from Hogan Lovells, a global law firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. A team from McKinsey and Company, a New York based consultancy firm, handled the “mission, mandate, structure and operations” of the commission. Eric Braverman, part of the McKinsey team, later went on to become the CEO of the Clinton Foundation.

According to Jean-Marie Bourjolly, a Haitian member of the commission, the body’s “original sin” lay in concentrating the decision-making power in the Executive Committee of the Board, made up of Bill Clinton and then–Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.

Six months after its formation, Bourjolly wrote to Clinton and Bellerive, warning that by “vesting all powers and authority of the Board in the Executive Committee, it is clear that what is expected of us [the rest of the Board] is to act as a rubber-stamping body.” Another commission staffer told Johnston that many projects were approved by the commission simply because “they were submitted by USAID and State” and “that as long as USAID is submitting it and USAID is paying for it,” it should be approved.

The commission never lived up to its billing, silently closing its doors when its 18-month mandate ended in October 2011. Further, Johnston writes:

little remained of the grand plans to build thousands of new homes. Instead, those left homeless would be given a small, one-time rental subsidy of about $500. These subsidies, funded by a number of different aid agencies, were meant to give private companies the incentive to invest in building houses. As efforts to rebuild whole neighborhoods faltered, the rental subsidies turned Haitians into consumers, and the housing problem was handed over to the private sector.

Gabriel Verret, the former Executive Director of the commission, told Johnston:

“Now, we have a return to the status quo, the same situation that was there before the earthquake, with no coordination and each project done haphazardly.”

One of these projects, which was initially approved by the Clinton commission, was USAID’s permanent shelter program, which aimed to put a roof over the head of as many of those displaced as possible, as quickly as possible. Its original goal was to build 15,000 houses, with the majority of them built near Port-au-Prince, where the earthquake damage was the greatest. Johnston continues:

This June, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report revealing that only 900 of those 15,000 homes had been built. The overall goal has been reduced to 2,600. At the same time, costs increased from $53 million to over $90 million. The GAO found that the program suffered from a fatal flaw: original estimates had drastically low-balled how much the houses would cost. The calculation of 15,000 planned houses was based on an estimate of each costing around $8,000. With the cost of preparing the land, the total cost per house was over $33,000.

Johnston speaks with members of USAID’s Shelter Team, assembled after the earthquake. The plan was to invest the majority of resources in the most damaged areas and to utilize local construction teams and local materials to keep costs down. But, as Johnston reports, this isn’t what ended up happening:

The contracts ended up going not to small local companies but to large international ones. Thor Construction, based in Minnesota, received $18 million, and CEMEX, a Mexican company, got over $7 million. Another $35 million went to two Haitian-American firms based in Maryland for environmental assessments, construction management, site preparation, and other associated projects.

Outsourcing the construction drove the price up, since international companies had to fly in, rent hotels and cars, and spend USAID allowances for food and cost-of-living expenses. To incentivize working in Haiti, the U.S. government also gave contractors and employees “danger pay” and “hardship pay,” increasing their salaries by over 50 percent. With all these costs included in contracts, it’s not hard to see how prices ballooned. Bill Vastine, a long-time contractor and member of the Shelter Team, said, “if the American people saw the true cost of this, they’d say ‘you’ve got to be out of your mind.'”

But perhaps the biggest change was that instead of investing the majority of their resources into damaged communities, 75 percent of the houses would now be in the Northern Department, on the other side of the country where the Caracol Industrial Park had just been built. The industrial park, built with hundreds of millions of dollars from the international community, had become the face of Haiti’s reconstruction and the State Department was committed to putting its resources there, rather than back in Port-au-Prince. To date, just 750 houses have been built near the park, and “as the four-year mark comes and goes, the first families are just now starting to move in. Meanwhile, back in Haiti’s capital, at least 200,000 quake victims face another year living under tattered tarps.”

You can read the full article here.

Writing in Boston Review yesterday, CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston looks back at the international community’s efforts to provide housing to those displaced by the earthquake, finding that:

By September 2013, nearly four years after the earthquake, only 7,500 new homes had been built and 27,000 repaired—an incredibly small achievement when set against the billions of dollars and grand plans put together by the international community in the wake of the catastrophe.

Adding that:

The number of displaced persons is down to 200,000 from its 1.5 million peak, according to the U.N. But only 25 percent of that decrease has anything to do with official programs to provide housing. Many were given a paltry subsidy and evicted from their camps. The highest profile and most visible camps were closed down, but those tucked in alleys, out of the view of the convoys of aid workers’ vehicles, remain forgotten. Fifty-five thousand Haitians who moved to areas known as Canaan, Jerusalem, and Onaville were recently removed from the “official” list of Internally Displaced Persons camps. Though those who were pushed out of the camps simply returned to their old homes, the international community claims progress….In fact, if another quake happened today, they’d be more likely to die than they were living under tents in clearings.

But how this came to be wasn’t simply “the problems of reconstruction in a poor country,” but rather what happens when political priorities are put before the needs of those on the ground. The Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, led by Bill Clinton, was formed to coordinate all the various aid projects and ensure they were aligned with the Haitian government’s goals, but instead, Johnston writes:

The commission’s formation was handled not by the Haitian government, but by the staff of the Clintons, mainly Cheryl Mills and Laura Graham, as well as a team of U.S.-based private consultants. The commission’s bylaws were drafted by a team from Hogan Lovells, a global law firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. A team from McKinsey and Company, a New York based consultancy firm, handled the “mission, mandate, structure and operations” of the commission. Eric Braverman, part of the McKinsey team, later went on to become the CEO of the Clinton Foundation.

According to Jean-Marie Bourjolly, a Haitian member of the commission, the body’s “original sin” lay in concentrating the decision-making power in the Executive Committee of the Board, made up of Bill Clinton and then–Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.

Six months after its formation, Bourjolly wrote to Clinton and Bellerive, warning that by “vesting all powers and authority of the Board in the Executive Committee, it is clear that what is expected of us [the rest of the Board] is to act as a rubber-stamping body.” Another commission staffer told Johnston that many projects were approved by the commission simply because “they were submitted by USAID and State” and “that as long as USAID is submitting it and USAID is paying for it,” it should be approved.

The commission never lived up to its billing, silently closing its doors when its 18-month mandate ended in October 2011. Further, Johnston writes:

little remained of the grand plans to build thousands of new homes. Instead, those left homeless would be given a small, one-time rental subsidy of about $500. These subsidies, funded by a number of different aid agencies, were meant to give private companies the incentive to invest in building houses. As efforts to rebuild whole neighborhoods faltered, the rental subsidies turned Haitians into consumers, and the housing problem was handed over to the private sector.

Gabriel Verret, the former Executive Director of the commission, told Johnston:

“Now, we have a return to the status quo, the same situation that was there before the earthquake, with no coordination and each project done haphazardly.”

One of these projects, which was initially approved by the Clinton commission, was USAID’s permanent shelter program, which aimed to put a roof over the head of as many of those displaced as possible, as quickly as possible. Its original goal was to build 15,000 houses, with the majority of them built near Port-au-Prince, where the earthquake damage was the greatest. Johnston continues:

This June, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report revealing that only 900 of those 15,000 homes had been built. The overall goal has been reduced to 2,600. At the same time, costs increased from $53 million to over $90 million. The GAO found that the program suffered from a fatal flaw: original estimates had drastically low-balled how much the houses would cost. The calculation of 15,000 planned houses was based on an estimate of each costing around $8,000. With the cost of preparing the land, the total cost per house was over $33,000.

Johnston speaks with members of USAID’s Shelter Team, assembled after the earthquake. The plan was to invest the majority of resources in the most damaged areas and to utilize local construction teams and local materials to keep costs down. But, as Johnston reports, this isn’t what ended up happening:

The contracts ended up going not to small local companies but to large international ones. Thor Construction, based in Minnesota, received $18 million, and CEMEX, a Mexican company, got over $7 million. Another $35 million went to two Haitian-American firms based in Maryland for environmental assessments, construction management, site preparation, and other associated projects.

Outsourcing the construction drove the price up, since international companies had to fly in, rent hotels and cars, and spend USAID allowances for food and cost-of-living expenses. To incentivize working in Haiti, the U.S. government also gave contractors and employees “danger pay” and “hardship pay,” increasing their salaries by over 50 percent. With all these costs included in contracts, it’s not hard to see how prices ballooned. Bill Vastine, a long-time contractor and member of the Shelter Team, said, “if the American people saw the true cost of this, they’d say ‘you’ve got to be out of your mind.'”

But perhaps the biggest change was that instead of investing the majority of their resources into damaged communities, 75 percent of the houses would now be in the Northern Department, on the other side of the country where the Caracol Industrial Park had just been built. The industrial park, built with hundreds of millions of dollars from the international community, had become the face of Haiti’s reconstruction and the State Department was committed to putting its resources there, rather than back in Port-au-Prince. To date, just 750 houses have been built near the park, and “as the four-year mark comes and goes, the first families are just now starting to move in. Meanwhile, back in Haiti’s capital, at least 200,000 quake victims face another year living under tattered tarps.”

You can read the full article here.

(See also “Haiti by the Numbers, Three Years Later.”)

Number of people killed in the earthquake in 2010: over 217,300

Number of people in Haiti killed by the U.N.-caused cholera epidemic: 8,531

Number of people who died from cholera, on average, every day over the past six months: 2

Number of people in Haiti sickened by the U.N.-caused cholera epidemic: over 696,865

Budget for U.N., the U.S. CDC and the Haitian and Dominican governments’ plan to eradicate cholera (launched over a year ago): $2.2 billion

Percent of cholera eradication plan budget committed or pledged so far: 10

Percent of cholera eradication plan budget pledged by the U.N.: 1

Annual budget for the U.N.’s mostly military and police mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH): $577 million

Days since cholera was introduced in Haiti without an apology from the U.N.: 1,179

“Number of international actors engaged in cholera response efforts,” according to the U.N., in 2011: 120

“Number of international actors engaged in cholera response efforts,” according to the U.N., in 2013: 43

U.N. Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) funding appeal for 2014: $169 million

Percent of last year’s OCHA appeal that was actually funded: 42

Budget for Caracol industrial park: $300 million

Amount the Inter-American Development Bank pledged this month for expansion of Caracol: $40.5 million

Number of households who lost farm and grazing lands to make way for the Caracol park three years ago: 366

Number of people estimated to have received jobs at Caracol out of a projected 65,000 jobs, as of July 2013: 2,000

Percent by which on average, workers at Caracol are illegally underpaid, according to the Workers Rights Consortium: 34

Minimum wage in Haiti, under law: $7.00/day

Percent of garment factories in Haiti found to be non-compliant with the minimum wage: 100

Cost of a basic basket of food in Haiti, allowing for 1,979 kilocalories consumed per person per day (August 2013 prices): $10

Percent of Haitian population living on less than $2.00/day: over 80

Percent of Haitian population living on less than $1.00/day: over 50

Percent of Haitian population estimated to be “still suffering from the impact of both chronic and acute needs”: 30

Prevalence of global acute malnutrition amongst  children under 5 years old in 2012: 5.1 percent

Prevalence of global acute malnutrition amongst  children under 5 years old in 2013: 6.5 percent

Number of beds at the new University Hospital in Mirebalais, supported by Partners in Health: 300

Population served by the new, state-of-the-art facility: 185,000

Number of Haitian doctors beginning medical residencies at the new hospital: 14

For each $1 dollar invested in the hospital, amount pushed into the broader Haitian economy: $1.82

When fully operational, number of Haitians employed by the hospital: 800

Total U.S. Government post-quake funding earmarked for Haiti: $3.7 billion

Total U.S. Government disbursements of funds for Haiti: $2.9 billion

Percent of USAID contracts that have gone to Beltway-based firms: 67.1 [1]

Percent of USAID contracts that have gone to Haitian companies: 1.3 [2]

Percent by which the U.S. government goal of 15,000 new houses built has been reduced: over 80

Percent spent on shelter out of U.S. government’s first $1.34 billion committed to Haiti: 9.2

Number of people displaced from their homes by the earthquake: 1.5 million

Number of people remaining in internally displaced person (IDP) camps: approximately 200,000

Number of people that the inter-agency Shelter Cluster claims remain in IDP camps: 145,000

Percent of population displaced by the earthquake who have left IDP camps, voluntarily or involuntarily: 89

Number of IDP camps receiving official camp management services, out of 306: 2

Number of houses assessed by Haiti’s Ministry of Public Works, with the support of Miyamoto International: 430,000

Number of houses found to damaged or destroyed: 246,000

Number of masons trained with the support of Miyamoto International: 6,000

Number of engineers trained with the support of Miyamoto International: 600

Number of transitional shelters built by aid agencies since the earthquake: 113,595

Number of new houses constructed since the earthquake: 7,515

Number of houses that have been repaired: 26,547

Amount offered in rental assistance under Martelly administration’s “16/6” plan: $500

Percent of participants in a recent IJDH survey who still live in the home to which they were relocated by the 16/6 program: 51

Percent of 16/6 participants reporting that they are unable to pay rent: 61

Percent reporting that their most pressing need is housing, in 2013: 56

Percent who reported that their most pressing need was housing, in 2012: 9

Percent of survey participants reporting that at least one family member went one or more days without food: 68

Percent of survey participants reporting that their children went without eating: 63

Percent of survey participants reporting that they are eating worse than when living in the camps: 37

Percent of survey participants reporting that they are eating worse than before the earthquake: 63

“In a 2011 study of five Internally Displaced Persons camps in Haiti…percent [of] female participants [who] had been directly involved in or witnessed transactional sex, often performed in order to feed their children”: 100

Percent of reported rape victims who are adolescent girls: over 60

Percent of International Financial Institution (IFI)-funded projects reviewed by Gender Action that “discussed gender inequalities and gender roles in the project rationale and background”: 58

Percent of IFI projects reviewed by Gender Action that “ignored gender dimensions entirely”: 42

Percent of IFI projects reviewed by Gender Action that “do not mention gender roles in consultations”: 83



1) Author’s calculations based on information from USASpending.gov.

2) Ibid.

(See also “Haiti by the Numbers, Three Years Later.”)

Number of people killed in the earthquake in 2010: over 217,300

Number of people in Haiti killed by the U.N.-caused cholera epidemic: 8,531

Number of people who died from cholera, on average, every day over the past six months: 2

Number of people in Haiti sickened by the U.N.-caused cholera epidemic: over 696,865

Budget for U.N., the U.S. CDC and the Haitian and Dominican governments’ plan to eradicate cholera (launched over a year ago): $2.2 billion

Percent of cholera eradication plan budget committed or pledged so far: 10

Percent of cholera eradication plan budget pledged by the U.N.: 1

Annual budget for the U.N.’s mostly military and police mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH): $577 million

Days since cholera was introduced in Haiti without an apology from the U.N.: 1,179

“Number of international actors engaged in cholera response efforts,” according to the U.N., in 2011: 120

“Number of international actors engaged in cholera response efforts,” according to the U.N., in 2013: 43

U.N. Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) funding appeal for 2014: $169 million

Percent of last year’s OCHA appeal that was actually funded: 42

Budget for Caracol industrial park: $300 million

Amount the Inter-American Development Bank pledged this month for expansion of Caracol: $40.5 million

Number of households who lost farm and grazing lands to make way for the Caracol park three years ago: 366

Number of people estimated to have received jobs at Caracol out of a projected 65,000 jobs, as of July 2013: 2,000

Percent by which on average, workers at Caracol are illegally underpaid, according to the Workers Rights Consortium: 34

Minimum wage in Haiti, under law: $7.00/day

Percent of garment factories in Haiti found to be non-compliant with the minimum wage: 100

Cost of a basic basket of food in Haiti, allowing for 1,979 kilocalories consumed per person per day (August 2013 prices): $10

Percent of Haitian population living on less than $2.00/day: over 80

Percent of Haitian population living on less than $1.00/day: over 50

Percent of Haitian population estimated to be “still suffering from the impact of both chronic and acute needs”: 30

Prevalence of global acute malnutrition amongst  children under 5 years old in 2012: 5.1 percent

Prevalence of global acute malnutrition amongst  children under 5 years old in 2013: 6.5 percent

Number of beds at the new University Hospital in Mirebalais, supported by Partners in Health: 300

Population served by the new, state-of-the-art facility: 185,000

Number of Haitian doctors beginning medical residencies at the new hospital: 14

For each $1 dollar invested in the hospital, amount pushed into the broader Haitian economy: $1.82

When fully operational, number of Haitians employed by the hospital: 800

Total U.S. Government post-quake funding earmarked for Haiti: $3.7 billion

Total U.S. Government disbursements of funds for Haiti: $2.9 billion

Percent of USAID contracts that have gone to Beltway-based firms: 67.1 [1]

Percent of USAID contracts that have gone to Haitian companies: 1.3 [2]

Percent by which the U.S. government goal of 15,000 new houses built has been reduced: over 80

Percent spent on shelter out of U.S. government’s first $1.34 billion committed to Haiti: 9.2

Number of people displaced from their homes by the earthquake: 1.5 million

Number of people remaining in internally displaced person (IDP) camps: approximately 200,000

Number of people that the inter-agency Shelter Cluster claims remain in IDP camps: 145,000

Percent of population displaced by the earthquake who have left IDP camps, voluntarily or involuntarily: 89

Number of IDP camps receiving official camp management services, out of 306: 2

Number of houses assessed by Haiti’s Ministry of Public Works, with the support of Miyamoto International: 430,000

Number of houses found to damaged or destroyed: 246,000

Number of masons trained with the support of Miyamoto International: 6,000

Number of engineers trained with the support of Miyamoto International: 600

Number of transitional shelters built by aid agencies since the earthquake: 113,595

Number of new houses constructed since the earthquake: 7,515

Number of houses that have been repaired: 26,547

Amount offered in rental assistance under Martelly administration’s “16/6” plan: $500

Percent of participants in a recent IJDH survey who still live in the home to which they were relocated by the 16/6 program: 51

Percent of 16/6 participants reporting that they are unable to pay rent: 61

Percent reporting that their most pressing need is housing, in 2013: 56

Percent who reported that their most pressing need was housing, in 2012: 9

Percent of survey participants reporting that at least one family member went one or more days without food: 68

Percent of survey participants reporting that their children went without eating: 63

Percent of survey participants reporting that they are eating worse than when living in the camps: 37

Percent of survey participants reporting that they are eating worse than before the earthquake: 63

“In a 2011 study of five Internally Displaced Persons camps in Haiti…percent [of] female participants [who] had been directly involved in or witnessed transactional sex, often performed in order to feed their children”: 100

Percent of reported rape victims who are adolescent girls: over 60

Percent of International Financial Institution (IFI)-funded projects reviewed by Gender Action that “discussed gender inequalities and gender roles in the project rationale and background”: 58

Percent of IFI projects reviewed by Gender Action that “ignored gender dimensions entirely”: 42

Percent of IFI projects reviewed by Gender Action that “do not mention gender roles in consultations”: 83



1) Author’s calculations based on information from USASpending.gov.

2) Ibid.

In a positive step towards greater transparency of U.S. aid programs in Haiti and worldwide USAID has released new data on its use of local country systems. However, the content of the data itself also raises questions about USAID’s commitment to greater local procurement in Haiti and the speed at which the agency is achieving its goals.

In 2010, USAID launched USAID Forward, an ambitious reform agenda which called for increasing the use of “partner country systems” in order to strengthen local capacity and to raise the “percentage of total dollars through direct contracts with local private businesses.” In Haiti, however, previous CEPR research has shown that an extremely low percentage of funds have gone to local institutions since the earthquake: less than 1 percent out of the $1.3 billion obligated. Despite this, in September 2012, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah told the Miami Herald that the goal is to have 30 percent of USAID funds going to local Haitian organizations by 2015.

The newly released data from USAID, though only covering the 2012 fiscal year, reveals just how far the agency still has to go to reach its goal. In 2012, USAID obligated nearly $210 million for programs in Haiti, but according to its own data, just 5.4 percent of this went directly through local country systems. This compares unfavorably with the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as with the rest of the world. Overall, USAID obligated just over 14 percent of its funds through local systems while the figure for Latin America and the Caribbean was 11.3 percent.

In his interview with the Miami Herald, Shah also stated that prior to the earthquake, less than 9 percent of USAID funds were going through local systems, but that “we’re over the pre-earthquake level now.” The data released by USAID seems to directly contradict this.

USAID has since lowered their goals for local procurement in Haiti. In October Beth Hogan of USAID testified during a Congressional hearing concerning U.S. foreign assistance to Haiti. In response to questions from Rep. Barbara Lee about why so little of USAID’s funds go to Haitian organizations, Hogan acknowledged that “It’s much too low” but that USAID has “a target of getting to 15 percent. And even getting to 15 percent is going to be difficult because of the low capacity.” Hogan added that while “very little of our money goes directly… to Haitian institutions” USAID has “spent 50 million (dollars) through grants and subgrants and subcontracts to Haitian institutions.” Yet, there has been no systematic reporting of subcontracts and subgrants on the part of USAID. That may soon change.

On December 12, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act of 2013, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee and cosponsored by 34 other legislators, including the leadership of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The bill, as passed by the House, calls for the Secretary of State to report to Congress on “the amounts committed, obligated, and expended on programs and activities…by sector and by implementing partner at the prime and subprime levels.”

After the passage of the bill, Rep. Barbara Lee stated, “The Haitian people have continued to demonstrate resiliency, strength, and bravery despite the tragic events that have occurred. It is beyond time that in turn, Congress supports Haiti to ensure that relief and reconstruction funds in Haiti are effectively spent to maximize their long term impact.” The congresswoman added, “Almost four years after one of the most catastrophic earthquakes in history, we have very little accountability and oversight in the recovery efforts, and we need to change that.”

In a positive step towards greater transparency of U.S. aid programs in Haiti and worldwide USAID has released new data on its use of local country systems. However, the content of the data itself also raises questions about USAID’s commitment to greater local procurement in Haiti and the speed at which the agency is achieving its goals.

In 2010, USAID launched USAID Forward, an ambitious reform agenda which called for increasing the use of “partner country systems” in order to strengthen local capacity and to raise the “percentage of total dollars through direct contracts with local private businesses.” In Haiti, however, previous CEPR research has shown that an extremely low percentage of funds have gone to local institutions since the earthquake: less than 1 percent out of the $1.3 billion obligated. Despite this, in September 2012, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah told the Miami Herald that the goal is to have 30 percent of USAID funds going to local Haitian organizations by 2015.

The newly released data from USAID, though only covering the 2012 fiscal year, reveals just how far the agency still has to go to reach its goal. In 2012, USAID obligated nearly $210 million for programs in Haiti, but according to its own data, just 5.4 percent of this went directly through local country systems. This compares unfavorably with the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as with the rest of the world. Overall, USAID obligated just over 14 percent of its funds through local systems while the figure for Latin America and the Caribbean was 11.3 percent.

In his interview with the Miami Herald, Shah also stated that prior to the earthquake, less than 9 percent of USAID funds were going through local systems, but that “we’re over the pre-earthquake level now.” The data released by USAID seems to directly contradict this.

USAID has since lowered their goals for local procurement in Haiti. In October Beth Hogan of USAID testified during a Congressional hearing concerning U.S. foreign assistance to Haiti. In response to questions from Rep. Barbara Lee about why so little of USAID’s funds go to Haitian organizations, Hogan acknowledged that “It’s much too low” but that USAID has “a target of getting to 15 percent. And even getting to 15 percent is going to be difficult because of the low capacity.” Hogan added that while “very little of our money goes directly… to Haitian institutions” USAID has “spent 50 million (dollars) through grants and subgrants and subcontracts to Haitian institutions.” Yet, there has been no systematic reporting of subcontracts and subgrants on the part of USAID. That may soon change.

On December 12, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act of 2013, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee and cosponsored by 34 other legislators, including the leadership of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The bill, as passed by the House, calls for the Secretary of State to report to Congress on “the amounts committed, obligated, and expended on programs and activities…by sector and by implementing partner at the prime and subprime levels.”

After the passage of the bill, Rep. Barbara Lee stated, “The Haitian people have continued to demonstrate resiliency, strength, and bravery despite the tragic events that have occurred. It is beyond time that in turn, Congress supports Haiti to ensure that relief and reconstruction funds in Haiti are effectively spent to maximize their long term impact.” The congresswoman added, “Almost four years after one of the most catastrophic earthquakes in history, we have very little accountability and oversight in the recovery efforts, and we need to change that.”

Amnesty International reports:

On the morning of 7 December, a justice of peace (juge de paix) from the municipality of Croix-des-Bouquets accompanied by 17 police officers and a group of men armed with machetes and sticks forcibly evicted around 60 families from an informal settlement in Titanyen on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. The residents stated that the justice of the peace did not present an eviction order and that they had no prior notice of the eviction and therefore had no opportunity to appeal against it. The armed men began to tear down their dwellings without allowing the residents time to collect their belongings. These belongings were then stolen as police fired their weapons in the air in order to intimidate the residents. According to the residents over a dozen people were assaulted, including a woman who is four months pregnant. They were told that the remaining families living on the site (approximately 100) would also be forced off the land.

The aftermath of the eviction was caught on tape by documentary film-maker Jon Bougher. Bougher previously released a short film about the camp, its prior eviction from the Delmas neighborhood and the move to Canaan.

Amnesty describes the area where the residents were located:

Titanyen where they now live is part of an area commonly known as Canaan, a large tract of land which the then government declared for “public use” (utilité publique) two months after the earthquake in March 2010. Tens of thousands of people who lost their homes in the earthquake have subsequently relocated there, but many face eviction from people claiming ownership of the land.

The threat of forced evictions in Canaan is occurring at a time when residents on the land have lost their status as “official” internally displaced persons (IDPs). In October, the International Organization for Migration, at the request of the Government of Haiti, removed 54,000 individuals from their official IDP registration because it was deemed that the area showed “characteristics” of “new neighborhoods needing urban planning” and “not of IDP sites.”

As HRRW reported in October, the Haitian government had requested millions of dollars from the international community to build infrastructure and conduct urban planning, yet thus far the money has not materialized.

This latest eviction and other, prior evictions indicate that the residents of Canaan and the surrounding areas are very much still in need of the protections afforded to them as IDPs. According to the U.N.’s Refugee Agency, IDPs “legally remain under the protection of their own government,” however the presence of government officials and police during the eviction of Camp Mozayik highlight the urgent need for the international community to protect those who remain in tent camps and other informal settlements, nearly four years after the earthquake. Since the IOM no longer considers these families to be part of a displaced community, will the organization turn a blind eye to their violent eviction?

Amnesty International reports:

On the morning of 7 December, a justice of peace (juge de paix) from the municipality of Croix-des-Bouquets accompanied by 17 police officers and a group of men armed with machetes and sticks forcibly evicted around 60 families from an informal settlement in Titanyen on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. The residents stated that the justice of the peace did not present an eviction order and that they had no prior notice of the eviction and therefore had no opportunity to appeal against it. The armed men began to tear down their dwellings without allowing the residents time to collect their belongings. These belongings were then stolen as police fired their weapons in the air in order to intimidate the residents. According to the residents over a dozen people were assaulted, including a woman who is four months pregnant. They were told that the remaining families living on the site (approximately 100) would also be forced off the land.

The aftermath of the eviction was caught on tape by documentary film-maker Jon Bougher. Bougher previously released a short film about the camp, its prior eviction from the Delmas neighborhood and the move to Canaan.

Amnesty describes the area where the residents were located:

Titanyen where they now live is part of an area commonly known as Canaan, a large tract of land which the then government declared for “public use” (utilité publique) two months after the earthquake in March 2010. Tens of thousands of people who lost their homes in the earthquake have subsequently relocated there, but many face eviction from people claiming ownership of the land.

The threat of forced evictions in Canaan is occurring at a time when residents on the land have lost their status as “official” internally displaced persons (IDPs). In October, the International Organization for Migration, at the request of the Government of Haiti, removed 54,000 individuals from their official IDP registration because it was deemed that the area showed “characteristics” of “new neighborhoods needing urban planning” and “not of IDP sites.”

As HRRW reported in October, the Haitian government had requested millions of dollars from the international community to build infrastructure and conduct urban planning, yet thus far the money has not materialized.

This latest eviction and other, prior evictions indicate that the residents of Canaan and the surrounding areas are very much still in need of the protections afforded to them as IDPs. According to the U.N.’s Refugee Agency, IDPs “legally remain under the protection of their own government,” however the presence of government officials and police during the eviction of Camp Mozayik highlight the urgent need for the international community to protect those who remain in tent camps and other informal settlements, nearly four years after the earthquake. Since the IOM no longer considers these families to be part of a displaced community, will the organization turn a blind eye to their violent eviction?

In late October, Uruguayan president José Mujica announced that he planned to withdraw his country’s troops from Haiti, where they make up 11 percent of the U.N. peacekeeping mission. Citing the long delayed legislative elections, Mujica told the press:

One thing is to try to help the Haitian people build a police force that is in charge of security. That’s fine… Another thing is being there indefinitely with a regime that we think is at least dubious in terms of a continuity of democratic renewal.

MINUSTAH, as the U.N. mission is known, has been in Haiti since 2004 following the coup that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In October the mission’s mandate was extended by the U.N. Security Council for another year, though a gradual drawdown of troops was also agreed. After his initial statements, Mujica traveled to Brazil where he met with President Dilma Rousseff. Brazil leads MINUSTAH and is the largest troop-contributing country, accounting for 16 percent of the personnel.

After the meeting, Mujica stated that he and Rousseff agreed that the mission should not become a “Praetorian Guard” to protect a government that was not moving forward democratically. On November 20, the U.N. spokesperson for the Secretary General acknowledged that “preliminary and informal discussions have taken place with the Uruguayan representatives in New York regarding the planned withdrawal of a part of their troops,” but that “no formal notification has as yet been exchanged.”

On November 25, before travelling to Haiti for a meeting with President Martelly, Uruguayan Foreign Minister Luis Almagro met in New York with Brazilian and U.N. officials to discuss MINUSTAH’s presence in Haiti. Almagro stated that while Uruguay would only gradually withdraw its troops in line with the Security Council resolution, if “autocratic” tendencies in the Haitian government continued, they would immediately withdraw. Specifically, Almagro conditioned continued Uruguayan support to MINUSTAH on the holding of the overdue legislative elections.

Regional Implications

In June 2012, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) met to discuss MINUSTAH and agreed to form a working group “for the purposes of elaborating a scheme on the strategy, form, conditions, stages, and timeline of a Plan of Reduction of Contingents of the Military Component of the Mission.” Though there has been little movement since then, the recent actions by Uruguay may change that.

Foreign ministers from Argentina and Brazil met November 21, announcing that they shared a common view on MINUSTAH and that while “it should not be perpetuated” neither could it depart immediately. According to news reports, the ministers believed the withdrawal would require a “regional vision” and should again be brought up by UNASUR in early 2014.

Together, the nine South American troop contributing countries make up about 50 percent of MINUSTAH personnel and nearly 70 percent of the military contingent, meaning any movement for withdrawal from the region will have huge implications. As can be seen in the Figure below, while MINUSTAH has diminished in size over the last two years, most of this has just been the phasing out of the post-earthquake surge in personnel. The current size of MINUSTAH is only 4 percent smaller than pre-earthquake. But while overall levels have been reduced, Latin America’s share of military personnel has steadily grown. MINUSTAH is now more reliant on Latin America than ever.

MINUSTAH Troop level

In late October, Uruguayan president José Mujica announced that he planned to withdraw his country’s troops from Haiti, where they make up 11 percent of the U.N. peacekeeping mission. Citing the long delayed legislative elections, Mujica told the press:

One thing is to try to help the Haitian people build a police force that is in charge of security. That’s fine… Another thing is being there indefinitely with a regime that we think is at least dubious in terms of a continuity of democratic renewal.

MINUSTAH, as the U.N. mission is known, has been in Haiti since 2004 following the coup that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In October the mission’s mandate was extended by the U.N. Security Council for another year, though a gradual drawdown of troops was also agreed. After his initial statements, Mujica traveled to Brazil where he met with President Dilma Rousseff. Brazil leads MINUSTAH and is the largest troop-contributing country, accounting for 16 percent of the personnel.

After the meeting, Mujica stated that he and Rousseff agreed that the mission should not become a “Praetorian Guard” to protect a government that was not moving forward democratically. On November 20, the U.N. spokesperson for the Secretary General acknowledged that “preliminary and informal discussions have taken place with the Uruguayan representatives in New York regarding the planned withdrawal of a part of their troops,” but that “no formal notification has as yet been exchanged.”

On November 25, before travelling to Haiti for a meeting with President Martelly, Uruguayan Foreign Minister Luis Almagro met in New York with Brazilian and U.N. officials to discuss MINUSTAH’s presence in Haiti. Almagro stated that while Uruguay would only gradually withdraw its troops in line with the Security Council resolution, if “autocratic” tendencies in the Haitian government continued, they would immediately withdraw. Specifically, Almagro conditioned continued Uruguayan support to MINUSTAH on the holding of the overdue legislative elections.

Regional Implications

In June 2012, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) met to discuss MINUSTAH and agreed to form a working group “for the purposes of elaborating a scheme on the strategy, form, conditions, stages, and timeline of a Plan of Reduction of Contingents of the Military Component of the Mission.” Though there has been little movement since then, the recent actions by Uruguay may change that.

Foreign ministers from Argentina and Brazil met November 21, announcing that they shared a common view on MINUSTAH and that while “it should not be perpetuated” neither could it depart immediately. According to news reports, the ministers believed the withdrawal would require a “regional vision” and should again be brought up by UNASUR in early 2014.

Together, the nine South American troop contributing countries make up about 50 percent of MINUSTAH personnel and nearly 70 percent of the military contingent, meaning any movement for withdrawal from the region will have huge implications. As can be seen in the Figure below, while MINUSTAH has diminished in size over the last two years, most of this has just been the phasing out of the post-earthquake surge in personnel. The current size of MINUSTAH is only 4 percent smaller than pre-earthquake. But while overall levels have been reduced, Latin America’s share of military personnel has steadily grown. MINUSTAH is now more reliant on Latin America than ever.

MINUSTAH Troop level

Rick Westhead of the Toronto Star reports:

One of Canada’s largest garment companies [Gildan Activewear] has promised to ensure that thousands of workers who make its clothing in Haitian factories are paid at least $7.22 per day, the country’s minimum wage.

The move followed revelations that some labourers making apparel for Gildan Activewear were paid so little they had no money for food.

In addition to Gildan, Fruit of the Loom also agreed to ensure their contractor’s compliance with the minimum wage, according to Scott Nova, an official with the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC). The statements from the two companies comes after a report (PDF), authored by the WRC found that “the majority of Haitian garment workers are being denied nearly a third of the wages they are legally due as a result of the factories’ theft of their income.” The WRC found that “over three quarters of the workers who were interviewed reported that they were unable to pay for three meals per day for themselves and their immediate family.”

As we previously described, the WRC noted that “tacitly complicit” in this wage theft were large North American brands such as “Gap, Gildan, Hanes, Kohl’s, Levi’s, Russell, Target, VF, and Walmart,” which all source clothing from Haiti. The WRC report called for these brands to ensure their third-party contractors comply with the minimum wage as well as compensate employees for their previous underpayment.

In a public statement, Gildan also called for “an industry-wide meeting and other combined efforts, involving brands, retailers and worker representatives similarly committed to ensuring compliance, in order to bring a common resolution to this issue in a manner which will appropriately address the working conditions in the apparel industry.” Gildan added that “we understand that one issue that will be on the table for discussion will be remedies for past non-compliance.”

Better Work Haiti, an international monitoring organization run by the International Labor Organization and funded by the World Bank and U.S. Department of Labor, has consistently reported massive non-compliance with Haiti’s minimum wage law. In their latest report, released in October, Better Work reported 100 percent non-compliance in the 23 factories covered in the report, but Better Work added that:

In the Minimum Wage Law there are two applicable wage requirements in exporting apparel factories in Haiti: the minimum wage of reference, currently set at 200 Gourdes per day (article 1 of the law), and the production wage (Minimum Wages: Piece Rate), currently set at 300 Gourdes per day (article 2.2 of the law). The production wage refers to a legal requirement for the employer to set piece rates in a manner such that a worker can earn 300 Gourdes during eight regular hours of work per day.

The Haitian government and Haitian manufacturers have advocated for an interpretation of the law which mandates only the lower of the two wages be paid, but Fruit of the Loom, in a public statement, acknowledges that, “It is our view that the clear intent of Haiti’s minimum wage law is for production rates to be set in such a manner as to allow workers to earn at least 300 gourdes for 8 hours of work in a day. Based on our independent investigation, we concur with the WRC that the garment industry in Haiti generally falls short of that standard.”

“The commitments from Gildan and Fruit of the Loom will put substantial pressure on other buyers,” Nova told the Toronto Star.

Rick Westhead of the Toronto Star reports:

One of Canada’s largest garment companies [Gildan Activewear] has promised to ensure that thousands of workers who make its clothing in Haitian factories are paid at least $7.22 per day, the country’s minimum wage.

The move followed revelations that some labourers making apparel for Gildan Activewear were paid so little they had no money for food.

In addition to Gildan, Fruit of the Loom also agreed to ensure their contractor’s compliance with the minimum wage, according to Scott Nova, an official with the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC). The statements from the two companies comes after a report (PDF), authored by the WRC found that “the majority of Haitian garment workers are being denied nearly a third of the wages they are legally due as a result of the factories’ theft of their income.” The WRC found that “over three quarters of the workers who were interviewed reported that they were unable to pay for three meals per day for themselves and their immediate family.”

As we previously described, the WRC noted that “tacitly complicit” in this wage theft were large North American brands such as “Gap, Gildan, Hanes, Kohl’s, Levi’s, Russell, Target, VF, and Walmart,” which all source clothing from Haiti. The WRC report called for these brands to ensure their third-party contractors comply with the minimum wage as well as compensate employees for their previous underpayment.

In a public statement, Gildan also called for “an industry-wide meeting and other combined efforts, involving brands, retailers and worker representatives similarly committed to ensuring compliance, in order to bring a common resolution to this issue in a manner which will appropriately address the working conditions in the apparel industry.” Gildan added that “we understand that one issue that will be on the table for discussion will be remedies for past non-compliance.”

Better Work Haiti, an international monitoring organization run by the International Labor Organization and funded by the World Bank and U.S. Department of Labor, has consistently reported massive non-compliance with Haiti’s minimum wage law. In their latest report, released in October, Better Work reported 100 percent non-compliance in the 23 factories covered in the report, but Better Work added that:

In the Minimum Wage Law there are two applicable wage requirements in exporting apparel factories in Haiti: the minimum wage of reference, currently set at 200 Gourdes per day (article 1 of the law), and the production wage (Minimum Wages: Piece Rate), currently set at 300 Gourdes per day (article 2.2 of the law). The production wage refers to a legal requirement for the employer to set piece rates in a manner such that a worker can earn 300 Gourdes during eight regular hours of work per day.

The Haitian government and Haitian manufacturers have advocated for an interpretation of the law which mandates only the lower of the two wages be paid, but Fruit of the Loom, in a public statement, acknowledges that, “It is our view that the clear intent of Haiti’s minimum wage law is for production rates to be set in such a manner as to allow workers to earn at least 300 gourdes for 8 hours of work in a day. Based on our independent investigation, we concur with the WRC that the garment industry in Haiti generally falls short of that standard.”

“The commitments from Gildan and Fruit of the Loom will put substantial pressure on other buyers,” Nova told the Toronto Star.

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