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.

On February 17, Haitian police arrested seven Blackwater-like security contractors a few blocks from the country’s Central Bank. Driving in unmarked vehicles and transporting semi-automatic rifles, drones, and other tactical equipment, the contractors claimed to be on a government mission. Four days later the US “rescued” them. None are expected to face charges.

Over the course of just a few days, the case took on political significance much greater than the detention and release of the contractors. The chain of events initiated by the detention revealed the weakness of the nation’s justice system and the precariousness of the current Haitian administration; it exposed the close ties between criminal networks and the ruling party; and casts doubt on the idea that this was a simple security operation gone wrong.

Launch the investigation below.

Nan kreyòl

Our Boss Will Call Your Boss
An investigation into American security contractors arrested in Haiti and their “rescue” by the US government

Enter

keywords

On February 17, Haitian police arrested seven Blackwater-like security contractors a few blocks from the country’s Central Bank. Driving in unmarked vehicles and transporting semi-automatic rifles, drones, and other tactical equipment, the contractors claimed to be on a government mission. Four days later the US “rescued” them. None are expected to face charges.

Over the course of just a few days, the case took on political significance much greater than the detention and release of the contractors. The chain of events initiated by the detention revealed the weakness of the nation’s justice system and the precariousness of the current Haitian administration; it exposed the close ties between criminal networks and the ruling party; and casts doubt on the idea that this was a simple security operation gone wrong.

Launch the investigation below.

Nan kreyòl

Our Boss Will Call Your Boss
An investigation into American security contractors arrested in Haiti and their “rescue” by the US government

Enter

keywords

Years since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti: 9

Estimated number of aftershocks that measured 4.5 or greater: 59

Number of people who died in the earthquake, according to Haitian government: 316,000

Number of people displaced: 1,300,000

Number of people who remained in internally displaced persons camps, as of September 2017: 37,867

Estimated population of Canaan, a barren hillside north of the capital, pre-earthquake: 0

Estimated population of Canaan now: 300,000

Minimum number of new homes necessary to meet demand: 500,000

Estimated damage and economic losses from earthquake, in percent of Haiti’s GDP: 120 percent

Total amount of aid disbursed by donors, since 2010: $7,538,885,632

Amount of aid given to the government in the form of budget support: $280,844,071

Total amount of approved World Bank projects in Haiti since the earthquake: $1.167 billion

Total aid awarded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID): $2.3 billion

Of that amount, percent of which was given to organizations or companies located inside the Beltway (Maryland, DC, Virginia): 55.5 percent

Percent of which was awarded directly to Haitian organizations or companies: 2.3 percent

Total amount of contracts awarded to the DC-based company Chemonics International: $298.55 million

Total amount of contracts awarded directly to all Haitian firms: $52.95 million

Amount allocated by USAID and the Inter-American Development Bank to support the Caracol Industrial Park, the flagship post-quake project: $350 million

Number of miles from the earthquake epicenter to Caracol: 190

Date on which the industrial park was inaugurated: October 22, 2012

Number of jobs the State Department promised the new industrial park would create: 65,000

Total number of jobs at the industrial park, as of 2017: 10,214

Percent by which garment sector employment has increased countrywide since 2010: 93 percent

Minimum number of residents displaced by the construction of the Caracol Industrial Park: 400

Date on which those 400 residents reached an agreement with the IDB and Haitian government on corrective measures, including access to new land: December 19, 2018

Daily minimum wage in the garment sector: 420 gourdes (less than $6)

Daily minimum wage requested by unions: 1000 gourdes

Percent of garment factories noncompliant with social security and other benefit payments in 2018: 75 percent

Total remittances sent to Haiti in 2018, according to the World Bank: $2.5 billion

Haiti’s rank among countries with the highest remittances as a share of GDP: 5

Minimum number of Haitians who emigrated to Chile in 2017: 105,000

Number of Haitians living in the United States with Temporary Protected Status (TPS): 59,000

Date on which then-candidate Trump proclaimed that he would be Haiti’s “greatest champion”: September 16, 2016

Date on which the US announced it was ending TPS for Haitians: November 20, 2017

Date on which it was reported that President Trump referred to Haiti as a “shithole” country: January 11, 2018

Date on which a trial in New York commenced contesting the US decision to end TPS: January 7, 2019

Ratio of per capita public health funding in Haiti compared to Cuba: 1:60

Percent by which child mortality decreased, between 1990 and 2015: 50 percent

Factor by which Haiti’s child mortality rate remains greater than the Latin America and Caribbean average: 5

Percent of health facilities that charge user fees: 93 percent

Percent of the national budget that went to health in 2004: 16.6

In 2016: 4.4

Percent of national budget that went to the Senate and Chamber of Deputies last year: 5.8 percent

Number of political parties that registered to participate in Haiti’s August 2015 legislative elections: 128

Number of candidates: 1,852

Number of seats up for grabs: 139

Percent of votes that were never counted due to irregularities, including fraud and violence: 25 percent

Date on which Haiti’s first-round presidential election was held: October 25, 2015

Date on which the planned second-round presidential election was indefinitely called off due to widespread irregularities: January 22, 2016

Number of untraceable votes in the October 25, 2015 election, according to an independent verification commission: 628,000

Date on which the Haitian government announced it would rerun the presidential election on October 25, 2016: June 6, 2016

Date on which the United States, which was opposed to the decision, announced it would not fund the rerun election: July 7, 2016

Total cost of the rerun election, paid entirely by the Haitian government: $55 million

Date on which Hurricane Matthew made landfall on Haiti’s Southern Peninsula: October 4, 2016

Number of years since a hurricane of similar magnitude struck Haiti: 62

Amount requested in a flash appeal for humanitarian funding by the United Nations: $139 million

Percent of flash appeal that has been funded since: 62.1 percent

Estimated percent of crops destroyed in the Grand’Anse region: 100 percent

Estimated percent of livestock killed in the same department: 85–90 percent

Estimated amount needed for reconstruction after the hurricane: $2.2 billion

Number of days the passage of Hurricane Matthew delayed the presidential election: 26

Estimated voter turnout in the 2016 presidential election: 18 percent

Number of elections in Latin America and the Caribbean which have experienced that low a turnout before: 0

Date on which Haiti officially relaunched the military, disbanded since 1995: November 18, 2017

Percent of the six members of the high command who also held positions in the disbanded military: 100 percent

Budget for the Armed Forces of Haiti in 2018-2019, in dollars: $6 million

Minimum amount the Government of Haiti invested in Agritrans, a banana exporting plantation run by current president Jovenel Moïse: $6 million

Date on which Moïse appeared at Agritrans to mark the first shipment of bananas to Europe: September 8, 2015

Date on which the 2015 presidential campaign officially began: September 9, 2015

Date on which the second, and last, shipment of bananas to Europe was made: April 2016

Number of jobs the plantation was expected to create: 3,000

Estimated number of individuals displaced by the creation of Agritrans: 1,000

Estimated average annual economic loss of those displaced: $1,433

Dollar amount of import tax exemptions that Agritrans benefited from between 2014 and 2017: $573,543

Dollar amount of food imported by Haiti in 2009: $483 million

In 2018: $909 million

Dollar amount of food exported by Haiti in 2009: $25.8 million

In 2018: $21.5 million

Number of rural Haitians facing acute food insecurity: 2,054,161

Number facing a “food emergency situation”: 571,129

Exchange rate at time of earthquake (Haitian gourdes per dollar): 40.5

Exchange rate today: 76.3

Percent by which gas prices would increase following a July 2018 government announcement: 38 percent

Days of protests and rioting that followed the announcement: 3

Approximate number of hours it took the government to rescind the increase: 24

Percent of the gasoline subsidy that benefits the wealthiest segments of society: 90 percent

Average annual per capita GDP growth, since 2009: 0.3 percent

Amount of debt relief granted by Venezuela after the earthquake: $295 million

Estimated amount that Haiti currently owes Venezuela: $1.44 billion

Average annual disbursement, through the Venezuela-led Petrocaribe program, 2011–2015: $270.8 million

Number of pages in a 2017 Haitian Senate investigation into Petrocaribe spending that found significant irregularities and alleged widespread fraud and abuse: 617

In the annex to the report: 619

Minimum amount allocated to a project to build sports centers, run by former president Michel Martelly’s son: $27.7 million

Date on which Gilbert Mirambeau Jr., a Haitian filmmaker, tweeted a photo of himself, blindfolded, holding a sign asking where the Petrocaribe money is: August 14, 2018

Percent of Haiti’s ten departments that experienced massive demonstrations on October 18, 2018 asking where the Petrocaribe money is: 90 percent

Minimum number of individuals wounded by police gunfire at a funeral for protesters killed during the October 18 demonstrations: 3

Minimum number of Haitians killed by armed gangs and corrupt police on November 13, 2018 in the La Saline neighborhood of Port-au-Prince: 70

Number of officials held accountable for wrongdoing related to Petrocaribe: 0

Number of individuals held accountable for the massacre at La Saline: 0

Years remaining in President Jovenel Moïse’s mandate: 3

Years since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti: 9

Estimated number of aftershocks that measured 4.5 or greater: 59

Number of people who died in the earthquake, according to Haitian government: 316,000

Number of people displaced: 1,300,000

Number of people who remained in internally displaced persons camps, as of September 2017: 37,867

Estimated population of Canaan, a barren hillside north of the capital, pre-earthquake: 0

Estimated population of Canaan now: 300,000

Minimum number of new homes necessary to meet demand: 500,000

Estimated damage and economic losses from earthquake, in percent of Haiti’s GDP: 120 percent

Total amount of aid disbursed by donors, since 2010: $7,538,885,632

Amount of aid given to the government in the form of budget support: $280,844,071

Total amount of approved World Bank projects in Haiti since the earthquake: $1.167 billion

Total aid awarded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID): $2.3 billion

Of that amount, percent of which was given to organizations or companies located inside the Beltway (Maryland, DC, Virginia): 55.5 percent

Percent of which was awarded directly to Haitian organizations or companies: 2.3 percent

Total amount of contracts awarded to the DC-based company Chemonics International: $298.55 million

Total amount of contracts awarded directly to all Haitian firms: $52.95 million

Amount allocated by USAID and the Inter-American Development Bank to support the Caracol Industrial Park, the flagship post-quake project: $350 million

Number of miles from the earthquake epicenter to Caracol: 190

Date on which the industrial park was inaugurated: October 22, 2012

Number of jobs the State Department promised the new industrial park would create: 65,000

Total number of jobs at the industrial park, as of 2017: 10,214

Percent by which garment sector employment has increased countrywide since 2010: 93 percent

Minimum number of residents displaced by the construction of the Caracol Industrial Park: 400

Date on which those 400 residents reached an agreement with the IDB and Haitian government on corrective measures, including access to new land: December 19, 2018

Daily minimum wage in the garment sector: 420 gourdes (less than $6)

Daily minimum wage requested by unions: 1000 gourdes

Percent of garment factories noncompliant with social security and other benefit payments in 2018: 75 percent

Total remittances sent to Haiti in 2018, according to the World Bank: $2.5 billion

Haiti’s rank among countries with the highest remittances as a share of GDP: 5

Minimum number of Haitians who emigrated to Chile in 2017: 105,000

Number of Haitians living in the United States with Temporary Protected Status (TPS): 59,000

Date on which then-candidate Trump proclaimed that he would be Haiti’s “greatest champion”: September 16, 2016

Date on which the US announced it was ending TPS for Haitians: November 20, 2017

Date on which it was reported that President Trump referred to Haiti as a “shithole” country: January 11, 2018

Date on which a trial in New York commenced contesting the US decision to end TPS: January 7, 2019

Ratio of per capita public health funding in Haiti compared to Cuba: 1:60

Percent by which child mortality decreased, between 1990 and 2015: 50 percent

Factor by which Haiti’s child mortality rate remains greater than the Latin America and Caribbean average: 5

Percent of health facilities that charge user fees: 93 percent

Percent of the national budget that went to health in 2004: 16.6

In 2016: 4.4

Percent of national budget that went to the Senate and Chamber of Deputies last year: 5.8 percent

Number of political parties that registered to participate in Haiti’s August 2015 legislative elections: 128

Number of candidates: 1,852

Number of seats up for grabs: 139

Percent of votes that were never counted due to irregularities, including fraud and violence: 25 percent

Date on which Haiti’s first-round presidential election was held: October 25, 2015

Date on which the planned second-round presidential election was indefinitely called off due to widespread irregularities: January 22, 2016

Number of untraceable votes in the October 25, 2015 election, according to an independent verification commission: 628,000

Date on which the Haitian government announced it would rerun the presidential election on October 25, 2016: June 6, 2016

Date on which the United States, which was opposed to the decision, announced it would not fund the rerun election: July 7, 2016

Total cost of the rerun election, paid entirely by the Haitian government: $55 million

Date on which Hurricane Matthew made landfall on Haiti’s Southern Peninsula: October 4, 2016

Number of years since a hurricane of similar magnitude struck Haiti: 62

Amount requested in a flash appeal for humanitarian funding by the United Nations: $139 million

Percent of flash appeal that has been funded since: 62.1 percent

Estimated percent of crops destroyed in the Grand’Anse region: 100 percent

Estimated percent of livestock killed in the same department: 85–90 percent

Estimated amount needed for reconstruction after the hurricane: $2.2 billion

Number of days the passage of Hurricane Matthew delayed the presidential election: 26

Estimated voter turnout in the 2016 presidential election: 18 percent

Number of elections in Latin America and the Caribbean which have experienced that low a turnout before: 0

Date on which Haiti officially relaunched the military, disbanded since 1995: November 18, 2017

Percent of the six members of the high command who also held positions in the disbanded military: 100 percent

Budget for the Armed Forces of Haiti in 2018-2019, in dollars: $6 million

Minimum amount the Government of Haiti invested in Agritrans, a banana exporting plantation run by current president Jovenel Moïse: $6 million

Date on which Moïse appeared at Agritrans to mark the first shipment of bananas to Europe: September 8, 2015

Date on which the 2015 presidential campaign officially began: September 9, 2015

Date on which the second, and last, shipment of bananas to Europe was made: April 2016

Number of jobs the plantation was expected to create: 3,000

Estimated number of individuals displaced by the creation of Agritrans: 1,000

Estimated average annual economic loss of those displaced: $1,433

Dollar amount of import tax exemptions that Agritrans benefited from between 2014 and 2017: $573,543

Dollar amount of food imported by Haiti in 2009: $483 million

In 2018: $909 million

Dollar amount of food exported by Haiti in 2009: $25.8 million

In 2018: $21.5 million

Number of rural Haitians facing acute food insecurity: 2,054,161

Number facing a “food emergency situation”: 571,129

Exchange rate at time of earthquake (Haitian gourdes per dollar): 40.5

Exchange rate today: 76.3

Percent by which gas prices would increase following a July 2018 government announcement: 38 percent

Days of protests and rioting that followed the announcement: 3

Approximate number of hours it took the government to rescind the increase: 24

Percent of the gasoline subsidy that benefits the wealthiest segments of society: 90 percent

Average annual per capita GDP growth, since 2009: 0.3 percent

Amount of debt relief granted by Venezuela after the earthquake: $295 million

Estimated amount that Haiti currently owes Venezuela: $1.44 billion

Average annual disbursement, through the Venezuela-led Petrocaribe program, 2011–2015: $270.8 million

Number of pages in a 2017 Haitian Senate investigation into Petrocaribe spending that found significant irregularities and alleged widespread fraud and abuse: 617

In the annex to the report: 619

Minimum amount allocated to a project to build sports centers, run by former president Michel Martelly’s son: $27.7 million

Date on which Gilbert Mirambeau Jr., a Haitian filmmaker, tweeted a photo of himself, blindfolded, holding a sign asking where the Petrocaribe money is: August 14, 2018

Percent of Haiti’s ten departments that experienced massive demonstrations on October 18, 2018 asking where the Petrocaribe money is: 90 percent

Minimum number of individuals wounded by police gunfire at a funeral for protesters killed during the October 18 demonstrations: 3

Minimum number of Haitians killed by armed gangs and corrupt police on November 13, 2018 in the La Saline neighborhood of Port-au-Prince: 70

Number of officials held accountable for wrongdoing related to Petrocaribe: 0

Number of individuals held accountable for the massacre at La Saline: 0

Years remaining in President Jovenel Moïse’s mandate: 3

More than two months have passed since an innocuous tweet went viral and a social media campaign targeting government corruption in Haiti began. Using the hashtags #PetrocaribeChallenge and #KotKobPetwoKaribea (“where is the Petrocaribe money?”), the campaign has shifted the paradigm in Haiti and forced a reckoning over alleged fraud and mismanagement in the $2 billion Venezuela-financed Petrocaribe program. This anticorruption movement, which has brought together disparate groups ? both formal and informal ? from across the political and economic landscape of the country, now faces a critical moment.

A Country on Edge

Tomorrow, October 17, is expected to be the largest demonstration yet; a prospect that has the entire country on edge. The US Embassy has issued a security warning requiring employees to “shelter in place.” President Jovenel Moïse, who, despite being implicated in the wrongdoing, has pledged to support an investigation, visited police stations across the capital region over the weekend in anticipation of the protest. “In the camp of power, the panic is palpable,” warned Mario Andresol, the former chief of police. Some 1,500 officers will be deployed throughout the capital. Businesses have already begun boarding up windows. Reports of money being distributed to keep people away from the protests have circulated widely, as have mysterious audio and video clips warning of a bloodbath. “As October 17 approaches, the authorities are doing all the ‘bagay’ [things] to defeat the announced insurrection,” Andresol said.

By focusing on the possibility of violence, the government is attempting to intimidate the population into not participating, while laying the groundwork for blaming opposition political actors if things do go south. Last week, Schiller Louidor, an outspoken government critic, was hauled before a court to answer questions after using the term “Petro-dechoukay,” a reference to dechoukaj (literally “the uprooting,” but more easily translated as rioting). However, what likely scares the government more than the possibility of violence is a massive and largely peaceful demonstration; a demonstration that the government is not able to demonize or use to deflect attention from itself and its lack of response to calls for greater accountability.

The reality is that this movement appears to have tapped into a deep reservoir of political frustration, and not just among those who have taken the streets for years in opposition to the ruling party. With inflation in double digits, the local currency continuing to depreciate, and the cost of living rising each week, the country’s economic malaise has reached the middle and even upper classes of society. If those calling for an investigation into the Petrocaribe accounts are to be successful, they will need the support of a broad-based coalition. Nevertheless, there is also a palpable fear among those tepidly supportive of this movement and tomorrow’s protests who are also deeply distrustful of the popular organizations that have been leading the opposition in the streets. There will be a lot riding on tomorrow’s protest for the future of this burgeoning anticorruption campaign, as well as for a government attempting to stave it off.

Why Petrocaribe?

Haiti formally joined the Petrocaribe initiative in 2007. Under the program, Haiti ? as well as more than a dozen other Caribbean and Central American nations ? received discounted oil, paying a portion of the bill up-front and converting the remainder into a long-term concessional loan to be used for government investments and social spending.

In contrast to traditional donor support that generally bypasses the government entirely, Petrocaribe serves as direct support to the government. As the price of oil rose throughout the early 2010s, the Petrocaribe program filled government coffers. From 2012 to 2015, Haiti spent an average of $270 million a year through the initiative, a critical source of financing for a government sorely in need of additional revenue. Haiti has spent some $1.8 billion of Petrocaribe-related funds since joining.

However, Petrocaribe has been plagued by a lack of transparency. While some have warned for years of the dangers posed by such expenditures without proper oversight, it was elevated to the forefront of Haiti’s political consciousness by an unlikely source: Senator Youri Latortue, whom a former US Ambassador once described as the “poster-boy for political corruption in Haiti.” Though few trusted Latortue’s motives to be anything other than craven politics, his efforts in many ways laid the groundwork for today’s anticorruption movement.

In the fall of 2017, Latortue and a small senate commission released a 600-plus page report (with a similar length appendix) on nearly 10 years of Petrocaribe. The investigation found that over the course of multiple administrations, the program was characterized by mismanagement, waste, fraud and abuse; ghost companies that received no-bid contracts; payments for work that was never completed; and a host of other financial improprieties. The investigation directly implicated high-level government officials, including current president Moïse. Though the report was never formally approved by Parliament, it has hung over the heads of Haiti’s political class ever since.

What Comes Next?

While the current anticorruption movement is largely leaderless and brings together many organizations and individuals with different interests, one demand is clear: an independent investigation into the decade of Petrocaribe largesse.

Though initially critical of the senate report, President Moïse has since changed his rhetoric and pledged to support an investigation. The government has tasked the Superior Court of Accounts and Administrative Litigation (CSCCA) with this and the body has pledged to release its work in early 2019. However, there are reasons to be skeptical that this can lead to accountability. To begin with, the CSCCA is responsible for approving government contracts, meaning that the body now set to investigate is the one that already signed off on most of the contracts in question. Further, many question the ability of the CSCCA, or of any governmental body, to adequately and independently investigate.

Perhaps most importantly, the CSCCA has already produced a report on a limited amount of Petrocaribe spending and despite finding significant problems, nothing was ever done to follow up. In fact, it was the work of the CSCCA that originally provided the basis for the Senate to investigate Petrocaribe. By kicking the investigation back to the court, the cycle of investigation continues, while the prospect of real accountability dithers.

The CSCCA audited government spending for the fiscal year 2014-2015 and produced a public report on its findings, though this has received scant attention. The findings, however, remain relevant. The court found the selection of projects to be financed by Petrocaribe to be procedurally lacking, as many either did not have specificity or did not appear to be sustainable. By making multiple budget amendments and reallocations of Petrocaribe resources throughout the year, the court found that it allowed the government to conceal its actions under the investment program. The government “gave itself many liberties … and poured into illegality,” the court wrote.

The system, the court concluded, was set up for failure and did not support accountability efforts. “A significant portion of public spending is indecipherable,” the audit found, adding, “There is a culture of accountability to be established … and appropriate information systems must be put in place.”

It therefore seems unlikely that a further investigation undertaken by the court will be able to adequately follow the money wherever it may lead or otherwise satisfy the demands of those taking to the streets in tomorrow’s protests. This brings us back to the importance of tomorrow’s events. Without sustained public pressure, it is clear the governing party will not provide the necessary level of transparency to ensure real accountability.

More than two months have passed since an innocuous tweet went viral and a social media campaign targeting government corruption in Haiti began. Using the hashtags #PetrocaribeChallenge and #KotKobPetwoKaribea (“where is the Petrocaribe money?”), the campaign has shifted the paradigm in Haiti and forced a reckoning over alleged fraud and mismanagement in the $2 billion Venezuela-financed Petrocaribe program. This anticorruption movement, which has brought together disparate groups ? both formal and informal ? from across the political and economic landscape of the country, now faces a critical moment.

A Country on Edge

Tomorrow, October 17, is expected to be the largest demonstration yet; a prospect that has the entire country on edge. The US Embassy has issued a security warning requiring employees to “shelter in place.” President Jovenel Moïse, who, despite being implicated in the wrongdoing, has pledged to support an investigation, visited police stations across the capital region over the weekend in anticipation of the protest. “In the camp of power, the panic is palpable,” warned Mario Andresol, the former chief of police. Some 1,500 officers will be deployed throughout the capital. Businesses have already begun boarding up windows. Reports of money being distributed to keep people away from the protests have circulated widely, as have mysterious audio and video clips warning of a bloodbath. “As October 17 approaches, the authorities are doing all the ‘bagay’ [things] to defeat the announced insurrection,” Andresol said.

By focusing on the possibility of violence, the government is attempting to intimidate the population into not participating, while laying the groundwork for blaming opposition political actors if things do go south. Last week, Schiller Louidor, an outspoken government critic, was hauled before a court to answer questions after using the term “Petro-dechoukay,” a reference to dechoukaj (literally “the uprooting,” but more easily translated as rioting). However, what likely scares the government more than the possibility of violence is a massive and largely peaceful demonstration; a demonstration that the government is not able to demonize or use to deflect attention from itself and its lack of response to calls for greater accountability.

The reality is that this movement appears to have tapped into a deep reservoir of political frustration, and not just among those who have taken the streets for years in opposition to the ruling party. With inflation in double digits, the local currency continuing to depreciate, and the cost of living rising each week, the country’s economic malaise has reached the middle and even upper classes of society. If those calling for an investigation into the Petrocaribe accounts are to be successful, they will need the support of a broad-based coalition. Nevertheless, there is also a palpable fear among those tepidly supportive of this movement and tomorrow’s protests who are also deeply distrustful of the popular organizations that have been leading the opposition in the streets. There will be a lot riding on tomorrow’s protest for the future of this burgeoning anticorruption campaign, as well as for a government attempting to stave it off.

Why Petrocaribe?

Haiti formally joined the Petrocaribe initiative in 2007. Under the program, Haiti ? as well as more than a dozen other Caribbean and Central American nations ? received discounted oil, paying a portion of the bill up-front and converting the remainder into a long-term concessional loan to be used for government investments and social spending.

In contrast to traditional donor support that generally bypasses the government entirely, Petrocaribe serves as direct support to the government. As the price of oil rose throughout the early 2010s, the Petrocaribe program filled government coffers. From 2012 to 2015, Haiti spent an average of $270 million a year through the initiative, a critical source of financing for a government sorely in need of additional revenue. Haiti has spent some $1.8 billion of Petrocaribe-related funds since joining.

However, Petrocaribe has been plagued by a lack of transparency. While some have warned for years of the dangers posed by such expenditures without proper oversight, it was elevated to the forefront of Haiti’s political consciousness by an unlikely source: Senator Youri Latortue, whom a former US Ambassador once described as the “poster-boy for political corruption in Haiti.” Though few trusted Latortue’s motives to be anything other than craven politics, his efforts in many ways laid the groundwork for today’s anticorruption movement.

In the fall of 2017, Latortue and a small senate commission released a 600-plus page report (with a similar length appendix) on nearly 10 years of Petrocaribe. The investigation found that over the course of multiple administrations, the program was characterized by mismanagement, waste, fraud and abuse; ghost companies that received no-bid contracts; payments for work that was never completed; and a host of other financial improprieties. The investigation directly implicated high-level government officials, including current president Moïse. Though the report was never formally approved by Parliament, it has hung over the heads of Haiti’s political class ever since.

What Comes Next?

While the current anticorruption movement is largely leaderless and brings together many organizations and individuals with different interests, one demand is clear: an independent investigation into the decade of Petrocaribe largesse.

Though initially critical of the senate report, President Moïse has since changed his rhetoric and pledged to support an investigation. The government has tasked the Superior Court of Accounts and Administrative Litigation (CSCCA) with this and the body has pledged to release its work in early 2019. However, there are reasons to be skeptical that this can lead to accountability. To begin with, the CSCCA is responsible for approving government contracts, meaning that the body now set to investigate is the one that already signed off on most of the contracts in question. Further, many question the ability of the CSCCA, or of any governmental body, to adequately and independently investigate.

Perhaps most importantly, the CSCCA has already produced a report on a limited amount of Petrocaribe spending and despite finding significant problems, nothing was ever done to follow up. In fact, it was the work of the CSCCA that originally provided the basis for the Senate to investigate Petrocaribe. By kicking the investigation back to the court, the cycle of investigation continues, while the prospect of real accountability dithers.

The CSCCA audited government spending for the fiscal year 2014-2015 and produced a public report on its findings, though this has received scant attention. The findings, however, remain relevant. The court found the selection of projects to be financed by Petrocaribe to be procedurally lacking, as many either did not have specificity or did not appear to be sustainable. By making multiple budget amendments and reallocations of Petrocaribe resources throughout the year, the court found that it allowed the government to conceal its actions under the investment program. The government “gave itself many liberties … and poured into illegality,” the court wrote.

The system, the court concluded, was set up for failure and did not support accountability efforts. “A significant portion of public spending is indecipherable,” the audit found, adding, “There is a culture of accountability to be established … and appropriate information systems must be put in place.”

It therefore seems unlikely that a further investigation undertaken by the court will be able to adequately follow the money wherever it may lead or otherwise satisfy the demands of those taking to the streets in tomorrow’s protests. This brings us back to the importance of tomorrow’s events. Without sustained public pressure, it is clear the governing party will not provide the necessary level of transparency to ensure real accountability.

It was 2:15 on Friday afternoon, July 6th, when I got the first WhatsApp message. The Haitian government was going to announce that fuel prices would increase the following day by up to 50 percent. It was also somewhere around the 13th minute of the World Cup quarterfinal match between Belgium and Brazil, the national team adopted by most Haitian soccer fans. Eyes across the country were glued to the TV when the official announcement came late in the game’s second half. Minutes later, Brazil had lost the match. And soon after, thousands of Haitians were in the streets, though not because of the game’s disappointing result.

Roadblocks and burning tires went up in smoke throughout the capital, and soon demonstrations had broken out across the country. By Saturday morning the situation had worsened. International airlines canceled flights in and out of Haiti. Parking lots at many private businesses were turned into car cemeteries. Digicel, the leading cell provider in Haiti, said its fiber optic cables were destroyed, blocking international phone calls, internet usage and other services. Helicopters could be seen evacuating individuals from their rooftops. At least three people were killed.

Less than 24 hours after the initial announcement, the government was forced to cancel the price increases. But the aftershocks of that initial decision have continued to reverberate.

The heads of both chambers of parliament (erstwhile allies of the president) as well as the most powerful private business organization have since called for Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant, a doctor and political novice, to resign. The Jovenel Moise administration is now facing its most significant test yet. But how the government found itself backed into this corner is about far more than fuel prices, and reveals as much about the failures of the international community as it does those of Haiti.

The price increase was not a surprise. In late 2017, faced with an increasing budget deficit, and a lack of donor funds, the government sought the assistance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Before the government could sign a financing deal with the IMF however, it first had to complete a 6-month reform program. If that program was successful, the government could then sign a long-term deal with the IMF, and budget support from other donors would begin to flow again.

On June 20, the IMF issued a statement welcoming “the government’s intention to eliminate fuel price subsidies,” a key step in completing the program. The IMF also noted that it “agreed on the importance of implementing key social measures to mitigate the impact of the subsidy reform on the most vulnerable segments of the population.”

According to World Bank research, 90 percent of the benefits from the subsidy go toward the wealthiest segments of the population. But, in a country with 60 percent youth unemployment, a majority of citizens living on less than $2.40 a day, and stubborn double-digit inflation, any increase in the cost of living can be catastrophic. And to make matters worse, kerosene, the fuel that the poor most rely on, was to see the greatest increase.

Donor budget support was the “carrot” to convince the government to take the unpopular decision, an IMF official explained to me before the increase was announced. The savings from eliminating the subsidy could then be used to provide direct subsidies to those most in need, they explained. But, when the IMF team was in Haiti last month, mitigation plans were delayed due to discussions over which ministries would receive the additional funds to be used to subsidize vulnerable sectors. No mitigation efforts were announced alongside the price hike.

A previous fuel price increase in October 2014 involved, according to the World Bank, a three-month media campaign that involved outreach to journalists and labor unions. “The outreach was key to widespread public acceptance,” the Bank noted. But this time, there was no such outreach. Authorities seemed to believe they could make the announcement while everyone was watching the World Cup, and that that would tamper the reaction. It proved to be a deadly mistake.

While the Haitian government has increased its revenue in recent years, it still remains low overall, which is why efforts to increase revenue and allow greater productive investments are justifiable. The government has claimed that the fuel subsidies amount to $160 million in lost revenue. But there are other measures to be taken that could have a similar impact. For example, last year, Haiti lost almost the exact same amount of money from tax exemptions granted to free trade zones, businesses, NGOs and diplomatic missions.

The government, however, has been under pressure to implement the fuel price increases. Though the European Union and Inter-American Development Bank announced in late June that they would begin budget support disbursements, the vast majority of those funds remain tied to the Haitian government proving that it is willing to make unpopular economic reforms. Up to $100 million is on the line. But unpopular economic reforms generate popular reactions. This one has been a long time coming, and now that it has, everyone appears to be trying to take advantage of it.

Moise took office in the midst of a cloud of controversy. His first election victory, back in 2015, was thrown out after an independent commission found evidence of “massive” irregularities, but only after massive protests forced the government — and the international community that supported the initial results and paid for the election – to accept said investigation. In the re-run election, less than 20% of Haitians voted, Moise won again, but was left without a broad popular mandate.

Since, the ruling party, which appeared to have majority alliances in both chambers of parliament, has been besieged by internal power struggles. Former president Michel Martelly, who hand-picked Moise, remains influential behind the scenes — and is, at least according to some diplomatic sources, the most likely next president. But Martelly is also reviled by the political opposition, and even by some of Moise’s newfound allies who have sought to keep the former president at bay.

Lafontant, the Prime Minister now facing calls for his resignation, is widely seen as Moise’s man and has been the target of these various political factions for months already. The calls for a new prime minister that have emerged from the violence of this past weekend are nothing new, and appear to have more to do with which political faction can seize the upper hand than with efforts to formulate a genuine response to the crisis. Nevertheless, Lafontant is set to answer questions before parliament this coming weekend and his job is likely to be on the line.

But regardless of the internal political machinations, or if there is a new prime minister, the protests of this past weekend were a reflection of far more than a poorly handled increase in fuel prices.

Since 2014, per capita GDP has been flat, meaning the average Haitian is no better off than they were four years ago. The local currency, the gourde, has lost more than half its value against the dollar — especially important in a country in which almost everything is imported. After hurricane Matthew destroyed much of Haiti’s southern peninsula — and the crops grown there — in the fall of 2016, food insecurity has increased. And Haiti remains one of the most unequal countries in the world.

As progress stalls, allegations of corruption have picked up — and implicated individuals from every faction of the political and economic elite. The allegations have triggered protests, but little judicial action. Impunity for the political and economic elite appears nearly absolute. Nevertheless, it has fueled the perception that the country’s politicians are more interested in their own bottom line than that of their constituents. So far this year, more money has gone to the two chambers of parliament than has gone to any government ministry except education and justice. The elimination of subsidies was the lit match but the tinder had already been soaked in gasoline.

It was in the 13th minute of Brazil’s world cup game that a ball glanced off all-world midfielder Fernadinho and into his own goal. It was a blunder that Brazil’s team would be unable to recover from. Now, the question is, can the Haitian government recover from its own recent blunders?

[This post has been edited for accuracy.]

It was 2:15 on Friday afternoon, July 6th, when I got the first WhatsApp message. The Haitian government was going to announce that fuel prices would increase the following day by up to 50 percent. It was also somewhere around the 13th minute of the World Cup quarterfinal match between Belgium and Brazil, the national team adopted by most Haitian soccer fans. Eyes across the country were glued to the TV when the official announcement came late in the game’s second half. Minutes later, Brazil had lost the match. And soon after, thousands of Haitians were in the streets, though not because of the game’s disappointing result.

Roadblocks and burning tires went up in smoke throughout the capital, and soon demonstrations had broken out across the country. By Saturday morning the situation had worsened. International airlines canceled flights in and out of Haiti. Parking lots at many private businesses were turned into car cemeteries. Digicel, the leading cell provider in Haiti, said its fiber optic cables were destroyed, blocking international phone calls, internet usage and other services. Helicopters could be seen evacuating individuals from their rooftops. At least three people were killed.

Less than 24 hours after the initial announcement, the government was forced to cancel the price increases. But the aftershocks of that initial decision have continued to reverberate.

The heads of both chambers of parliament (erstwhile allies of the president) as well as the most powerful private business organization have since called for Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant, a doctor and political novice, to resign. The Jovenel Moise administration is now facing its most significant test yet. But how the government found itself backed into this corner is about far more than fuel prices, and reveals as much about the failures of the international community as it does those of Haiti.

The price increase was not a surprise. In late 2017, faced with an increasing budget deficit, and a lack of donor funds, the government sought the assistance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Before the government could sign a financing deal with the IMF however, it first had to complete a 6-month reform program. If that program was successful, the government could then sign a long-term deal with the IMF, and budget support from other donors would begin to flow again.

On June 20, the IMF issued a statement welcoming “the government’s intention to eliminate fuel price subsidies,” a key step in completing the program. The IMF also noted that it “agreed on the importance of implementing key social measures to mitigate the impact of the subsidy reform on the most vulnerable segments of the population.”

According to World Bank research, 90 percent of the benefits from the subsidy go toward the wealthiest segments of the population. But, in a country with 60 percent youth unemployment, a majority of citizens living on less than $2.40 a day, and stubborn double-digit inflation, any increase in the cost of living can be catastrophic. And to make matters worse, kerosene, the fuel that the poor most rely on, was to see the greatest increase.

Donor budget support was the “carrot” to convince the government to take the unpopular decision, an IMF official explained to me before the increase was announced. The savings from eliminating the subsidy could then be used to provide direct subsidies to those most in need, they explained. But, when the IMF team was in Haiti last month, mitigation plans were delayed due to discussions over which ministries would receive the additional funds to be used to subsidize vulnerable sectors. No mitigation efforts were announced alongside the price hike.

A previous fuel price increase in October 2014 involved, according to the World Bank, a three-month media campaign that involved outreach to journalists and labor unions. “The outreach was key to widespread public acceptance,” the Bank noted. But this time, there was no such outreach. Authorities seemed to believe they could make the announcement while everyone was watching the World Cup, and that that would tamper the reaction. It proved to be a deadly mistake.

While the Haitian government has increased its revenue in recent years, it still remains low overall, which is why efforts to increase revenue and allow greater productive investments are justifiable. The government has claimed that the fuel subsidies amount to $160 million in lost revenue. But there are other measures to be taken that could have a similar impact. For example, last year, Haiti lost almost the exact same amount of money from tax exemptions granted to free trade zones, businesses, NGOs and diplomatic missions.

The government, however, has been under pressure to implement the fuel price increases. Though the European Union and Inter-American Development Bank announced in late June that they would begin budget support disbursements, the vast majority of those funds remain tied to the Haitian government proving that it is willing to make unpopular economic reforms. Up to $100 million is on the line. But unpopular economic reforms generate popular reactions. This one has been a long time coming, and now that it has, everyone appears to be trying to take advantage of it.

Moise took office in the midst of a cloud of controversy. His first election victory, back in 2015, was thrown out after an independent commission found evidence of “massive” irregularities, but only after massive protests forced the government — and the international community that supported the initial results and paid for the election – to accept said investigation. In the re-run election, less than 20% of Haitians voted, Moise won again, but was left without a broad popular mandate.

Since, the ruling party, which appeared to have majority alliances in both chambers of parliament, has been besieged by internal power struggles. Former president Michel Martelly, who hand-picked Moise, remains influential behind the scenes — and is, at least according to some diplomatic sources, the most likely next president. But Martelly is also reviled by the political opposition, and even by some of Moise’s newfound allies who have sought to keep the former president at bay.

Lafontant, the Prime Minister now facing calls for his resignation, is widely seen as Moise’s man and has been the target of these various political factions for months already. The calls for a new prime minister that have emerged from the violence of this past weekend are nothing new, and appear to have more to do with which political faction can seize the upper hand than with efforts to formulate a genuine response to the crisis. Nevertheless, Lafontant is set to answer questions before parliament this coming weekend and his job is likely to be on the line.

But regardless of the internal political machinations, or if there is a new prime minister, the protests of this past weekend were a reflection of far more than a poorly handled increase in fuel prices.

Since 2014, per capita GDP has been flat, meaning the average Haitian is no better off than they were four years ago. The local currency, the gourde, has lost more than half its value against the dollar — especially important in a country in which almost everything is imported. After hurricane Matthew destroyed much of Haiti’s southern peninsula — and the crops grown there — in the fall of 2016, food insecurity has increased. And Haiti remains one of the most unequal countries in the world.

As progress stalls, allegations of corruption have picked up — and implicated individuals from every faction of the political and economic elite. The allegations have triggered protests, but little judicial action. Impunity for the political and economic elite appears nearly absolute. Nevertheless, it has fueled the perception that the country’s politicians are more interested in their own bottom line than that of their constituents. So far this year, more money has gone to the two chambers of parliament than has gone to any government ministry except education and justice. The elimination of subsidies was the lit match but the tinder had already been soaked in gasoline.

It was in the 13th minute of Brazil’s world cup game that a ball glanced off all-world midfielder Fernadinho and into his own goal. It was a blunder that Brazil’s team would be unable to recover from. Now, the question is, can the Haitian government recover from its own recent blunders?

[This post has been edited for accuracy.]

On March 13, President Jovenel Moise appointed six individuals to the high command of the recently reinstated Haitian armed forces (FAdH). All of the appointees, now in their sixties, were majors or colonels in the former FAdH, disbanded in 1995 after a long history of involvement in coups, violent repression, and drug trafficking. At least three of the officers appear to have held senior positions within the early-‘90s military coup regime. One of them is a convicted intellectual author of a civilian massacre, and another was a member of a committee that sought to cover it up.

FAdH command blog 1
Ministry of Defense press release from March 13, 2018 announcing the FAdH’s new senior leadership.

The makeup of the new leadership has raised concerns among human rights organizations over the trajectory of the new force and its commitment to the rule of law.

“The appointment confirms once again that the Haitian Armed Forces, remobilized by the [ruling Tét Kale party] is a militia whose hidden mission is to have the Haitian people relive the darkest hours of bloodthirsty Duvalierism,” wrote the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in a press release, referencing the illegal arrests, forced disappearances, assassinations, and other abuses that characterized the Duvalier dictatorship.

Haitian Defense Minister Herve Denis responded that the new high-command is “clean,” and that all were vetted for involvement in human rights abuses or drug trafficking.

In 1990, an outspoken liberation theologian priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was elected in the first democratic election in the country’s history. But within months, a group of Haitian military officers – backed by many of the country’s wealthiest families – overthrew the new government, imposing a military dictatorship that would last three years. It was later revealed that the CIA had supported certain military elements involved in the coup, and that leaders of a paramilitary group that waged a campaign of terror against Aristide supporters and other activists were on the CIA payroll.

The group, FRAPH, helped to prop up the coup regime of Lieutenant General Raoul Cédras, while also at times appearing to undermine and sabotage the official actions of Clinton administration to restore democratic government to Haiti. Thousands of Haitians were murdered under the coup regime and hundreds of thousands fled the country.

Colonel Jean-Robert Gabriel, the new FAdH’s assistant chief of staff, was the secretary of the general staff, and later a public spokesperson, for the Cédras regime.

Following the 1991 military coup, the US and the international community implemented sanctions against the regime, eventually instituting an embargo. After Bill Clinton became president in January 1993, and increasingly in 1994, the Congressional Black Caucus played a leading role in pushing for a more aggressive role against the dictatorship, and solidarity groups in the US and elsewhere also influenced policy.

In June of 1993, the Clinton administration announced individual targeted sanctions against those determined to be a part of the “de facto regime in Haiti.” The initial sanction list, published in July of 1993, named 83 individuals, including 29 military officers. Included in this initial list was Jean-Robert Gabriel.

Gabriel sanction list
Screenshot of the Federal Register from July 1993, listing Jean-Robert Gabriel as one of 29 military officers sanctioned for their participation in the coup regime.

In 1993, the UN mediated indirect negotiations between Cédras and Aristide (who had taken up residence in Washington, DC to lobby for his restoration to office). Known as the Governors Island negotiations for the location where they took place, the eventual accord did little to immediately overturn the bloody coup. According to official documents, Gabriel, as well as the newly appointed chief of the general staff, Sadrac Saintil, were members of the delegation, indicating their senior positions within the Cédras regime.  

Gov island delegation
List of members of Armed Forces delegation to Governors Island.

The US temporarily suspended some of the sanctions during the negotiations, but when it became clear that Cédras and his regime would not back down, the sanctions were expanded. In October 1993, the administration revoked US visas and froze the US assets of 41 officials who were determined to be thwarting a return to democratic rule and contributing to the violence in Haiti. Among the 41 individuals was Derby Guerrier, recently named as an assistant chief of staff in the reinstated armed forces ? and then a lieutenant colonel.

Guerrier held a US passport, and a New Jersey address was listed next to his name. According to press reports at the time, Guerrier was the head of the military’s anti-drug unit. Though there is little public information about Guerrier, drug trafficking took off under the military regime.

A 1997 federal indictment in Miami alleged that Joseph-Michel François, a former military officer who helped topple Aristide in 1991 and later become the police chief under Cédras, “placed the political and military structure of the Republic of Haiti under his control” in order to facilitate drug shipments from Colombia. François, by that time, was living in exile in Honduras and managed to avoid accountability.

Back in 1994, with the situation in Haiti continuing to deteriorate, and more and more Haitians fleeing the country, the US expanded its sanctions policy. Some 550 military officers were added to the sanctions list, including all of those recently appointed to the FAdH’s new high command.

In April that year, around the same time the new sanctions were levied, Haitian military and paramilitary forces descended on the neighborhood of Raboteau, where many opposition supporters were apparently seeking refuge. At least eight, and likely far more, were assassinated.

The next month a military-led commission of inquiry was tasked with investigating the allegations that a massacre had taken place in Raboteau. Cédras named Lieutenant Colonel Sadrac Saintil as one of four members, according to official documents made public as part of the Raboteau trial. Unsurprisingly, the commission found no evidence of a massacre and the FADH high command accepted the commission’s recommendation that nobody be punished.

Raboteau commission blog
Communique signed by Raoul Cédras, appointing Sadrac Saintil to a commission of inquiry looking into the Raboteau massacre.

But in 2000, in a landmark human rights trial supported by the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (the same organization now denouncing the new armed forces’ leadership), a Haitian court convicted 53 former officers and paramilitaries of involvement in the Raboteau massacre. Among the military officers convicted was Jean-Robert Gabriel. Though he was not implicated in direct involvement, he was charged under the theory of “command responsibility” due to his position within the top echelons of the Cédras regime.

“It’s the same type of case made against the Nazis and (Slobodan) Milosevic,” Brian Concannon, an American attorney who helped form the BAI in the early ‘90s and who worked the Raboteau case, told the St. Petersburg Times in 2002. Concannon is now the executive director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a partner organization to the BAI.

The Haitian government has pushed back on Gabriel’s involvement in Raboteau. “What I can tell you in all honesty,” the defense minister told the press, “the candidates were subjected to vetting, including Colonel Gabriel. There is nothing negative against him in the vetting with regard to human rights.”

In 2005, under a new de facto regime following Aristide’s second Washington-backed ouster (this one in 2004, and also backed by former military and paramilitary officers), the Haitian supreme court controversially vacated the sentences that had been handed down five years earlier. Most of those who had been convicted were on the run, including Jean-Robert Gabriel, who had taken up residence in Florida. Those that had been in jail escaped from prison years earlier.

After the convictions were overturned, Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch (who had previously worked with the BAI), commented: “In a country in which the poor have been killed and brutalized with impunity for centuries, Raboteau was perhaps the only time that justice was achieved after a massacre, and in a scrupulously fair trial … To overturn that verdict is to say that the only justice possible in Haiti is the justice of those with guns. It’s a sad day.”

By 2005 however, the Haitian Armed Forces had already been disbanded for 10 years.

On November 18, 2017, 214th anniversary of the Battle of Vértieres, the decisive battle in Haiti’s victorious fight for independence, current president Jovenel Moise oversaw a military parade to celebrate the FAdH’s reestablishment. It was the culmination of a two-decade fight by former military officers and their civilian supporters that had received new life in 2010 with the election of Moise’s predecessor, Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly.

That’s the same nickname that François, the drug-trafficking former police chief, went by. He apparently got it from Martelly, a popular musician, who has previously acknowledged his ties to François. During the Cédras regime, Martelly operated a nightclub that was frequented by his friends in the military.

While president, Martelly put the restoration of the military front and center in his party’s agenda. Martelly brought on the past dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier’s son as a counselor, and other officials with links to the Duvalier years populated the administration. “The army has always been a part of our policy…There is no way to have Haiti without an army,” a party representative told me in 2015.

On his way out of office Martelly issued an executive decree reinstating the FAdH, but was unable to get it off the ground. That has changed under Moise. Despite public opposition from the UN and the US ? both of which have spent billions training the Haitian police ? Moise has now fulfilled a major promise to a segment of the party’s supporters.

Moise “vowed that the new military would be different” and would focus on protecting the country’s borders, responding to natural disasters, and civil engineering projects. But the appointment of six former FAdH officers to the new command ? all of whom are around the same age and were in same promotional class ? sends the wrong message, according to Concannon, the human rights lawyer.

“Filling the new High Command with people who played key leadership roles in Haiti’s de facto dictatorship demonstrates a determination to revive the brutal practices that caused so much suffering and undermined Haiti’s democracy and economy,” he said.

Rather than a modern force, the new military is starting to look a lot like the old one.

On March 13, President Jovenel Moise appointed six individuals to the high command of the recently reinstated Haitian armed forces (FAdH). All of the appointees, now in their sixties, were majors or colonels in the former FAdH, disbanded in 1995 after a long history of involvement in coups, violent repression, and drug trafficking. At least three of the officers appear to have held senior positions within the early-‘90s military coup regime. One of them is a convicted intellectual author of a civilian massacre, and another was a member of a committee that sought to cover it up.

FAdH command blog 1
Ministry of Defense press release from March 13, 2018 announcing the FAdH’s new senior leadership.

The makeup of the new leadership has raised concerns among human rights organizations over the trajectory of the new force and its commitment to the rule of law.

“The appointment confirms once again that the Haitian Armed Forces, remobilized by the [ruling Tét Kale party] is a militia whose hidden mission is to have the Haitian people relive the darkest hours of bloodthirsty Duvalierism,” wrote the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in a press release, referencing the illegal arrests, forced disappearances, assassinations, and other abuses that characterized the Duvalier dictatorship.

Haitian Defense Minister Herve Denis responded that the new high-command is “clean,” and that all were vetted for involvement in human rights abuses or drug trafficking.

In 1990, an outspoken liberation theologian priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was elected in the first democratic election in the country’s history. But within months, a group of Haitian military officers – backed by many of the country’s wealthiest families – overthrew the new government, imposing a military dictatorship that would last three years. It was later revealed that the CIA had supported certain military elements involved in the coup, and that leaders of a paramilitary group that waged a campaign of terror against Aristide supporters and other activists were on the CIA payroll.

The group, FRAPH, helped to prop up the coup regime of Lieutenant General Raoul Cédras, while also at times appearing to undermine and sabotage the official actions of Clinton administration to restore democratic government to Haiti. Thousands of Haitians were murdered under the coup regime and hundreds of thousands fled the country.

Colonel Jean-Robert Gabriel, the new FAdH’s assistant chief of staff, was the secretary of the general staff, and later a public spokesperson, for the Cédras regime.

Following the 1991 military coup, the US and the international community implemented sanctions against the regime, eventually instituting an embargo. After Bill Clinton became president in January 1993, and increasingly in 1994, the Congressional Black Caucus played a leading role in pushing for a more aggressive role against the dictatorship, and solidarity groups in the US and elsewhere also influenced policy.

In June of 1993, the Clinton administration announced individual targeted sanctions against those determined to be a part of the “de facto regime in Haiti.” The initial sanction list, published in July of 1993, named 83 individuals, including 29 military officers. Included in this initial list was Jean-Robert Gabriel.

Gabriel sanction list
Screenshot of the Federal Register from July 1993, listing Jean-Robert Gabriel as one of 29 military officers sanctioned for their participation in the coup regime.

In 1993, the UN mediated indirect negotiations between Cédras and Aristide (who had taken up residence in Washington, DC to lobby for his restoration to office). Known as the Governors Island negotiations for the location where they took place, the eventual accord did little to immediately overturn the bloody coup. According to official documents, Gabriel, as well as the newly appointed chief of the general staff, Sadrac Saintil, were members of the delegation, indicating their senior positions within the Cédras regime.  

Gov island delegation
List of members of Armed Forces delegation to Governors Island.

The US temporarily suspended some of the sanctions during the negotiations, but when it became clear that Cédras and his regime would not back down, the sanctions were expanded. In October 1993, the administration revoked US visas and froze the US assets of 41 officials who were determined to be thwarting a return to democratic rule and contributing to the violence in Haiti. Among the 41 individuals was Derby Guerrier, recently named as an assistant chief of staff in the reinstated armed forces ? and then a lieutenant colonel.

Guerrier held a US passport, and a New Jersey address was listed next to his name. According to press reports at the time, Guerrier was the head of the military’s anti-drug unit. Though there is little public information about Guerrier, drug trafficking took off under the military regime.

A 1997 federal indictment in Miami alleged that Joseph-Michel François, a former military officer who helped topple Aristide in 1991 and later become the police chief under Cédras, “placed the political and military structure of the Republic of Haiti under his control” in order to facilitate drug shipments from Colombia. François, by that time, was living in exile in Honduras and managed to avoid accountability.

Back in 1994, with the situation in Haiti continuing to deteriorate, and more and more Haitians fleeing the country, the US expanded its sanctions policy. Some 550 military officers were added to the sanctions list, including all of those recently appointed to the FAdH’s new high command.

In April that year, around the same time the new sanctions were levied, Haitian military and paramilitary forces descended on the neighborhood of Raboteau, where many opposition supporters were apparently seeking refuge. At least eight, and likely far more, were assassinated.

The next month a military-led commission of inquiry was tasked with investigating the allegations that a massacre had taken place in Raboteau. Cédras named Lieutenant Colonel Sadrac Saintil as one of four members, according to official documents made public as part of the Raboteau trial. Unsurprisingly, the commission found no evidence of a massacre and the FADH high command accepted the commission’s recommendation that nobody be punished.

Raboteau commission blog
Communique signed by Raoul Cédras, appointing Sadrac Saintil to a commission of inquiry looking into the Raboteau massacre.

But in 2000, in a landmark human rights trial supported by the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (the same organization now denouncing the new armed forces’ leadership), a Haitian court convicted 53 former officers and paramilitaries of involvement in the Raboteau massacre. Among the military officers convicted was Jean-Robert Gabriel. Though he was not implicated in direct involvement, he was charged under the theory of “command responsibility” due to his position within the top echelons of the Cédras regime.

“It’s the same type of case made against the Nazis and (Slobodan) Milosevic,” Brian Concannon, an American attorney who helped form the BAI in the early ‘90s and who worked the Raboteau case, told the St. Petersburg Times in 2002. Concannon is now the executive director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a partner organization to the BAI.

The Haitian government has pushed back on Gabriel’s involvement in Raboteau. “What I can tell you in all honesty,” the defense minister told the press, “the candidates were subjected to vetting, including Colonel Gabriel. There is nothing negative against him in the vetting with regard to human rights.”

In 2005, under a new de facto regime following Aristide’s second Washington-backed ouster (this one in 2004, and also backed by former military and paramilitary officers), the Haitian supreme court controversially vacated the sentences that had been handed down five years earlier. Most of those who had been convicted were on the run, including Jean-Robert Gabriel, who had taken up residence in Florida. Those that had been in jail escaped from prison years earlier.

After the convictions were overturned, Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch (who had previously worked with the BAI), commented: “In a country in which the poor have been killed and brutalized with impunity for centuries, Raboteau was perhaps the only time that justice was achieved after a massacre, and in a scrupulously fair trial … To overturn that verdict is to say that the only justice possible in Haiti is the justice of those with guns. It’s a sad day.”

By 2005 however, the Haitian Armed Forces had already been disbanded for 10 years.

On November 18, 2017, 214th anniversary of the Battle of Vértieres, the decisive battle in Haiti’s victorious fight for independence, current president Jovenel Moise oversaw a military parade to celebrate the FAdH’s reestablishment. It was the culmination of a two-decade fight by former military officers and their civilian supporters that had received new life in 2010 with the election of Moise’s predecessor, Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly.

That’s the same nickname that François, the drug-trafficking former police chief, went by. He apparently got it from Martelly, a popular musician, who has previously acknowledged his ties to François. During the Cédras regime, Martelly operated a nightclub that was frequented by his friends in the military.

While president, Martelly put the restoration of the military front and center in his party’s agenda. Martelly brought on the past dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier’s son as a counselor, and other officials with links to the Duvalier years populated the administration. “The army has always been a part of our policy…There is no way to have Haiti without an army,” a party representative told me in 2015.

On his way out of office Martelly issued an executive decree reinstating the FAdH, but was unable to get it off the ground. That has changed under Moise. Despite public opposition from the UN and the US ? both of which have spent billions training the Haitian police ? Moise has now fulfilled a major promise to a segment of the party’s supporters.

Moise “vowed that the new military would be different” and would focus on protecting the country’s borders, responding to natural disasters, and civil engineering projects. But the appointment of six former FAdH officers to the new command ? all of whom are around the same age and were in same promotional class ? sends the wrong message, according to Concannon, the human rights lawyer.

“Filling the new High Command with people who played key leadership roles in Haiti’s de facto dictatorship demonstrates a determination to revive the brutal practices that caused so much suffering and undermined Haiti’s democracy and economy,” he said.

Rather than a modern force, the new military is starting to look a lot like the old one.

When Donald Trump allegedly referred to Haiti as a “shithole” country earlier this year, the US Ambassador was called in to explain the comments, but the Haitian government stopped short of any type of retaliation. But since last week, the government has been up in arms after a UN mission with a mandate to support the Haitian justice system went so far as to welcome a judicial inquiry into corruption allegations. The government has recalled its ambassador to the UN in response.

The Background

In November, a Senate commission released a 650-page report on Petrocaribe-related corruption. The report implicated top officials from previous administrations in inflating government contracts, funneling money to ghost companies, no-bid contracts for projects that were never finished, and a host of other financial crimes. Even current president Jovenel Moïse was named, allegedly overbilling the government on a $100,000 contract to install solar lamps back in 2013 when he was a relatively unknown businessman.

Moïse has rejected the allegations as politically motivated, as have others implicated. And rather than follow up on their colleague’s report, the Senate has worked to bury it.

On February 8, four civil society organizations released a statement condemning the efforts to obstruct further investigation into the allegations contained in the Petrocaribe dossier. The organizations noted that the Senate had blocked a vote on the report for four months and then, in a “clandestine” session conducted once the opposition had left the building, passed a resolution condemning the report as politically motivated and sending the dossier to the Superior Court of Accounts ? a governmental body that had already signed off on the contracts in question at the time they were awarded. The civil society organizations wrote that these actions “expose the cowardice” of the Senate, and their desire to bury the report.

Anticipating the Senate’s lack of action, a private citizen, Johnson Colin ? backed by lawyer and government critic André Michel ? filed multiple cases at the Port-au-Prince Court of First Instance on January 29 and February 20. (The original filing is available here.)

The UN Statement

On February 25, the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) issued a press release welcoming “the assignment of investigating judges to pursue the Petrocaribe court cases filed by private citizens.” The mission noted that Haiti is ranked near the bottom of Transparency International’s corruption report.

“I welcome the initiative and the active role of Haitian citizens and civil society who are engaged in the fight against corruption and impunity. Their actions demonstrate that the population is standing up for accountability and justice,” said the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of MINUJUSTH, Susan D. Page.

The UN also expressed its regret that no investigating judge had been assigned to two cases of alleged human rights violations on the part of the Haitian police; one in Lilavois on October 12, 2017 and one, the alleged summary execution of civilians, in Grand Ravine on November 13, 2017. (The Grand Ravine operation was planned in coordination with the UN mission).

The mandate of MINUJUSTH, which took over for the previous UN mission, MINUSTAH, this past October is to “help the Government of Haiti strengthen rule-of-law institutions, further develop and support the Haitian National Police and engage in human rights monitoring, reporting and analysis.” 

Of course, as many observers have pointed out (including here on this blog), the UN has its own terrible track record in terms of avoiding accountability for its actions. The UN’s introduction of cholera has killed more than 10,000 and sickened a million while the UN continues to dodge legal accountability or properly fund eradication efforts. Hundreds, if not thousands, of cases of sexual exploitation and abuse involving UN personnel have been identified ? however in the overwhelming majority of those cases, the perpetrators were simply moved out of Haiti and avoided prosecution. How can the UN have the moral authority to call for justice in Haiti when the UN itself has yet to face justice for its crimes there?

Yet the UN statement was not so much surprising for its content, but for going against the Haitian government. Throughout its controversial history, the UN has rarely even hinted at criticism of the Haitian government. Then again, in this case the UN simply welcomed a judicial investigation.

Given its mandate to support anticorruption efforts and strengthen the judicial system, and its creation under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, the mission was within its rights to make those comments, argued university professor James Boyard.

The UN did not express an opinion on the content of the Petrocaribe dossier, and given the current state of Haiti’s judicial system, the likelihood of the current case leading to any meaningful accountability is slim. The statement posed little threat to those implicated in the dossier (who, if they believe they are innocent, should be welcoming an investigation into the allegations rather than letting the dossier be used by politicians for political reasons).

The Government’s Reaction

The first response to the UN statement came from Haitian foreign minister Antonio Rodrigue. Reuters reported that Rodrigue “said in a statement on Tuesday that Page had exceeded her authority and that her comments reflect an ‘attitude harmful to the political and institutional stability acquired during the past few years.’”

The Haitian government, rather than address the allegations in the Petrocaribe dossier, has doubled down on this response. “The country is fighting to defend its image,” President Moïse said. “People have to speak well of the country,” he added. (The Haitian government recently hired an international PR firm to help with “media relations services.”)

Moïse responded by recalling the Haitian ambassador to the UN and summoning Page to explain her comments. Page has since left the country to travel to New York ? a move the government characterized as punishment for her comments.

Last Friday, government spokesperson Lucien Jura told the press that Moïse had spoken with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who Jura claimed distanced the UN from Page’s statement. But journalist Jacqueline Charles noted that she had been told Page’s travel had been scheduled for weeks. The UN has not provided any clarity on the situation.

Reuters put Page’s press release into the context of international bodies leading corruption fights throughout Latin America, and the pushback those efforts have faced:

The case is the latest example of governments across the Americas – including Guatemala and Honduras – chafing at criticisms by U.N. bodies, which have highlighted lackluster efforts to tackle corruption, human rights abuses or impunity.

Jocelyne Colas, the director general of the Episcopal Justice and Peace Commission (JILAP), told the press that the government’s response showed that they had no desire to “curb the phenomenon of corruption in the country.” Colas said: “There must be light in this case. We do not have the right to close our eyes.”

There is also a certain amount of hypocrisy in the reaction of the Moïse administration and their apparent nationalist response to the comments from the UN. As Haitian author Edwidge Danticat has noted, Moïse’s “two heavily contested election cycles are often touted as a [UN] success.” In other words, Moïse (and the ruling party to which he belongs), in many ways owe their own political success to the international actors they are now criticizing.

The Fallout

Since he assumed office last February, Moïse has seemingly been at odds with at least some members of the ever-influential international community in Haiti. The Miami Herald reported that in January, Moïse “irked the country’s foreign diplomatic corps when, according to several sources, he demanded that foreign donors support his campaign promises or take their aid elsewhere.”

The Inter-American Development Bank, one of Haiti’s largest donors, is providing financing for Moïse’s flagship government program ? his “Caravan for Change.” But Moïse has failed to secure public support for his controversial decision to reinstate the Haitian military. The UN ? which has spent more than a decade training and funding the Haitian police ? was publicly opposed to the decision.

In early February, Moïse took his criticism public, telling Bloomberg:

Right now in Haiti, the money of foreign taxpayers, your money, is being wasted … Every year we receive $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion in aid, or more. However, it’s all consumed in a state of disorder that constitutes public international development aid.

It may be difficult to view the latest disagreement between Page and the Haitian government as anything other than a continuation of this conflict ? but it remains very much unclear to what extent there really is any conflict, or if both sides are simply posturing in order to save face in public.

Though the Moïse administration did not respond as forcefully as many had hoped to Trump’s comments about Haiti, the administration has been very outspoken about the revelation of the Oxfam sexual abuse scandal and what lessons should be learned about foreign aid more broadly. In a Washington Post opinion piece, Moïse wrote:

The general paradigm of aid and power in Haiti, as elsewhere in the developing world, is not a balanced one. Our government is often sidestepped by aid agencies that refuse oversight as they pursue their own development and humanitarian agendas in our country. The level and direction of aid, and its implementation, is controlled by donor forces with little or no input from Haiti’s government or other local stakeholders.

Moïse is not incorrect in criticizing the way foreign aid is administered in Haiti ? and elsewhere (as has been pointed out innumerable times on this blog). This blog has long been an advocate of greater donor coordination with the Haitian government and of directing funds directly to the Haitian government as opposed to high-priced foreign “experts” that often lack any local understanding. But it is next to impossible to imagine a world in which donors simply give funding directly to the Haitian government, given its history of corruption.

This is why the battle over the Petrocaribe dossier is so important. If the Moïse administration wants to be in the lead with donors, then the first step must be to clean house. It’s not just donors who are wary of the government ? recent surveys have shown corruption to be high atop Haitian citizens’ list of priorities.

Unfortunately, the fallout from the UN statement appears to be having the opposite effect. The government has deftly deflected attention from the underlying corruption allegations, instead shifting focus to the intervention ? and nefarious practices ? of the international community. There is plenty there worthy of criticism, but the sins of one’s enemies do not absolve one’s own.

And it appears the reaction will have real implications on the ground. Last week, the Haitian government reportedly canceled its participation in a high-level retreat, coordinated by the UN, to address the ongoing cholera epidemic in Haiti. Moïse was scheduled to give the keynote address ? until the press release from Page. (The Haitian government has since said that the retreat was postponed.)

In all likelihood, the relationship between the UN and the Haitian government will be just fine. Both, in fact, depend upon the other for their successes. But both can use the situation to their advantage.

The public conflict allows the UN to garner some sympathy from the political opposition, which has long criticized the UN mission as an infringement upon Haiti’s sovereignty and for supporting the elite of the country (including the current administration). Moïse and his administration can point to their response as evidence of their standing up against the international forces that have taken advantage of Haiti for centuries ? all while ignoring the corruption allegations.

The UN may have no moral standing to question the Haitian justice system, but that doesn’t absolve the Haitian government. Unless, and until, corruption is seriously addressed in Haiti, the faulty aid paradigm that the Moïse administration has criticized will assuredly continue.

When Donald Trump allegedly referred to Haiti as a “shithole” country earlier this year, the US Ambassador was called in to explain the comments, but the Haitian government stopped short of any type of retaliation. But since last week, the government has been up in arms after a UN mission with a mandate to support the Haitian justice system went so far as to welcome a judicial inquiry into corruption allegations. The government has recalled its ambassador to the UN in response.

The Background

In November, a Senate commission released a 650-page report on Petrocaribe-related corruption. The report implicated top officials from previous administrations in inflating government contracts, funneling money to ghost companies, no-bid contracts for projects that were never finished, and a host of other financial crimes. Even current president Jovenel Moïse was named, allegedly overbilling the government on a $100,000 contract to install solar lamps back in 2013 when he was a relatively unknown businessman.

Moïse has rejected the allegations as politically motivated, as have others implicated. And rather than follow up on their colleague’s report, the Senate has worked to bury it.

On February 8, four civil society organizations released a statement condemning the efforts to obstruct further investigation into the allegations contained in the Petrocaribe dossier. The organizations noted that the Senate had blocked a vote on the report for four months and then, in a “clandestine” session conducted once the opposition had left the building, passed a resolution condemning the report as politically motivated and sending the dossier to the Superior Court of Accounts ? a governmental body that had already signed off on the contracts in question at the time they were awarded. The civil society organizations wrote that these actions “expose the cowardice” of the Senate, and their desire to bury the report.

Anticipating the Senate’s lack of action, a private citizen, Johnson Colin ? backed by lawyer and government critic André Michel ? filed multiple cases at the Port-au-Prince Court of First Instance on January 29 and February 20. (The original filing is available here.)

The UN Statement

On February 25, the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) issued a press release welcoming “the assignment of investigating judges to pursue the Petrocaribe court cases filed by private citizens.” The mission noted that Haiti is ranked near the bottom of Transparency International’s corruption report.

“I welcome the initiative and the active role of Haitian citizens and civil society who are engaged in the fight against corruption and impunity. Their actions demonstrate that the population is standing up for accountability and justice,” said the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of MINUJUSTH, Susan D. Page.

The UN also expressed its regret that no investigating judge had been assigned to two cases of alleged human rights violations on the part of the Haitian police; one in Lilavois on October 12, 2017 and one, the alleged summary execution of civilians, in Grand Ravine on November 13, 2017. (The Grand Ravine operation was planned in coordination with the UN mission).

The mandate of MINUJUSTH, which took over for the previous UN mission, MINUSTAH, this past October is to “help the Government of Haiti strengthen rule-of-law institutions, further develop and support the Haitian National Police and engage in human rights monitoring, reporting and analysis.” 

Of course, as many observers have pointed out (including here on this blog), the UN has its own terrible track record in terms of avoiding accountability for its actions. The UN’s introduction of cholera has killed more than 10,000 and sickened a million while the UN continues to dodge legal accountability or properly fund eradication efforts. Hundreds, if not thousands, of cases of sexual exploitation and abuse involving UN personnel have been identified ? however in the overwhelming majority of those cases, the perpetrators were simply moved out of Haiti and avoided prosecution. How can the UN have the moral authority to call for justice in Haiti when the UN itself has yet to face justice for its crimes there?

Yet the UN statement was not so much surprising for its content, but for going against the Haitian government. Throughout its controversial history, the UN has rarely even hinted at criticism of the Haitian government. Then again, in this case the UN simply welcomed a judicial investigation.

Given its mandate to support anticorruption efforts and strengthen the judicial system, and its creation under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, the mission was within its rights to make those comments, argued university professor James Boyard.

The UN did not express an opinion on the content of the Petrocaribe dossier, and given the current state of Haiti’s judicial system, the likelihood of the current case leading to any meaningful accountability is slim. The statement posed little threat to those implicated in the dossier (who, if they believe they are innocent, should be welcoming an investigation into the allegations rather than letting the dossier be used by politicians for political reasons).

The Government’s Reaction

The first response to the UN statement came from Haitian foreign minister Antonio Rodrigue. Reuters reported that Rodrigue “said in a statement on Tuesday that Page had exceeded her authority and that her comments reflect an ‘attitude harmful to the political and institutional stability acquired during the past few years.’”

The Haitian government, rather than address the allegations in the Petrocaribe dossier, has doubled down on this response. “The country is fighting to defend its image,” President Moïse said. “People have to speak well of the country,” he added. (The Haitian government recently hired an international PR firm to help with “media relations services.”)

Moïse responded by recalling the Haitian ambassador to the UN and summoning Page to explain her comments. Page has since left the country to travel to New York ? a move the government characterized as punishment for her comments.

Last Friday, government spokesperson Lucien Jura told the press that Moïse had spoken with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who Jura claimed distanced the UN from Page’s statement. But journalist Jacqueline Charles noted that she had been told Page’s travel had been scheduled for weeks. The UN has not provided any clarity on the situation.

Reuters put Page’s press release into the context of international bodies leading corruption fights throughout Latin America, and the pushback those efforts have faced:

The case is the latest example of governments across the Americas – including Guatemala and Honduras – chafing at criticisms by U.N. bodies, which have highlighted lackluster efforts to tackle corruption, human rights abuses or impunity.

Jocelyne Colas, the director general of the Episcopal Justice and Peace Commission (JILAP), told the press that the government’s response showed that they had no desire to “curb the phenomenon of corruption in the country.” Colas said: “There must be light in this case. We do not have the right to close our eyes.”

There is also a certain amount of hypocrisy in the reaction of the Moïse administration and their apparent nationalist response to the comments from the UN. As Haitian author Edwidge Danticat has noted, Moïse’s “two heavily contested election cycles are often touted as a [UN] success.” In other words, Moïse (and the ruling party to which he belongs), in many ways owe their own political success to the international actors they are now criticizing.

The Fallout

Since he assumed office last February, Moïse has seemingly been at odds with at least some members of the ever-influential international community in Haiti. The Miami Herald reported that in January, Moïse “irked the country’s foreign diplomatic corps when, according to several sources, he demanded that foreign donors support his campaign promises or take their aid elsewhere.”

The Inter-American Development Bank, one of Haiti’s largest donors, is providing financing for Moïse’s flagship government program ? his “Caravan for Change.” But Moïse has failed to secure public support for his controversial decision to reinstate the Haitian military. The UN ? which has spent more than a decade training and funding the Haitian police ? was publicly opposed to the decision.

In early February, Moïse took his criticism public, telling Bloomberg:

Right now in Haiti, the money of foreign taxpayers, your money, is being wasted … Every year we receive $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion in aid, or more. However, it’s all consumed in a state of disorder that constitutes public international development aid.

It may be difficult to view the latest disagreement between Page and the Haitian government as anything other than a continuation of this conflict ? but it remains very much unclear to what extent there really is any conflict, or if both sides are simply posturing in order to save face in public.

Though the Moïse administration did not respond as forcefully as many had hoped to Trump’s comments about Haiti, the administration has been very outspoken about the revelation of the Oxfam sexual abuse scandal and what lessons should be learned about foreign aid more broadly. In a Washington Post opinion piece, Moïse wrote:

The general paradigm of aid and power in Haiti, as elsewhere in the developing world, is not a balanced one. Our government is often sidestepped by aid agencies that refuse oversight as they pursue their own development and humanitarian agendas in our country. The level and direction of aid, and its implementation, is controlled by donor forces with little or no input from Haiti’s government or other local stakeholders.

Moïse is not incorrect in criticizing the way foreign aid is administered in Haiti ? and elsewhere (as has been pointed out innumerable times on this blog). This blog has long been an advocate of greater donor coordination with the Haitian government and of directing funds directly to the Haitian government as opposed to high-priced foreign “experts” that often lack any local understanding. But it is next to impossible to imagine a world in which donors simply give funding directly to the Haitian government, given its history of corruption.

This is why the battle over the Petrocaribe dossier is so important. If the Moïse administration wants to be in the lead with donors, then the first step must be to clean house. It’s not just donors who are wary of the government ? recent surveys have shown corruption to be high atop Haitian citizens’ list of priorities.

Unfortunately, the fallout from the UN statement appears to be having the opposite effect. The government has deftly deflected attention from the underlying corruption allegations, instead shifting focus to the intervention ? and nefarious practices ? of the international community. There is plenty there worthy of criticism, but the sins of one’s enemies do not absolve one’s own.

And it appears the reaction will have real implications on the ground. Last week, the Haitian government reportedly canceled its participation in a high-level retreat, coordinated by the UN, to address the ongoing cholera epidemic in Haiti. Moïse was scheduled to give the keynote address ? until the press release from Page. (The Haitian government has since said that the retreat was postponed.)

In all likelihood, the relationship between the UN and the Haitian government will be just fine. Both, in fact, depend upon the other for their successes. But both can use the situation to their advantage.

The public conflict allows the UN to garner some sympathy from the political opposition, which has long criticized the UN mission as an infringement upon Haiti’s sovereignty and for supporting the elite of the country (including the current administration). Moïse and his administration can point to their response as evidence of their standing up against the international forces that have taken advantage of Haiti for centuries ? all while ignoring the corruption allegations.

The UN may have no moral standing to question the Haitian justice system, but that doesn’t absolve the Haitian government. Unless, and until, corruption is seriously addressed in Haiti, the faulty aid paradigm that the Moïse administration has criticized will assuredly continue.

Since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the US government has disbursed some $4.4 billion in foreign assistance to the tiny Caribbean nation. At least $1.5 billion was disbursed for immediate humanitarian assistance, while just under $3 billion has gone toward recovery, reconstruction, and development. Since many of the funds have gone toward longer-term reconstruction, there remains some $700 million in undisbursed funding ? in addition to annual allocations.

In our 2013 report “Breaking Open the Black Box,” we found:

Over three years have passed since Haiti’s earthquake and, despite USAID’s stated commitment to greater transparency and accountability, the question “where has the money gone?” echoes throughout the country. It remains unclear how exactly the billions of dollars that the U.S. has spent on assistance to Haiti have been used and whether this funding has had a sustainable impact. With few exceptions, Haitians and U.S. taxpayers are unable to verify how U.S. aid funds are being used on the ground in Haiti. USAID and its implementing partners have generally failed to make public the basic data identifying where funds go and how they are spent.

In response to that report, and others from USAID’s own inspector general and from the Government Accountability Office, the US Congress passed bipartisan legislation (the 2014 Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, or APHA) requiring greater reporting requirements from State and USAID.

These additional reporting requirements, which include information on subcontractors, as well as benchmarks and goals, represent a significant step in the right direction regarding transparency around US foreign assistance. However, limitations remain.

A joint review published in December 2016 by CEPR and the Haiti Advocacy Working Group found that the reports on US assistance in Haiti contain “omissions and deficiencies, including incomplete data, a failure to link projects and outcomes, and a failure to adequately identify mistakes and lessons learned.”

These weaknesses notwithstanding, the congressionally mandated APHA reports provide the most complete picture available of US assistance programs, whether in Haiti or anywhere else in the world, and remain useful especially for organizations on the ground looking to investigate or follow up on specific US-financed programs.

But a recent review of contract and grant information from USASpending.gov shows that USAID, and US foreign assistance generally, is still plagued by many of the same problems that have been evident for years. While USAID has drastically changed its rhetoric about partnering with local organizations and involving local stakeholders in the development of new programs, it does not appear to have made significant changes to its system of allocation of USAID funds. And now, what progress has been made appears threatened.

Some Progress with Local Partners, But the Beltway Bandits are Still on Top

The majority of US assistance to Haiti is through USAID. Since 2010, USAID has disbursed at least $2.13 billion in contracts and grants for Haiti-related work. Overall, just $48.6 million has gone directly to Haitian organizations or firms ? just over 2 percent. Comparatively, more than $1.2 billion has gone to firms located in DC, Maryland, or Virginia ? more than 56 percent, as can be seen in Figure 1. The difference is even starker when looking just at contracts: 65 percent went to Beltway firms, compared to 1.9 percent for Haitian firms.

Figure 1. USAID Awards by Location of Recipient (Percent of Total)
Haiti 2018 USAID bylocation
Source: USASpending.gov and authors’ calculations

USAID has made it a priority to involve more local firms and civil society organizations ? holding informational sessions, meetings with stakeholders, etc. While there has been some slight improvement in the amount of funds going directly to Haitian organizations since 2010, the trend has more recently reversed direction.

In 2016, USAID assistance to Haiti was lower than in any year since the earthquake, totaling $140 million. However it was also the year when the greatest amount of USAID funds was allocated directly to Haitian organizations ? more than $15 million. This is primarily due to an increase in Haitian recipients of USAID grants. After totaling just $2.5 million from 2010 to 2014, Haitian grantees received more than $22 million in 2015–2016. A significant portion of this, nearly $6 million, went to Papyrus, a local management company, in order to increase the capacity of local organizations to partner with USAID.

In 2017, however, funds awarded to Haitian organizations were reduced drastically. Only one new grant was initiated with a local partner last year, totaling just $700,000. Though it remains too early to tell if this will continue into 2018, the decrease would appear to be consistent with the Trump administration’s stated “America first” policy.

Though more than $3 million was awarded to Haitian firms in 2017 (via contracts, as opposed to grants), the vast majority of this went to firms conducting evaluations of other USAID projects. Of the $20 million awarded thus far in 2018 by USAID, only $70,000 has gone to Haitian firms.

It would therefore appear that the small progress USAID achieved in partnering directly with local organizations is being reversed under the new US administration.

A key impediment to more fully understanding how USAID funds are administered in Haiti has been the lack of information on subawardees. However greater compliance with APHA reporting requirements over the past few years has produced a significant amount of data at the subaward level. Overall, via the USASpending.gov database, subaward data is available for about 50 prime contracts or grants totaling more than $500 million.

Through those prime contracts, more than $175 million has been awarded to subs, but only about $50 million has gone to local organizations. So, while looking only at prime awardees does understate the full extent of local participation, it is clear that the vast majority of USAID funds don’t go further than the prime awardee, and of those funds that go to subs, less than a third go to Haitian firms.

Among the top ten prime awardees, nine are US-based organizations and one is a UN entity, as can be seen in Table 1.

Table 1. Top Ten Recipients of USAID Funding Since Earthquake
Haiti USAID 2018 top10
Source: USASpending.gov and authors’ calculations

And while there have been changes in USAID recipients over the years, the two largest, Chemonics and Development Alternatives Incorporated (DAI) continue to dominate in Haiti. Since 2016, more than 40 percent of all USAID contract funding has gone to just these two Beltway firms.

US Priorities and Recent Developments: Case Studies

Knowing who received the money is important but it is also worth looking at what types of projects the US has funded in Haiti. Of these, the largest share went toward Health & Disabilities ($1.18 billion), followed by Governance and Rule of Law ($470 million), Food Security ($339 million) and Shelter ($196 million).

Digging deeper, the US has designated four “pillars” of its foreign assistance in Haiti: Infrastructure and Energy; Food and Economic Security; Health and Other Basic Services; and Governance and Rule of Law. Responding to congressional requirements, the State Department now provides objectives and status updates on each “pillar.” Again, there is significant information missing from these reports, but they still have useful data, particularly for groups on the ground.

Next let’s examine examples of recent US contracts and grants in some of these priority areas.

Housing (Pillar A: Infrastructure and Energy)

After the earthquake, the US had an ambitious plan to build thousands of new homes in Haiti. Following drastic cost overruns and changing demands, the US shifted away from building new houses. Instead, the US has provided technical assistance to build the capacity of the housing sector, and with partners is working to provide housing finance. To date, “with USAID financing of $482,000, partner financing institutions have committed over $10 million for loans, with $3.1 million already disbursed for 451 loans,” the State Department reported in August 2017.

But USAID is also continuing to spend millions to make up for its previously failed attempts at new housing construction.

In 2015, two US companies were barred from receiving additional contracts over faulty construction practices at the Caracol EKAM housing site. Studies revealed the companies had used substandard concrete and had overbilled USAID.

In October 2014, USAID awarded a no-bid contract to Tetra Tech (one of the largest US contractors in the country) to determine the extent of the problems with the Caracol EKAM houses and to oversee the repairs. A year later, another US company, DFS Construction, was awarded a contract to repair the houses. The work is ongoing in 2018.

The two contracts for Tetra Tech and DFS have totaled more than $20 million, $4 million of which was awarded in just the last two months of 2017. While USAID has moved on from building new homes, they are still spending millions of dollars correcting previous mistakes.

Ports (Pillar A: Infrastructure and Energy)

Initially, the US had planned on creating a new port in Fort Liberté near the flagship reconstruction development project, the Caracol Industrial Park. The port was one of the many subsidies used to attract a South Korean garment industry firm to the park. USAID spent more than $4 million on feasibility studies for the new port; however, the plans quickly fell apart. The Government Accountability Office determined USAID lacked expertise in the area, underestimated the time it would take to build a new port, and overestimated private sector interest in the project.

In the last few years, the US has shifted course and is now supporting the rehabilitation of the port in Cap-Haïtien, also in the North.

The US is working with the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and the Haitian government to create a public-private partnership to manage the port. It is expected that a firm will be selected soon.

In late 2015, USAID awarded Nathan Associates (based in Virginia) a contract to enhance the regulatory environment of the port. The ongoing work has thus far cost nearly $7.5 million. Around the same time, AECOM, another US firm, was given more than $1 million for urgent repairs to the port. USAID also awarded more than $3 million to the World Bank and more than $7 million to the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in support of the project. Finally, at the end of 2016, USAID awarded yet another US firm, the Louis Berger Group, nearly $6 million to perform construction management services for the port’s rehabilitation.

All told, USAID has distributed at least $30 million in support of the port project.

Food Security (Pillar B: Food and Economic Security)

US support for food security in Haiti has predominantly focused on the Feed the Future program, which began just before the earthquake with the WINNER program. Implemented by Chemonics and completed in 2015, WINNER’s total cost was more than $145 million. (The program was the subject of a scathing report by Oxfam International in 2013.)

In 2013, USAID initiated a new Feed the Future program, this time implemented by DAI in the northern part of the country. This program is ongoing and has thus far cost more than $77 million. In its most recent report, the State Department notes that the Feed the Future/North program “is successfully increasing the incomes of thousands of Haitian farmers” despite recent problems due to drought.

A USAID Inspector General (OIG) report from 2015 casts doubt on this finding, however. The program was meant to work with local organizations to increase output; however, the OIG report found that the program was “not achieving these goals.” Most troubling was the failure of DAI to develop the capacity of local organizations, as the program intended. The OIG report points out one of the main impediments of getting Haitian organizations ready to receive USAID funding directly:

[L]ocal organizations also did not have any incentive to become eligible for direct USAID funding. Meeting the Agency’s eligibility criteria was tough and often required significant time and resources. For example, many organizations needed to improve their workspaces and hire additional employees, like accountants, to meet the requirements for separation of duties and internal controls. Many organizations could not afford to do this before first receiving USAID funding—but they could not receive USAID funding until they made the required changes.

While DAI received $77 million from USAID, the data indicates that only about 7 percent of this, or a little over $5 million, went to Haitian firms in the form of subcontracts. Without transitioning responsibilities over to local organizations, however, the sustainability of any advances remains in serious question.

Still, the Feed the Future program continues. In 2015, USAID initiated yet another project, this time aimed at the West Department. Once again, the contract was awarded to Chemonics, which has already received nearly $25 million for the program.

Elections (Pillar D: Governance and Rule of Law)

A primary aspect of US funding in the Governance and Rule of Law pillar concerns elections. Since the earthquake, USAID has spent more than $1 million on election-specific advisors hired by USAID. During the contested election of 2015, the US spent more than $30 million on elections, though as HRRW reported at the time, much of that went to US-based or international organizations in support of the elections, not toward the election itself.

When an independent commission recommended redoing those 2015 elections due to massive irregularities, the US pulled about $1.7 million in funding from the UN-administered “basket fund” used to support elections. Overall, the US awarded $3 million to the Organization of American States for its observation mission, $8 million to the “basket fund,” more than $12 million to UNOPS for election logistics, and $16 million to IFES and the National Democratic Institute.

The electoral process is now over, but USAID has continued to allocate funding toward elections. The priority now is to help create a permanent electoral council to oversee elections (provisional electoral councils have managed each of Haiti’s elections since its return to democracy).

In January 2017, before current president Jovenel Moïse had even assumed office, USAID hired an election advisor on a two-year contract for more than $300,000.

In June of the same year, USAID awarded a $6.75-million grant to the Consortium for Election and Political Process Strengthening. The consortium had already received nearly $25 million since the earthquake, despite questionable progress on the electoral front.

But there is a significant difference with the consortium now that a Republican holds the presidency in the US. The consortium is composed of two organizations. One, IFES, remains the same. The other, however, has changed. Whereas money previously was awarded to the National Democratic Institute (NDI) through the consortium, in 2017 NDI was replaced by the International Republican Institute (IRI). 

Since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the US government has disbursed some $4.4 billion in foreign assistance to the tiny Caribbean nation. At least $1.5 billion was disbursed for immediate humanitarian assistance, while just under $3 billion has gone toward recovery, reconstruction, and development. Since many of the funds have gone toward longer-term reconstruction, there remains some $700 million in undisbursed funding ? in addition to annual allocations.

In our 2013 report “Breaking Open the Black Box,” we found:

Over three years have passed since Haiti’s earthquake and, despite USAID’s stated commitment to greater transparency and accountability, the question “where has the money gone?” echoes throughout the country. It remains unclear how exactly the billions of dollars that the U.S. has spent on assistance to Haiti have been used and whether this funding has had a sustainable impact. With few exceptions, Haitians and U.S. taxpayers are unable to verify how U.S. aid funds are being used on the ground in Haiti. USAID and its implementing partners have generally failed to make public the basic data identifying where funds go and how they are spent.

In response to that report, and others from USAID’s own inspector general and from the Government Accountability Office, the US Congress passed bipartisan legislation (the 2014 Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, or APHA) requiring greater reporting requirements from State and USAID.

These additional reporting requirements, which include information on subcontractors, as well as benchmarks and goals, represent a significant step in the right direction regarding transparency around US foreign assistance. However, limitations remain.

A joint review published in December 2016 by CEPR and the Haiti Advocacy Working Group found that the reports on US assistance in Haiti contain “omissions and deficiencies, including incomplete data, a failure to link projects and outcomes, and a failure to adequately identify mistakes and lessons learned.”

These weaknesses notwithstanding, the congressionally mandated APHA reports provide the most complete picture available of US assistance programs, whether in Haiti or anywhere else in the world, and remain useful especially for organizations on the ground looking to investigate or follow up on specific US-financed programs.

But a recent review of contract and grant information from USASpending.gov shows that USAID, and US foreign assistance generally, is still plagued by many of the same problems that have been evident for years. While USAID has drastically changed its rhetoric about partnering with local organizations and involving local stakeholders in the development of new programs, it does not appear to have made significant changes to its system of allocation of USAID funds. And now, what progress has been made appears threatened.

Some Progress with Local Partners, But the Beltway Bandits are Still on Top

The majority of US assistance to Haiti is through USAID. Since 2010, USAID has disbursed at least $2.13 billion in contracts and grants for Haiti-related work. Overall, just $48.6 million has gone directly to Haitian organizations or firms ? just over 2 percent. Comparatively, more than $1.2 billion has gone to firms located in DC, Maryland, or Virginia ? more than 56 percent, as can be seen in Figure 1. The difference is even starker when looking just at contracts: 65 percent went to Beltway firms, compared to 1.9 percent for Haitian firms.

Figure 1. USAID Awards by Location of Recipient (Percent of Total)
Haiti 2018 USAID bylocation
Source: USASpending.gov and authors’ calculations

USAID has made it a priority to involve more local firms and civil society organizations ? holding informational sessions, meetings with stakeholders, etc. While there has been some slight improvement in the amount of funds going directly to Haitian organizations since 2010, the trend has more recently reversed direction.

In 2016, USAID assistance to Haiti was lower than in any year since the earthquake, totaling $140 million. However it was also the year when the greatest amount of USAID funds was allocated directly to Haitian organizations ? more than $15 million. This is primarily due to an increase in Haitian recipients of USAID grants. After totaling just $2.5 million from 2010 to 2014, Haitian grantees received more than $22 million in 2015–2016. A significant portion of this, nearly $6 million, went to Papyrus, a local management company, in order to increase the capacity of local organizations to partner with USAID.

In 2017, however, funds awarded to Haitian organizations were reduced drastically. Only one new grant was initiated with a local partner last year, totaling just $700,000. Though it remains too early to tell if this will continue into 2018, the decrease would appear to be consistent with the Trump administration’s stated “America first” policy.

Though more than $3 million was awarded to Haitian firms in 2017 (via contracts, as opposed to grants), the vast majority of this went to firms conducting evaluations of other USAID projects. Of the $20 million awarded thus far in 2018 by USAID, only $70,000 has gone to Haitian firms.

It would therefore appear that the small progress USAID achieved in partnering directly with local organizations is being reversed under the new US administration.

A key impediment to more fully understanding how USAID funds are administered in Haiti has been the lack of information on subawardees. However greater compliance with APHA reporting requirements over the past few years has produced a significant amount of data at the subaward level. Overall, via the USASpending.gov database, subaward data is available for about 50 prime contracts or grants totaling more than $500 million.

Through those prime contracts, more than $175 million has been awarded to subs, but only about $50 million has gone to local organizations. So, while looking only at prime awardees does understate the full extent of local participation, it is clear that the vast majority of USAID funds don’t go further than the prime awardee, and of those funds that go to subs, less than a third go to Haitian firms.

Among the top ten prime awardees, nine are US-based organizations and one is a UN entity, as can be seen in Table 1.

Table 1. Top Ten Recipients of USAID Funding Since Earthquake
Haiti USAID 2018 top10
Source: USASpending.gov and authors’ calculations

And while there have been changes in USAID recipients over the years, the two largest, Chemonics and Development Alternatives Incorporated (DAI) continue to dominate in Haiti. Since 2016, more than 40 percent of all USAID contract funding has gone to just these two Beltway firms.

US Priorities and Recent Developments: Case Studies

Knowing who received the money is important but it is also worth looking at what types of projects the US has funded in Haiti. Of these, the largest share went toward Health & Disabilities ($1.18 billion), followed by Governance and Rule of Law ($470 million), Food Security ($339 million) and Shelter ($196 million).

Digging deeper, the US has designated four “pillars” of its foreign assistance in Haiti: Infrastructure and Energy; Food and Economic Security; Health and Other Basic Services; and Governance and Rule of Law. Responding to congressional requirements, the State Department now provides objectives and status updates on each “pillar.” Again, there is significant information missing from these reports, but they still have useful data, particularly for groups on the ground.

Next let’s examine examples of recent US contracts and grants in some of these priority areas.

Housing (Pillar A: Infrastructure and Energy)

After the earthquake, the US had an ambitious plan to build thousands of new homes in Haiti. Following drastic cost overruns and changing demands, the US shifted away from building new houses. Instead, the US has provided technical assistance to build the capacity of the housing sector, and with partners is working to provide housing finance. To date, “with USAID financing of $482,000, partner financing institutions have committed over $10 million for loans, with $3.1 million already disbursed for 451 loans,” the State Department reported in August 2017.

But USAID is also continuing to spend millions to make up for its previously failed attempts at new housing construction.

In 2015, two US companies were barred from receiving additional contracts over faulty construction practices at the Caracol EKAM housing site. Studies revealed the companies had used substandard concrete and had overbilled USAID.

In October 2014, USAID awarded a no-bid contract to Tetra Tech (one of the largest US contractors in the country) to determine the extent of the problems with the Caracol EKAM houses and to oversee the repairs. A year later, another US company, DFS Construction, was awarded a contract to repair the houses. The work is ongoing in 2018.

The two contracts for Tetra Tech and DFS have totaled more than $20 million, $4 million of which was awarded in just the last two months of 2017. While USAID has moved on from building new homes, they are still spending millions of dollars correcting previous mistakes.

Ports (Pillar A: Infrastructure and Energy)

Initially, the US had planned on creating a new port in Fort Liberté near the flagship reconstruction development project, the Caracol Industrial Park. The port was one of the many subsidies used to attract a South Korean garment industry firm to the park. USAID spent more than $4 million on feasibility studies for the new port; however, the plans quickly fell apart. The Government Accountability Office determined USAID lacked expertise in the area, underestimated the time it would take to build a new port, and overestimated private sector interest in the project.

In the last few years, the US has shifted course and is now supporting the rehabilitation of the port in Cap-Haïtien, also in the North.

The US is working with the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and the Haitian government to create a public-private partnership to manage the port. It is expected that a firm will be selected soon.

In late 2015, USAID awarded Nathan Associates (based in Virginia) a contract to enhance the regulatory environment of the port. The ongoing work has thus far cost nearly $7.5 million. Around the same time, AECOM, another US firm, was given more than $1 million for urgent repairs to the port. USAID also awarded more than $3 million to the World Bank and more than $7 million to the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in support of the project. Finally, at the end of 2016, USAID awarded yet another US firm, the Louis Berger Group, nearly $6 million to perform construction management services for the port’s rehabilitation.

All told, USAID has distributed at least $30 million in support of the port project.

Food Security (Pillar B: Food and Economic Security)

US support for food security in Haiti has predominantly focused on the Feed the Future program, which began just before the earthquake with the WINNER program. Implemented by Chemonics and completed in 2015, WINNER’s total cost was more than $145 million. (The program was the subject of a scathing report by Oxfam International in 2013.)

In 2013, USAID initiated a new Feed the Future program, this time implemented by DAI in the northern part of the country. This program is ongoing and has thus far cost more than $77 million. In its most recent report, the State Department notes that the Feed the Future/North program “is successfully increasing the incomes of thousands of Haitian farmers” despite recent problems due to drought.

A USAID Inspector General (OIG) report from 2015 casts doubt on this finding, however. The program was meant to work with local organizations to increase output; however, the OIG report found that the program was “not achieving these goals.” Most troubling was the failure of DAI to develop the capacity of local organizations, as the program intended. The OIG report points out one of the main impediments of getting Haitian organizations ready to receive USAID funding directly:

[L]ocal organizations also did not have any incentive to become eligible for direct USAID funding. Meeting the Agency’s eligibility criteria was tough and often required significant time and resources. For example, many organizations needed to improve their workspaces and hire additional employees, like accountants, to meet the requirements for separation of duties and internal controls. Many organizations could not afford to do this before first receiving USAID funding—but they could not receive USAID funding until they made the required changes.

While DAI received $77 million from USAID, the data indicates that only about 7 percent of this, or a little over $5 million, went to Haitian firms in the form of subcontracts. Without transitioning responsibilities over to local organizations, however, the sustainability of any advances remains in serious question.

Still, the Feed the Future program continues. In 2015, USAID initiated yet another project, this time aimed at the West Department. Once again, the contract was awarded to Chemonics, which has already received nearly $25 million for the program.

Elections (Pillar D: Governance and Rule of Law)

A primary aspect of US funding in the Governance and Rule of Law pillar concerns elections. Since the earthquake, USAID has spent more than $1 million on election-specific advisors hired by USAID. During the contested election of 2015, the US spent more than $30 million on elections, though as HRRW reported at the time, much of that went to US-based or international organizations in support of the elections, not toward the election itself.

When an independent commission recommended redoing those 2015 elections due to massive irregularities, the US pulled about $1.7 million in funding from the UN-administered “basket fund” used to support elections. Overall, the US awarded $3 million to the Organization of American States for its observation mission, $8 million to the “basket fund,” more than $12 million to UNOPS for election logistics, and $16 million to IFES and the National Democratic Institute.

The electoral process is now over, but USAID has continued to allocate funding toward elections. The priority now is to help create a permanent electoral council to oversee elections (provisional electoral councils have managed each of Haiti’s elections since its return to democracy).

In January 2017, before current president Jovenel Moïse had even assumed office, USAID hired an election advisor on a two-year contract for more than $300,000.

In June of the same year, USAID awarded a $6.75-million grant to the Consortium for Election and Political Process Strengthening. The consortium had already received nearly $25 million since the earthquake, despite questionable progress on the electoral front.

But there is a significant difference with the consortium now that a Republican holds the presidency in the US. The consortium is composed of two organizations. One, IFES, remains the same. The other, however, has changed. Whereas money previously was awarded to the National Democratic Institute (NDI) through the consortium, in 2017 NDI was replaced by the International Republican Institute (IRI). 

The UN has confirmed to CEPR and The Intercept for the first time that its mission in Haiti helped plan a raid in November 2017 that resulted in a massacre by police of civilians, though it distanced itself from the civilian deaths.

HRRW’s Jake Johnston did investigative work on the ground in the neighborhood of Grand Ravine days after the raid. Read his investigative article for The Intercept, and see his photos, here.

The UN has confirmed to CEPR and The Intercept for the first time that its mission in Haiti helped plan a raid in November 2017 that resulted in a massacre by police of civilians, though it distanced itself from the civilian deaths.

HRRW’s Jake Johnston did investigative work on the ground in the neighborhood of Grand Ravine days after the raid. Read his investigative article for The Intercept, and see his photos, here.

At least one person died, one remains missing, and more than a dozen were injured by the passage of Hurricane Irma off the northern coast of Haiti last week. As of September 11, nearly 6,500 Haitians remain in emergency shelters, according to the United Nations. Preliminary figures suggest that flooding impacted 22 communes, completely destroying 466 houses and badly damaging more than 2,000 more. As veteran AFP correspondent Amelie Baron noted on Twitter, “These are the damages of a hurricane passing hundreds of kilometers away from [the] Haitian coast.”

Compared to some other Caribbean nations, the damage to Haiti’s infrastructure pales. But as Jacqueline Charles reported for the Miami Herald, looks can be deceiving:

Though Haiti was spared a direct hit from Irma and the fallout is nowhere near the magnitude of Matthew’s 546 dead and $2.8 billion in washed-out roads, collapsed bridges and destroyed crops, the frustration and fears for some in its path are no less.

“We didn’t have people who died, but homes and farms were destroyed,” Esperance said. “Just because you don’t see a lot of damages, it doesn’t mean that we haven’t been left deeper in misery.”

Charles reported that “entire banana fields lay in ruin” across Haiti’s northern coast. “It took everything,” one local farmer said. As Charles points out, even before Hurricane Irma, Haiti was facing an extreme situation of food insecurity. Last October Hurricane Matthew swept across the southern peninsula, devastating crops and livelihoods and leaving some 800,000 in need of emergency food assistance. Even before Matthew, the World Food Program reported that Haiti was facing its worst food security situation in 15 years. Charles writes:

As recently as February, the food insecurity unit classified the northwest as being in an economic and food security crisis. As a result, [Action Against Hunger’s country director Mathieu] Nabot said, the focus has to be not just on the emergency response but on supporting farmers over the long term, to help strengthen their economic security and ability to cope with shocks.

Unfortunately, it appears as though little donor ? or Haitian government ? money went to supporting long-term agricultural development after last year’s storm. Less than 50 percent of the UN’s $56 million appeal for food security and agricultural support was ever provided by donors ? and the overwhelming majority of that was short-term emergency food assistance.

Of course, it’s not just the donor community that must do more to support Haitian farmers. Elected on a platform of agrarian development, Haitian president Jovenel Moïse has done little to address the problem since taking office nine months ago. Rumors of the commercial demise of Moïse’s banana plantation, Agritrans ? which was used to bolster his agricultural credentials during election season ? hasn’t helped, nor did putting scarce resources into a caravan across the country. And last week, just hours before Irma’s outer bands began lashing the coast, the Haitian parliament began discussion on this year’s budget. Peasant organizations held a press conference to denounce the fact that just 6.9 percent is allocated to agriculture.

With the increasing likelihood of extreme weather events ? and Haiti’s obvious vulnerability to such events ? many began advocating for donors and the government to take seriously the threat of climate change. According to the 2017 Climate Change Vulnerability Index, Haiti is the third-most vulnerable country in the world. As Mark Schuller and Jessica Hsu note, it’s time to start talking about climate justice ? not just climate change:

Climate justice explicitly confronts basic inequalities: the world’s biggest polluters are not those directly affected by climate change. The big polluters are also the biggest “winners” in this economic system. It is no coincidence that higher climate vulnerability communities are largely communities of color and disenfranchised communities within the Global South.

To achieve climate justice requires making sure that communities most directly affected are directly involved in discussions, as well as solutions.

Like in many places in the world, peasant communities in Haiti have waged an ongoing struggle against corporate/private interests which seek to maintain control over natural resources, exploit cheap labor, and increase profit. These peasant communities are on the frontlines which may offer approaches to cool the planet, rather than the proposed solutions that bar those most affected by climate change from the discussions.           

Yet the response to Matthew last year, write Schuller and Hsu, was “mostly forgotten, ignored and underfunded.” Weeks, maybe even months, of talk about disaster preparedness, supporting local communities, and sustainable agriculture slowly faded into the background. Just 0.5 percent of this year’s budget is allocated to the Ministry of the Environment. What is needed, argue Schuller and Hsu, is to look to those on the ground already fighting for change in their communities:

Grassroots organizations in Torbeck are doing what they can. Jean Molin of the Lafrisilien Peasants Association denounced that “the government never once came and checked on us,” while Oscar Romero TKL’s Rachelle Moïse critiqued “paternalistic” foreign agencies for “failing to address our needs with their top-down, pre-determined aid.” While their food security continues to be precarious, those living off footpaths in the mountains ? who can still be found living in caves ? fare much worse, with little to no hope of receiving aid or relief.

These are the stories that must be illuminated when we talk about the warming climate, justice, and human rights.

To silence these stories makes us complicit, not just dumb, in the devaluing of human life and the ongoing destruction of our environment.

 

 

 

At least one person died, one remains missing, and more than a dozen were injured by the passage of Hurricane Irma off the northern coast of Haiti last week. As of September 11, nearly 6,500 Haitians remain in emergency shelters, according to the United Nations. Preliminary figures suggest that flooding impacted 22 communes, completely destroying 466 houses and badly damaging more than 2,000 more. As veteran AFP correspondent Amelie Baron noted on Twitter, “These are the damages of a hurricane passing hundreds of kilometers away from [the] Haitian coast.”

Compared to some other Caribbean nations, the damage to Haiti’s infrastructure pales. But as Jacqueline Charles reported for the Miami Herald, looks can be deceiving:

Though Haiti was spared a direct hit from Irma and the fallout is nowhere near the magnitude of Matthew’s 546 dead and $2.8 billion in washed-out roads, collapsed bridges and destroyed crops, the frustration and fears for some in its path are no less.

“We didn’t have people who died, but homes and farms were destroyed,” Esperance said. “Just because you don’t see a lot of damages, it doesn’t mean that we haven’t been left deeper in misery.”

Charles reported that “entire banana fields lay in ruin” across Haiti’s northern coast. “It took everything,” one local farmer said. As Charles points out, even before Hurricane Irma, Haiti was facing an extreme situation of food insecurity. Last October Hurricane Matthew swept across the southern peninsula, devastating crops and livelihoods and leaving some 800,000 in need of emergency food assistance. Even before Matthew, the World Food Program reported that Haiti was facing its worst food security situation in 15 years. Charles writes:

As recently as February, the food insecurity unit classified the northwest as being in an economic and food security crisis. As a result, [Action Against Hunger’s country director Mathieu] Nabot said, the focus has to be not just on the emergency response but on supporting farmers over the long term, to help strengthen their economic security and ability to cope with shocks.

Unfortunately, it appears as though little donor ? or Haitian government ? money went to supporting long-term agricultural development after last year’s storm. Less than 50 percent of the UN’s $56 million appeal for food security and agricultural support was ever provided by donors ? and the overwhelming majority of that was short-term emergency food assistance.

Of course, it’s not just the donor community that must do more to support Haitian farmers. Elected on a platform of agrarian development, Haitian president Jovenel Moïse has done little to address the problem since taking office nine months ago. Rumors of the commercial demise of Moïse’s banana plantation, Agritrans ? which was used to bolster his agricultural credentials during election season ? hasn’t helped, nor did putting scarce resources into a caravan across the country. And last week, just hours before Irma’s outer bands began lashing the coast, the Haitian parliament began discussion on this year’s budget. Peasant organizations held a press conference to denounce the fact that just 6.9 percent is allocated to agriculture.

With the increasing likelihood of extreme weather events ? and Haiti’s obvious vulnerability to such events ? many began advocating for donors and the government to take seriously the threat of climate change. According to the 2017 Climate Change Vulnerability Index, Haiti is the third-most vulnerable country in the world. As Mark Schuller and Jessica Hsu note, it’s time to start talking about climate justice ? not just climate change:

Climate justice explicitly confronts basic inequalities: the world’s biggest polluters are not those directly affected by climate change. The big polluters are also the biggest “winners” in this economic system. It is no coincidence that higher climate vulnerability communities are largely communities of color and disenfranchised communities within the Global South.

To achieve climate justice requires making sure that communities most directly affected are directly involved in discussions, as well as solutions.

Like in many places in the world, peasant communities in Haiti have waged an ongoing struggle against corporate/private interests which seek to maintain control over natural resources, exploit cheap labor, and increase profit. These peasant communities are on the frontlines which may offer approaches to cool the planet, rather than the proposed solutions that bar those most affected by climate change from the discussions.           

Yet the response to Matthew last year, write Schuller and Hsu, was “mostly forgotten, ignored and underfunded.” Weeks, maybe even months, of talk about disaster preparedness, supporting local communities, and sustainable agriculture slowly faded into the background. Just 0.5 percent of this year’s budget is allocated to the Ministry of the Environment. What is needed, argue Schuller and Hsu, is to look to those on the ground already fighting for change in their communities:

Grassroots organizations in Torbeck are doing what they can. Jean Molin of the Lafrisilien Peasants Association denounced that “the government never once came and checked on us,” while Oscar Romero TKL’s Rachelle Moïse critiqued “paternalistic” foreign agencies for “failing to address our needs with their top-down, pre-determined aid.” While their food security continues to be precarious, those living off footpaths in the mountains ? who can still be found living in caves ? fare much worse, with little to no hope of receiving aid or relief.

These are the stories that must be illuminated when we talk about the warming climate, justice, and human rights.

To silence these stories makes us complicit, not just dumb, in the devaluing of human life and the ongoing destruction of our environment.

 

 

 

CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston published the following article at World Politics Review: 

The UN’s Legacy in Haiti: Stability, but for Whom?

After 13 years and more than $7 billion, the “touristas” — as the United Nations soldiers that currently occupy Haiti are commonly referred to — will finally be heading home. Well, sort of. While thousands of troops are expected to depart in October, the UN has authorized a new, smaller mission composed of police that will focus on justice and strengthening the rule of law. But the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known by its French acronym, MINUSTAH, is not just thousands of foreign soldiers “keeping the peace.” It is the latest and most visible manifestation of the international community’s habit of intervening in Haiti, a habit that is unlikely to change. 

World powers have always had a difficult time accepting Haitian sovereignty. When a slave revolt delivered Haiti independence from France in 1804, gunboat diplomacy ensured the liberated inhabitants would pay for their freedom. For the next 150 years, Haiti paid France a ransom for its continued independence. In the early twentieth century, a new hegemonic power held sway, with US Marines occupying the country for more than 20 years. 

Two hundred years after Haitian independence, when the UN Security Council created MINUSTAH, it also mandated the formation of the “Core Group,” which included MINUSTAH’s leadership as well as diplomatic representatives from foreign governments and multilateral organizations. Since its creation, the group has influenced — subtly and not so subtly — Haiti’s internal affairs, with the backing of a heavily armed military force.

Read the rest here at World Politics Review.

CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston published the following article at World Politics Review: 

The UN’s Legacy in Haiti: Stability, but for Whom?

After 13 years and more than $7 billion, the “touristas” — as the United Nations soldiers that currently occupy Haiti are commonly referred to — will finally be heading home. Well, sort of. While thousands of troops are expected to depart in October, the UN has authorized a new, smaller mission composed of police that will focus on justice and strengthening the rule of law. But the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known by its French acronym, MINUSTAH, is not just thousands of foreign soldiers “keeping the peace.” It is the latest and most visible manifestation of the international community’s habit of intervening in Haiti, a habit that is unlikely to change. 

World powers have always had a difficult time accepting Haitian sovereignty. When a slave revolt delivered Haiti independence from France in 1804, gunboat diplomacy ensured the liberated inhabitants would pay for their freedom. For the next 150 years, Haiti paid France a ransom for its continued independence. In the early twentieth century, a new hegemonic power held sway, with US Marines occupying the country for more than 20 years. 

Two hundred years after Haitian independence, when the UN Security Council created MINUSTAH, it also mandated the formation of the “Core Group,” which included MINUSTAH’s leadership as well as diplomatic representatives from foreign governments and multilateral organizations. Since its creation, the group has influenced — subtly and not so subtly — Haiti’s internal affairs, with the backing of a heavily armed military force.

Read the rest here at World Politics Review.

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