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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Washington Can’t Block Aristide’s Return or Deny Haiti’s Sovereignty - Mark Weisbrot in The Guardian Print
Friday, 11 February 2011 11:32
CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot has an op-ed in The Guardian (UK) today, that appears both online and in the print edition.

Please note the figures listed here on political violence, as there has been a lot of misreporting on this in the press. He writes, in the longer, online version:

In 1915, the US Marines invaded Haiti, occupying the country until 1934. US officials rewrote the Haitian constitution, and when the Haitian national assembly refused to ratify it, they dissolved the assembly. They then held a "referendum" in which about 5% of the electorate voted and approved the new constitution – which conveniently changed Haitian law to allow foreigners to own land – with 99.9% voting for approval.

The situation today is remarkably similar. The country is occupied, and although the occupying troops wear blue helmets, everyone knows that Washington calls the shots. On 28 November an election was held in which the country's most popular political party was excluded; but still the results of the first round of the election were not quite right. The OAS – under direction from Washington – then changed the results to eliminate the government's candidate from the second round. To force the government to accept the OAS rewrite of the results, Haiti was threatened with a cutoff of aid flows – and, according to multiple sources, President Préval was threatened with being forcibly flown out of the country – as happened to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004.

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Media Ignores Whether CEP Actually Made a Decision on the Runoff or Not Print
Wednesday, 09 February 2011 15:04

Save for a few brief mentions (New York Times, Associated Press), the major English language media has all but ignored the news that – as reported by Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste – four CEP members may never have signed the document affirming the Council’s decision regarding the second round of elections. This is despite the fact that one of the four, Ginette Chérubin, released a public statement to the media (available here in English and here in French), and that she revealed – with his permission – that CEP Vice President Jean-Pierre Toussaint Thélève did not sign either. Le Nouvelliste reported that the two other CEP members who did not sign were Treasurer Jacques Belzin and member Ribel Pierre.

As we noted on Monday, the implications of this are far from trivial. In the opinions of some legal experts, such as the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, the even split within the CEP would mean that there was in fact no decision taken. As IJDH notes

Article 8 of the CEP’s bylaws requires that the Council’s decisions be made by an “absolute majority of its members.”  Therefore, a valid decision regarding the run-off would require five votes.

It appears that the only basis for earlier reports of a CEP “decision” on a second round was the Thursday morning statement by CEP spokesperson Richardson Dumel. It is unclear why the words of a CEP member such as Chérubin should not be given, if not equal weight to Dumel’s, more serious consideration in the media than to be reported as mere hearsay. Since Chérubin identified Toussaint Thélève as another who did not sign, presumably the press could contact him for more information – not to mention Jacques Belzin and Ribel Pierre, to confirm the reports that they are the other non-signers.

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Actually, the CEP Has Yet to Decide Who Will Proceed to the Second Round Print
Monday, 07 February 2011 14:05

Despite the announcement last week by CEP spokesperson Richardson Dumel, numerous media reports, and laudatory statements from by the United States, France and other foreign governments, it now appears that the CEP did not in fact make a decision as to which Haitian presidential candidates should proceed to the runoff election.  As the New York Times reported yesterday:

At least one of the eight C.E.P. members, Ginette Chérubin, also sent a letter to Haitian news outlets this week saying she and three of her colleagues did not sign on to the decision adding Mr. Martelly to the runoff, casting further doubt on its legitimacy.

But if what Chérubin says is true, “further doubt on its legitimacy” is an understatement. It would in fact mean that the CEP did not make a decision.

Chérubin’s brief statement is available here in English (unofficial translation), and we are pasting the original in French, below.

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IACHR Urges U.S. to Stop Deporting Sick People to Haiti Print
Friday, 04 February 2011 17:22

Following the tragic death of Wildrick Guerrier on January 22 following his deportation from the U.S. to Haiti, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States is urging the U.S. government to stop deporting people to Haiti who have serious illnesses. A press release from the Center for Constitutional Rights, Alternative Chance/Chans Alternativ, Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, and University of Miami School of Law reads:

Today, in response to an emergency petition filed on January 6, 2011 by six rights groups, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) took a rare step and urged the U.S. government to cease deportations to Haiti immediately for persons with serious illnesses or U.S. family ties. The action follows the first reported death of a person deported by the U.S. since removals resumed on January 20, 2011. In its decision, the IACHR expressed concern that “detention centers in Haiti are overcrowded, and the lack of drinking water and adequate sanitation or toilets could facilitate the transmission of cholera, tuberculosis, and other diseases.”

The deceased, Wildrick Guerrier, 34, exhibited cholera-like symptoms but is believed to have received no medical treatment while in a Haitian police station cell in the midst of a cholera epidemic. A second deported person was reportedly exhibiting cholera-like symptoms and released without medical attention.

Guerrier, AP reported, “had participated in a hunger strike while detained in the U.S. and wrote to immigration attorneys that returning to Haiti amounted to a death sentence.” He may have been healthy when he arrived in Haiti, as AP earlier had reported

Immigration advocates complain that Haiti's notoriously unsanitary jails pose a grave risk for those sent back. They say Guerrier was healthy when he was deported before being crowded into a cell along with 17 other men.

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"Big Setback" for Haitian Democracy as U.S. Gets Its Way Print
Friday, 04 February 2011 16:34

For anyone who missed it, our press release from yesterday, in reaction to the CEP's decision, is below. What has received little attention so far is that not all CEP members signed the statement; in fact, it may be that only four out of eight actually did so. We will post more details and analysis as the information becomes available.

"Big Setback" for Haitian Democracy as U.S. Gets Its Way; Forces Runoff Elections Between Two Right-Wing Candidates, CEPR Co-Director Says

Second Round Will Be Between Candidates Who Received Around 6.4% and 4.5% Percent Support from Registered Voters in First Round, Respectively

Washington, D.C. - Haiti's democracy and national sovereignty were severely undermined today, Mark Weisbrot, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), said today, reacting to news that Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) had given in to external pressure and announced that government-backed candidate Jude Celestin will not proceed to the second round of elections.

"What a disgrace this is to the United States government: the richest country in the world has forced one of the poorest to change the results of its presidential election, literally under the threat of starvation," Weisbrot said. "Now two right-wing candidates, who received votes from around 6.4 and 4.5 percent of registered voters, respectively, will compete for the presidency, in another farcical 'election.'

"This is a big setback for democracy in Haiti. Far from fixing the problems with the first elections, this is simply an attempt to impose an illegitimate government on Haiti, and it will backfire," Weisbrot said.

"Washington also continues to try to keep former President Aristide, the country's first democratically elected president, out of the country. This is equally inexcusable and will also fail," Weisbrot also stated.

Read the rest here.

 
Haiti Resists US Pressure, Announces Aristide Can Return Print
Wednesday, 02 February 2011 16:04

CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot writes in The Guardian (UK) today:

It didn’t get much attention in the media, but U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did something quite surprising on Sunday. After taping interviews on five big Sunday talk shows about Egypt, she then boarded a plane to Haiti. Yes, Haiti. The most impoverished country in the hemisphere, not exactly a “strategic ally” or a global player on the world’s political stage.

Inquiring minds might want to know why the United States’ top foreign policy official would have to go to Haiti in the midst of the worst crisis she has faced. The answer is that there is also a crisis in Haiti. And it is a crisis that – unlike the humanitarian crisis that Haiti has suffered since the earthquake last year – Washington really cares about.

Like the Egyptians, Haitians are calling for free and fair elections. But in this case Washington will not support free and fair elections, even nominally. Quite the opposite, in fact. For weeks now the U.S. government has been threatening the government of Haiti with various punishments if it refuses to reverse the results of the first round of its presidential elections. Washington wants Haiti to eliminate the government’s candidate and leave only two right-wing candidates to compete in the second round.

Just three weeks ago it looked like a done deal. The Organization of American States (OAS) “Expert Verification Mission” did a report on Haiti’s Nov. 28 presidential elections, and on Jan. 10 it was leaked to the press. The report recommended moving the government’s candidate, Jude Celestin, into third place by just 0.3 percent of the vote; leaving right-wing candidates Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady, and Michel Martelly, a popular musician, in first and second place, respectively. This was followed with various statements and threats from U.S. and French officials that Haiti must accept this change of result. U.S. officials strongly implied that aid to Haiti would be cut if the government didn’t do as told. It looked as if desperately poor Haiti would have to give in immediately.

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Congressional Black Caucus Statement on Elections Print
Tuesday, 01 February 2011 18:08

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Task Force on Foreign Policy and International Affairs has called on the US administration and the international community to support new elections in Haiti and states that, "the will of the people of Haiti was not, in good faith, represented.  We believe that the recommendation of a new election should be included in the OAS report, and it should not be endorsed, in its entirety, as it currently stands." The full text of the just distributed CBC Task Force statement follows:

 

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Hillary Clinton Calls For "Free, Fair, and Credible Elections" Print
Tuesday, 01 February 2011 16:55

On Sunday, Hillary Clinton, speaking with Bob Schieffer of CBS's Face the Nation urged Egypt's authoritarian ruler, Hosni Mubarak, to begin the process for "free, fair, and credible elections." Protestors have taken to the streets for over a week calling for democratic change and for Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt with US support for nearly 30 years, to step down.

Yet on the same day that she made those comments Hillary Clinton also traveled to Haiti to discuss a different election, one that was not free, fair nor credible, but that she never the less supports. Clinton was not in Haiti to call for new elections, nor was she pressuring the government to make the necessary changes (reforming the CEP, allowing all political parties to participate) to ensure an actual free, fair and credible electoral process.

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The Haiti Election Preliminary Results, Candidate Votes by Department Print
Tuesday, 01 February 2011 14:05

CEPR's paper, "Haiti's Fatally Flawed Election", which received significant media attention upon its release last month, has been updated and re-released with an accompanying data set that contains the totals from each tally sheet posted on the CEP's website. The data is easily sortable and search-able to allow users to analyze the preliminary results in any geographical sub set. Many election observers noted irregularities in specific voting centers or specific areas or the country. The data set would allow the observers to easily access the preliminary results from areas where they witnessed irregularities on election day. Additionally, the numbers in the paper have been updated to reflect the new, more complete, data set. In the graph below, the average number of votes for each of the top three candidates in each tally sheet is presented, broken down by department.

 
The Celestin Prophecy: What the INITE Statement Does, and Does Not, Say Print
Thursday, 27 January 2011 16:45
There is a good deal of confusion in current media reports regarding statements from INITE party members, and an INITE communiqué reported in the press beginning yesterday, regarding the continuation of Jude Celestin’s candidacy. It seems clear that reports that the second round will include only Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly have jumped the gun. As noted in the press, Jude Celestin did not sign the communiqué.

We are posting an unofficial translation of the full communiqué below, and the original, in kreyol, can be seen here (page 1) and here (page 2).

The statement does not state that Celestin is withdrawing. Nor does it say, as has been reported, that INITE “ is no longer supporting its presidential candidate,” rather, it is vague, suggesting that Celestin is welcome to withdraw -- but there is nothing in the communiqué itself that conveys that the party is requiring, or even pressuring him to do so.

Some reports have left out any mention of the communique’s explicit references to international pressure and “intimidation”, complaints against which form the central theme of the communiqué. The communiqué makes it quite clear that the decision to “agree to see [Celestin] withdraw his candidacy for president” is a reluctant one, which the party says it makes “because INITE does not want the people’s suffering to increase even more” – a credible response to implied threats of aid cutoffs. It is perhaps notable that the U.S. is widely rumored to have revoked the visas of one of the signers, Jean Joseph Moliere, as part of a pressure campaign on the Préval government and INITE.

Here is the full text of the communiqué, in English, followed by kreyol:

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