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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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USAID/OTI's Politicized, Problematic Cash-for-Work Programs Print
Tuesday, 21 December 2010 17:26

Last week the Associated Press reported, "Out of every $100 of U.S. contracts now paid out to rebuild Haiti, Haitian firms have successfully won $1.60". The AP focused on two of the largest contractors with USAID, Chemonics and DAI, two companies we had previously reported on. The AP article cites a USAID Inspector General (IG) report that showed that both Chemonics and DAI were hiring significantly fewer Haitians in the Cash-for-Work programs than what was originally thought. A closer look at the Inspector General report (PDF) finds that this was only one of many problems with these two companies.

First, it is important to highlight the distinction between Chemonics, DAI and other contractors providing Cash-for-Work (CFW) services.  There are a total of four contractors who are providing CFW programs in Haiti, two of them through USAID/Haiti and two through USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI). While USAID's website describes their role as the primary U.S. agency to "extend assistance to countries recovering from disaster, trying to escape poverty, and engaging in democratic reforms," the Office of Transition Initiatives has a more overtly political aspect.  OTI describes itself as supporting "U.S. foreign policy objectives by helping local partners advance peace and democracy in priority countries in crisis. Seizing critical windows of opportunity, OTI works on the ground to provide fast, flexible, short-term assistance targeted at key political transition and stabilization needs." USAID documents, examined by Haiti Grassroots Watch, also betray a political motive behind the CFW programs: they "decrease chances of unrest." In this way, they may have a similar function as past USAID/OTI programs such as OTI sponsorship of soccer games during the 2004-2006 post-coup regime that OTI saw as undermining support for Fanmi Lavalas and protests against the undemocratic government (and, we would add, the rampant human rights abuses it was perpetrating).

According to the USAID IG report, while the contractors under USAID/Haiti were relatively more successful, the OTI contractors (Chemonics and DAI) had numerous problems. Both DAI and Chemonics operate under an Indefinite Quantity Contract with USAID/OTI that allows them to bypass the traditional bidding process and begin operations on the ground quickly when an opportunity for engagement arises.

The Indefinite Quantity Contract with Chemonics provides some insight into the role that OTI plays in US foreign policy and in regards to foreign disaster assistance. The contract specifies the four "criteria for engagement":

·    Is the country important to U.S. national interests?
·    Is there a window of opportunity?
·    Can OTI's involvement significantly increase the chances of success?
·    Is the operating environment sufficiently stable?

The contract continues, going into more detail on each criterion. Under the first criterion, the contract states "OTI seeks to focus its resources where they will have the greatest impact on U.S. diplomatic and security interests." When assessing if there is a "window of opportunity", the contract states that "OTI cannot create a transition or impose democracy, but it can identify and support key individuals and groups who are committed to peaceful, participatory reform. In short, OTI acts as a catalyst for change where there is sufficient indigenous political will."

These ominous words should raise the eyebrows of anyone unfamiliar with OTI, an interventionist arm of USAID that has been used in democracies such as Venezuela (2002-present), and Bolivia (2004-2007). The U.S. government’s desire to promote “transition” in such democratic countries has aroused considerable controversy, and understandably: the above language frames OTI’s activities in terms of something short of a coup d’etat or other government destabilization (a “create[d] transition” or “impose[d] democracy”). This raises questions also regarding why the U.S. government feels an OTI presence is called for in Haiti.
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"Wikileaks Show Why Washington Won't Allow Democracy in Haiti" - Mark Weisbrot in The Guardian Print
Friday, 17 December 2010 12:21
CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot writes in The Guardian (UK):
The polarization of the debate around Wikileaks is pretty simple, really. Of all the governments in the world, the United States government is the greatest threat to world peace and security today. This is obvious to anyone who looks at the facts with a modicum of objectivity. The Iraq war has claimed hundreds of thousands, and most likely more than a million lives. It was completely unnecessary and unjustifiable, and based on lies. Now, Washington is moving toward a military confrontation with Iran.

As Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, pointed out in an interview recently, in the preparation for a war with Iran, we are at about the level of 1998 in the build-up to the Iraq war.

On this basis, even ignoring the tremendous harm that Washington causes to developing countries in such areas as economic development (through such institutions as the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization), or climate change, it is clear that any information which sheds light on U.S. “diplomacy” is more than useful. It has the potential to help save millions of human lives.

You either get this or you don’t. Brazil’s president Lula da Silva, who earned Washington’s displeasure last May when he tried to help defuse the confrontation with Iran, gets it.  That’s why he defended and declared his “solidarity” with embattled Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, even though the leaked cables were not pleasant reading for his own government.

One area of U.S. foreign policy that the Wikileaks cables help illuminate, which the major media has predictably ignored, is the occupation of Haiti.  In 2004 the country’s democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was overthrown for the second time, through an effort led by the United States government. Officials of the constitutional government were jailed and thousands of its supporters were killed.
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Haitian Companies Bypassed in Favor of DC Area Contractors with Poor Track Records Print
Monday, 13 December 2010 11:38
An excellent Associated Press article by Martha Mendoza yesterday looks at how Haitian contractors have fared since the earthquake. The verdict: not so well at all. Beltway contractors on the other hand have made out extremely well. The AP report found that:
Out of every $100 of U.S. contracts now paid out to rebuild Haiti, Haitian firms have successfully won $1.60, The Associated Press has found in a review of contracts since the earthquake on Jan. 12. And the largest initial U.S. contractors hired fewer Haitians than planned.
The article focuses on the two largest recipient of post-earthquake contracts, Development Alternatives Inc.(DAI) and Chemonics, both based in the Washington, DC area. We first reported on these two organizations and the millions in contracts they had received back in February and March. Chemonics has past ties to one of the companies most responsible for the invasion of Miami Rice into Haiti in the 80s and 90s, while DAI has its own questionable past. We also questioned the disbursement of funds to a company that the Government Accountability Office and USAID Inspector General have found to have a poor track record of program implementation. In addition to the Cash-for-Work programs that Chemonics is implementing in Haiti, they have also received agricultural aid contracts. Yet this is the same area for which they have come under scrutiny in Afghanistan. As we wrote in March:
Chemonics has been tapped by USAID in Afghanistan as well, in an effort to improve the agricultural sector. Chemonics received a $153 million contract in 2003.

In 2005 the Government Accountability Office found that Chemonics had failed to "address a key program objective", and that "consequently, during its first 15 months, the project`s progress in strengthening Afghanistan`s market chain was limited."

Despite this, Chemonics received a contract in 2006 for $102 million. Once again, the USAID Inspector General found significant problems with the program:
Chemonics reported results for all eight indicators for the first year of the program. However, the audit identified that for two of the eight indicators, reported results fell considerably short of intended results. Targets had not been established for the other six indicators making it difficult to tell how well the project was proceeding. In addition, Chemonics did not have documentation to adequately support reported results for six indicators. In two of the six cases, the support was inadequate, while in four cases there was no support at all. For example, Chemonics had inadequate support for the reported result that 1,719 individuals had received short-term agricultural training, and no support for the reported result that project activities had generated an economic value in excess of $59 million. In addition, the audit found that a major program activity—the Mazar foods initiative—was behind schedule. This $40 million initiative to cultivate 10,000 hectares for a commercial farm was not finalized in time to take advantage of the summer planting season as initially planned.
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Elections Were Marred Long Before November 28 Print
Wednesday, 08 December 2010 17:24
Last night the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced preliminary results from last Sunday's flawed elections. The results: Mirlande Manigat, and President Rene Preval's hand-picked successor, Jude Celestin, would compete in a run-off election scheduled for January. Finishing in third place was Michel Martelly, just 6,800 votes - or less than one percentage point - behind Celestin. The United States Embassy was quick to offer a response:
Like others, the Government of the United States is concerned by the Provisional Electoral Council’s announcement of preliminary results from the November 28 national elections that are inconsistent with the published results of the National Election Observation Council (CNO), which had more than 5,500 observers and observed the vote count in 1,600 voting centers nationwide, election-day observations by official U.S. observers accredited by the CEP, and vote counts observed around the country by numerous domestic and international observers.
The National Election Observation Council, whose observations from election day can be seen here, announced their own preliminary results yesterday. According to the CNO, based on a sample of 15 percent of polling stations, Manigat and Martelly would reach the second round, with Celestin falling short.

Demonstrations have been ongoing since the announcement last night, and many news reports have been focusing on the election day fraud and apparent manipulation of results by the CEP, however few have noted that these elections were not free nor fair even before election day. Writing in the New York Daily News, Beatrice Lindstrom notes that:
The Election Day irregularities are just the latest in a long line of actions by the CEP to maximize the ruling party's electoral success by excluding popular opponents and reducing voter participation. The CEP rejected 15 political parties from participating in the election's parliamentary races, and efforts to re-register displaced voters were inconsistent.

In light of these problems, political parties, human rights groups and Haitian voters warned that these elections would be a sham. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and 44 other members of Congress expressed grave concern, and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) warned that the "absence of democratically elected successors could potentially plunge the country into chaos."

Haitian voters deserve better. It is not too late for the Joint Mission to condemn the flawed process and call for new, fair elections. It is critical that it does so. Truly democratic elections are a prerequisite to ensuring peace and stability through the difficult rebuilding process that lies ahead.
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Wikileaks Reveals MINUSTAH Fatigue – Among MINUSTAH Members Print
Monday, 06 December 2010 16:42

As MINUSTAH attempts to blackmail Haiti’s political parties, candidates, and wider population into accepting the soon-to-be-announced results of November 28’s deeply flawed elections, secret State Department communications recently revealed by Wikileaks reveal further waning support for the UN mission among participating countries – including Brazil.

We previously noted that Wikileaked documents suggest that Brazil’s leadership of MINUSTAH lacks domestic support and that Brazil maintains that position in order to prove its worth for a possible seat on the UN Security Council. Another document from January 2009, available here, goes further, suggesting that the Brazilian Army itself has “frustration with the lack of an exit strategy in Haiti.” And another newly released cable from a year ago states (Hat tip, again, to Ansel Herz):

Less obviously, Brazil remains uncomfortable in its leadership on MINUSTAH. To the constant refrain of ‘we cannot continue this indefinitely,’ Brazil has been increasingly insistent that international efforts to promote security must go hand in hand with commitments to economic and social development-a theme it will take to the UNSC in January.

The document also notes Brazil’s goal regarding the UNSC:

Brazil's top foreign policy priority remains obtaining a seat on the UN Security Council and, as it takes its place in January as a non-permanent UNSC member for the tenth time, it is aware that its actions will be closely watched.
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Signs of International Pressure to Accept Flawed Elections Print
Friday, 03 December 2010 13:01
It started early Sunday morning. Polling stations were late to open, voters were not finding their names on the lists, and general confusion reigned. In Corail, the "model" IDP camp, only 39 people were registered out of a camp population of thousands. The voting center was closed soon after it opened. Despite the chaotic scene on the ground, the head of MINUSTAH, Edmond Mulet offered his rosy view that "In general everything is going well, everything is peaceful," adding that "MINUSTAH is here. There is no reason to be frightened. It's an electoral celebration."

But soon after, to the surprise of many, 12 of the 18 presidential candidates, from all sides of the political spectrum, held a press conference denouncing fraud and calling for the annullment of the elections. As Reuters described it on election day, "The repudiation of the elections dealt a blow to the credibility of the U.N.-supported poll."

Yet the next morning, two of the leading candidates going into the election, Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly both walked back considerably from their previous position. Many news accounts have credited the about-face to the candidates likely ascension to the second round of voting, but Reuters provides a possible alternative motive:
But after 24 hours of intense pressure from UN officials and other foreign diplomats, two presidential front-runners, opposition matriarch Mirlande Manigat and popular musician Michel Martelly backed down and said they wanted the vote to be counted, saying they expected to be the election race leaders.
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National Observers Denounce Election Print
Thursday, 02 December 2010 17:28
Much has been made of the preliminary observation report from the OAS-CARICOM joint observation mission, yet very little attention has been paid to reports from national electoral monitors. While the OAS mission had just 120 observers, national observers from six organizations numbered around 6,000. The national observers had previously warned the OAS about the potential for fraud, and even participated in an OAS event to brief the "Group of Friends of Haiti" on the upcoming election. The national observers released the following statement the day after the election, as translated by Haiti Libre:
The signatory institutions of the present deplore the disastrous way in which the legislative and presidential elections was held this November 28, 2010. Many citizens have lost their lives or were seriously injured. Parallel ballots were smuggled in the circuit, polling stations were ransacked or burned, regular ballots have been washed away or torn. Many polling stations were closed so early without the minutes. A wind of revolt and rebellion blew within ten departments. Thirteen presidential candidates have sought the annulment of the elections. Rather than end in the serene recount of ballot boxes, the day ended in protests and clashes in the streets.

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"Illegitimate Election Is a Setback for Haiti" - Mark Weisbrot in The Guardian Print
Thursday, 02 December 2010 11:51
CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot writes in The Guardian (UK):
The “election” in Haiti shows once again how low Washington’s standards are for democracy in countries that they want to control politically. And there is no doubt who is in charge there. There is a government, to be sure, but since the elected government in 2004 was overthrown, and even more since the earthquake, it is the “international community” that calls the shots – Hillary Clinton’s code for the U.S. State Department.

The election was a farce to begin with, once the non-independent CEP (Provisional Electoral Council) decided to exclude the country’s largest political party from participating – along with other parties. Fanmi Lavalas is the party of Haiti’s most popular political leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. It has won every election that it has contested. Aristide himself remains in exile – unable to return since the U.S.-sponsored overthrow of his government in 2004.

Imagine holding an election in the United States with both the Democratic and Republican parties prohibited from participating. If we look at other troubled elections in the world – Iran in 2009, or Afghanistan more recently – Haiti’s is even less legitimate. It is perhaps most comparable to the recent election in Burma.
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Wikileaked Document on MINUSTAH Describes Lack of Public Support, Political Motives for Brazilian Leadership Print
Tuesday, 30 November 2010 15:54

A newly-available State Department cable leaked by Wikileaks supports what many critics of MINUSTAH have long alleged: that Brazil maintains its leadership of the mission out of political motives – in particular, to prove its worthiness for a seat on the UN Security Council. The document, from March 2008, also reveals that State Department officials acknowledged that there is very little public support for Brazil’s role in MINUSTAH back home in Brazil [Hat tip: Ansel Herz]:

7. (C) Brazil has stayed the course as leader of MINUSTAH in Haiti despite a lack of domestic support for the PKO. The MRE has remained committed to the initiative because it believes that the operation serves FM Amorim's obsessive international goal of qualifying Brazil for a seat on the UN Security Council. The Brazilian military remains committed as well, because the mission enhances its international prestige and provides training and operational opportunities. So far, President Lula has backed the Foreign Ministry's position, and Brazil will likely continue to provide leadership and troops to MINUSTAH for the conceivable future. Despite the success of the MINUSTAH deployment, Brazil has not shown any interest in undertaking further peacekeeping operations, although Brazilian contributions to UN operations in such places as Darfur have been requested.

[Glossary: PKO = Peace Keeping Operation; MRE = Ministry of External Relations; FM = Foreign Minister]

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OAS Approves of Electoral Process Despite Admitting Numerous Irregularities and Violence; CBC Urges More Caution Print
Tuesday, 30 November 2010 11:32
After cancelling a press conference set for Sunday evening, the OAS-CARICOM Joint Observation Mission announced their preliminary findings yesterday. There was a long list of irregularities on election day that echoed numerous media reports and what was witnessed by foreign observers, such as CEPR's Alex Main, including:
- late opening of Polling Stations

- inability of many voters to find the correct Voting Centre and/or Polling Station;

- inability of voters to find their names on the electoral registers posted up outside the Polling Stations;

- saturation of the call centres overwhelmed by callers seeking where to vote;

- instances of incorrect application of voting procedures ( the signing of the ballots by BV Presidents before the arrival of the voter);

- instances of voter manipulation – repeat voting of some voters facilitated by complicit poll workers and unidentified party agents;

- the lack of control of already limited voting space by the poll workers , as well as the indiscipline of many mandataires, led to clogged polling stations where control of the process became tenuous and facilitated misconduct.
The mission also noted that "There were also deliberate acts of violence and intimidation to derail the electoral process both in Port-au-Prince and the provinces." Yet despite this, the mission reached the conclusion that "the Joint Mission does not believe that these irregularities, serious as they were, necessarily invalidated the process."
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