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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Relief and Reconstruction: The Year in Review, Part II Print

Various journalists who have covered Haiti over the past year have published essays today with their thoughts, reflections, sentiments, and recollections. Notable among them is this one from the AP’s Jonathan Katz, who writes:

What is most distinct about this Jan. 12 — from the last and from all Haiti's 206 previous Jan. 12s — is that this one was supposed to be different.

If you live in basically any of the world's major economies, and a lot of minor ones, chances are that your government made a promise of money, commitment, speed, coordination and intent — not just to rebuild what was here before, but to help make it better.

But most of the money promised was not delivered, and most of the money delivered was not spent.

The underlying issues, the core problems that keep Haiti like this — poor governance, lack of institutions, lack of national leadership unimpeded by interference from abroad, a lack of even the most basic governing systems like tax collection, land registries or a census — were barely addressed, if at all.

On this Jan. 12, the aid groups and NGOs are flying in their bosses to tout very limited successes and ask for money to do it over again.

Elsewhere, articles in The Nation from Isabel MacDonald, and Isabeau Doucet assess the state of relief and reconstruction one-year later. Doucet writes:

On the tragedy's one-year anniversary, it’s become clear that perhaps the only positive aspect of the past 12 months has been the exposure of the failures of the NGO aid system, and the international community's long-standing use of the country as a laboratory for cashing in on disaster – both of which have been wrecking havoc on this country since long before the earthquake.

Despite being home to the world’s highest density of NGOs per capita, Haiti is presently being ravaged by a cholera epidemic with an official death toll of some 3,500, with experts estimating the number of dead at twice as high.

More than a million people are still living in overcrowded camps under the same now-frayed tarps they received last January. A third of these camps still don’t have toilets, and most Haitians have no access to potable water.

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Where Does the Washington Post Ed Board Get Its News on Haiti? Print

The Washington Post posted an editorial last evening on Haiti’s elections (which is in today's print edition). Not surprisingly, the Post's editorial writers -- who in the recent past have praised the deceased Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, and presented a “positive view of the Colombian government’s human rights record” despite major human rights scandals, including killings of thousands of civilians by the Colombian military – support the conclusions of the OAS Expert Mission’s report, which we found to be methodologically and statistically flawed and not conclusive.

The Post’s support for the OAS’ conclusions comes despite the fact that the writers have apparently not read the report. The editorial states:

The OAS report is expected to be publicly released this week. Diplomats and international aid officials who have seen it describe it as a careful work, based on a review of nearly a fifth of the more than 1 million ballots cast.

Nevertheless, the Post was ready to wholeheartedly endorse the integrity of the mission and its findings:

The OAS was invited by the government to sort out the electoral mess, and its report is based on an extensive sampling of ballots and statistical analysis by a team of specialists from the United States, France, Canada, Jamaica, Spain and Chile. Mr. Preval, who so far has said he knows nothing of the report, should embrace it clearly, audibly and publicly for the sake of stability and Haiti's long-term chances of recovery. To do otherwise would be to invite mayhem.

Shouldn’t President Preval take the time to determine whether the report is credible before quickly “embracing” it?

Of course readers of this blog knew the report was publicly available – on our site – yesterday, hours before the Post went to print with its editorial. Nor did the Post amend the article to note that the report is publicly available.

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CEPR Examines OAS Report on Haiti's Election, Finds It "Inconclusive, Statistically Flawed, and Indefensible" Print

The Center for Economic and Policy Research has posted the full OAS election report on its website [PDF], and after analyzing the report, released the following press release. Also see Robert Naiman's analysis on the parallels between what the OAS is advocating for in Haiti and the Bush vs. Gore recount in 2000.

Washington, D.C.- The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) has analyzed the Expert Verification Mission's Final Report from the Organization of American States (OAS) on Haiti’s presidential elections, which has not been released to the public but is now available on the CEPR website here [PDF]. CEPR’s analysis found that the OAS report cannot help determine the outcome of the first round of Haiti’s election.

“This report can’t salvage an election that was illegitimate, where nearly three-quarters of the electorate didn’t vote, and where the vote count of the minority that did vote was severely compromised,” said Mark Weisbrot, CEPR Co-Director and co-author of the report, “Haiti’s Fatally Flawed Election.

CEPR has been unable to find a presidential election in the Western Hemisphere, including Haiti, with such a low turnout, going back to 1947. Haiti’s parliamentary election of 2009, in which the country’s most popular political party was also banned, had a turnout of less than 10 percent.

The OAS report does confirm some of the most important conclusions from CEPR’s analysis of the elections, which was published on Sunday. For example, the OAS finds that 12 percent of the tally sheets were either not received by the Provisional Electoral Council or were quarantined – a much larger number of lost votes than the OAS or the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) had previously publicly acknowledged.

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OAS Backs Illegitimate Election in Haiti in Which Three-Quarters of Haitians Didn’t Vote Print
CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot writes in The Guardian (UK):

What is it about Haiti that makes the “international community” think they have the right to decide the country’s fate without the consent of the governed? Yes, Haiti is a poor country, but Haitians have fought very hard and lost many lives for the right to vote and elect a government.

Yet on November 28, nearly three-quarters of Haitians did not vote in the presidential and parliamentary elections. That is what we found when we went through 11,181 tally sheets from the election. This is a ridiculously low turnout for a presidential election.

Now the Organization of American States (OAS) has decided that the election should go to a runoff, finding that the top two finishers were former first lady Mirlande Manigat and the popular singer Michel Martelly. The OAS is proposing a runoff between presidential candidates who received about 6 and 4 percent, respectively, of the electorate's votes in the first round.

One reason that most Haitians did not vote is that the most popular political party in the country, Fanmi Lavalas, was arbitrarily excluded from the ballot.  This was also done in April 2009, in parliamentary elections, and more than 90 percent of voters did not vote. By contrast, in the 2006 presidential elections, participation was 59.3 percent. And it has been higher in the past, even for the parliamentary (non-presidential) election in 2000.

Haitians have taken great risks to vote when there was political violence, and have been pragmatic about voting even when their first choice was not on the ballot (as in 1996 and 2006). But the majority won’t vote when they are denied their right to choose. This is the big story of the election that most of the major media have missed entirely.

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Will the OAS Note All of These Election Irregularities? Print

Today we released the full report of our independent recount of vote tally sheets from Haiti’s November 28 presidential election. It found massive irregularities and errors in the vote tallies, including that 11.9 percent of tallies were not counted, while 8.4 percent were irregular. The report concludes that based on the numbers of irregularities, it is impossible to determine who should advance to a second round. If there is a second round, it will be based on arbitrary assumptions and/or exclusions.

“The amount of votes not counted or counted wrong in this election is huge – much larger than has been reported by either the Organization of American States or the Provisional Electoral Council,” CEPR Co-Director, and co-author of the report, Mark Weisbrot stated. “I don’t see how any professional observers could legitimately certify this election result.”

As the paper notes, the number of votes not counted actually is far more than has previously been stated by the OAS: “Nearly 4 percent of polling place tally sheets used to calculate the results were thrown out for alleged fraud at the tabulation center, [OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert] Ramdin said.”

The OAS is expected to announce the results of its recount as early as today, and Haitian Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive has reportedly said "his government was striving to leave a stable country for the next administration and will accept the results of the ...re-count that is expected to be completed in a few days." Meanwhile, the U.S. government signalled on Friday that it may support throwing out the November 28 election entirely depending in part on the OAS' conclusions:

Cheryl Mills, Hillary Rodham Clinton's chief of staff, said the U.S. is waiting for the 12-member election team from the Organization of American States to finish its report, expected next week. Mills said U.S. officials will evaluate any steps deemed necessary by the panel.

"If the OAS mission concludes that cancellation or redo ... needs to be considered, we obviously would be interested to understand how they came to those conclusions," Mills told reporters.

The U.S., then, "would want to review whether or not those conclusions were ones that we, too, could support," she added. "Those are the things we'd be willing to entertain, though I wouldn't be able to tell you what we are going to do until we know what they conclude."

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