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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Recount and Review of Haiti’s Election Tally Shows Massive Irregularities Print

The Center for Economic and Policy Research put out the following press release today:

Recount and Review of Haiti’s Election Tally Shows Massive Irregularities

 

Election Outcome In Doubt

WASHINGTON - December 30 - An independent recount and review of 11,171 tally sheets from Haiti’s November 28 election shows that the outcome of the election is indeterminate. The review, conducted by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), found massive irregularities and errors in the tally. A report detailing the recount’s findings, and methodology, will be made available next week.

“With so many irregularities, errors, and fraudulent vote totals, it is impossible to say what the results of this election really are,” said Mark Weisbrot, economist and CEPR Co-Director.

“If the Organization of American States certifies this election, this would be a political decision, having nothing to do with election monitoring,” said Weisbrot. “They would lose all credibility as a neutral election-monitoring organization.”

Among the preliminary findings:

•    While OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that “Nearly 4 percent of polling place tally sheets used to calculate the results were thrown out for alleged fraud at the tabulation center,” the actual number is closer to 12 percent. CEPR found that 11.9 percent (1,324) of the tally sheets were either never received by the CEP (Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council) or were quarantined by the CEP due to irregularities.  These tally sheets added up to more than 15 percent of the total votes counted.

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Wikileaked Documents Shed More Light on U.S., Brazilian Motives Behind MINUSTAH Print

As we’ve described in other posts, U.S. State Department documents made available by Wikileaks demonstrate that international support for MINUSTAH is an important priority for the U.S. government. A new cable recently released by Wikileaks may help explain why: Latin American alliance with a U.S.-objective that “completely excludes [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez” (h/t Ansel Herz):

11. (C) An increasingly unifying theme that completely excludes Chavez, and isolates Venezuela among the militaries and security forces of the region, is participation in international and regional peacekeeping operations. The Southern Cone is doing very well in this area, with all countries active contributors to PKO missions worldwide. Argentina and Chile have even formed a combined peacekeeping brigade, which is expected to be available for deployment sometime in 2008. Uruguay is the highest per-capita contributor of PKO troops. We should make more GPOI funds available to Southern Cone countries to increase and strengthen their peacekeeping capabilities and cooperation.

The cable also suggests that MINUSTAH could be an opening foray into such U.S.-promoted multilateral operations “on a broader scale”:

Additionally, we should explore using the mechanism that the region's contributors to MINUSTAH (Haiti) have established to discuss ways of increasing peacekeeping cooperation on a broader scale.

If these documents accurately reflect U.S. government goals regarding the mission, then Brazilian leadership is perhaps especially desirable, considering the Brazil-Venezuela rivalry that some in the U.S. foreign policy community believe – despite much evidence to the contrary – and perhaps desire, to exist. While other cables reveal that the U.S. sees Brazil’s main motivation in leading the force to be proving its worth for a UN Security Council seat, another cable from September 2009 - just released - describes what could be another motive:

ARMY GENERAL SUGGESTS ARMY SOLDIERS HELP PACIFY FAVELAS

4. (U) During a September 18 seminar hosted by Brazilian development bank BNDES entitled "Opportunities for Favelas," Brazilian Army General Alvaro de Souza Pinheiro (retired) stated the Brazilian Army was prepared to cooperate with Rio de Janeiro state and municipal officials and police to occupy and maintain control of favelas (Note: Rio de Janeiro state currently maintains special police units -UPP - that are controlling five favelas. End Note). Citing the Brazilian army's role in United Nations Peacekeeping operations in Haiti, he said many officers and units were specifically trained and prepared to undertake operations related to public security and general policing in communities lacking state control.

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One Week After the Quake, Hillary Clinton Directed a "Push Back" Against Criticism of U.S. Relief Efforts Print

One week after the earthquake, as three million survivors anxiously awaited water and other aid while the U.S. prioritized getting security teams in place first, Secretary Clinton sent a cable – made available by Wikileaks through The Guardian - to all U.S. embassies instructing diplomats to “push back” against “distorted” media coverage of the U.S. response to the quake:

I am deeply concerned by instances of inaccurate and unfavorable international media coverage of America's role and intentions in Haiti. This misinformation threatens to undermine the international partnership needed to help the people of Haiti, and to damage our international engagement across the range of issues. It is imperative to get the narrative right over the long term. Where you see ill-informed or distorted perspectives in your host country media, I direct you as Chief of Mission to personally contact media organizations at the highest possible level - owners, publishers, or others, as appropriate - to push back and insist on informed and responsible coverage of our actions and intentions, and to underscore the U.S. partnership with the Government of Haiti, the United Nations, and the world community. It is important that you and other members of your Embassy team engage opinion-makers in setting the record straight on America's commitment to assist the Haitian people and government in recovering from this disaster.

There were very serious problems with the U.S. effort that were not merely “distorted perspectives” or “misinformation”, however. The cable is dated the same day that Doctors Without Borders reported that one of its "plane[s] carrying 12 tons of medical equipment, including drugs, surgical supplies and two dialysis machines, was turned away three times from Port-au-Prince airport” in two days. The U.S., in control of the airports, also turned away other planes carrying relief supplies to Port-au-Prince and Jacmel. A USA Today report that day stated that the U.S. had only airlifted 70,000 bottles of water into Port-au-Prince in the week since the earthquake. NGO’s engaged in the relief effort at the time said "Right now the U.S. is blocking aid.”

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USAID/OTI's Politicized, Problematic Cash-for-Work Programs Print

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
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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