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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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MINUSTAH Admits There Were Some Problems Print
Monday, 29 November 2010 18:31
A full day after polls closed in Haiti, MINUSTAH issued a statement describing its account of what happened yesterday. For the first time, the organization acknowledges some of the more serious irregularities in the vote [Google translation]:
If everyone wants to use the power of the polls, very few of them succeed. Because their name is not on the electoral register. "I have my card, I can not vote. Yet it is in this camp that I had signed up, "says one voter, visibly angry. A similar situation in the camp Jean-Marie Vincent had resulted in an early event and widespread panic despite a very noticeable presence of the Haiti National Police (HNP) and MINUSTAH peacekeepers.
The statement goes on to acknowledge other problems, and to cite presidential candidates’ condemnation of the elections and protests and “unrest” by thousands of Haitians. But it also falls far short of acknowledging the scale of the problems that beset yesterday’s vote, and cites CEP head Gaillot Dorsinvil downplaying the instances of irregularities.
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Call for International Community to Reject Haiti’s "Sham" Elections Widely Reported Print
Monday, 29 November 2010 15:26
CEPR’s statement, citing Co-Director Mark Weisbrot’s calling for the international community to reject Haiti’s flawed elections, and describing the numerous irregularities that CEPR’s Alex Main witnessed and others that were reported in the press, has been cited in numerous media reports today. The Miami Herald, BBC, Reuters, AFP, Radio France, and Deutsche Welle are among the outlets reporting on it, and it has received a good deal of attention in Brazilian and other Latin American media as well. Alex, Mark and other CEPR staff have been doing interviews today on the situation in Haiti with a number of radio, TV, and press outlets – you can listen, e.g. to Alex’s interview with WBAI’s Wake Up Call this morning here (Alex joins the program at 33:40).
 
Growing International Concern Over Haiti's Flawed Elections as 15 Presidential Candidates Call for Annulment Print
Monday, 29 November 2010 14:07
Official election observers from the OAS and CARICOM are staying quiet on their assessment on the elections, but others are beginning to express their concern over the numerous serious problems that affected yesterday’s vote. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) – soon expected to head the House Foreign Affairs Committee -- issued a statement today saying:
I am deeply concerned about and deeply regret reports of serious irregularities in today's elections in Haiti. They must be investigated immediately and steps taken to correct this wrong perpetrated against the democratic aspirations of the Haitian people.
Meanwhile Haiti Libre is reporting that a total of 15 presidential candidates are now calling for the election results to be annulled, with Génard Joseph (Groupement Solidarité), Yves Cristalin (Oganizasyon Lavni -LAVNI) and Yvon Neptune (Ayisyen Pou Ayiti) endorsing the sentiments of the previous 12 candidates. Various media reports have noted that annulment is favored by “all of the major contenders but one: Jude Celestin, who is backed by the Unity party of President Rene Preval.” 
 
Election Live-Blog Print
Sunday, 28 November 2010 10:42

Today, Haiti heads to the polls and CEPR's Alex Main, who has been in Haiti all week with delegates from the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, TransAfrica Forum, and other organizations, will be providing reports throughout the day. The delegates are observing events surrounding the elections, including the police and UN response to any protests, possible voter boycotts, voter access and participation levels. This space will be updated throughout the day with on the ground reports so please check back frequently, or follow Relief and Reconstruction Watch on Twitter.

UPDATE 11:07 PM: The Los Angeles Times' Joe Mozingo reports:

The electoral observation mission headed by the Organization of American States and Caribbean Community postponed a news conference it had scheduled in the afternoon. Colin Granderson, the chief of the observer mission, said it was still analyzing information from observers and would make a statement Monday.

One OAS official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak, said observers were called back in the middle of the day due to security concerns.

UPDATE 10:52 PM: AP is reporting signs of concern from the international community:

The United Nations said that it "and the international community expressed their deep concern at the numerous incidents that marred the elections." The chief OAS/Caribbean Community observer, Colin Granderson, added that observers were "in the process of evaluating and analyzing the information gathered on the conduct of the vote."

UPDATE 10:49 PM: Deutsche Presse Agentur reports:

It was not clear how many of the 4.7 million eligible voters were able to cast their ballots, given that many hadn't received their identification cards, which were lost in the earthquake.

'These are the worst elections I have ever seen,' an international observer told dpa.

DPA also reports:

One foreign journalist said he saw the head of a polling station open ballots before placing them in the ballot box in the Cite Soleil neighbourhood.

If the ballot was not in favour of the party preferred by the woman, she tore it up, the journalist claimed.

UPDATE 9:13 PM: The Globe and Mail reports on the political conflict between the 12 presidential candidates and thousands of frustrated Haitians, on the one hand, and the CEP, on the other:

“The CEP is comfortable with the vote,” council president Gaillot Dorsainvil said, deepening the standoff between the government and its opposition, a rivalry that was magnified in the streets of the capital.

The Globe and Mail also quotes IJDH's Brian Concannon on what could be done to rectify the situation:

“They could appoint a new electoral council, reopen registration for candidates and hold another election in four or five months,” Mr. Concannon said. “It would be expensive but we are essentially financing this election and we want it to be a good election.”

UPDATE 6:44 PM: The Financial Times' Benedict Mander has a new article citing Alex on an incident of a voting center trashing in Carrefour, and on voter turn-out. The article, headlined "Haiti poll denounced as ‘massive fraud’", also includes this comment from the OAS:

“We’re looking at the best elections possible under the circumstances,” Albert Ramdin, Organisation of American States assistant secretary-general, who is in Haiti to monitor the elections, told The Associated Press. “We know that the [voter] list is not complete. We know that the list is inflated. We know that much more needed to be done to be on time in terms of training of polling station workers.”

UPDATE 6:25 PM: Don't go to USAID's Twitter page if you're looking for information on any of the numerous and widely reported irregularities, protests, or violence today, or the exclusion of political parties, or calls for election cancellation by 12 of the presidential candidates. If, however, you want to see photos of what appears to be a well-organized, orderly, and calm process, USAID has that, as well as information on how USAID "is spending $14 million to support elections in Haiti today."

UPDATE 5:43 PM: Reuters' Joseph Guyler Delva and Pascal Fletcher are reporting that at least two people were killed in election-related violence today, and a polling station "trashed" by would-be voters who did not find their names on the voter lists. Reuters:

Voters' frustration at not being able to cast their ballots due to organizational problems at many polling stations in the capital Port-au-Prince boiled over into street protests.
...

One protest of several thousand people in the Petionville district was led by Martelly, joined by Haitian-American hip-hop star Wyclef Jean, who was barred from standing in the presidential race by electoral officials in August.

Presidential candidate Charles Henri Baker also joined Martelly and Wyclef in the march - see a photo here.

UPDATE 4:55 PM:
The New York Times' latest - Damien Cave and Randal C. Archibold report:

Citing what they said was an effort by the party of President Rene Preval to stuff ballot boxes and turn away voters who did not support Mr. Preval’s chosen candidate, the [presidential] candidates called for protests if the election was not canceled.

“This is an earthquake of an election,” said Leslie Voltaire, one of the candidates. “This will divide the country, not unite it.”

UPDATE 3:41 PM: AP's Jonathan Katz and Ben Fox have more details on the presidential candidates' press conference today, video of which is available here. AP reports:

Nearly all the major candidates in Haiti's presidential election called for Sunday's election to be voided amid allegations of fraud and reports that large numbers of voters were turned away from polling stations throughout the quake-stricken country.

Twelve of the 19 candidates endorsed a joint statement denouncing the voting as fraudulent and calling on their supporters to show their anger with demonstrations against the government and the country's Provisional Electoral Council.

The statement included all of the major contenders but one: Jude Celestin, who is backed by the Unity party of President Rene Preval.

UPDATE 2:16 PM: Reuters reports that "twelve out of the 18 presidential candidates in Haiti’s elections on Sunday demanded the vote be canceled, alleging widespread fraud." Reuters notes that this is a "serious blow to the credibility of the United Nations-supported elections."

UPDATE 1:54 PM:
[Alex had reported to us just before 2:00pm] Waney 93, Carrefour: cops swinging pistols around in front of center as we arrive. Very tense atmosphere. People out in front tell us that a group of unidentified thugs entered the center and kicked and crushed ballot boxes and wreaked general havoc. They appear to have left but the police think there may still be some thugs inside and prevent us from entering.

UPDATE 1:28 PM:
CBC is reporting more details on the presidential candidates' press conference this afternoon "to denounce 'massive fraud happening all over the country,' according to the Martelly camp." Along with Michel Joseph Martelly, Mirlande Manigat, Charles-Henri Baker and Jean Henry Ceant are expected to take part. CBC reports:

Most polls opened an hour or more after their 6 a.m. start time. Confusion reigned at many: Observers from dozens of parties crowded voting areas and furious voters were turned away from stations where poll workers could not find their names on lists.

UPDATE 1:11 PM: In Carrefour, close to epicenter of earthquake, at voting center located at Ecole Nationale de Merger. Everything is calm here though we are told that participation is fairly low. No big complaints from any of the political party election witnesses. Talk to group that's sitting in the shade and they say that they've voted. But they know many people who came to vote but didn't find their names on the official list and headed back home. I ask a young man why he's decided to vote and, like many other voters I talk to, he says: so that things change.  Back in car we hear that some of the presidential candidates are about to hold a press conf and announce that, because of massive fraud, elections need to be annulled.

UPDATE 12:59 PM:
Jacqueline Charles, of the Miami Herald, just Tweeted that presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat is calling for the elections to be annulled.

UPDATE 12:58 PM: Agence France Presse reports on MINUSTAH head Edmund Mulet’s rosy view of the elections so far:

"In general everything is going well, everything is peaceful," Mulet, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSTAH which is helping to police the elections, told AFP.

"I see a great passion of citizens and from citizens for democracy in this country. MINUSTAH is here. There is no reason to be frightened. It's an electoral celebration," Mulet said.

"The decision of the people will be respected. There are some small administrative problems, but no big problem that is going to reduce participation."

AFP reports, however, that

Mulet said there had been some "minor incidents" in the northern city of Desdunes.

The mayor there, Wesner Archelus, a member of an opposition party, described a hostage-taking incident which left several people injured and caused him to take refuge in a police station.

"There was shooting all night. Clashes erupted in a voting station where an election monitor from the ruling party was briefly taken hostage," he told AFP.

And the Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles just Tweeted: “At least one person killed, maybe 3 so far in #haiti #election day violence.”

News articles report widespread voter ID card problems, late openings of polling stations, and other challenges similar to what we’ve already posted today. The New York Times’ Randal C. Archibold writes:

People waited in long lines on Saturday to pick up new or replacement identification cards, and many people said they had already endured a confusing odyssey to apply for them.

As one office in the Pétionville neighborhood closed at the designated hour, people still in line screamed in anger and disbelief. Workers tossed away several receipts that had been turned in to pick up the cards and carted away boxes of cards they had failed to give out.

The Times also noted that the U.S. Ambassador admitted some serious problems with the electoral process yesterday:

“You have people who are registered to vote in their old neighborhoods but living somewhere else,” the ambassador, Kenneth H. Merten, said in an interview on Saturday. “I’m not sure that all of them know where they have to go. We will see tomorrow.”

“They have been doing what they can, but I am not sure that it is enough,” Mr. Merten said of the government.

Reuters reported this morning:

At the Alexandre Petion high school in Port-au-Prince, electoral workers were still arranging the desks and urns half an hour after polls were officially due to open at 6 a.m. . The voters list and ballot papers had not yet arrived, the workers said.

At another station without electricity guarded by Brazilian U.N. peacekeepers beside the Champs de Mars earthquake survivors’ camp in the city center, poll officials had used their mobile phone lights as they rushed to prepare the center in the early morning darkness.

Long past the official opening time, a small group of young voters waited patiently outside, far outnumbered by electoral officials, party observers and U.N. troops.

And the Miami Herald’s Charles described incidents yesterday including:

In the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville, government workers walked out at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, leaving dozens of disgruntled voters at the window with no cards.

Earlier in the day, frustrated voters took to the streets in Cap-Haitien, marching from the local Office of National Identification to the mayor's office after they were unable to get their cards.

UPDATE 12:12 PM: Ecole nationale de Thor in Kafou: fairly quiet. 50 or so ballots in boxes except one that appears to be stuffed. Some folks who aren't on lists.

UPDATE 11:45 AM: Just visited Licee Henri Christophe in Dikuini 63: again big groups of disgruntled voters that aren't on the lists and waiting, it seems, for CEP to announce measure allowing them to vote. Also, another phenomenon: big group of mandataires that say they're not on lists in this center but should be allowed to vote in bureau where they are observing. Most seem to be from Ansamn Nou Fo and a "leader" has provided many of them with meals (spaghetti) and beverages. They are also just waiting outside (rather than observing bureaux). In most bureaux there is no voter activity and people who couldn't find names on lists just waiting in front.

UPDATE 11:30 AM: Partners relaying reports of early morning violence in Desdunes in Artibonite Valley. Shots fired in the air to disperse lines of voters; some were injured including the mayor after confrontations between parties.

UPDATE 11:07 AM: Greeted by group of potential voters as we enter Alta Kindergarten but it turns out they are not on the lists. INITE controls the polling center and witnesses from other parties complain that they have been unable to vote and accuse INITE witnesses of voting several times. Big argument breaks out in front of a polling station where an apparently illiterate voter is "helped" in filling out ballot by a member of the bureau. The police intervene.

UPDATE 10:50 AM: Just left Ecole George Washington. There was a big fight going on in front. Some said it was INITE vs. Cean supporters; others said it was INITE vs. everyone else. Eventually the cops showed up and cocked their shotguns; people started running, cops arressted a guy and took him away. The fighting continues and many folks outside say they're not on the voter lists. I Managed to get inside eventually, but there were hardly any voters. Mandataires [party witnesses] tell us that there's been major fraud and that bureaux [polling location] should be closed. We are told that militants from INITE have been showing up with fake mandataire cards in order to take place of mandataires from other parties and that the police have arrested four false mandataires here.

UPDATE 10:45 AM: Numerous reports of people not being able to vote because they were not on voting lists. In Corail, voting was stopped. Many people wanted to vote, but only 39 people were registered.


 
Elections in the Time of Cholera, Part IV Print
Sunday, 28 November 2010 09:34
The following is the fourth installment of Alex Main's triplog from Haiti, click here for the first, here for the second, or here for the third:

Today, elections are being held in Haiti.  The country’s electoral authority, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP by its French initials), has approved 19 presidential candidacies and 950 legislative candidacies.  Though this may seem like a lot, a number of other candidates were barred from running by the CEP without real justification, including the list of parliamentary candidates presented by Haiti’s largest political party, Fanmi Lavalas. 

The U.S. and Organization of American States (OAS) criticized the unwarranted exclusion of Fanmi Lavalas from the 2009 legislative elections, though they still ended up endorsing the election results.  This time around, neither the U.S., nor OAS, nor any other major international actor has denounced the CEP’s decision to exclude candidates, though U.S. members of Congress and a number of civil society organizations have done so.   
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Elections in the Time of Cholera, Part III Print
Saturday, 27 November 2010 11:36

Leading up to the elections on Sunday we will be posting commentary from CEPR's Alex Main, who is in Haiti this week. The following is the third installment, click here for the first or here for the second:

After a heavy dose of meetings with foreign aid workers at the UN Log base we decide that it’s time that we heard from some of the Haitians most affected by the January 12 earthquake.  Over two days we visit a few of the tent and tarp camps around Port-au-Prince that are now home to nearly a million and a half individuals who lost their homes during the quake. Everywhere we go we ask camp dwellers – referred to in a clinical manner by the international aid community as internally displaced people, or IDPs – what they think of the elections, the cholera epidemic and the general situation of their country following the earthquake. 

Chanmas 

Located in the heart of downtown Port-au-Prince in the Chanmas public park, this camp lodges hundreds of families that lost their homes in the nearby neighborhoods of Kafou Fey and Fò Nasyonal which were hit particularly hard by the earthquake.  As is frequently the case with most of the camps throughout the city, Chanmas is an informal camp; in other words, the Haitian government never authorized the use of the site for temporary shelter.  According to camp dwellers and outside witnesses, Haitian authorities, with the backing of MINUSTAH and the Haitian police, have done everything they can to discourage people from staying by restricting aid and intimidating residents.  But for many of those who set up camp here in the days following the earthquake there was no other available space in the area and, to this day, there is nowhere else for them to go.  And so, despite the discomfort, hostility and lack of basic services they have for the most part stayed put.

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Elections in the Time of Cholera, Part II Print
Friday, 26 November 2010 11:05

Leading up to the elections on Sunday we will be posting updates and commentary from CEPR's Alex Main, who is in Haiti this week. The following is the second installment, click here for the first:

Every Tuesday morning at the UN Log base representatives of international agencies and relief organizations involved in post-quake relief operations meet in “cluster” meetings, where they share news regarding their various projects and discuss ways in which to coordinate and improve delivery of humanitarian assistance on the ground.  If there’s any place that can be considered the strategic hub of the relief effort, this is it.  We arrive at the base at 8am eager to learn more about how organizations are responding to the cholera crisis and what is being done, if anything, in relation to the November 28 legislative and presidential elections.  

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Is it Time for MINUSTAH to Wrap it Up? Print
Wednesday, 24 November 2010 16:27
At the UN General Assembly discussion on Haiti next Friday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in keeping with past practice, is likely to heap praise on MINUSTAH and the elections process. As we noted yesterday, MINUSTAH’s position on the rigged nature of the elections through party exclusion is to pretend there is no controversy: “Mulet said there have been no allegations of government manipulation of the campaign or any other wrongdoing,"  Bloomberg's Bill Varner reported yesterday. Voter access and registration? Miraculously, close the entire eligible voting population has already registered, disease outbreaks, homelessness, and other obstacles be damned.

Since MINUSTAH is doing such an amazing job at fulfilling their mission, perhaps it’s time to ask: when is MINUSTAH going to leave? Bob Naiman at Just Foreign Policy proposes that it’s time for a timetable for MINUSTAH’s withdrawal, and some foreign leaders are also calling for the UN troops to leave Haiti.

Naiman writes:
Haitian protesters have been chanting: "MINUSTAH go home," MINUSTAH being the name of the UN force.

Why do UN troops remain in Haiti? What are their plans for leaving? Is there a timetable for the withdrawal of UN forces from Haiti? If not, why not?

If the demands by Haitian protesters for UN forces to leave are not just, shouldn't someone have to explain why? No explanation is being given for why UN troops should remain in Haiti indefinitely.
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