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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Congress Takes Action for Free and Fair Elections in Haiti Print
Tuesday, 05 October 2010 15:34

Robert Naiman writes today at Huffington Post:

There are many legitimate criticisms to be made of the electoral system in the United States as we know it. But it could be much worse. We could be confronted with the electoral system that Haitians are currently facing in elections scheduled for November 28.

In Haiti, as things are currently run, political parties are completely excluded from participation if the people currently in power don't like them, including Haiti's largest political party, the Fanmi Lavalas party of deposed and exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

It is a telling fact of our political-media culture that while American newspapers regularly carry articles, op-eds and editorials raising the alarm about democracy and human rights in countries where the U.S. has little influence, the major U.S. media are virtually silent about extreme violations of democratic rights in Haiti, a country where the U.S. has tremendous influence. (Two rare, praiseworthy exceptions have been the Miami Herald, which last month published this op-ed by Ira Kurzban, and the reporting of the AP's Jonathan Katz.)
Naiman then goes on to point out that part of the U.S. influence comes from the U.S. funding for the elections, already underway, despite these political party exclusions.


Haitian Elections: Less Parties Allowed, Less Voters Expected Print
Friday, 01 October 2010 10:47
An Inter Press Service article this week reports on widespread discontent with the planned November 28 elections. Surveying people in Port-au-Prince from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds, journalist Judith Scherr reports that
Residents of a number of camps recently told IPS they are neither ready nor willing to participate in the Nov. 28 elections, for which the international community is paying two-thirds of the $29 million cost.
and that
Only the more middle-class people interviewed said they planned to go to the polls.
Scherr describes some IDP’s sentiments, exemplified by a recent demonstration slogan "We are not going to the election in tents. We want housing before elections”, and noting that
In Camp Noailles, just outside Port-au-Prince, no one IPS spoke with planned to vote. A new president should come with plans to bring schools and jobs, "but most people come with a plan that doesn't work," one resident said.


Deadly Storm Underscores Importance of Rich Nations Living up to Aid Pledges Print
Wednesday, 29 September 2010 15:05
Jonathan Katz reports for the Associated Press on the status of aid the US had pledged for reconstruction efforts in Haiti. The verdict: “Not a cent of the $1.15 billion the U.S. promised for rebuilding has arrived.” Rich nations not living up to their pledges is a topic we have reported on previously, but the effects were recently highlighted when a storm swept through Haiti last week, killing at least five. Although it lasted just 30 minutes, the storm had dire consequences for the displaced earthquake survivors throughout the country. Describing the situation, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA wrote:
In camp Automeca the situation is very dramatic. The people who were not evicted from the camp and forced to relocate two months ago are now living on a very fragile piece of land, on the downhill slope where the latrines were previously located. The camp has become a sea of mud and the air is dominated by a staggering odor left behind by human waste. We found the residents practically nude, scrambling to clean belongings and cut the branches and trunks of fallen trees. The rains and winds had tattered some of the tens and destroyed others. We don’t yet have a firm number on how many were destroyed, but it is much the same as in the rest of the camps – many will not sleep tonight and they have nowhere to go.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported yesterday that even after some emergency shelter materials (tents and tarps) were delivered, there are still at least 14,000 families who are without even what meager shelter they had before the storm.


US and France Scold Displaced Haitians and Other Whiners for Being 'Impatient' and 'Unrealistic' Print
Tuesday, 21 September 2010 15:52
Speaking alongside a meeting with Haitian Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive, Hillary Clinton and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner addressed the "growing impatience in the Caribbean nation over the slow pace of recovery," reports AFP.

Hillary Clinton said, "Those who expect progress immediately are unrealistic and doing a disservice to the many people who are working so hard." While for his part, Kouchner said that "It's because they have no idea of the immensity of the disaster." These statements echo those that were made against people speaking out against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; that to criticize was to undermine or be "unpatriotic" in some way. Yet, it may be the foreign ministers who are unaware of the immensity of the disaster on the ground for the millions of Haitians still homeless nearly 9 months after the earthquake.


What Happened to Gerald Jean Gilles? Print
Tuesday, 21 September 2010 08:48
September 14, São Paulo based Brasil de Fato reported on the death of 16 year old Gerald Jean Gilles. The paper reports that the death may have been caused by MINUSTAH soldiers in the city of Cap-Haïtien. Thalles Gomes writes for Brasil de Fato (translated by lo-de-alla.org):
“They are suffocating me,” was the cry heard on August 17 by employees of the Henri Cristophe Hotel, in Cap-Haïtien, capital of the Nord department of Haiti. The call for help came from the Formed Police Units base belonging to MINUSTAH, the United Nations Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti. On that same day, Nepalese United Nations soldiers reported that Haitian Gerald Jean Gilles had entered their military base and had hanged himself.

The report issued by the UN did not explain how the young Gerald had managed to get into the military base, tie a rope on the patio and hang himself without any soldiers noticing.

Their version is contested vehemently by Gerald’s family and friends. According to them, the young man had been doing odd jobs for the Nepalese soldiers for some time in exchange for money or food. And the suspicion that Gerald had stolen 200 dollars from one of the soldiers was the reason the Nepalese soldiers tortured and suffocated him to death.


Selection, or Election? The Monitor Describes the CEP's Troubling Exclusion of Fanmi Lavalas et al Print
Friday, 17 September 2010 11:30
The Christian Science Monitor reported yesterday on the crisis of legitimacy surrounding the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) in Haiti. CSM writes:
Details of an Aug. 16 meeting between Mr. Préval and members of Haiti’s election commission (CEP) has observers questioning whether the CEP rejected candidates based on politics instead of the Constitution.
The Monitor continues, noting that some allege President Préval personally removed some candidates from the final list, including former U.S. ambassador and Jean’s uncle, Raymond Joseph.

Although the election process has received considerable media coverage, most of it has simply focused on the candidacy of Wyclef Jean and not the larger issues relating to the CEP. As we have written numerous times before, and as described in an open letter from over 20 Haiti and U.S.-based NGO’s to Secretary Clinton this week, the CEP has suffered from a lack of legitimacy well before the current electoral season because of their arbitrary exclusion of Haiti’s most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas, as well as numerous other political parties from last years planned legislative elections.  To the Monitor’s credit however, they also report on the exclusion of the political parties, writing:
The CEP excluded 14 political parties from parliamentary elections and seven political parties from presidential elections, including Fanmi Lavalas, the popular party of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Reasons given for its exclusion do not “pass the smell test under Haitian law,” says Mr. Concannon at IJDH.



Hurricane Igor Threatens Haiti as IDPs Demand Right to Housing, Education Print
Monday, 13 September 2010 11:04
AFP reports this morning that the Haitian Civil Protection Agency "declared an "orange alert," warning that several regions could be prone to flooding as a result of heavy rains expected in the next 48 hours" as Hurricane Igor approaches. The warning may affect the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons still living in makeshift camps over 8 months since the earthquake. As the first major hurricane threatens Haiti, it brings the dire situation on the ground into the forefront.

A press release this morning from the Haiti Response Coaltion [HRC] calls attention to a series of protests planned for today in Port-au-Prince. The statement reads:
On Monday September 13th at 11am EST (10am in Haiti) residents of more than a dozen camps for internally displaced people will demonstrate in front of the National Palace to demand the right to education. They are also calling for decent housing because they are living in fear during this hurricane season.


Hurricane Roulette Print
Wednesday, 08 September 2010 16:25
Haiti may have dodged a bullet as tropical storm Gaston – which meteorologists had feared might hit Haiti – dissipated late last week. But the scare was a reminder of just vulnerable hundreds of thousands of displaced Haitians, who lack adequate shelter, are.

Aljazeera English reported from Haiti on the country’s lack of hurricane-preparedness. Beginning its report with IDPs’ “bat teneb” protest of forced evictions, neglect, and unfulfilled promises on Friday, Aljazeera’s Sebastian Walker describes some of the challenges that Haiti – a country that is severely hit by hurricanes nearly every year – faces in the wake of January’s earthquake. If a hurricane were to bear down on Haiti, “…the sheer numbers of those still living under tarpaulin means an organized evacuation is almost impossible,” he explains, before visiting a hurricane shelter that can house 400 people - at an IDP camp that is home to 40,000.

“We’re not going anywhere, because we have nowhere else to go,” Oreste Saint-Philippe, an IDP camp resident explains. “We’ll just have to stay here, and see what happens.”


Does the LA Times Ed Board Know That Fanmi Lavalas Will Not Be on the Ballot? Print
Monday, 30 August 2010 16:30
An editorial in Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times opined:
Haiti has had two elected presidents since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986: Preval and the now-exiled Jean- Bertrand Aristide. Their Unity and Lavalas parties are divided, which means that for the first time there is no clear front-runner. Jean could play a constructive role in the wide-open race, either by endorsing another candidate, which would catapult that person into the lead, or by simply advocating for political participation. Either way, he would continue to build sorely needed legitimacy for the electoral system.
These statements would suggest that Fanmi Lavalas is running a presidential candidate. But Fanmi Lavalas is doing no such thing - apparently in reaction to past Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) rulings that arbitrarily disbar the party's participation based on technical criteria. As has been reported in various newspapers, and criticized by numerous U.S. observers, including Senator Richard Lugar [PDF], the most influential Republican in Congress on foreign affairs – to say nothing of the numerous Haitian protesters and people interviewed by international media -- the CEP is also continuing to bar Fanmi Lavalas, along with 14 other political parties, from participating in the parliamentary elections.

This arbitrary and undemocratic exclusion might also be a topic worthy of the LA Times’ editorial consideration.

Have Rich Countries Forgotten Haiti? Key Facts on International Assistance Print
Friday, 27 August 2010 11:27
At the UN-backed donor conference at the end of March, countries and organizations from all over the globe pledged over $10 billion for Haiti relief. Over $5.3 billion was pledged for fiscal years 2010 and 2011. Now, nearly five months after the conference, we take a look at the status of these pledges. 

The UN Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti has been tracking international assistance (PDF) from the top 30 donors, and despite the dire situation on the ground and an immediate need for funding, billions have yet to be distributed. Not including debt relief, the top 22 donors pledged an amazing $2.6 billion just for fiscal year 2010, yet five months later, only 20 percent of this ($538.3 million) has been distributed. However, looking at where that money comes from reveals that few nations – and very few high-income countries at all – have contributed to this. Over $200 million of that total has come from multilateral organizations such as the IDB, World Bank and IMF. Among countries, the top three are Spain, which has distributed $126.3 million, Japan, with $56.7 million, and Brazil with $55 million. The United States, which pledged $898.4 million in 2010, has not distributed or even committed any money so far. 



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