30 December, 2009 — Konbit Pou Ayiti/KONPAY
The Haiti Report is a compilation and summary of events as described in Haiti and international media prepared by Konbit Pou Ayiti/KONPAY. It does not reflect the opinions of any individual or organization. This service is intended to create a better understanding of the situation in Haiti by presenting the reader with reports that provide a variety of perspectives on the situation.
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IN THIS REPORT:
- – Prime Minister Pierre-Louis Removed and Replaced with Jean-Max Bellerive
- – Charles Arthur, Haiti Support Group: New Government Won’t Bring Change
- – Upcoming Elections in February
- – Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas Party Barred from February Legislative Elections, Along with Other Parties
- – UN Peacekeeping Mission Urges Officials to Justify Barring Lavalas and Other Parties
- – Opposition Groups Threaten to Disrupt Elections
- – Aristide Speaks Out Against Possible “Selections” instead of “Elections”
- – OAS will Monitor Election but Won’t Help Organize
- – HAITI Don’t honor tainted election, BY BRIAN CONCANNON JR. and IRA KURZBAN
- – Statement of the Canada Haiti Action Network (CHAN): “Haiti: Flawed election in the making”
- – Lawyers Worldwide Warn Against Danger of “Electoral Charade” in Haiti
- – U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters Criticizes Electoral Council
- – New Hotels Rising in Port-au-Prince
- – Italian Journalist Mortally Wounded During Robbery
- – Environment News
- – Solar Energy Brings Light to Boucan Carre Hospital in Haiti
- – Environment Minister Germain at Copenhagen Climate Summit
- – Haiti and the Dominican Republic Sign Agreement to Protect Lakes on the Border
- – President Rene Preval Remarries
- – Brazil Spending More in Haiti Than the UN is Refunding
Prime Minister Pierre-Louis Removed and Replaced with Jean-Max Bellerive:
Haiti’s Senate voted just after midnight Friday to dismiss Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis, following almost 10 hours of debate. Senate President Kely Bastien, who is not allowed to cast a vote under Senate rules, said a letter will be sent to President René Préval notifying him of the Senate’s 18-0 decision. A number of senators who opposed the move to fire Pierre-Louis had left the Senate floor shortly before the vote, believing that they had successfully filibustered the attempt when the clock struck midnight here. “There is nothing illegal about the vote,” said Bastien, adding that Haiti “could have a new prime minister as early as today or Saturday.” The session began almost two hours after the scheduled start time and lawmakers spent hours debating procedures with supporters of Pierre-Louis, who questioned the validity of the senators’ move to censure her. Her supporters made impassioned pleas and cries of “illegal” and “unconstitutional” from the Senate floor. Senators have accused Pierre-Louis, a favorite of the international community, of not moving quickly to solve Haiti’s crucial problems: high unemployment, lack of significant foreign investments and environmental deterioration. Pierre-Louis, in office for a year, said she has spent much of her tenure getting international support for Haiti after four back-to-back storms devastated the country last year, and it is too soon to see the results of her work. (Miami Herald, 10/30)
Haiti’s president turned Friday to a member of his former prime minister’s freshly dissolved Cabinet to replace her, a day after she was abruptly removed by the Senate in a vote that reflects the country’s deep political divisions. Jean-Max Bellerive, the minister of planning and external cooperation, is President Rene Preval’s nominee to be Haiti’s next premier, Preval said in a statement addressed to parliament. Bellerive, an economist, has held a variety of government posts over the past decade, including as an official in the administration of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Bellerive, in Preval’s government, has played a major role in coordinating and courting investment and foreign aid for the country. Preval’s nomination must be ratified by the Senate. (AP, 10/31)
The Haitian Senate unanimously approved a longtime technocrat as prime minister Friday, hoping that a man with long ties to Haiti’s political power brokers and the international community can lead this nation through its fifth change of cabinets in five years. Planning Minister Jean-Max Bellerive is a political survivor who has held different jobs with at least 10 different administrations, including the military junta, both presidential terms of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, both terms of President René Préval and the interim government that came to power following Aristide’s 2004 ouster. He says he’s managed to keep his name clean by keeping his head down, sticking to the task at hand and knowing who he answers to.
“I want to believe it’s because I have kept some ethics, that I’ve stayed in a certain frame of mind, I’ve accepted positions for which I was competent,” he told The Miami Herald in an interview. “And the position was in sync with the morals I believe we should have in politics.” The lower chamber of Congress votes on his candidacy Saturday, and he is poised to present his Cabinet next week. He will replace Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis, who was ousted last week in a debate over not moving fast enough to solve Haiti’s problems. The question is not whether Bellerive, 51 — a respected member of the fired Cabinet — will be ratified. It’s whether the father of two daughters who is fluent in four languages has the political stamina to maneuver through the turbulent waters that lie ahead and avoid the fate that toppled Pierre-Louis. “He’s never been a candidate for any higher office, but he was always indispensable to all the people he served,” said Marc Bazin, a longtime friend and official in several Haitian governments.
As minister of planning and external cooperation, Bellerive coordinates the lion’s share of the more than $1 billion in foreign aid flowing into Haiti for investments in roads, infrastructure and social programs, as well as the allocation of the $150 million of investment projects financed directly by the Haitian treasury. But if Pierre-Louis was the darling of the international community, Bellerive is one of its most vocal critics. He has criticized the lack of aid coordination, donors’ broken promises and the hundreds of millions of dollars that pass through nongovernmental organizations without Haitian government input. Fluent in English, Spanish and French along with Creole, Bellerive comes from political stock. His father served as director of public health in the late 1940s before taking a job with the World Health Organization. Bellerive lived in Switzerland, Austria, India, Belgium, France and elsewhere before returning to Haiti at the age of 27. He also was in charge of the 2000 general elections in Haiti’s largest department, which includes Port-au-Prince. He quit before election day, saying he “wasn’t comfortable with how things were going with the upcoming presidential elections.” Observers say Haiti’s stability will be tied to how long Bellerive lasts in the job and how well he does within the space Préval gives him. Bellerive said he’s keenly aware that when parliamentarians feel excluded, they topple governments. (Miami Herald, 11/8)
The lower house of Haiti’s parliament confirmed Jean-Max Bellerive as prime minister on Saturday, clearing the way for the economist and veteran politician to form a new government. An overwhelming majority of members in the Chamber of Deputies ratified Bellerive as the new premier of the impoverished Caribbean nation. He was appointed to the position by President Rene Preval last week. The 52-2 vote came a day after Bellerive won unanimous confirmation in the Senate. (Reuters, 11/7)
Charles Arthur, Haiti Support Group: New Government Will Not Result in Change
The advent of a new government in Haiti at the beginning of November will not result in any change in general economic or political policy. Michele Pierre-Louis had been prime minister for just less than 14 months when she received a no-confidence vote from a Senate dominated by the Lespwa party linked to President Rene Preval. A new prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, who served as minister of planning and external cooperation under both Pierre-Louis and her predecessor, Jacques-Edouard Alexis, was quickly ratified. In early November, Bellerive formed a new government team that retained 11 ministers from the previous administration. He kept the post of minister of planning and external cooperation, giving a clear indication of the desire for continuity in relations with international donors. A further sign of continuity was the promotion of Ronald Baudin from within the ministry to serve as the new minister of economy and finance. In his presentation of the new government’s program to the parliament, Bellerive highlighted his intention to continue with the same broad approach developed by the Pierre-Louis government.
The ostensible reason given for ousting Pierre-Louis was that she had failed to provide satisfactory answers to questions about the government’s use of US$197 million for relief and repairs to infrastructure carried out in the year since the hurricanes disaster of August and September 2008. However, some senators said that their problem with Pierre-Louis was more general, claiming her government was not doing enough to help alleviate poverty or taking effective measures to revive the economy. Despite these claims, it is likely that the move against Pierre-Louis was politically motivated, reflecting an ongoing realignment of forces ahead of legislative and presidential elections in 2010. The Lespwa party–invigorated in the Senate following the arrival of six newly elected senators earlier this year–appears to be attempting to build an alliance with the faction-riven Fanmi Lavalas (FL) party.
Former prime minister Alexis, who was ousted from office by the Senate in April 2008, is believed to be positioning himself as the Lespwa candidate for the presidency in 2010 and is openly courting the support of the FL factions. This interpretation was given credence by the appointment of two new Cabinet ministers with strong connections to the FL–Yves Cristallin was made minister of social affairs and Marjorie Michel, minister of women’s affairs.
The new prime minister is one of the architects of the World Bank-approved poverty-reduction strategy paper that has underpinned the Pierre-Louis government’s economic approach. He is also close to a number of leading members of the FL, having held influential positions in the ill-fated FL government of 2000-2004 (see NotiCen, 2004-03-04). He was FL prime minister Jean-Marie Cherestal’s cabinet chief and then a leading advisor to the subsequent FL prime minister, Yvon Neptune. He is a member of the Mouvement pour l’Instauration de la Democratie en Haiti (MIDH), a centrist party headed by former World Bank economist Marc Bazin, who served as a minister in the FL government of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and prime minister Neptune in the early 2000s.
Efforts to attract international donors continue: The new prime minister and his administration will seek to consolidate relations with the main donors, and especially with the UN special envoy to Haiti, former US President Bill Clinton. The latter’s advocacy efforts in favor of international support, and particularly for foreign direct investment (FDI), are regarded as key to plans to revitalize the country’s economy. UN envoy Clinton continued his initiative to attract private investment when, in early October, he organized a two-day investment conference in Port-au-Prince in conjunction with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The conference attracted 600 participants, at least 200 of them foreign investors. Clinton and other speakers focused on the potential for investment in the garment-assembly, food-processing, and tourism sectors. No investment deals were signed as a result of the conference, but Haitian officials were optimistic that, in time, it would result in foreign investment, joint ventures, and, importantly, jobs.
The investment conference took place in the context of a joint Haitian government-UN drive to promote Haiti’s garment-assembly sector. Both President Preval and Clinton expect the preferential access for Haitian-assembled garments provided by the US Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity Partnership Encouragement Act (HOPE) to create a significant number of new jobs in Haiti.
In late September, a group of Brazilian textile entrepreneurs inspected factory facilities in Port-au-Prince and the free-trade zone in the northeastern town of Ouanaminthe. Another new initiative hoping to take advantage of the HOPE legislation was highlighted immediately after the investors’ conference. Clinton and his deputy, the renowned doctor and activist Paul Farmer, staged a media photo-op on the site of a planned new industrial park near the shantytown of Cite Soleil, on the outskirts of the capital. The West Indies Free Zone will be jointly funded by the Mevs family–one of the richest families of Haiti’s tiny economic elite–and Hungarian-born US billionaire George Soros. Construction is to be completed by the end of 2012. The 60-acre site is expected to provide facilities for over 40 factories, which could employ around 25,000 workers.
The authorities’ aim to attract foreign investment into the garment-assembly sector received a boost in August when the legislature voted in favor of President Preval’s compromise minimum daily wage. Following months of street protests by students and, belatedly, workers from the garment-assembly sector in support of the legislature’s original decision to raise the wage from 70 gourdes (US$1.67) to 200 gourdes (US$4.76) a day, legislators finally backed the president’s compromise of 125 gourdes (US$2.98) a day for garment assembly workers and 200 gourdes for other workers. President Preval had waged a strong media campaign warning that raising the daily wage of garment-assembly workers to 200 gourdes would deter foreign investment in the garment-assembly sector. (NotiCen: Central American & Caribbean Affairs, 11/19)
Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas Party Barred from February Legislative Elections, Along with Other Parties:
The political party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide will be barred from legislative elections scheduled for February 28, Haitian elections officials said on Wednesday. The decision drew immediate criticism from Aristide, a onetime populist hero in Haiti who was ousted in 2004. From his exile in South Africa, he asked whether elections officials were trying “to organize an election or to make a selection.” Aristide’s Lavalas Family party is still considered the most popular political force in the impoverished Caribbean nation of 9 million people. “The Lavalas Family party will not be allowed to participate in the next election because the electoral council’s legal counsel said the party did not meet all legal requirements,” electoral council president Gaillot Dorsainvil told local radio stations. He did not specify which requirements the party failed to meet.
Ninety-eight of the 99 seats in the legislature’s Chamber of Deputies will be at stake in the February election, along with one-third of the 30-member Senate. The vote for the remaining lower house seat will be held at a later date. Sources close to the electoral council told Reuters the decision to bar the party was motivated by suspicions that the signature on a faxed letter sent by Aristide, authorizing local representatives to register the party, was falsified. Last week, the council asked Lavalas Family official Maryse Narcisse to provide the original of Aristide’s letter. It was handed over to election officials, who then decided to bar the party. In a rare interview, Aristide confirmed on local Radio Solidarity on Wednesday that he had given authority to Narcisse to register the party, and questioned whether Haitian officials wanted to hold fair and democratic elections. “That will depend on whether the electoral council wants to organize an election or to make a selection,” Aristide said by phone from South Africa. “If they want to organize elections, I encourage them. But if they want to make a selection I urge them not to take that path because it will not serve the country’s interests.”
Lavalas Family was barred from previous elections over alleged failures to meet legal requirements. Aristide’s allies accused election officials of dismissing their party in order to favor a new coalition close to President Rene Preval. The group, called “Unity,” replaced Preval’s dissolved “Lespwa” coalition. “Our decision has no political motivations,” Dorsainvil said. “It is based on requirements of the electoral law.” (Reuters, 11/25)
UN Peacekeeping Mission Urges Officials to Justify Barring Lavalas and Other Parties:
Haiti’s U.N. peacekeeping mission urged local officials Friday to provide a justification for banning 17 political groups from participating in next year’s legislative elections. The mission’s statement came a day after the electoral council in this Caribbean nation barred the groups, including Lavalas, the influential party of exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who called the decision “an electoral coup d’etat.” Lavalas, which gets strong support from poor people in the capital, previously was banned from the 2006 presidential election, and it boycotted Senate run-off ballots last June after the council disqualified its candidates on a technicality. The Lespwa movement that formed around President Rene Preval when he ran for president in 2004 was also was banned from next year’s vote. The council would say only that the 17 groups were excluded from the legislative elections because they submitted improper documents. The U.N. mission issued a non-confrontational statement that did not mentions any groups or politicians by name, asking only that Haitian officials avoid making decisions that might hint at unequal treatment. It also requested that officials review documents from all parties with openness and equality.
At a news conference Friday, the electoral council said its decision was irreversible. It said the Department of Legal Affairs would answer questions about why some parties were excluded and 53 were authorized to participate. The department did not issue any statements Friday, and its officials could not be reached. The U.N. mission said it would meet with all those involved to ensure free and fair legislative elections, which are now scheduled for Feb. 28 but might be postponed to coincide with a presidential ballot later next year. (AP, 11/30)
Opposition Groups Threaten to Disrupt Elections:
Opposition groups are threatening to disrupt Haiti’s upcoming legislative contests over allegations that election officials are stacking the deck in favor of President Rene Préval’s party in a bid to boost executive power. Frustrations center on decisions by the nine-member, presidentially appointed provisional electoral council seen as giving an unfair advantage to Préval’s newly created Unity party, which in just weeks has absorbed Cabinet ministers, the presidents of both parliamentary chambers and almost half the members of the lower house.
Opponents are especially upset over the disqualification of about 15 rival political groups ahead of the Feb. 28 elections, including ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas. Some allege Préval is attempting to load parliament with allies to push through constitutional changes or even seek another term. “The game is rigged,” former presidential candidate Evans Paul, a leader of the newly created Alternative coalition, told The Associated Press. “The only way to confront Préval’s plan is to mobilize the population.”
The electoral council has not fully explained the disqualifications or addressed other allegations. A council spokesman declined requests to comment. Paul, who helped lead opposition to Aristide ahead of his 2004 ouster, called for the electoral council to be replaced and some disqualified parties readmitted to the election. Otherwise, he said, opposition leaders will push for demonstrations. “The people have a right to rebel whenever the government is acting anti-democratically,” he said.
Lavalas supporters have also decried the electoral council’s decision. Aristide broke a months-long public silence to criticize his party’s exclusion in a radio interview, calling the decision an “electoral coup d’état.” Some supporters have called for a boycott. Lavalas also boycotted Senate elections from which they were excluded earlier this year. Turnout was extremely low. Unity replaces Préval’s previous Lespwa movement, a loose organization created to win him the presidency in 2006. Recently converted Unity legislator Guy Gerard Georges, whose previous Union party was also disqualified by the council, said the new party paid members’ $1,200 election inscription fee and would likely help finance their campaigns. Most Lespwa members, including Préval, were either former Lavalas activists or had served under Aristide. But over the course of Préval’s second, nonconsecutive term, the soft-spoken leader has drifted far from supporters of Aristide who helped push him to victory, and now he has cut ties with his own movement as well. Lespwa members who did not follow Préval to the new party have also been disqualified by the electoral council. If Unity secures majorities in the February election, its members are widely expected to push through constitutional amendments to expand executive powers. The current 1987 constitution severely limited government and executive powers in the aftermath of the decades-long Duvalier dictatorships. “We will have the right and the ability to change the political direction of Haiti,” Unity legislator Georges said, calling the current constitution outdated. Some, including Paul, allege the president could be seeking changes so he could run for a third term in elections next year. The president has said he will not run again. Any upheaval could wreck efforts led by Bill Clinton, who was named U.N. special envoy to Haiti this year, to increase private investment, especially in clothing exports, and boost tourism in the deeply impoverished country. (AP, 12/10)
Aristide Speaks Out Against Possible “Selections” instead of “Elections”:
Calls for a boycott of next February’s legislative elections are growing after the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) on Nov. 24 disqualified former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Lavalas Family(FL), Haiti’s largest political party, from fielding candidates. Outrage has spread even to sectors traditionally hostile to the FL as the CEP established an unusually accelerated electoral schedule and after President René Préval lured dozens of candidates from rival parties to his newly formed Unity party with promises of generous campaign financing and threats of political hardball. The CEP disqualified 14 of the 69 parties which registered during the week from Nov. 16 to Nov. 23 (The CEP extended the original five-day registration period in the face of widespread outcry.) Among those barred, some without explanation, were the Union party of Pastor Chavannes Jeune and the ESKANP platform, which had been part of the Lespwa (Hope) coalition, Unity’s predecessor.
CEP president Gaillot Dorsinvil said that the FL’s registration was rejected because the original letter sent by Aristide from exile in South Africa naming Dr. Maryse Narcisse as the party’s election representative (“mandataire”) “did not resemble at all” the letter sent by fax a week earlier to meet the registration deadline. “It didn’t have a stamp or an envelope,” he said, questioning its “authenticity.” Lawyer Lesly Alphonse, president of the Association of Law Professionals, ridiculed the rejection, saying that questioning the mandate’s authenticity had “no legal basis.” “When the mandate’s form is not specifically imposed by the legislation in question, one cannot demand an authenticated mandate,” he said.
The day after the CEP’s rejection, Aristide took to Haiti’s airwaves for the first time since he was overthrown in a Feb. 29, 2004 U.S.-backed coup d’état. “It was me who wrote the mandate, signed the mandate and sent the mandate,” Aristide said in a wide-ranging 43 minute interview with Venel Remarais of Port-au-Prince’s Radio Solidarité. He compared the exclusion to an “electoral coup d’état” and warned that “”it would be a huge error, after other errors already made in 2004, for us to take the direction of exclusion or ‘selections’ instead of elections.” Aristide criticized Préval only obliquely, stopping short of any direct accusations, and requested a government letter for safe conduct (“laisser passer”) back to Haiti since “my diplomatic passport has long since expired.” Then he said he would come personally before the CEP. “If the authorities don’t want elections, everyone will see what they want and what they don’t want,” he said. ” I think in 1990 it was the first time the Haitian people had a chance to participate in free, honest and democratic elections. That was on Dec. 16, 1990. If we continue with free, honest and democratic elections, it will be good for the country’s political health and can bring stability which can help our economy so we can progress. If we go from coup d’état to coup d’état instead of elections, then we will just keep going from problem to problem.”
Indeed, Préval has arbitrarily devised an unconstitutional formula where vaguely defined and easily manipulated “sectors” of Haitian society nominate two representatives, one of whom Préval selects to sit on the nine-member CEP. The last CEP, formed in 2006, had representatives from the Protestants (Cultes Reformés), Catholics, Episcopalians, Handicapped, Unions, Conference of Political Parties (Social Democrats), Convention of Political Parties (Conservatives), Women, and Popular Organizations. That CEP also barred the FL from running in the April and June 2009 partial Senate elections, prompting a nationwide boycott that made participation “between 2% and 3%,” according to the National Council of Electoral Observation (CNO). The latest CEP, formed in October, keeps the very same representatives for five sectors: Protestants, Episcopalians, Handicapped, Unions, and Women. The Popular Organizations sector, whose representative Rodol Pierre was a fierce critic within the last CEP, was removed and replaced, with appropriate demagogy, by a Vodou sector. The political parties now have only one representative instead of two, with the ninth seat going to the Federations of ASECs and CASECs, local community councils.
While hand-picking the new CEP, Préval was also hastily assembling his new party, Unity. The party has wooed candidates from both the center and the right like the social democratic Fusion, Alliance, Mirlene Manigat’s Assembly of National Progressive Democrats (RDNP), MOCHRENA the Struggling People’s Organization (OPL), and Chavannes Jeune’s Union. Jeune accused another Union leader, Jean Marie Claude Germain, who is also Préval’s Environment Minister, of making a false party seal to forge documents adhering Union to the Unity alliance. This fraud is why, Jeune claims, Union is barred from running its own candidates. But Préval’s main political prizes come from the Lavalas Family. A number of secondary and regional FL leaders were brought into Lespwa and “won” Senate seats during the 2009 elections, including Milot’s Moise Jean-Charles and Cité Soleil’s John Joel Joseph. The most recent defection, this time to Unity, is that of Nahoum Marcellus, who was the FL’s strongest leader in Cap Haitien. He will run for a North Senate seat, while former Lavalas deputy Saurel Francois and Lavalas base group leaders like Printemps Bélizaire and Job Glorius will run as Unity candidates for three of the 99 Deputy seats up for grabs.
Meanwhile, the OPL, Fusion and Evens Paul’s KID have formed their own electoral coalition: Alternative.The CNO expressed its misgivings about the elections, noting for example that the registering of parties and candidates is happening in two weeks rather than the nine weeks normally allotted. The CNO also said that the exclusion of parties like the FL was “outside of transparent modalities and of all acceptable public justification.” (Haiti Liberte, 12/2-8)
OAS will Monitor Election but Won’t Help Organize:
The Organization of American States says it will monitor elections in Haiti next year, but it won’t help organize the votes. The international body plans to send 80 observers for the Feb. 28 legislative elections and twice that for the presidential contest expected later in the year. The observers were requested by President Rene Preval. But the OAS said Tuesday it will leave organizing the vote to Haiti’s provisional electoral council to strengthen the local institution. Opposition groups have criticized the council for decisions that they say favor Preval’s newly formed Unity party. Some are threatening to try to disrupt the elections if the council is not replaced. (AP, 12/16)
HAITI Don’t honor tainted election, BY BRIAN CONCANNON JR. and IRA KURZBAN
Late last month, Haiti’s government took the undemocratic and dangerous step of excluding 15 political parties, including Haiti’s most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas, from parliamentary elections scheduled for February and March 2010. The decision threatens not only Haiti’s democracy and stability, but billions in foreign investments financed by taxpayers in the United States and elsewhere. The Obama administration, along with the United Nations and the Organization of American States, needs to step up and head off this disaster by refusing to finance the electoral charade. The February/March elections are important because one-third of Haiti’s Senate and the entire House of Deputies is at stake. Fanmi Lavalas’ participation is important because the party is by far Haiti’s most popular. It has won every election it has contested, including 90 percent of the seats in the 2000 parliamentary elections.
Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (PEC) claimed that a mandate sent by the party’s exiled leader, former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, from South Africa, is not authentic. In fact, Fanmi Lavalas presented an original mandate, authenticated by a Haitian notary that complies with Haitian law. Aristide sent a fax of the mandate directly to the PEC, and confirmed its authenticity in a radio interview. The PEC not only lacks a good reason for removing Fanmi Lavalas from voters’ ballots, it also lacks the constitutional legitimacy to do so. The Council is a Provisional Council hand-picked by Haiti’s President, René Préval, not the independent Permanent Council required by Haiti’s 1987 Constitution.
Credibility in doubt: The PEC tried the same thing earlier this year, and got away with it. The Council disqualified Fanmi Lavalas and other parties from elections held in April and June for 11 Senate seats. When the disqualifications were first announced, the United States, the U.N. and the OAS denounced them as undemocratic. The U.S. Embassy warned that the exclusion would “inevitably” raise questions about the election’s credibility. But the PEC called the international community’s bluff and kept the excluded parties out. The international community blinked by not only accepting the flawed elections, but paying for them, too: International donors supplied $12.5 million, 72 percent of the election’s cost.
Election boycotted: Haitian voters, knowing a fraud when they see one, boycotted. The PEC’s official participation rate of 11 percent for the April elections was low enough, but most observers put the real figure at 3 percent to 5 percent. By dropping their principled objections to the April election’s flaws, the international community gave the PEC a green light to keep excluding the government’s political rivals. This light is still green: the United States, OAS and U.N. let last week’s exclusion pass without public criticism or any threat to withhold the $18 million promised for the February voting.
All three have invested billions of dollars in Haiti over the last few years. The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti costs $600 million a year, and the U.S. Agency for International development contributed $287 million this year to Haiti. U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton is working hard to convince private investors that Haiti is a good place to do business. All these investments may be wiped out by the PEC’s exclusion plan. Experience in Haiti and elsewhere demonstrates that preventing citizens from challenging government policies through the ballot box inevitably will lead to challenges outside the ballot box. If the Council does not change course, President Préval’s allies may control Parliament, but Haiti’s streets will be filled with angry protestors confronting U.N. troops and blaming the United States for supporting yet another undemocratic regime. Social unrest will stall development projects and scare investors.
Americans and Haitians deserve a better return on their money spent to stabilize and develop Haiti. The Obama administration can guarantee a better return by immediately cutting off all funding for the electoral charade and insisting that it will neither finance, nor recognize, elections that are not fair and inclusive.
(Brian Concannon Jr. served as an OAS election observer and U.N. human rights officer in Haiti and currently directs the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. Ira Kurzban was U.S. legal counsel for the Haitian governments under presidents Préval and Aristide from 1991-2004.) (12/11)
Statement of the Canada Haiti Action Network (CHAN): “Haiti: Flawed election in the making”
The Canada Haiti Action Network expresses its grave concern at the November 26 decision by Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (Conseil électoral provisoire–CEP) to exclude the Fanmi Lavalas party from planned elections to take place on February 28, 2010. On that date, Haiti will hold elections for 98 of 99 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and ten seats of its 30-seat Senate. According to varying news reports, some twelve other political parties that had registered to participate in the election were ruled ineligible. Thousands of Haitians staged a protest in the capital city, Port au Prince, on December 16 against the exclusion of Fanmi Lavalas. Dr. Maryse Narcisse of the party’s executive council told the Reuters news network, “There will be no election in February, there will be a selection. What the authorities are planning is really a big farce.”
More protests are promised by popular organizations, including the newly formed Assembly of Organizations for Change (Rassemblement des Organisations pour un Changement). In justifying its decision, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) claimed that a registration mandate sent by Fanmi Lavalas leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, living in exile in South Africa, is not authentic. In fact, the party presented an original mandate authenticated by a Haitian notary that complies with Haitian law. Aristide sent a fax of the mandate directly to the CEP and confirmed its authenticity in a rare and lengthy interview on Port au Prince’s Radio Solidarité. One party approved by the CEP is the Front for National Reconstruction of the notorious paramilitary Guy Philippe. He stands indicted by a U.S. court in 2005 on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering.
This is the second time this year that the CEP has barred Fanmi Lavalas from an election. The first banning occurred in the election to eleven of the thirty seats in Haiti’s Senate that was held in two rounds in April and June of 2009. Following a call by Lavalas for a boycott of that election, voter turnout was less than ten percent, perhaps as little as two or three percent. Despite the low turnout, the ‘elected’ senators, mostly from President Réné Préval’s electoral machine, L’Espwa, took office. Fanmi Lavalas is by far the largest and most representative political party in Haiti. It was founded in 1997 and won an overwhelming victory in the presidential and legislative election of 2000. The party is “still considered the most popular political force in [Haiti]” (Reuters, ‘Aristide party barred from Haiti’s February ballot’, Nov. 25th, 2009).
A hastily-called Haitian election that excludes Fanmi Lavalas will resemble the “elections” recently held in Honduras and Afghanistan that, in reality, legitimized illegal seizures of power. An exclusion election will perpetuate the illegal and unconstitutional seizure of power in Haiti dating from February, 2004. At that time, President Aristide, the national government he led, and other elected institutions were overthrown in a paramilitary coup, backed by the armed forces of the United States, Canada and France. U.S. Marines forcibly removed President Aristide from the country. The reason for the overthrow was that Lavalas’ policies of social justice threatened the narrow economic interests of Haiti’s venal elite and their foreign backers. Haiti remains occupied by a 10,000-member United Nations police and military force, known by its acronym MINUSTAH.
The CEP has limited constitutional authority. It is a provisional body, hand picked by Haiti’s President, René Préval, whereas the country’s Constitution, adopted in 1987, requires a permanent body. The Constitution specifies an electoral council of nine members, three selected by each of the national Legislature, Senate, and Supreme Court from among nominees put forward by departmental popular assemblies (Haiti currently consists of ten geopolitical departments). MINUSTAH approved of the “election” of April/June 2009, as did the United States, Canada and France. The big three countries provided $12 million to organize it. Some $15 million is earmarked for the hastily-called 2010 election. The United Nations’ independent expert on human rights in Haiti, Michel Forst, declared on November 30 that he was convinced the CEP had “good reasons” for its recent exclusion decisions. Haiti’s Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive told a December 18 interview, “The CEP explained their reasons, and I believe the ones they gave are pretty good ones, legal ones, that are coherent with the law and their mission.”
The signatories of this statement urge readers to carry out the following acts of solidarity in support of the people of Haiti:
1. Call, write and/or email your respective governments, foreign affairs departments and MINUSTAH and demand that they not endorse an undemocratic electoral process in Haiti. Demand that the banning of Fanmi Lavalas from forthcoming elections be lifted and that Haiti hold free and fair elections. (See the attached list, for Canadian readers).
2. Demand that the Haitian government facilitate the return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide to his native land when he so chooses, including assuring his personal security.
3. Demand that the foreign aid promised to Haiti to rebuild its economy and social infrastructure be made immediately available. Less than five per cent of the $760 million promised by an April, 2009 UN-hosted international conference has been delivered. Substantially greater sums must be provided in recognition of the destructive and illegal coup d’etat of 2004.
For more background on the announced February, 2010 election: http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/other-views/v-print/story/1376563.html
For more background on Haiti, view the website of the Canada Haiti Action Network:
http://canadahaitiaction.ca/ or phone Haiti Solidarity BC (Vancouver) at 778 858 5179 or Toronto Haiti Action Network at 416 731 2325. (12/28)
Lawyers Worldwide Warn Against Danger of “Electoral Charade” in Haiti:
This past week saw outcry from legal professionals around the globe against the election fiasco unfolding in Haiti after the Provisional Electoral Council’s exclusion of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Lavalas Family party (FL) and 13 others from parliamentary elections set for Feb. 28 and Mar. 3, 2010. On Dec. 11, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), which assembles lawyer committees from 90 countries, wrote to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to warn that UN approval of next February’s elections could result in popular protest, which the UN has often suppressed with lethal violence. This warning comes just days before thousands are expected to march through Port-au-Prince on Dec. 16, the 19th anniversary of Aristide’s first landslide electoral victory in 1990. That demonstration will target the latest election exclusion. IADL members have a mission, their website explains, to protest “racism, colonialism, and economic and political injustice wherever they interfere with legal and human rights, often at the cost of these jurists personal safety and economic well-being.” (Haiti Liberte, 12/18-22)
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters Criticizes Electoral Council:
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters is criticizing a decision by Haiti’s electoral council to exclude more than a dozen political parties from next year’s legislative elections. In a letter sent Wednesday to President Rene Preval, she urged the president to ensure the provisional electoral council provides a complete, public explanation for the disqualifications and to reinstate unlawfully banned parties before parliamentary elections Feb. 28. The California representative’s letter, sent via the Haitian Embassy in Washington, lends outside support to political groups frustrated by Haiti’s nine-member, presidentially appointed electoral council. Opposition groups accuse the council of trying to help Preval’s newly created Unity party win majorities in parliament so he can push through constitutional reforms and expand executive power. Some have threatened to disrupt voting if the council is not replaced. “I am concerned that these exclusions would violate the right of Haitian citizens to vote in free and fair elections and that it would be a significant setback to Haiti’s democratic development,” Waters wrote. Preval’s press office said it was not aware of the letter as of Wednesday afternoon. The electoral council has not responded to the criticisms against it. A U.S. State Department spokesman did not comment on the letter, but said the Obama administration is nearing completion of a review on its policy toward Haiti with results expected early next year. The most prominent faction excluded from the vote is former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party, which has organized protests and discussed a possible boycott of the vote. Waters provided prominent support for Aristide in the wake of his 2004 ouster to Africa aboard a U.S. plane, leading a delegation that returned him briefly to the Caribbean before his ultimate exile in South Africa. (AP, 12/23)
New Hotels Rising in Port-au-Prince:
Within the elegant brick walls of the new hillside Oasis, locals dine on lobster, sip $300-a-bottle Dom Perignon, then relax in a sleek lounge. Just outside, the skeleton of an exclusive boutique hotel, featuring a rooftop helipad and 300-car garage, dominates the pastel orange landscape. It could be a scene out of Coral Gables or South Beach. But it’s not. “I have folks say to me: ‘You’ll never think you are in Haiti,’ ” said Jerry Tardieu, 42, the visionary behind the Oasis in this Port-au-Prince suburb. I tell them, “‘It is Haiti. It’s the Haiti of tomorrow.’ ” Five years after Haiti plunged into lawlessness, this investment-hungry nation is riding a wave of improved security and relative calm. The result: a renewed sense of investor confidence by an unlikely crowd — the local business elite. The hotel industry is leading the charge. Within walking distance of the Oasis, an upscale Best Western is rising, soon to become the country’s first new international-brand hotel in a decade. “We are now willing to invest our money and effort in this nation,” said Christopher Handal, 36, president of the Haitian-family-run company that is behind the Best Western venture. Often despised for their opposition to the government and highfalutin lifestyle, Haitian business leaders are now joining with President René Préval to recruit foreign investors. Among those heeding the call: Vietnamese looking to invest in the state-run telephone company and Brazilians interested in manufacturing clothing.
Only four years ago, a surge of kidnappings and violence had the wealthy in the hills of Petionville packing for Miami and Montreal. But in recent months, the area has welcomed:
• The Karibe Hotel & Convention Center. First conceived in 1996 by owner Richard Buteau, it was finally completed in February 2008. Family-owned, Karibe boasts a luxury spa, a lush courtyard and 87 rooms, including a presidential suite designed by Miami artist Romero Britto for its first guest: Clinton.
• The expansion of the Montana. One of Haiti’s most well-known hotels, it has undergone several expansions since it was built in 1947. The latest involved replacing the tennis courts with an expansive commercial mall featuring designer shops, a wedding chapel and an infinity pool offering a breathtaking mountain view.
• The renovation of El Rancho. Faced with the possibility of bankruptcy, the family of this private home-turned-hotel and casino recently sold controlling interest to a new group of investors. They are drawing up new plans and hope to attract a Hilton franchise. In 2002, Hilton planned to invest in Haiti but pulled out as the country descended into turmoil.
• The Oasis Complex. The L-shaped, $19 million multi-use development was once the site of Haiti’s landmark Le Picardie restaurant, which in its heyday hosted Marlon Brando and Walter Cronkite. Builders kept the original brick walls, which today feature the designs of Haitian architect Nadine Hippolyte and are festooned with well-stocked mahogany wine racks. Exterior wood walkways lead past a lush tropical garden to a South Beach-inspired lounge. The most unique feature isn’t the sold-out, high-end office space but the ability of travelers to avoid the traffic-clogged streets of Port-au-Prince by shuttling from airport to hotel rooftop aboard a helicopter. Travel time: 10 minutes. Tardieu is proud that the Oasis is blossoming with money from 100 Haitian investors, ranking from schoolteachers to business titans — “not a dime from foreign investors.” “Just look around Petionville and you see how much money Haitian investors are pouring into big buildings, whether they be supermarkets, banks or other financial buildings,” he said.
Although progress has been made — for instance, it now takes 75 days instead of 195 to form a company — Haiti still must work to shed its reputation for offering an abysmal business climate. In a ranking of business-friendly countries, Haiti recently moved up three spots, but it is still 151st out of 183 –just ahead of Tajikistan, according to a recent World Bank study. The United States wants to see Haiti pass legislation to protect investors and make it easy for Haitian Americans to start businesses in their homeland. They also want to see long-held monopolies dismantled and competition welcomed. (Miami Herald, 12/5)
Italian Journalist Mortally Wounded During Robbery:
An Italian journalist was mortally wounded by gunmen who may have tried to rob him outside a bank in Haiti’s capital, Haitian media reported Sunday. Francesco Fantoli died of his wounds at a hospital run by the international aid group Doctors Without Borders shortly after arriving around 1 p.m. Saturday, said Michelle Chouinard, head of mission for the French section of the group. The 54-year-old journalist and filmmaker had lived in Haiti for several years and was known for sports commentary on local television. He recently founded a soccer school in the southern city of Jacmel, where he often lived. Fantoli was shot twice by attackers on motorcycles while leaving a bank in the Delmas section of Port-au-Prince, said Haiti Press Network, a local news agency with which Fantoli worked. “He was gravely wounded. We treated him and unfortunately he died as a result of those wounds,” Chouinard told The Associated Press. The slain journalist’s family was expected to take his body back to Italy. The news agency said the unknown gunmen were attempting to rob Fantoli, but it was not clear how much money he had or if any was taken. Haitians and foreigners have been killed in robbery attempts at banks in the area in recent years. Haitian National Police spokesman Frantz Lerebours did not respond to messages requesting comment Sunday. (AP, 12/7)
Solar Energy Brings Light to Boucan Carre Hospital in Haiti:
Bringing high quality health care to remote rural areas requires not only essential medicines and medical staff to deliver it, but equipment and lighting to see by. In addition, Partners In Health’s work with people living in poverty means that we bear witness to the dramatic impact of environmental degradation and climate change on people living in poverty. As a result, PIH is constantly looking for energy sources that are accessible in remote regions and that reduce our impact on the environment. Our partnership with the Solar Electric Light Foundation (SELF) and Good Energies has made both of these goals a reality. Until this fall, Boucan Carre Hospital in Haiti’s central plateau relied on a diesel generator for its electricity. Then, over the course of three weeks, SELF installed a 10,000-watt solar panel system on the roof of the Boucan Carre Hospital. As part of the project, SELF also conducted an intensive two-week course, training local technicians to install and maintain solar systems. The advanced hybrid system integrates the solar panels with the existing generator, enabling the facility to run off batteries charged by the solar panels most of the time, with the generator as a backup. In the short time the system has been in operation, the results have been dramatic. In the month of August 2009, prior to the installation, the Boucan Carre facility consumed 11 barrels of generator fuel. One month later, with the system operating, the facility used just four barrels of fuel. We look forward to working with SELF on the installation of solar systems at other PIH-supported facilities throughout Haiti. SELF has also completed installations at PIH supported facilities in Rwanda, Lesotho and at a Village Health Works facility in Burundi. (Partners In Health, Nov 09 e-bulletin)
Environment Minister Germain at Copenhagen Climate Summit:
The adoption of adequate financial mechanisms, the strengthening of investment and development of technology transfer is a prerequisite for adaptation measures to mitigate the phenomenon of climate change. This is the official position of the Republic of Haiti, expressed by environment minister, Jean-Marie Claude Germain, December 17, 2009 at the Copenhagen summit, and whose content has been transmitted to the online agency AlterPresse. “As noted by the group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), additional financial resources will be needed for adaptation.The special and specific countries are very vulnerable, such as Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and LDCs should be recognized in the decisions affecting these resources,” stated minister Germain. At the 15th Conference (COP15, from 8 to 18 December 2009 in Copenhagen) on climate change, Haiti has taken the initiative to promote the establishment of the first biological corridor in the Caribbean, trying to conclude a regional agreement “and understanding Inclusive with its immediate neighbors: Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Puerto Rico.
“Beyond the preservation of biodiversity in the sub-continent, sought with the implantation of a biological corridor (on land and at sea), the Haitian initiative comes at a much more integral which is the center concerns, the burning issue of poverty and climate change, “said Germain. For Haiti, adaptation is the key and must take various forms.Therefore, environmental authorities say “advocate the adaptation and resilience to climate-related sectors to the fishing, agriculture, infrastructure and health services. Assist SIDS to re-frame their forest would be the “only way” to limit the population, the continuing consequences of global warming due to emission of greenhouse gas emissions, which “we are low emitters “supports Haiti. Echoing the conclusions of the Convention United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Jean-Marie Claude Germain favors a combination of efforts by the international community to increase the capacity of developing countries to overcome the effects of climate change, including their economic growth. It should reach 1.5 ° C as maximum temperature up to 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions goal, Haiti wishes, expressing solidarity with the “declaration of Grenada, on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States Development (AOSIS). “Copenhagen has become Hopenhagen, paraphrased the Haitian Minister of the Environment, forming,” despite the difficult choices and sacrifices to make, “vows of hope for a solution” substantial and fair for humanity “as a commitment to get to the COP15 negotiations in order to” pave the way for a prospect post-Copenhagen serene and radiant. (Alterpresse, 12/18)
Haiti and the Dominican Republic Sign Agreement to Protect Lakes on the Border:
Dominican Republic and Haiti yesterday signed an agreement to protect the lakes located along their border, with the support of the UN’s Environment Development, and World Food programs. The pact aims to develop strategies by both nations to conserve and protect the water resources, which have been exceeding their normal levels, placing the lives and properties of thousands of people at risk. The document signed by diplomats of both countries states that in addition to the devastating effect to biological diversity and agriculture, the overflowed lakes have significantly damaged the roadways along the border. Moreover, the flooding jeopardizes the zone’s poorest communities, affecting their means of subsistence, mainly agriculture. The two most threatened lakes by flooding are Enriquillo on the Dominican side and Azuei in Haiti, where despite the lack of torrential rains this year, their levels continue raising. As part of the UN agreement the lakes, located at the foot of high mountains will be the subject of research on their importance as water sources and also to an ambitious reforestation program. The Dominican and Haitian officials also pledged to work to reduce erosion and promote development to increase the income of the affected zones’ inhabitants. (Dominican Today, 12/18)
President Rene Preval Remarries:
Ladies, René Préval is no longer a bachelor. Haiti’s twice-divorced president is now married. In a private 11 a.m. ceremony Sunday, Préval married Elisabeth Débrosse Delatour at Delatour’s home in Furcy, a suburb of Port-au-Prince. Delatour, a widow and mother of two, was married to Leslie Delatour, the former governor of Haiti’s central bank. She also is one of Préval’s economic advisors. About 50 close family members and friends attended the low-key nuptials. He wore a white suit, she a beige dress and hat. Préval, 65, who is entering the final year of his second presidential mandate, is taking a two-day honeymoon with his 47-year-old bride. He returns to work at the presidential place on Wednesday. (Miami Herald, 12/9)
Brazil Spending More in Haiti Than the UN is Refunding:
Brazil’s defense ministry said on Wednesday the difference between the amount spent by Brazil on the maintenance of its troops in Haiti and that refunded by the United Nations (UN) had exceeded 414 million reais (236 million U.S. dollars). During a public hearing of the Committee on Foreign Relations and National Defense of the Deputies Chambers, Brazil’s Defense Minister Nelson Jobim said, since 2004, when Brazil assumed the command of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Minustah), the country has spent more than 703 million reais (401 million dollars) to keep its forces in the country. Of this total, the UN repaid just around 290 million reais (165million dollars), he said. According to the minister, Brazil now has deployed 1,266 soldiers and 223 vehicles and equipment in Haiti. The platoons are replaced every six months, when there is a rotation of troops. “The Ministry of Defense and the Brazilian government insisted that we have to stay in Haiti,” said Jobim, adding, “Brazil has an obligation to be there”. The minister also called for efforts from the international community to help Haiti stabilize and develop by creating opportunities for local economic development. (Xinhua, 12/9)
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