It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light

Mwen se echantiyon yon ras kap boujonnen men ki poko donnen

Si vous voulez vous faire des ennemis essayer de changer les choses

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Haiti’s Democracy Under Attack: Honduras reveals the challenges of defending and maintaining a democratic system in the region by Stanley Lucas

The military coup in Honduras is unequivocally undemocratic and must be condemned. ---------

In the recent past, military coups, particularly in the Latin American region, were the principal enemy of democracy. However, Latin America had made enormous strides toward democracy over the past 40 years when it was primarily comprised of dictatorships. Today the region is home to 33 democracies – of varying degrees – and Cuba remains the lone hold out. This collective vision of democracy evolved dramatically in the last 15 years with the passage of two important actions at the Organization of American States (OAS): Resolution 1080 that called for countries to protect democracy and elected governments against coups, and the ratification of the Democratic Charter. ------------------------------------------------------------------------
Because of these democratic gains within the region, military coups have been practically unthinkable since the late 1980s. This consensus is broad, and the roots of the democracy have taken a firm hold. It is against this backdrop that the military coup in Honduras was immediately condemned worldwide and by the OAS. It should be noted that former U.S. President Ronald Reagan played a central role in promoting freedom and democracy in the region. He confronted the enemies of liberty, freedom and democracy in Grenada, El Salvador and the Soviet Union. Thanks to the efforts of President Reagan and others, freedom and democracy have triumphed. These gains should be lauded; however, this does not mean that new threats against freedom and democracy are not emerging. ---------------------------------
In my opinion, there are two major threats to democracy in the region: autogolpe and corruption. Because of the situation in Honduras, I will focus my comments solely on the autogolpe. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

An autogolpe, a new form of coup, is organized by an elected government to remain in power beyond the legal term as outlined by the constitution. Usually, this type of coup is carried out by the head of the Executive Branch. The elected government uses state institutions under the executive branch authority to execute the coup. The head of the executive branch ignores the legal rulings by the supreme court and the legislative actions by parliament to address illegal actions and prevent the coup. This type of coup employs tactics such as the illegal amendment of the constitution, manipulation of the electoral process, other institutions of the state and violent threats by armed supporters in order to remain in power. This region has seen numerous autogolpes. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
In 1992, President Joaquim Balaguer of the Dominican Republic tried to execute an autogolpe by manipulating election results. His efforts failed, and he had to leave office before the end of his term. Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori tried the use the armed forces, the intelligence service and the electoral body to manipulate electoral results in order to remain in power. His efforts also failed, and he had to resign due to popular protest. -----------------------

In Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide used violence, corruption, and drug trafficking for profit coupled with electoral manipulation in 2000 in order to carry out an autogolpe. He also failed due to popular protests and had to resign in 2004. And in Venezuela, President Chavez has been applying the autogolpe tactics since his election to remain indefinitely in power. He is actively promoting these practices to other ALBA countries. (Note: ALBA is a coalition of countries that created an non free market trade structure. It is comprised of Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba. This group would not exist without Chavez’s petro dollars. Democratic principles are under assault in all five countries which have experienced autogolpes.) In Haiti, currently a beneficiary member of the the Chavez-ALBA partnership, President Preval is employing the ALBA model of autogolpe tactics: ------------------------------------------------

- Electoral coup by naming a partisan electoral body and through the manipulation of elections results at the polling station during the senate elections of April 19 and June 21, 2009. ----------

- Illegal amendment of the constitution to eliminate term limits and reduce the power of Parliament while consolidating the powers of the presidency; -----------------------------------

-Economic coup to steal and transfer revenue generating state enterprises to his friends of the private sector (Groupe de Bourdon and foreign profiteers) --------------------------------------

Rene Preval's autogolpe is being executed so far without the objection of the United Nations or the OAS missions in Haiti that are there to support democracy supposedly. The handling of the April 19 and June 21 elections were in complete violation of the principles of the Democratic Charter. MINUSTAH, the UN mission in country, applauded the elections while all sectors of Haitian society expressed public frustration and still might revolt against this electoral coup. Tolerating the manipulation of the electoral results, which gave Preval's party the majority in the senate, will result in a new crisis in Haiti. These problems need to be addressed now before they become a crisis that will be impossible to manage at the last minute. When people take to the streets in Haiti, the President is forced to resign as was the case for Presidents Duvalier and Aristide. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

While it is easy to stop or block a military coup, it is much more difficult to face down an autogolpe carried out by a legitimate, elected government. The international community has no clear strategy or framework to address coups carried out by legitimate governments. We have seen an incomprehensible tolerance of the international community vis-a-vis the antidemocratic actions of elected governments. This ambivalence to democracy, the rule of the law and good governance is dangerous. The repressive methods employed by legitimate governments to execute their autogolpe generates different reactions from the people. Some have led to popular uprisings; some to impeachments. In a few rare cases, there have been military coups. In this age of democracy, the military coups often happen in countries where the democratic institutions are not strong enough to impeach the head of the executive branch. While coup is coup – and it must be immediately condemned – can the undemocratic behavior of an elected government prior to the coup be ignored? This is the new democracy challenge. -----------------------------

The key question is how to defend democracy, the constitution, and the rule of the law when a democratically elected president does not respect the constitution, the decisions of the legislative power or judicial power and wants to establish a dictatorship through an autogolpe? What do you do when a democratically elected president manipulates the electoral process to illegally give his party the majority? What do you do when a democratically elected president uses violence in the streets to assassinate his opponents and kill democracy? What do you do when democratic institutions which should sanction the antidemocratic acts of an democratically elected president are too weak to do it? What do you do when democratic institutions cannot judge a democratically elected president that purposefully violates the constitution? How can OAS as an institution formed of governments deal with the realities of an autogolpe before it creates a political crisis? What should we do to prevent future undemocratic adventures? This is a true dilemma and OAS just experiences it in the Case of Honduras. Resolution 952 passed by the OAS Friday before the coup did not stop both president Zelaya and his opponents. The region need a better framework to prevent that type of situation. --------------------------------------

On the one hand, the military coup of Honduras is illegal and unconstitutional for kicking the president of the country; on the other, the elected president was executing an autogolpe that the judiciary and legislative branches tried to stop. The elected president did not care about the two other branches of government decisions and was marching ahead with his coup. In such a situation, how do you bring democracy back in-country? How do you reopen dialogue and build trust without forgetting one side’s sins? How do you keep the country on the road to democracy? In that situation will the Secretary General of the OAS, Insulza, be able it to guide the institution with wisdom and tact and apply the Democratic Charter? How will the Chilean-Pinochet experience factor into the management of this issue? How will we continue to convey to the soldiers and the military that a coup will always be unacceptable? How can we sanction a democratically government which manipulates elections, and engages in repression and corruption? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Considering the multiplication of these cases over the past few years, it is an issue that deserves to be to studied in order to identify appropriate responses. As autogolpes are being organized more frequently throughout the region, I put forward the following proposals for consideration:-

- The OAS should establish a commission formed of experts in the promotion of democracy to analyze the various cases and propose a framework on how the OAS should address this issue.--

- The OAS Unit of Democracy should create a watchdog team to monitor developments in the areas of free and fair elections, constitutional amendments, rule of law, the balance of power among the three branches of government, and the politicization of the police and the military. This unit should develop a ratings system that would trigger immediate action by the OAS General Assembly and the Secretary General. The decision of the Assembly will also trigger programmatic activities implemented by the watchdog team. -----------------------------------

- The OAS should organize a permanent monitoring unit for free and fair elections that is completely independent from political interference. This election monitoring unit should have the same status as the Inter American Human Rights Commission. -----------------------------

- The OAS should create a Democracy Tribunal that can hear cases of disagreement between parties. In the case of Honduras, if the OAS had such tribunal they could have heard the case and avoided further conflicts. -------------------------------------------------------------------

- The OAS should create a military-democracy team that will support the work of the watchdog team. This military-democracy team should permanently monitor the military development in countries facing political crisis. ------------------------------------------------------------------

- The OAS should create two new lower status memberships for countries that are violating democratic principles. This could be linked to the IDB, the World Bank, the IMF and other donors institutions. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

- The OAS should create a coalition of NGOs involved in democracy building capable of assisting the OAS in the promotion of dialogue and peace during crisis. These NGOs should specialize in conflict resolution, political party building, strengthening civil society, elections assistance, civil military relations, and good governance. --------------------------------------------------------

- The OAS should organize round tables and academics in Washington and the region on this issue to generate ideas and solutions. -----------------------------------------------------------

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Former President Clinton Takes His First Trip to Haiti as UN Special Envoy By Stanley Lucas

Since the announcement of President Clinton as the UN Special Envoy to Haiti, the Haitian community (in-country and Diaspora) have initiated an animated debate over the choice. Those that welcome the nomination are the Haitian reformers. They believe that the former President and his network (see chart) can raise the profile of Haiti; his nomination is attention-getting for a country that desperately needs the world’s attention. The skeptics are taking a “wait-and-see” approach citing concerns over his mixed record on Haiti when he was President. Finally, the cynics believe that this is a chance to return Aristide to power and that they can appeal to his opportunistic side to partner in efforts to profit from the meager assets of a country that no one is paying attention to. -----------------------------

The Reformers ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

The reformist camp welcomes Clinton’s appointment as envoy. They know that Clinton tried to support change in Haiti in the past, but failed because the man he gave a chance to and took a risk on, former President Aristide, was not actually a democrat. This former Haitian president shared the fate of past Haitian presidents who failed the Haitian people: popular uprising and exile. But the reformers are not in government. While they want to help the country, they are effectively kept out of the political arena by a string of threats, violence, kidnapping, corruption and the rampant drug trafficking linked to state institutions. Few of them would dare take on these issues in the face of these dynamics. They would have to risk everything – including their lives – to do so. This is tremendously unfortunate and is keeping qualified people from entering into the Haitian political system. About 83% of the competent, qualified Haitians are overseas mainly in the United States and Canada. This is the “brain drain” effect. While the reformers welcome this nomination, they are also prudent and will hold Clinton accountable for his agenda in the country. If he demonstrates an agenda guided by a genuine interest in and professed affection for the country (Clinton and his wife honeymooned in Haiti. Click here for more details , the reformers will be supportive. -------------------------------------------------------------------

The Skeptics -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The skeptics are those who did not forget the promises of aid and support that former President Clinton never fulfilled, and they strongly opposed the military invasion in 1994. In a speech made in Haiti on March 31, 1995, President Clinton promised: ----------------------------------

"Now you have a chance to come together to make the rice fields come alive and harvest the corn and millet; to build the schools and clinics that promise a better future for your children. We, your neighbors, your allies, and your friends, will support your efforts to create jobs, to attract investment from beyond your borders, and to rebuild and repair your injured land. In a few months, the program will begin to pave 1,000 kilometers of your roads. And later this year I will send the American Peace Corps here to help to organize the planting of millions of trees. As the roads are built and the trees are planted, thousands of you will have jobs. As you begin this work, I urge your countrymen and women who fled the terror to return and to help you to rebuild your land and theirs." -----------------------------------------------------------

Skeptics contend that the rice fields never come alive and the corn and millet harvests never manifested. Schools, clinics and jobs remain a distant hope. Investments never came, the 1,000 kilometers of roads were never paved, and the millions of trees were never planted. ------------

The issue of foreign military intervention and its strong opposition by Haitians has historical roots. In 1804, Haiti became the first black independent country by defeating militarily Napoleon’s army. This remains a point of pride for Haitian, and any foreign military intervention will be opposed. While many Haitians supported the return of Aristide in principle, they did not support the U.S.-led intervention in 1994. The subsequent and severe anti-democratic behavior of Aristide – his corruption, electoral manipulation, political violence, and involvement in drug trafficking – galvanized this group’s opinion about the military intervention as a serious mistake. They favored a diplomatic channel to resolve the differences and believe that Prime Minister Robert Malval in 1993 should have been given more support for that approach. -----------------

The Cynics-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The cynics are comprised of hard core former Aristide lobbyists and loyalists in Haiti and the United States. They believe that the main reason that Clinton is in Haiti is to help his friends seize business opportunities in the telecom sector and other infrastructure. (Click here for more details: They point to the past to justify their cynicism. ------------------------------------

This group contends that in 1994 Clinton was not really interested in returning democracy to Haiti. For them, Clinton played into Aristide’s hand. Aristide had hired an army of lobbyists in Washington in 1992 to advocate intervention, and loaded up rickety boats with 30,000 Haitian refugees and sent them floating to Florida’s shores (taking a page from Fidel Castro who uses this method of flooding refugees onto American shores to apply political pressure). According to the cynics Aristide's actions forced Clinton into responding militarily. This group thinks they can replicate this model and return Aristide to power by using close associates of Bill Clinton, such as Paul Farmer and Brian Concannon to return him again. Paul Farmer is said to be a leading candidate to become USAID administrator. While Paul Farmer is widely appreciated throughout Haiti for his significant AIDS work, most Haitians are concerned by his involvement in politics, particularly his close relationship with Aristide. Among the worse cynics is Randall Robinson, one of Aristide’s closest associates who has been the main mouthpiece promoting the conspiracy theory that Aristide was actually “kidnapped” by the United States. He wrote a book advancing this theory and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez paid $30 million to turn his book into a movie script. Robinson is the most outspoken critic of President Clinton vis-a-vis Aristide – and the genocide in Rwanda. ------------------------------------------------------------------------

The corrupt opportunists are comprised of the elite that believe is monopoly. People know them as the Groupe de Bourdon or Group of 22. They are systematically stealing the resources of the country and in the process, robbing the people of economic opportunities. They operate monopolies given to them by the President of the country. The Group effectively controls the office of the Presidency and key cabinet positions. They are totally corrupt. They run the banking industry, maritime deals, food imports (flour and rice), insurance, the port, and control government procurement. In fact, they were investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in 2005 for involvement in money laundering linked to the drug trade. Now, they are seeking to acquire the state institutions that actually generate revenue – the government-owned telecom company, the port and the airport – citing the need for privatization. What the are doing are stealing – not privatizing. When President Clinton’s appointment as envoy was announced, the group de Bourdon was rumored to be considring a large donation to his foundation in order to secure access. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

How Can President Clinton Help? ---------------------------------------------------

It will be challenging for President Clinton to affect any meaningful change in this context. But with someone of his stature focused on Haiti, there is a real opportunity for meaningful change. President Clinton should help develop some big ideas based on his serious expertise and vast networks. Haitian leaders have been unable to think creatively about how to solve the country’s problems and could benefit from the former President’s guidance. Hurricane readiness is a good project, but it isn’t enough given Haiti’s situation. The key will be to generate creative ideas and then work broadly with Haiti’s government to implement. The President of the Haitian Senate and the Lower Chamber both made statements on July 6 expressing concern about the undefined agenda of the Special Envoy. Before anxiety increases, there should be a clearly defined – and reasonable – proposal of action. In Clinton’s own words, “it’s the economy stupid”. If he could roll out a series of projects to help modernize and jump start the economy, this would be an invaluable approach. Implementing the promises he made in his 1995 speech would certainly go a long way toward putting Haiti on the path to recovery. Education is another area in critical need of attention. The schools are under funded and turn out woefully unprepared graduates. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In order to address the systemic corruption and resource grabbing that is the norm in Haiti, it would also be very meaningful for President Clinton to put in place programs with the Haitian parliament on developing a legal code that promotes and protects investment. Haiti, for example, does not have an anti-monopoly law which has led to price fixing, collusion and other illegal business practices. It is impossible to operate a vibrant economy without a strong legal code. Enforcement of the laws and training of judges to implement the codes will have to be the next step. These are but a few starting points for the President to consider. Haiti has entangled and defeated many skilled and seasoned politicians throughout its rich history. If President Clinton can focus his mission on bettering Haiti, he will win the support and hearts and minds of the Haitian people. They have high hopes – and even higher expectations.