Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
How Haiti Saved America
Two centuries ago, a glittering Caribbean Island helped finance the Revolution
The United States has been leading the response to the Haitian earthquake for all of the reasons that we would expect: our geographical proximity, our competence at emergency response, and our innate generosity. That fits the narrative most of us hold in our heads, for we typically think of Haiti and America as a basket case and a basket, joined only by their contradictions, and the beneficence of one to the other.
On the surface, that is true enough. Haiti was desperately poor well before this latest catastrophe and routinely faces problems that border on the biblical — floods, epidemics, and a deforested landscape that suggests a plague of locusts (sadly, it was just human beings). The United States is the world’s all-time winner, whether defined by Olympic medal count or GDP or any other national sweepstakes.
Yet a closer look at the early history of the United States and Haiti — proudly, the two oldest countries in this hemisphere — suggests that the relationship was once very different. In fact, it was the island’s wealth that turned heads in those days. And the United States was hardly a foregone conclusion. In the darkest days of the American Revolution, when it seemed preposterous to believe that the mighty British empire might allow 13 rogue colonies to come into existence as a new nation, the support that came from a 14th colony — French Saint Domingue, Haiti’s predecessor — made an important difference.
In recent years, the bestseller lists have been dominated by history books arguing that our founding moment is the key to understanding everything that has happened since. That is all well and good — in fact, it’s great news that so many Americans are willing and even eager to read about the 18th century. But to tell the story right, we need to think about all of the people who worked for our independence. In the appeals for aid that have gone out over the last few months, there is one powerful reason for aiding Haiti that has never been articulated. Simply put — the United States might never have come into existence without the help of our island neighbor.
That is a counterintuitive thought, to put it mildly. But to avoid defeat, Americans needed guns and powder and bullets and warm clothing. To buy those necessities, they needed money. And money in those days came from France, eager to twist the tail of the British Lion. France supported America for many reasons, including the ones we learn in school — Benjamin Franklin’s
roguish charm and the appeal of the underdog and England’s comeuppance. But a reason we hear less often is that France had a vested interest in protecting a lucrative overseas possession with a strong connection to the United States, and to New England in particular.
Here in Boston, where the American Revolution is an everyday fact, it helps to pull the camera back, away from this tiny peninsula, and consider the broader hemisphere. In the late 18th century, the situation was very nearly reversed — Haiti’s predecessor, Saint Domingue, was the richest colony in the world. Its capital city, Cap Français (today’s Cap Haïtien) was larger than Boston, and among the most cosmopolitan places in the Americas. Its culture matched anything in New York, Havana, Philadelphia, or the dour Puritan city jutting into Massachusetts Bay.
Early in the century, Benjamin Franklin had learned that modest displays of wit were punishable by jail in Boston — why he soon found it convenient to flee to Philadelphia. In Saint Domingue, by contrast, wit was everything. Comedies were performed at playhouses around the country (the largest theater in Cap Français seated 1,500). Le Cap’s first theater preceded Boston’s by more than 50 years. The historian James E. McClellan III said that Haiti’s scientific clubs “certainly rivaled, if they did not eclipse” those of Philadelphia and Boston. A highly sophisticated urban life sprang into existence — more than 11 towns had more than 1,000 people, and in the capital, all of Cap Français danced to orchestras, laughed at cabarets, played at cards and billiards, and visited wax museums. (In 1789, a waxen George Washington was put on display, in what might have passed for the first state visit by a US president.)
As these accounts would suggest, a great deal of money was made in Saint Domingue. To be “as rich as a Creole” was a familiar boast in Paris, and a substantial portion of the French economy depended on this one distant settlement. This was the jewel of the French empire, furnishing the coffee drunk in Paris, the sugar needed to sweeten it, and the cotton and indigo worn by men and women of fashion. Saint Domingue’s commerce added up to more than a third of France’s foreign trade. One person in eight in France earned a living that stemmed from it. By 1776, this tiny colony produced more income than the entire Spanish empire in the Americas.
But Haiti’s superheated economy required constant, grinding labor in the plantations — and that meant massive importation of human beings from Africa. To a greater degree than in South Carolina or Virginia, the planters of Saint Domingue worked their slaves to death. This was a slave society on a scale beyond anything seen in North America. The profits were bigger, and so were the cruelties, distributed as generously. A small colony of 10,000 square miles — roughly the size of Massachusetts — held a teeming population of Africans, half a million strong, ruled over by a mixture of French families, light-skinned mulattoes, and the profiteering adventurers who always congregate in lively Caribbean cities.
To a surprising degree, Boston was economically linked with a city that was in many ways its polar opposite. New England merchants had been getting rich in Hispaniola since at least 1684, when a young adventurer, William Phips, found a Spanish treasure that made his fortune there. Foodstuffs like dried fish were sold by enterprising Yankees to the rich French island, and the trade in molasses (a run-off of the sugar refining process) became a New England specialty, part of the so-called Triangle Trade. The difficulty of regulating this trade led to the strictures by which England tried and generally failed to bring New England to heel, enraging Americans in the process.
So, well before the first shots were fired at Lexington Green, New Englanders had a mutually beneficial relationship with Saint Domingue that was irritating to England. And France was highly protective of Saint Domingue, which the English had tried on several occasions to seize. All of this provided essential background to the key fact — the French alliance — that allowed the United States to lurch into existence.
Why did the French pour money into our cause? A large portion of the answer lies in Haiti, unremembered by Americans. France did not want to lose its jewel, and so it sprang into action when the American colonists began to agitate for their freedom. The king’s advisers worried that the British would use the conflict to shore up their Caribbean possessions, and seize Saint Domingue once and for all. To support the Americans would not only weaken the British and help avert that disaster, it would support a people with a known interest in trading with the French colonists. The loans were small and secretive at first, often funneled through clandestine agents. But eventually, French support grew open and robust. As recounted by Stacy Schiff in “A Great Improvisation,” France ultimately provided 1.3 billion livres, or the equivalent of $9 billion today.
Without this help, the Revolution probably would have fizzled. Certainly it would not have lasted as long. When the Declaration of Independence announced the United States, the Americans had only about 30,000 fighting men and very little money. Benjamin Franklin wrote, “the world wondered that we so seldom fired a cannon. We could not afford it.” France’s aid made all the difference. The battle that ended the war — Yorktown — was essentially a French production.
But not entirely French. To do their part, the people of Saint Domingue responded enthusiastically to the call to defend the infant United States. Haitians of all complexions fought alongside the continentals at the Battle of Savannah in 1779 (one of them was a 12-year-old drummer named Henri Christophe, who went on to pronounce himself king of Haiti in the 19th century, after getting a taste of independence in America).
Just as importantly, Saint Domingue served as a vital point of transfer for the men, arms, and gunpowder flowing from France to the patriot cause. As those essential donations poured in to the United States, they came through what is now Haiti. Americans were buying powder there as early as 1775. The powder that won the battle of Saratoga came from there. The military engineers who designed the plans for victory at Yorktown and the cannons needed to win it and the French fleet who made sure it happened all came to us via our island neighbor. Yorktown essentially won it all for us.
Perhaps the most important gift of all from Haiti to the United States came in a form that remains difficult to quantify, but was essential all the same. The money that kept the United States afloat during the long war for independence came from those enormous loans, negotiated by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams during their long stay in Paris. Does it not seem plausible that France had money to lend to one part of America because of the huge profits that another part of America — Saint Domingue — made possible? It is hard enough today to know how money goes from one pot into a government expenditure; the difficulty increases exponentially when looking at the distant finances of a country that no longer exists. But the vast sums pouring into France from Saint Domingue at exactly the same time made foreign aid to the New World a distinctly more attractive option than it would have been otherwise. The 1770s and 1780s were the richest decades Saint Domingue had ever seen. It goes without saying that the entire enterprise rested on the backs of the men and women whose labor powered it.
We are naturally drawn to the most elevated part of the story of our national birth, and there is plenty of inspiration in the orations of Sam Adams, the immortal words of the Declaration, and the valor of American soldiers at Lexington and Bunker Hill and Valley Forge. But we do a disservice to the people of Haiti, and ultimately to ourselves, if we do not remember that a large contribution toward American freedom was made by the hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans who, in their way, toiled and died for the cause.
Ultimately, America’s cause merged into Haiti’s own, for the huge loans given to America weakened the French economy sufficiently that another revolution broke out in Paris and the world turned upside down all over again. Out of that chaos emerged a third revolution, and a new Haitian nation, which declared independence in 1804, the second American country to do so. Its path since then has been rockier than our own, to put it mildly, but it overcame more difficult challenges than we did, including the opposition of nearly every nation on earth, the United States among them.
There were voices, then as now, that saw some justice in bringing the two independent nations into closer orbit. Timothy Pickering of Salem, secretary of state from 1795 to 1800, considered the revolution’s leader, Toussaint Louverture, “a prudent and judicious man possessing the general confidence of the people of all colors.” Under John Adams, there was a flourishing trade, and even some US naval support for Toussaint’s maneuvers. In return, Toussaint’s supporters began to call Americans “the good whites.”
On rare occasions, Americans even saw some similarity between the revolutions that each country experienced. In 1791, as the Haitian Revolution was just getting underway, a young Pennsylvania politician rose to defend the slaves fighting for their freedom, arguing, “if the insurrection of the Negroes were treated as a rebellion what name could be given to that of the Americans which won their independence?” In 1804, a Boston newspaper, the Columbian Centinel, wrote, “their case is not dissimilar to that of the people of the United States in 1778-1800.” But in 1806, the Jefferson administration succeeded in a ban on all trade with the newly independent nation of Haiti, extinguishing its hopes for prosperity, at the beginning of its new history.
It is easy to see why we have generally passed over this history. It is obscure, buried in old newspapers and articles, many written in French. It describes a lost colony that seems to have slid off the face of the earth. But Haiti survived Saint Domingue, and now it has survived what may be the greatest crisis in its history.
But the story does not end there. In fact, it doesn’t end anywhere, because Haitians and Americans will always bump into each other in the small hemispheric space that we occupy together. Many more arguments could be cited to convey how entangled are the roots of our liberty trees. How many Americans live in the great heartland that stretches from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains? They owe a debt not only to Thomas Jefferson, Louisiana’s purchaser, but to Toussaint Louverture and the Haitians who fought so tenaciously for their freedom that Napoleon was forced to cash out of America. (He exclaimed, on hearing of the death of his best general, “damn sugar, damn coffee, damn colonies!”) How many Americans have been moved by the prints of John James Audubon, or the writings of W.E.B. Du Bois, or the many other descendants of Haitian families, white and black, who came here in the aftermath of the Haitian Revolution? How many of us have admired the iron balustrades of New Orleans and Charleston, wondering where the artisans came from who designed them?
Thousands of Americans have rushed to Haiti’s hospitals and shelters and with their expertise and aid. We have given deeply — $700 million and counting. But as the spring rains come, perhaps we can pause to consider this shared history, and do more by a sister republic that has dogged our steps and weighed on our consciences since the dawn of the American experiment. It has often been said that freedom is not free. Should we not show how highly we value it, by repaying a small fragment of the debt we owe to the descendants of a people whose blood, sweat, and tears helped us to become the United States of America?
Ted Widmer directs the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University. He is a senior research fellow with the New America Foundation. The library has formed a fund, ”Saving Haiti’s Libraries,” to protect the endangered cultural treasures of Haiti. See jcbl.org for details.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
What is striking is that of the six-member Board not one Haitian-American was included. There are more than two million Haitians living in the United States currently. Are we to assume that not one of them was qualified to sit on this Board? I personally know a number of highly qualified, PhDs with strong economic development backgrounds who would be an excellent fit for such an initiative. These people have what no one else on this Board has: experience in Haiti. For more click here: http://floridahaiti.org/pdf/Haiti%20Advisory%20Group%20-%20Final%20Report.pdf
Separately, there is a growing sense of confusion among the Haitian Diaspora about the various funds that former President Clinton controls. There is the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, the Clinton Foundation, and his significant official role with the UN as the Special Envoy. The latter role puts him in an oversight role for World Bank, IADB, and other international financial institutions and their programs in Haiti. Further, the US government initiatives are interlinked with the UN efforts as well. USAID states that they are supporting the UN cluster system. The Haitian Diaspora community is seeking some clarity on how all these roles are managed given that some are official and some are NGO/Foundation roles.
Bill Clinton and George W. Bush put together team to oversee Haiti aid fund By Philip Rucker
Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush announced late Tuesday that they have appointed a six-member board of former Democratic and Republican senior government officials to oversee the humanitarian fund the presidents established in the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated Haiti.
Clinton and Bush have tapped Gary Edson, who served as Bush's deputy national security adviser and helped establish the anti-poverty Millennium Challenge Corporation, as chief executive officer of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.Edson will be joined by a board of directors made up of longtime advisers and allies of both presidents. The presidents said more than 200,000 individuals have donated over $36 million to the fund since President Obama asked them to lead the nation's long-term humanitarian response to the earthquake.
The fund has allocated millions to relief groups providing medical care and supplies, mobile clinics, water purification, hygiene kits, education assistance and recovery supplies to quake survivors in Port-au-Prince, Jacmel, Saint Martin and Martissant.Edson and the board will oversee the fund's strategy and processes, including fundraising and cash disbursements. "We are pleased to appoint a board of bipartisan, distinguished leaders whose experience in past disaster recovery and rebuilding efforts will ensure the effective operation of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund and the strategic allocation of its resources to have the greatest impact on the lives of the Haitian people," Clinton said in a statement. "Their service and dedication will help President Bush and me continue to support the people of Haiti as they build back better in the months and years to come.
"Bush added: "I am pleased that such a distinguished group of individuals has agreed to serve. I thank them for donating their time and talents to this worthy cause. This group will ensure that our fundraising efforts remain strong, and that the money is spent on successful programs that build a better future for the Haitian people."The six board members are:
• Laura Graham, a former Clinton administration official and chief operating officer for the William J. Clinton Foundation, who will serve as a Board Co-Chair.
• Joshua Bolten, former White House chief of staff to Bush and currently a visiting professor at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School, who will serve as a Board Co-Chair.
• Bruce Lindsey, a former Clinton administration official and currently chief executive officer of the Clinton Foundation.
• Dr. Bill Frist, former Republican Senate majority leader, a professor at Vanderbilt University, a partner at Cressey & Company in Chicago, and chairman of Hope Through Healing Hands.
• Henrietta Fore, former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development under Bush and chairman and chief executive officer of Holsman International, an investment and management company. • Alexis Herman, former secretary of labor in the Clinton administration and currently chief executive officer of New Ventures, LLC
Monday, March 8, 2010
March 12 will mark two months since the earthquake hit Haiti killing more than 235,000 people. The solidarity and response from the American people has been overwhelming. Private contributions have topped $2 billion. The question that the Haitian victims are asking is how and when will the institutions that got the money deliver aid to the victims? Will humanitarian aid be used as a tool to achieve a particular political agenda or to influence Haiti’s upcoming presidential elections?
The situation in Haiti is beyond bad. People are suffering. Even with the outpouring of support from international governments, Haitian Diaspora, and aid organizations, we are barely getting a handle on the situation. There are now more than one children who are orphans or have only one surviving parent. There are 1.5 million people sleeping in the streets under the rain, among them infants of three, four or five months, and almost 65,000 thousand pregnant women. More than 400,000 Haitians are seriously injured among them 20-30,000 amputees. Ask the doctors of the USS Comfort, the US military’s hospital ship, with thirty years of experience, and they will tell you that they have never seen anything this catastrophic. Haiti needs help; Haiti needs leadership; and Haiti needs more direct support from the United States.
With this backdrop, President Preval visits Washington, DC this week. In diplomacy nothing is spontaneous, but to date it is uncertain what the deliverables for the visit will be. We know he will conduct a series of meetings culminating with the meeting with President Obama on Wednesday. While Preval must advocate for Haiti’s priorities, he must also have a good understanding of Washington’s priorities in Haiti. Along with concerns about rebuilding in Haiti, one of the Obama Administration’s top priorities is the release from Haitian prison of the two missionaries accused of kidnapping last month. In advance of Preval’s visit, he should have released these two Americans and deported them back to the US barring them from reentering Haiti. Now, however, their continuing detainment will be an unnecessary distraction and a missed opportunity to improve the atmospherics.
The following are some thoughts on the priorities for this trip and what Preval should attempt to accomplish. Achieving meaningful results on these issues is critical – and can serve as a gauge for the success of Preval’s visit.
IMMEDIATE PRIORITIES / SPECIFIC REQUESTS
· Tents. This is priority number one. The number of people -- babies, pregnant women, young people, old people -- who are living out in the open and sleeping in the rain and on the streets is unacceptable. They cannot wait for rebuilding or transition housing. They need immediate shelter. Preval should immediately request 800,000 tents from the United States. This should have been done immediately after the earthquake. Instead, Preval chose to waste a month and a half pursuing this request with Ecuador and Mexico, neither country can actually deliver tents in these numbers. The US is the only country with this ability. This is absolutely unacceptable and must be immediately rectified.
· Pre-Fab Housing: Pre-fabricated housing is also an immediate need. The trip presents an opportunity to request US$500 million from the Inter American Development Bank (IADB) or seek funds from the Clinton Foundation. The Government could then partner with Habitat for Humanity to provide the expertise to construct mid and longer term housing.
· Coordination of Food Aid: After two months, the delivery of food aid is still chaotic and uncoordinated. A majority of the citizens in the neighborhoods considered to be unsafe still do not have access to food aid. This needs to improve and coordination is essential to an effective process. This visit presents a unique opportunity to address this issue because most of the organizations distributing food are American. Preval should convene a working meeting with the heads of the major food aid delivery organizations to put together a plan to streamline the delivery of aid while keeping an eye on avoiding longer-term dependence on food aid.
· Access to Healthcare. Preval should request that the USS Comfort remain in port for another six months. With more than 400,000 people still critically wounded, we cannot afford to lose the ship at this point. The treatment of amputees should be a priority.
· Prevention of Epidemics. Preval should request the support of the NIH for the evaluation and medical follow-up to guarantee that no epidemics complicate the humane efforts and rebuilding process.
· Partnership with Haitian Diaspora Medical Associations. Preval should meet with the Haitian Diaspora associations of doctors and nurses to build partnerships to strengthen capacity in-country for immediate aid and longer term rebuilding of the public health system.
· TPS Extension. Preval should request from Congress and the Administration a three-year extension of TPS for undocumented Haitians in the United States. There is no way that Haiti can absorb these people at this point.
· Acceleration of Immigration Processes for Victims. Applications for family members of Haitian-Americans and Haitians with permanent residency submitted prior to the earthquake should be accelerated.
Fundraising / Opening Additional Streams of Aid
· Overall Tracking. The Obama Administration has embarked on a groundbreaking project to provide transparency to how the economic stimulus money has been spent through a comprehensive website, www.recovery.gov. This is a tremendous project and is relevant to Haiti now. There has been a tremendous amount of aid pouring in to Haiti through many channels. Without central coordination and tracking, it is difficult to get a handle on how effective the aid is being deployed and what areas are in the most need. It would be an incredibly worthwhile endeavor to ask the Obama Administration to help Haiti track the funds donated and deployed in Haiti in a central website, www.haitirecovery.org. This would instill confidence in the process and allow Haitians to monitor how the money is being spent.
· Tax Incentives. A request should be made of Congress to pass a measure allowing each Haitian in the US an annual tax deduction for up to $10,000 in remittances to support family members stricken by the earthquake.
· Debt Relief. Haiti owes $960 million to the international financial institutions. They have forgiven only $230 million to date. Preval should request that they forgive the remaining amount of debt.
· Opening Lines of Credit. The majority of Haitians have lost their houses and therefore lost their primary collateral for securing loans and credit. Further complicating the situation is the stranglehold on credit by the Haitian business cartel, the Groupe de Bourdon. In order to rebuild, we will need to open new lines of credit, particularly at the micro level. USAID and IADB both used to provide such programs in Haiti. Preval should request the reopening of these programs. Currently, one organization, Fonkoze, has almost a monopoly on the provision of micro credit, which is not healthy to long-term growth and cannot fully meet the great need.
· Fundraising: Preval should seek meetings with the major American philanthropists, such as Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Ted Turner, George Soros, and Rupert Murdoch, to request their participation in the content of rebuilding. Warren Buffet has given $30 billion for humanitarian projects throughout the world and the others have active foundations with global agendas. It is unclear how much outreach the Haitian Government has done with each of these individuals, but coordination and cooperation with the Haitian Government will help ensure their support is not duplicative and is channeled toward the priorities of the Haitian Government.
· Recovery of Stolen State Funds: Request the support of the United States to recover the funds stolen by former Presidents Duvalier (US$600 million) and Aristide (US$350 million). This would be a significant source of revenue for reconstruction and is a long outstanding wrong that needs to be made right.
· Clarification on the Clinton Fund: The Haitian Government will need to understand the difference between official American assistance toward rebuilding and the deployment of Clinton’s funds. There is great confusion on this point and the lines between the two seem to be blurring. Preval should seek clarification on this point, and request an official total of funds collected on behalf of the Clinton Foundation including what has been allocated to date. Clinton controls a significant chunk of the aid at this point (more than $600 million) and therefore has substantial influence on the rebuilding plans. Clinton aid should be coordinated and transparent.
· Human Resources Initiatives. Nearly two million Haitians live in the United States, and according to the World Bank, 83% of the qualified Haitian human resources live overseas. Furthermore, more than 10% of Haiti’s government officials were lost in the earthquake. Haiti urgently needs to reinforce the capacity of the ministries and the various the institutions of civil society. Preval should request that USAID and IADB offer three to five year contracts for Haitians to return to Haiti and work in the ministries and organizations on behalf of their organizations.
Women and Children
· Reinstate State Department Programs. The USAID previously supported a program to protect women and children from sexual predators and violence. The Haitian Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) managed the program in country. In the tent villages, there has been an uptick in violence against women and children. The USAID should reinstate this program.
· Sexual Predator List: Preval should request the list of registered sex offenders in the US in order to prevent their entering Haiti or attempting adoptions. There was a serious problem with sex offenders attempting to take children from South East Asia in the wake of the tsunami.
· Ministry of Education Funding. USAID used to provide support to the Haitian Ministry of Education. That was cut recently but should be reinstated. More than 85% of the schools were destroyed in the earthquake. We need temporary schools and longer term rebuilding support. In Kenya, the World Bank provides $120 million a year for educational support. Haiti receives not even $500,000 for education. Preval should revisit this issue with the World Bank as well as with the US Government.
· University Outreach. The State University of Haiti was mostly destroyed in the earthquake losing nine of its 11 buildings and nearly 450 professors and students. Preval should meet with the heads of the universities in Washington, DC and Florida to request support and partnerships to rebuild the University and explore them providing assistance to Haitian students wishing to continue their studies in the US.
· Haitian Students to the US. Preval should request additional funding or support for Haitian students to study in the US.
· Haitian Sovereignty. Preval must make clear that the Haitian Government will actively develop its own plan for reconstruction rather than signing on to a document that is prepared by the United National and approved by Haiti as it if was their own. There have been many calls for the UN to take over management of Haiti or an international consortium. This is unacceptable. President Preval must make clear that while Haiti appreciates and greatly needs the support and expertise of the international community, we are still a sovereign country, and as such, will define our rebuilding plan and priorities. He should state his intention to make the rebuilding process open and transparent with a overarching coordinating mechanism. This should mark a departure from politics as usual in Haiti.
· Rebuilding Fund. The US Senate voted for the creation of an international building fund for Haiti. This agreement should be a public-private partnership (PPP) managed by the representatives of the Haitian state, representatives of the Diaspora, legitimate Haitian businesses, and the support of international advisers. During this visit, Preval should request that the US kick off the fund with a $5 billion donation.
· Haitian-American Companies. Preval should make clear that Haitian-American companies applying for rebuilding contracts would receive preference in order to provide incentive to the vast Diaspora community to return to Haiti to rebuild.
For President Obama, effective coordination of humanitarian aid, rebuilding and political stability remain areas of interest. Mismanagement of humanitarian aid can has direct implications in the United States. Most notably, mismanaged aid efforts could lead to about 50,000 people setting out in makeshift boats for the US shores by the end of the summer. This could have an impact on congressional elections of November 2010 in the United States, particularly in Florida where the boat people will undoubtedly head.
Likewise, political stability will be critical at this time of chaos. The US will provide 70-80% of the funding for presidential and legislative elections in Haiti. The internal political consensus is that the elections are not possible for next the 18 months for three reasons. First, the provisional electoral council’s technology, equipment, building and voter registration has been lost. People have of course lost their registration cards as well. A lot of work will need to be redone to rebuild these databases and provide sufficient organizations for a free and fair election. Second, the people do not trust the Preval Administration with the organization of these elections. Preval is currently pushing for November elections despite the utter ruin of the country. Preval lost the confidence of the population to oversee elections because of past electoral manipulation, the leadership vacuum in the wake of the earthquake, and widespread corruption in his Administration. In fact, during a recent visit by Admiral Michael Mullen, Preval chose to rebuke the American press for allegations of corruption rather than focusing on the ongoing needs of the Haitian people. He needs to get it together and focus on salvaging what little credibility he has left. The political consensus is that a constitutional transition with a consensual member from the Supreme Court is the realistic solution as this point. This is a point that the Obama Administration should reinforce with President Preval; otherwise, if Preval continues to push for November elections, the country will erupt in violence and protest. It is not feasible.
Hopefully, this visit will be well prepared and productive. If not, it is a missed opportunity, but could also negatively impact the upcoming Donors Conference on April 7. If this visit is unfocused and produces few tangible results, Preval should just retire now and not wait for the end of his term in November.