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

Friday, February 18, 2011

Haiti Runoff Electoral Update # 1 by Stanley Lucas

On November 28, Haiti organized an election for President, a third of the senate and 99 seats in the lower Chamber. The pre-electoral period was characterized by political manipulation of the electoral process by the ruling party INITE, a partisan Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), corruption, questionable technical assistance that led to organizational failures, and weak international electoral observation missions, for more see pre and post electoral updates:

Election day was characterized by blatant and universal efforts to rig the vote and various technical breakdowns at the local and national levels. As a result, 13 of the Presidential candidates called for the annulment of the elections. Despite calls for the annulment, the CEP went ahead with the ballot counting and in the process presided over the rigging and manipulation of tally sheets.  The following is a chronology of events immediately following the elections:

  • On December 6, the CEP completed the “counting” process. That day observers present at the tabulation center of the CEP took notes of the final results for President; it was understood that Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly qualified for the runoff.  Based on that information international news outlets broadcast those results.
  •   On December 7, the CEP – under the influence and direction of President Preval -- changed the results and put the ruling INITE party candidate, Jude Celestin, in the run off omitting Martelly. 
  •  At the same time, the Legislatives elections were subject to deeper manipulation. A revolt erupted around the country in the following days.  
  • On December 9 the OAS Electoral Mission outraged Haitians when they stated in a press conference that: “there were some problem on election day but the process was acceptable and sound”. The Secretary General of the United Nations had to subsequently issue a statement to calm the outraged Haitian voters saying that there were in fact serious problems with the process and they were bigger than previously evaluated.  
  •  Preval called on the OAS to recount the tally sheets for the president only (see:  ).  At the end of the process the OAS recommended that the results be corrected and that the ruling party candidate withdraw from the elections leaving Manigat and Martelly to participate in the run off.
  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to Haiti to address the situation. No one knows the details of the conversation between her and Preval and Haiti’s political network -- even the US ambassador did not take part in those private discussions according to Haitian government sources.
  • Preval’s CEP then published the presidential “results” according to the OAS recommendations. The rigged legislative elections have not been addressed so essentially the ruling INITE party has been allowed to steal a number of seats. Emboldened by the inattention to the initial round of legislative elections, they are currently preparing to steal the remaining seats up for election in the runoff.
  •  Two of the losing Presidential candidates have contested the legality of the election results with the Haitian Attorney General’s Office.

Meanwhile former President-a-Vie Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier has been charged with economic and political crimes.  Ousted former President Jean Bertrand Aristide is trying to get back in country and will likely face charges for his political and economic crimes.

This is the context in which the OAS is calling on the CEP to move forward with the runoff.

The Provisional Electoral Council
Several members of the CEP have been found responsible for the manipulation of the results -- in favor of the ruling party -- at the Tabulation Center. Vice President Toussaint, Ginette Cherubin, Ribel Pierre, Gaillot Dorsinvil, and Director General Robert Opont appear to be the source of the manipulations. Michel Martelly called for their replacement and Mirlande Manigat requested change within the electoral machinery. The Haitian people have completely lost confidence in the CEP.

The CEP Director General Robert Opont, the CEP technical personnel working at the Tabulation Center and the leadership of the BED and BECs (the local election officials) have played a direct role in the manipulation of the tally sheets and elections results are still in place. None of them have been removed despite calls by the presidential candidates, Haitian civil society and the Diaspora. Every Haitian knows that the partisan CEP’s focus is to give Preval two-thirds of both chambers.

Haitians have become skeptical of the international community’s reaction to and leadership of the electoral process. To date, the OAS Electoral Observation Mission has refused to address the irregularities of the legislative elections despite numerous reports by domestic electoral observation groups documenting the fraud and violence.  Haitians believe that the international community struck a deal with Preval allowing him to steal the legislative elections in order to save face. The belief is that if this process moves forward without addressing legislative election results, there will likely be a huge political crisis in the months ahead. How do you explain to the people that voted for change that the ruling party stole (unchallenged) two-thirds of both legislative chambers?

Election Results
This is the first time in Haiti’s history that the CEP published results without listing the number of vote that each of the legislative candidates received. Even Haiti’s dictators used to take the time to publish fake results. The CEP published a list of 20 names of candidates that were “elected” in the first round for the House of Deputies (most from INITE) and four winning senate candidates (all INITE).

Only four of the eight CEP members signed the elections results; five signatures are required.  The CEP spokesperson was called to the Attorney General’s Office to answer questions about why results were published in the manner that violates the Electoral Law and voter and candidates’ constitutional rights. The next step is for the Attorney General to question members of the CEP. CEP President Gaillot Dorsinvil has expressed concern that he could be arrested at any moment.

Voter Lists
Most observers will agree that after the first round, the CEP manipulated the voter lists in order to prevent high voter turnout, which would be a negative for the ruling party candidate. On election day, voters stood in front of polling stations from 4:00 a.m. until noon and could not vote because their names were not on the voter registration list. An estimated 45-50% of the voters went back home after waiting six to seven hours. Many of those that finally found their names on the list learned that somebody from the ruling party had already voted for them. To date, the corrupt CEP has not taken any steps to correct the voter registration list. In fact, on February 15, the CEP has issued a communiqué (#70) that seems to suppress voter participation by stating that Article 32 of the Electoral Law says that registration of citizens should take place 60 days prior to elections. According to this timetable, no one will be able to register. In other words, the lists will not be corrected to allow disenfranchised voters to participate.

Tally Sheets
Domestic observers and International Observation Mission had shown exactly how the CEP manipulated the tally sheets at the Tabulation Center by comparing the duplicate (copy) of the tally sheet at the polling station with the original used at the Tabulation Center. For example, 18 votes noted at the polling stations were changed to 118 votes at the Tabulation Center. No steps have been taken to address this unsophisticated and blatant manipulation of the resuts.

The security situation has worsened. More than seven police officers have been murdered since the elections. According to witnesses who called into Haiti’s Radio Signal, it seems that in each case the police officers were specifically targeted.

Many are afraid that part of the Aristide network that used to target police and kidnap innocent Haitian citizens are reconstituting. From 2004 to 2006 Aristide ordered his gangs to kidnap and spread violence as part of a strategy to force his return. These groups killed 1,941 Haitian citizens, kidnapped 800, and raped 400 under a violent campaign known as “Operation Bagdad I” -- a similar number of people were brutalized under “Operation Bagdad II”. At that time with the same goal another Operation Pakatan’n (or Operation Can’t Wait) was launched by Amaral Duclona one of Aristide’s right hand men and resulted in the killing of dozens of citizens. (see:  1.  2. ).  It took three years for the police to disband and get rid of these gangs. Many citizens believe that the recent targeting of the police is linked to Aristide and this marks the beginning of Operation Bagdad III for the return of Aristide.

Political Parties, Haitian Senators and former Presidential Candidates
A coalition of political parties – some boycotted and others participated in the process – have called for the annulment of the elections and the application of Article 149 of the constitution, which would replace President Preval with a Supreme Court Justice.  They assert that Preval’s term legally ended on February 7.  This coalition is comprised of Altenativ, Rasanble, Liberasyon , UCADDE, Lavalas and several Haitian senators.  The 12 presidential candidates who each won 1% of the vote are also calling for the annulment of the elections. This coalition is organizing protests around the country that so far are not having any traction.

Civil Society
Civil society organizations have accepted the run-off solution to the rigged presidential elections. Haitian civil society continues express outrage for the manipulation of the legislative results though. They are calling for the verification and comparison of the polling station tally sheets with the ones used at the Tabulation Center for both the Deputy and Senate candidates.

Preval Term Illegally Extended
Preval’s Constitutional Term ended on February 7, 2011.  Rene Preval has stated that he will remain in office until a newly elected president is sworn in. He has passed a law to extend his term in office until May 14.  For Haitians this law is unconstitutional, but because of the division of the opposition -- and in the interest of stability -- Rene Preval has been given a pass. We have witnessed over the past few weeks the disastrous consequences of prioritizing stability over democracy, however.

OAS Electoral Observation Mission
The OAS observation Mission (EO) needs new leadership. In the eyes of the Haitian people, this mission has not contributed to a free and fair electoral process.  On the contrary, they have made things worse. The Mission demonstrated that it was incompetent and inefficient time and time again.  After the fiasco of November 28, the OAS EO stated that the elections were acceptable to them and needed to retract those statements later. While observations have a key role to play in ensuring free and fair elections, the OAS needs to regain credibility by, at a minimum, replacing the leadership of that mission.

MINUSTAH, Elections, Cholera
As a Mission, MINUSTAH has failed the Haitian people. From the mismanagement of the earthquake, to the strengthening of democratic institutions, through the assistance provided for the elections and the spreading of the cholera, the leadership of the Mission has shown incompetency. While there has been modest progress with their efforts to strengthen the Haitian National Police, MINUSTAH has little else to show for the US$4 billion spent from 2004 to 2010, and does not merit the $864 million requested for 2010-11.

The countries contributing to this Mission, including the U.S. taxpayers, deserve a more productive use of their money. Cholera continues to kill Haitian citizens. There are approximately 7,500 dead and 130.000 contaminated. There seems to be no clear strategy on how to address the epidemic that is killing Haitians at an alarming rate. The evidence presented by the US CDC pinpointing the cholera bacteria to a strain from South Asia combined with the French report concluding the Nepalese soldiers as the source of the outbreak, should be enough to establish MINUSTAH as the source of the epidemic. The UN has denied these claims and has appointed UN personnel to investigate the source of the epidemic (judge and jury). This failure to address the situation will continue to undermine the credibility of MINUSTAH in the eyes of the Haitian people and the Diaspora. Many Haitians expected help from the Obama Administration in order to establish the United Nations responsibility in the cholera epidemic and have them support the cholera recovery in the same way he held BP responsible for the oil clean up. Cholera is not only killing people, it is having a negative impact on the consumption of local rice and vegetables because they are grown on the river that was the source of the cholera epidemic.  People are afraid to buy those products.

Reconstruction is stalled. Haitians are upset at the Haiti Interim Reconstruction Commission (HIRC) led by former President Clinton and Prime Minister Bellerive. The 12 Haitian members of that commission have public decried the fact that all the contracts are allocated to foreign friends and companies, and they are used merely as rubber stamps for decisions (see: ). Many Haitians hope that structure will be addressed for a lack of results and will in the future include greater Haitian input (from Ministers and the Haitian business sectors) and will be more inclusive.

Haiti’s Strongmen
The return of former dictator Jean Claude Duvalier and the potential return of former dictator Jean Bertrand Aristide is a threat to Haiti’s political stability and the rule of law.  Both strongmen have records of political and economic crimes in Haiti. Aristide and Duvalier both have a myriad of U.S. lawyers and lobbyists advocating for them in the United States and the international media in order to silence Haitian voices calling for justice.

Duvalier has hired former US Congressman Bob Barr and others to defend him and promote his reconciliation propaganda on the international scene, see: . While Aristide continues to leverage ideology (casting himself as a victim of US imperialism) to hide his political and economic crimes by using lobbyists, lawyers, see: , ideological actors, and former US government officials to call for his immediate return, see: . He made most of these people millionaires by granting them access to sweetheart deals and lucrative retainers.  Members of this network include: Ira Kurzban, Brian Concannon, Randall Robinson, and others. He has also brought to the table some new American political figures like Reverend Jeremiah Wright to advance his case as a victim of US imperialism. For Haitians it’s about political assassination, kidnappings, corruption, drug trafficking, and embezzlement. Haitians want justice brought to Duvalier, Aristide and Preval for their crimes, for more see:

Launching Runoff Campaigns
On February 17, Manigat and Martelly launched their campaign for the runoff. Manigat chose to hold a press conference focusing on issues and responding to questions about education and the fate of Haiti’s strongmen. Martelly took the road and opened his campaign in Cap Haitien, the second largest city of the country where thousands of youth attended in an environment of victory. During the week Wyclef Jean, a singer that failed to meet the requirements to run for president, endorsed Martelly. Polling showed that if elections were held today, Martelly would get 66% of the vote and Manigat 33%. The runoff campaign was launched without any efforts to address the manipulations of the legislative elections and without any effort to address the technical and political issues that were at the source of political instability after the first round.

There are a number of technical issues that should be addressed in order to avoid further political unrest and ensure a more democratic process in the run offs:

  • Partisan members of the CEP under investigation should be replaced immediately
  •  The Catholic Church should name its member to the CEP
  • The Director General and technical employees of the Tabulation Center should be replaced
  • Members of the BED and BECs should be replaced with nonpartisan actors
  • Voter registration list should be fixed
  • The tally sheets and results for the senate and deputy candidates should be reviewed for manipulation 
Additionally, there are number of critical political environment issues that should be addressed:

  • Security strategies should be reviewed and strengthened
  • Haiti Judicial System should indict the country’s strongmen
  • OAS Electoral Observation Mission should be revamped – replacing the leadership as a first step
  •  MINUSTAH’s leadership should be replaced
  •  An international independent panel to investigate and establish the source of the cholera epidemic should be appointed. This should include Haitian experts from abroad.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Haiti Elections: Run Offs Only Part of the Solution by Stanley Lucas

Yesterday at the State Department, US Ambassador to Haiti, Kenneth Merten, praised the Haitian Government for following the OAS recommendations on how to proceed with the contested November 28 presidential and legislative elections, see first 10 minutes of the following video:  

While politically expedient, the solution is a Band Aid.  This plan is sloppy, leaves the job undone and the door open for further chaos, and fails to take into account anything the Haitian democratic opposition has proposed. 

In brief, the OAS recommendations and the Haitian Government solution says that the top two vote getters in the Presidential election, M. Michele Martelly and Mme. Mirlande Manigat, will compete in a run off scheduled for March.  It was largely seen as a success that Jude Celestin, the candidate backed by President Preval, was excluded from the process.  On the legislative elections, 22 of the 99 elected Deputies were allowed to stand, and there will be run offs for the remaining 77 seats.  Note that the OAS did not perform a recount of the legislative elections, and the report avoided any recommendations despite the widely held view that the legislative elections were even subjected to more fraud and manipulation than the presidential elections.  Setting aside the fact that these recommendations completely forgive the massive and blatant fraud of the Legislative elections, the solution leaves the job undone and the opening for further political chaos for three reasons:

1.     Preval’s Departure Remains Undecided:  There has been no announcement regarding the process after the end of President Preval’s term on Monday, February 7.  The constitution in article 134.3 is clear “Le Président de la République ne peut bénéficier de prolongation de mandat.” Which is “ The President of the Republic cannot beneficiate on any prolongation of his term” Preval has illegally extended his term by using the legislature to pass an illegal decree allowing him to stay in office until May 14 or until new elections are organized. None of the political actors will allow him to extend his term if he tries to stand by this decree and remain in office.  The constitution is the law of the land no other law can’t trump it. Therefore when the President term end the constitution triggered a mechanism that will allow his quick replacement. Article 149 of the Haitian Constitution will be likely invoked allowing a Justice of the Supreme Court to lead a provisional government.  Ambassador Keneth Merten stated that the Haitian political actors will come to resolution on how to interpret the Constitution regarding this end date, but there is no interpretation.  The process is quite clear:  his term is legally over on February 7 (see:  Washington post response ).

2.     No Consensus on Mandate for Provisional Government:  This is potentially the most politically explosive issue and leaves the door open to undermine the whole “political solution” and plunge Haiti back into political chaos and turmoil.  There are three groups of actors who will have competing political agendas for the provisional government.

     First, Preval and the INITE Party will seek to put a partisan judge in charge allowing them to continue business as usual and steal the remaining legislative seats.

     Second, the democratic opposition is comprised of two groups who will seek different outcomes.  The first group is made up of the presidential run-off candidates and civil society organizations, which want the run off election to proceed, but have called for the annulment for the legislative elections.  The second group is made up of the 12 presidential candidates who denounced the elections after the first round, and the democratic parties that boycotted the elections.  This second group will seek to have an impartial judge as the provisional president and to have the November 28 elections annulled.  Both groups agree upon the need to resolve several issues that led to the electoral irregularities, including reorganizing the partisan CEP, the appointment of impartial poll workers and cleaning the voter registration lists.

    And third, the supporters of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide who want to undermine the whole process and create chaos in order to provide an opening for Aristide’s return.  This Aristide camp will likely resort to violence.  In 2004, this is the group that launched Operation Baghdad I & II (see:  ) that resulted in 1,941 people murdered, and the kidnapping of more than 800 innocent citizens – among them 109 police officers.  For the past two weeks, operatives of this group have murdered 12 policemen.  Haitians are worried that this is the beginning Aristide’s Operation Bagdad III.

Most disturbingly, certain members of the international community support the return of Aristide and may throw their resource behind restoring Aristide to power (see: ). For example, the United Nations has offered to help the Haitian Government try former Haitian dictator Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier (see: ) which is a solution that neglects to account for the potential return of Aristide.  If the UN were being impartial, they would instead offer to work with the Haitian Government to develop a framework to try Haiti’s strongmen – Duvalier, Aristide and Preval – who are exploiting the chaos to continue their corrupt agendas in Haiti
    Clik on image to enlarge

3.     No Provision to Address Key Irregularities with the November Elections in the Run Offs:  President Preval was able to partially pull off his electoral coup by having a partisan CEP in charge of the process, appointing partisan poll workers and local election officials, and manipulate the voter lists (see: ).  In the November elections, the voter lists had been tampered with to prevent voters from voting.  On Election Day, approximately 40% of the voters returned home unable to vote after waiting seven hours on line to learn that their names did not appear on the voter lists.  INITE needed a low turnout to manipulate the tally sheets and the final results, so they rigged the voter lists.  None of these issues have been addressed for the run offs.  Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results?

None of these critical issues have been addressed.  In essence, this solution just buys time for Preval, Duvalier and Aristide to jockey for power.  And once again, the Haitian people will suffer.  The democratic opposition – knowing they do not have the support of the international community in any capacity beyond lip service – are left with no option but to pursue the run offs.  They sense it is the only opportunity available to remove Preval’s corrupt regime from power, but know that they have their work cut out for them with the provisional government and the organization of the run offs.  This solution has very little going for it.  It leaves all the hard work undone.  It has the potential to unravel at so many turns.  Meanwhile, reconstruction is stalled, and the pledged aid money remains on the sidelines. 

If there is one thing history has taught us it is that the Haitian people will never accept strongmen or the imposition of flawed elections.  However, this process can still be salvaged and political chaos can be avoided, but it will take some political chops:

·      Preval should leave on February 7 putting in place a consensus justice of the Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation) to manage the provisional government. 

·      A new CEP should be put in place – this one has no confidence – to manage the presidential political run offs, and entirely new legislative elections should be organized in three to four months time.  This would diffuse all the potential hotspots and build confidence in the electoral process. 

·      We need to also address another serious political hotspot before it gets out of control:  how to deal with Haiti’s strongmen.  With the return of Duvalier, potential return of Aristide, and the departure of Preval, the international community should work with Haiti to help put in place the judicial framework to try these strongmen.  However, the UN must account for serious partisanship in its ranks and exclude Dr. Paul Farmer, the UN Deputy Envoy for Haiti who signed a high profile ad in the Miami Herald supporting Aristide’s return, and Michelle Montas, former spokesperson of UN Secretary General.  Ms. Montas is Haitian and has a well known political agenda which would play into the decision to prosecute some and give others a pass. 

·      The reconstruction process needs to be reinvigorated.  The Haitian people have taken a backseat while all the electoral wrangling has diverted attention.  The focus should be on getting Haitians off the street and into permanent housing (see: ). 

·      And finally, we need to keep our eye on the upcoming hurricane season in June (four months away) and begin to organize an emergency preparedness campaign and put in place an emergency plan to deal with further natural disasters.  This process can move forward regardless of how the elections play out – and should be the focus of the government and the international community.

Correcting the Facts on Haiti’s Electoral Process by Stanley Lucas

It was announced yesterday that Haiti will move forward with a run-off between the two top vote getters – M. Michel Martelly and Mme. Mirlande Manigat -- as determined by the Organization of American States (OAS).  The government-backed candidate, Jude Celestin, has bowed out of the process.  On the surface, this seems to have eased political tensions; however, there was no resolution to the legislative elections, which were just as rife with graft as the presidential elections.  Therefore, Preval’s ruling party, INITE, has managed to secure many of the legislative seats.  This unresolved issue could be a potential problem going forward.

In reading the reporting on the announcement and Haiti’s electoral process, there have been several factual inaccuracies about the process regarding the end of President Preval’s term in office and what the constitution says about a provisional government.  These two issues underlay much of the political wrangling and manipulation stalling the process, and merit a factual correction.

First, regarding the electoral process and the end of President Preval’s term, the Washington Post reported the following (for full text, see: ):

“The next question is what happens with Preval. Under the constitution, Preval's five-year term is supposed to end Monday. An emergency decree passed by the Senate last year would allow him to remain in office until May, because his 2006 inauguration was delayed.

Preval could remain in office until a successor is elected. The president has repeatedly stated that he wishes to remain in Haiti after his term is over - and not flee into exile as so many of his predecessors have done.”

This is the argument that Preval is making, but it is constitutionally inaccurate and a manipulation of the facts.  The March 24, 2006 Presidential Decree nominating him President states that his term ends on February 7, 2011.  The May emergency decree is unconstitutional and has no legal authority to trump the Haitian constitution.  Further, there is no provision to extend the term of office to account for a delayed inauguration.  Preval knows this.  In fact, in January 1999 there was a delay in seating the legislature, but Preval, then serving as president refused to extend the legislative term to account for the delay.  This is the process, and he cannot trump the rule of law.

Second, the Washington Post reports the following about the Constitutional provision regarding a provisional government:

“If Preval steps down, the Haitian constitution says the top member of Haiti's supreme court should serve as a caretaker leader for no more than 90 days. The court's presidency is currently vacant.”

The Constitution does not say “for no more than 90 days”.  It is possible to extend the provisional government beyond the 90 days, and that has been done twice before:  in 1989-90 and  2004.  The fact that the court’s presidency is vacant does not impede the process, article 149 of the Constitution.  Another member of the court may assume the provisional presidency.  Preval has deliberately kept that position vacant to create confusion in this situation.  Obviously, he anticipated the possibility of a provisional government at some point.

Preval is again manipulating the facts in order to cling to power.  The democratic opposition is calling to respect the rule of law in Haiti and follow the official process, which clearly says Preval’s term is over on Monday, February 7.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Putting Aid to Work for the Haitian People: Creating a Haitian Housing Authority by Stanley Lucas

There has been much focus on the failure of foreign aid in Haiti prior to the earthquake and in the earthquake recovery process, see: People are asking why there is no visible program and what can be done.  There are many reasons aid failed to bring about development in Haiti prior to the earthquake – corruption, failure to build capacity in-country, and a patchwork approach to aid.  In the aftermath of the earthquake, these same dynamics have taken hold.  There are many good programs operating, but in spite of record funding (almost $10 billion in international aid has been pledged) their impact has been limited.  Aid is still being administered through a patchwork of programs not tied to any clearly defined short or long-term goal.  Turning this situation around and demonstrating a commitment to meaningful aid that improves the situation for the Haitian people requires a new approach. 

The Haitian people have no clear understanding of how the country will move forward nor does the international community for that matter as evidenced by their failure to remit the funds committed to reconstruction.  The reconstruction process is currently being run through a largely opaque operation, the Haiti Interim Reconstruction Commission (HIRC), co-led by former President Bill Clint on and Haitian Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive.  Haitian members of the HIRC have complained publicly that they have no idea how projects are being chosen or how contracts have been awarded, see: They say their role has been reduced to a “rubberstamp”.  Furthermore, they say that almost all reconstruction contracts have been awarded to foreign firms without bidding, and that Haitians have been largely marginalized.  The current process is not working and needs to be reinvigorated and refocused.

The reconstruction process needs an anchor program that focuses the reconstruction process and supports immediate, mid-term and long-term priorities.  An anchor program would galvanize the Haitian people and international community and reinvigorate the process.  The creation of a Haitian Housing Authority would address the immediate housing needs; would refocus aid money into a program that has tangible benefits for the Haitian people, and would address the mid- and long-term economic development challenges the country faces.
Click on pictures to enlarge

I hasten to add that a resolution to the political crisis surrounding the recent elections must also happen before any of this can happen.

Haiti’s Housing Crisis
Haiti’s top reconstruction priority must be rebuilding people’s homes.  About 1.8 million people are still living on the streets having lost their homes more than a year ago in the January 12, 2010 earthquake.  More than 500,000 homes were reduced to rubble.  Haitians are living in more than 1,370 makeshift “tent cities” that have sprouted up throughout the country.  I would note that the UN estimates one million people are homeless; however, their number does not include tent cities with less than 500 residents.  This is not humane, safe or sustainable.

One of the core challenges for economic development in Haiti is the lack of access to credit to launch a business or rebuild a home.  The banks are controlled by a small business cartel, the Groupe de Bourdon, which rules the Haitian economy through government favor and monopolies.  If you are lucky enough to secure a loan (mostly through relationships), chances are the interests rate will be around 43%.  And, the most common way to secure that loan is by using your home as collateral.  With so many people homeless, economic activity cannot really resume until Haitians can begin rebuilding their homes.

The Haitian Housing Authority
One creative solution to this economic and recovery challenge is the creation of a Haitian Housing Authority.  The Authority would be dedicated to the stated goal of “Building Back Better”.  It would essentially operate as a public-private partnership between the international community and the Haitian Government to do two things:  1.  Award Haitians low interest (2-4%) loans to rebuild their homes; and 2. Regulate the rebuilding process by providing training and certification to contractors, developing building codes, and monitoring rebuilding compliance. 
Click on picture to enlarge

In the short term, the HHA could quickly solve the most pressing need for housing in Haiti.  Keith Miyamoto, a San Francisco-based earthquake reconstruction expert, says it would take about $200 million and six months to put one million people into earthquake resistant homes.  He has already trained a corps of local engineers to identify homes that can be rebuilt and how to build new homes.  In the long term, the HHA could help solve the access to credit challenges, break up a bank monopoly by forcing banks to compete, and contribute to the overall building codes.  The HHA would also aim to build a new economic development center by training new contractors and providing a new skill set to Haitians and getting Haitians back to work by constructing homes.   

Funding and Establishment of the HHA
Funding this program should not require any new funding.  There is already plenty of aid money out there – about 80% of it has not even been spent yet.  The international NGOs that have received large donations and funds could be encouraged to allocate a portion of their funds to the new Authority.  Countries that have yet to remit their funds may be encouraged by such a straightforward and focused concept. 

Setting up the authority should be a straightforward process, but will likely require the Haitian Government lead in order to get it moving.  Many aid organizations will be reluctant to part with funds unless they see a role for themselves and a real commitment by the Haitian Government to make it work.  The Haitian Government needs to make the priorities of the Haitian people their priority and show some leadership.  The establishment of a Haitian Housing Authority would do just that.  The government could launch the HHA by an official decree. 

The Haitian Government will need to work to secure international buy in and identify partners from the international community in order to capitalize the fund.  International organizations, such as the World Bank and IDB, as well as NGOs have vast amounts of reconstruction funds at their disposal.  The Red Cross alone has almost $200 million remaining from the $445 million that was donated to earthquake recovery. 

The international partners should play a key role in establishing and managing the HHA, but should focus on building capacity in Haiti by working closely with the Haitian Government to set up the mechanism for vetting, approving and administering loans.  Mechanisms to counter corruption and graft must be central to the process.  Loan recipients should be free to identify their own contractors, but the HHA should require that contractors be certified by the HHA and build according to newly defined building codes (Haiti currently has no such codes or inspectors).  It should be key to the plan to include Haitian contractors and provide technical training for the required certification as well as training for building inspectors. 

Of course, priority access to the fund should be given to earthquake victims, but this project should also be sustainable.  Going forward, the fund could help Haitians make their existing homes and businesses earthquake proof.  This will help to spur a new local industry and build capacity in the Haitian construction sector. 

Concentrating aid in a priority sector that directly benefits Haitians should be a priority.  It has been more than a year since the earthquake, and we have not even begun to move towards rebuilding.  This type of program would provide real benefits to Haitians and give them the tools to help themselves, which should ultimately have lasting impact on Haiti’s economy.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

United Nations Partisanship in Haiti by Stanley Lucas

For the past five decades, Haiti has been confronted with corruption and bad governance under the leadership of a series of strongmen, including Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, Jean Bertrand Aristide and – to a lesser degree – current President Rene Preval.  All three have their supporters, but none of them have demonstrated that they will act in the best interest of Haiti.  And now, Duvalier has returned after 25 years in exile, Aristide is trying to return, and Preval is clinging to power during an electoral crisis, see:  This is the context in which the UN and international actors have had to navigate.

On January 23, 2011, supporters of ousted Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide took out a full-page ad in The Miami Herald demanding that the Haitian Government issue a passport for Aristide immediately and allow him to return to Haiti.  Aristide, citing former dictator Duvalier’s return, has said he wants to go back to Haiti to “help” recovery.  Among the 190 signatories see:  to the ad are former Aristide lobbyists who got rich on retainers and sweetheart deals that Aristide doled out to build up political support in Washington during his reign, see: and see: But most notable is the signature of Dr. Paul Farmer, who serves as the head of Partners in Health, which received $80 million from U.S. tax payers and the money raised for Haiti’s reconstruction, and the Deputy UN Special Envoy to Haiti.  Dr. Farmer used neither title with his signature. 

     Aristide with Haiti's notorious kidnappers and his right-hand man drug dealer 
      Fourel Celestin arrested by the DEA and convicted in Miami courts

It is a clear ethical violation for the UN to favor a political party in any country.  The UN is bound to remain impartial.  How is it possible for the UN’s representative to Haiti to be such a prominent backer of one of Haiti’s most controversial leaders?  Does it make it ok for him to back a political party leader just by not including his UN title?  It is likely that Dr. Farmer researched the rules and found a technical justification or loophole that allows him to sign the letter, but what about the ethics of such a high profile and public act?

The ad that Dr. Farmer endorsed claims that Aristide has broad political support in Haiti and that the Haitian government is denying his return.  Let’s take a closer look at these two claims:

First, the ad cites a petition for Aristide’s return that received 20,000 signatures in Haiti.  Putting aside the track record of Aristide operatives with falsifying reports, elections and petitions, the facts do not support the claims of popularity.  In the 2006 legislative elections, Lavalas won seven of the 99 Deputy seats up for election, and three of the 30 seats in Senate.  This weak showing does not indicate a high level of support.  Further, they note that Lavalas was prevented from participating in the 2010 elections.  This is only part of the story.  Lavalas was only excluded from the elections because Aristide refused to sign the paperwork required for the Party to participate in the elections.  As head of the Party, his signature was required. 

Second, the Haitian Minister of Interior released a statement saying that Aristide’s application for a passport has never been denied because he has never applied for a passport, see: or the original communique below.

Furthermore, having an expired passport does not prohibit reentry for Haitians. There are two things preventing Aristide from returning: prosecution for the economic and political crimes committed in office, see letter of Haitian Senator Irvelt Chery to Haiti’s judicial system: and most importantly the people of Haiti who drove him out of the country in 2004.  The Haitian people lived under nine years of political intimidation, violence, corruption, and drug trafficking conducted by Aristide and his operatives.  Aristide did nothing to advance the country or help the poor after promising to represent the poor of Haiti.  In fact, he left the country with $350 million in stolen state funds according to Haiti’s General Accounting Office, see:

This is yet another attempt by Aristide to fabricate a scenario that drums up international support for his return.  He is merely trying to build international support so that he can return in a cocoon of international protection.  Again, there is nothing preventing his return except for his fear of the retribution of the people he oppressed and terrorized during his rule.  It is therefore disturbing that Dr. Farmer, who is supposedly representing the international community in Haiti in his capacity as Deputy Special Envoy, chose to take sides so publicly against the will of the Haitian people. 

The UN has a string of controversies in Haiti from sex scandals to corruption to the introduction of cholera in- country.  The Haitian people have lost confidence in the institution.  The international community should investigate the UN’s policy toward and presence in Haiti.  The Haiti mission (MINUSTAH) just received an $864 million operating budget in Haiti for 2011.  This is in addition to the $4 billion they have already received since 2004.  Members of the international community need to begin asking where are the results?  And, is the UN being impartial in Haiti? 

One final note:  Aristide says he wants to return to Haiti too (when discussing Duvalier’s return).  There are thousands of people in the Diaspora community around the world who would love to return to their country as well.  Thousands who were driven out of Haiti by Aristide and Duvalier’s violence and political oppression are watching the situation go from bad to worse.  And they are doing so while sitting on the sidelines having been marginalized from the rebuilding process.  Why should the dictators be allowed to return when the victims cannot?   
    Click on Picture to enlarge

According to Haiti's General Accounting Office Duvalier stole $600 million and Aristide stole $350 million.  And now, during their country’s lowest time, they are again sucking all the air out of room with their drama – with the support of some international actors.  This is no way to promote progress in Haiti. If the UN really wants to really help Haiti at this point is to work with the Haitian judiciary to develop a framework to try these strongmen. So far, what they have done is to offer to help trial Duvalier. This is a short-term solution and if we take this trial person-by-person it opens the door to partiality. – If Dr. Paul Farmer a UN representative is coming out in support of Aristide how can we have confidence that the UN will be an impartial Aristide trial?