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, March 31, 2011

Post-Revolutions in Northern Africa and the Middle East: Fostering a Successful Democratic Transition by Stanley Lucas

Fostering democracy and economic development in countries that have been under a dictatorship for decades is a complex and challenging task that requires a clear vision and investment by the transition government and the support of the international community. After the dictator has gone, citizens who rose up against oppression and corruption are confronted with two scenarios: a slow, tough road to democracy and economic development, or permanent instability marked by political infighting and power struggles. The latter scenario can lead to an even worse situation where the victims of the regime morph into the new oppressors. We often hear political commentators discuss the uncertainty and risk posed by unknown leadership assuming power post-dictatorships, and whether or not the alternative will be any better. International technical assistance and a strong commitment by the interim government to giving political, economic and civil society leaders the tools and expertise to deal with the new challenges of building democratic institutions and breaking from old patterns and systems can help minimize the risk and shape a stable government. For these transition societies, gaining access to the know-how, through the transfer of knowledge and the sharing of experiences will foster democratic institutions and sustainable stability.

The Success and Failure of Transitions around the World
Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, Yemen, Syria, and Libya are experiencing today what countries in Latin American and the Caribbean -- and Eastern Europe and Russia -- experienced in the 1980s. In Latin America, 18 dictatorships fell in large part as a result of Presidents Carter and Reagan’s efforts to promote democratic values in the region. Thirty years later, some of these countries are succeeding in their transitions and some are not.
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Brazil is a clear success story. With extraordinary economic growth, the country is poised to be a global economic leader under a stable government. Chile overcame one of the most brutal dictators, Augusto Pinochet, and now experiences successful power transitions, economic growth and rule of law. They recovered quickly from a serious earthquake in 2010 immediately after their new president took power. Colombia faced down brutal drug cartels and corruption and has led a successful transition to a legitimate economy by investing heavily in education and engaging with the international community, including pursuing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States. El Salvador emerged from civil war and now holds successful elections, stable power transitions and is experiencing economic growth. The Dominican Republic emerged from decades under a dictatorship to become one of the few countries in the Caribbean with strong economic growth, partly achieved by participating in the regional CAFTA agreement and increasing exports.

Many countries have failed. Nicaragua, the second poorest country of the Western Hemisphere, remains mired in corruption and rigged elections and has no viable democratic opposition. In Venezuela, free and fair elections produced a dictator. The country has no media freedom, and despite having oil resources, economic development has stalled. In Haiti, the poorest country of the Western Hemisphere, rigged elections have produced dictators and corrupt leaders who have allowed a small group of elites to maintain a strangle hold on the country’s economy while keeping the meager resources for themselves and leaving the rest of the country mired in endemic poverty.

And other countries are struggling against backtracking. A succession of governments involved in corruption has undermined democratic gains in Argentina. In Ecuador and Peru bad governance mixed with uncertain economic policies and the battle to modernize the political culture have stalled progress.

The Middle East and North Africa have unique considerations from Latin America, such as the primacy of Islam and the threat of terrorism. However, there are many directly relevant lessons learned from Latin American transitions. Where transition failed, a similar pattern emerged. Political parties and new leaders were not ready to lead. Civil society organizations only knew how to protest, and never rose to meet their responsibilities to constructively participate in building the new system. No viable leadership was able to fill the power vacuum, and in that power vacuum, radical elements emerged and hijacked the transition process with constant power struggles. The country descends into complete chaos. The military fractured and the political institutions were weakened. The leadership vacuum also led to a free-for-all economic environment allowing elite business cartels to monopolize segments of the economy, such as ports, telecoms, oil production, and banking. In some cases, the business cartels also controlled the illicit economy operating crime syndicates, such as narco-trafficking. Foreign profiteers sought partnerships with the corrupt business cartels to capitalize on the rigged environment and aligned with the ruling regime lending international support to the networks. The elite economic group put in place government leaders who were complicit in – or architects of – the corruption and kept the state weak. These failed transition countries are among the poorest, most corrupt and unstable countries in the world presenting a constant risk to regional and global security.

Elements of a Successful Transition Strategy
There are common threads that run through the success stories, which can be valuable lessons learned for transitioning countries. Again, the Middle East and North African region has unique considerations, but these lessons learned provide the foundation for a transition strategy that can be customized to meet the needs of a particular country.

After the people topple a dictatorship, military or civilian leaders – and sometimes both – typically form the interim government. The interim government serves as the entry point for democracy and will need to develop the overall framework to guide the transition process, specifically by framing a new constitution or revising the current one, organizing elections, managing foreign cooperation, and institutionalizing government relations with the rest of society. Although the interim government is the lead, democracy assistance – both domestic and international – should be targeted to all key sectors of society. Political parties will need the tools to develop political platforms that offer society a unique vision, competent candidates, leadership, and, most importantly, a political choice. Civil society, after having been all but eradicated under dictatorships, will need to learn to organize themselves into interests groups and effectively advocate their priorities on behalf of their constituents. The private sector, as the economic engine of the country, will need to understand how to engage political leadership to advocate on behalf of their industries and participate in the building of an open economy. The police and military will need assistance on how to operate under the new realities of the democratic principles and the rule of law. And finally, a robust civic education program, including media training, must overlay the entire process so the public fully understands what changes are taking place and the process is viewed as being transparent, collaborative and responsive throughout. Where efforts have been aimed at solely revising the constitution or organizing the government, these other interest groups have felt marginalized from the process and become a source of instability.

In addition to providing technical tools to these sectors of society, it is also critical to bring them all into the process so they have a voice in shaping the new government. This requires adept leadership that is able to balance consensus building with critical and timely decision making.

The entire transition process must be owned and led by nationals with a good understanding of how to make the process inclusive and responsive to the people of the country, and how to engage international resources and expertise where needed. They are the only ones who can decide their country’s path. They must lead the international community, rather than follow directives. In his Nine Principles of Development Assistance, Andrew Natsios, former director of US AID under President Clinton, wrote that assistance organizations “cannot replace the client”, which is the country. Where leadership has been too weak to guide the process, the transition has been undermined by elements of society characterizing the interim government as a “puppet” eroding public opinion of the international community and the interim government.

Along these lines, it is also important for the international community to present an international or “best practices” approach to democracy assistance avoiding any one country being viewed as taking the lead. When a single country is viewed as leading the process, there has been a tendency for the transition to be viewed as that country “imposing its will” or “exporting their democracy” providing a clear opening for radical elements to undermine the process. Democracy takes on unique cultural characteristics in every country; therefore, architects of a democratic transition should be made familiar with and make an effort to seek out information on the various forms democracy can take in order to identify principles that will work in their unique situations.

Capacity is often a huge challenge in the wake of a revolution. As we have seen in many of these uprisings, the opposition movement was organized on Facebook or Twitter, and there is no clear leader or political party that can fill the leadership vacuum when the dictator leaves. In fact the absence of viable leaders may be even more systemic. Many repressive countries often experience a “brain drain” with highly educated and capable individuals taking flight for countries where freedom reigns. In a transition, a country will need leadership and administrative capacity quickly so drawing from the vast resources of the Diaspora communities is critical to filling capacity gaps quickly. There are policies and practices that can be implemented by the international community and the interim government to encourage repatriation of the Diaspora, including hiring Diaspora to manage international initiatives or offering economic incentives to return.

Finally, the dictators and members of the previous regime must be fairly tried for corruption and violence. But this effort, if not carefully managed, can turn into a witch-hunt impacting the ability of the government to continue basic functions. There will be members of the government that were not complicit in the criminal activity of the former regime, and they should be included in the transition process and feel that the new governance structure is open to them.

Technical Assistance Priorities for Key Actors

Interim Government.  The interim government should manage and oversee the transition process, all the while keeping top of mind that they are temporary. Their role is to reorganize the government and set the timeline for and oversight of free and fair elections. If there is not a clearly defined set of operating rules for the interim government and limits on their roles at the outset, it can morph into a self-interested group focused on maintaining power. To avoid this scenario, any member of the interim government should be prohibited from running for office in the first elections if possible.

While the goal of the interim government will be to look to the future, in the interest of stability, it will also need to lead the effort to address the past. Outgoing dictatorships leave behind a traumatized society that deserves justice. The interim government will need to fairly prosecute perpetrators of violence and corruption from the former regime, but again must walk the line to avoid a witch-hunt. The success of the transition in Chile, for example, was based on their ability to prosecute the perpetrators and human rights violators while successfully integrating those civil servants and professionals who were not involved in the nefarious aspects of the former regime. The international community can play a key role in providing a legal framework for countries to build a credible case against and fairly try former members of the regime.

Political Parties. Political parties will be the foundation for democracy, providing future mayors, deputies, senators, ministers, governors, and presidents. However, countries that spent decades under dictatorship have weak political parties. After a revolution, they have a lot of energy, but no tools or experience to channel that energy into constructive participation in the transition process. Immediately after the fall of these regimes, political parties tend to mushroom. Weak political parties and inexperienced candidates can end up being the source of chaos and instability without proper training. Assistance provided early on to all democratic political parties can minimize this potential. To be credible, international actors must avoid picking winners and provide equal assistance to all parties.

Assistance should focus on developing a democratic culture in the parties and organizing viable institutions by providing education on the “how to” basics: how to organize a party; how to develop a platform; how to develop messages and a communications strategy; how to recruit candidates and members; how to fundraise; how to use information technology to promote the party’s agenda (many involved in the Middle East and North African revolutions have already demonstrated proficiency with technological tools); how to manage a campaign; how to operate as a minority party, and how to govern while in power; how to build coalitions; and, how to interact with civil society and the private sector. The parties need the fundamentals.

The interim government can also help to create an environment that will promote a representative and viable political party system by enacting legislation that regulates the legal operation and activities of parties. There should also be a system to monitor the parties’ activities. In many failed states, political parties can become covers for crime syndicates that influence, control or intimidate the government, like the FARC in Colombia or Lavalas in Haiti, or a front for terrorist organizations.

Civil Society. Youth, women, farmers, teachers, churches, and the media will discover a whole new life with the return of their freedom. They sometimes forget that with rights comes responsibility. Under a repressive regime, all they knew – and the only tool they had – was protest, so they often fall back on this tactic for every issue or grievance. Here again technical assistance can help guide the process early on and avoid constant protest and instability on the streets.  Civil society programs can provide interests groups with the tools to organize and advocate based on their culture and political practices. They will need to learn how to interact constructively with the government, parliament and political parties. Conversely, government, parliament and political parties will need to learn how to be accountable to civil society by integrating their priorities into the transition plan, the policy and legislative agendas and party platforms. Fostering this environment of advocacy and public debate will move the country away from falling back into old habits of political upheaval and violence. In the Middle East and Northern Africa special attention should be given to the youth, as they have been the main participants in the opposition.

Private Sector. The private sector will provide an essential role in ensuring post-revolution stability by creating jobs, promoting economic development and creating an economic climate that will attract investment. It is important that the private sector define its vision for promoting economic growth, and for the transition government to actively pull them into the process and seek their input. In many countries, revolutions have resulted in a fractured private sector. There are the business cartels that cling to the status quo and use their resources to put leaders in office that will help them maintain their empires, and those reformers that will finally have an opportunity to participate in an open and transparent economic and political process.

The reformers in the business community need to learn to engage the government, parliament and the political parties to advocate the enactment of pro-business public policies, encourage a free market and attract investment. Interaction with parliament should focus on pro-business legislation, robust trade policy and responsible tax and fiscal policies. Interaction with political parties will facilitate the incorporation of pro-business plans into their platform. In order to create these linkages between the government, parliament, political parties and the private sector a technical assistance program should be focused on how to effectively identify policy priorities and advocate change. Chambers of Commerce and industry organizations will need to learn how to organize, much like political parties, and manage budgets attract members and build consensus among their membership.

Conversely, the interim government will often need to revise business rules and regulations to put in place a legal environment that encourages entrepreneurship by providing incubation services and access to credit for new businesses. Under a dictatorship, setting up a new business would have required political favor, special access or bribes. And, monopolies would have likely ruled the economy. The barriers to entry in the business sector would have been high benefiting the elite and politically connected few while the masses lived in poverty. The interim government can lead an effort to break up monopolies and put in place the fiscal and economic policies that will encourage domestic businesses and attract foreign direct investment. Economic growth can minimize political instability.

The Military. The military is often one of the only institutions with the capacity to assume power in a transition.  In many countries, however, the military and the police are part of the dictatorship’s repressive apparatus. These institutions are sometimes involved in illicit economic activity, corruption, and human rights violations, such as in Chile under Pinochet, but they remain unchallenged because they were essential to the dictator’s grip on power.

When the dictatorship falls, the military lacks the experience to navigate a successful transition. They will not have experience with operating in a democratic rule of law culture. Their role would not have been “to protect and to serve” or defend national interests; rather, they would have carried out the orders and whims of a dictator and been perpetrators of violence against their people. Not all members of the military or police would have been complicit in or supporters of such tactics. But, even when high-ranking military officers closely linked to the departed regime are removed, the military is most often unable to adjust to and operate in a new political culture without proper training for their new role and new rules of engagement. To be sure, history is full of examples of military leaders becoming some of the most notable civilian leaders, but in transitions, the key is to ensure that military leaders, if engaging in politics, understand their new role and how a military functions in a democracy.

To that end, the military will benefit from direct military-to-military assistance and training on the role of a military in a democratic civilian society. Identifying and working with high-ranking reformers within the military structure can greatly facilitate this process. The military will need to be brought into the development of the new roadmap for democracy with the support of the civilian leadership. They will also need to put in place a plan to modernize their institution including a new curriculum to train their soldiers and officers.

Religion and Ethnic Groups. In some parts of the world, religion can be a major factor in governance and transitions. During the early months of the transition in Nicaragua and Haiti, Catholic priests who were adherents of liberation theology played a central role in shaping the new political system. Born from primitive Christian and Marxist ideology, liberation theology holds that the church should transform lay people into revolutionary units to change the political, economic and social system. The leaders of the liberation theology movement were steeped in revolution and had no notion of democratic transitions or governance. Both transitions failed, in part, because they were unable to reconcile religion with the democratic process. 

Northern Africa and the Middle East transitions will have to face these realities and answer tough questions. Do they want democracy or theocracy? Do they want a republic or an Islamic republic? How will they protect the rights of minorities? Dealing with these tough questions through dialogue and early integration into the process is critical.

In addition to religion, ethnic groups can also play a role in transition. This was particularly evident in Iraq and continues to be a challenge in the region with Iran seeking to agitate Shia minorities. Without international assistance in Iraq, the majority Shiites, who were victims of oppression for decades, could have easily turned into the oppressors. Creating an environment of dialogue to build consensus reduces the chances of these issues getting resolved through street violence. Additionally, constitutional or legal protections should be defined to ensure the rights of minorities.

Elections. Elections are the centerpiece of a transition, yet are only a part of building a democracy. The first round of elections inevitably will be contentious between those in the interim government, the military and private sector who may be trying to maintain the status quo, the democrats who will want free and fair elections, and the revolutionaries who adhere rigidly to their agendas. The interim government and the military can be tempted to influence elections. Succeeding in putting in place an electoral system that gains the confidence of the people and produces free and fair elections is a significant challenge.

Free and fair elections have basic fundamentals that can serve as the foundation for discussion between the transitional government, the political parties and civil society organizations. This dialogue must be transparent, inclusive and open and result in an agreed upon set of ground rules. The international community can play an important role by serving as a non-partisan broker during the framing of the electoral system and providing the technical assistance to organize the elections. Technical assistance for the election should include how to develop ballots and ensure their security, train poll workers, organize polling stations, and provide civic education. Observation will also be key to ensure a free and fair process. International actors can train domestic election observers as well as send international observation delegations.

Governance. After decades of dictatorship, government institutions are usually weak and civil servants poorly trained. Transforming and modernizing the ministries and other state institutions while ensuring that basic functions continue will be a priority. In addition to the pressure on the interim government to provide change, jobs, healthcare and education reform, and myriad other priorities, they will need to undertake the massive effort of reorienting current civil employees while avoiding the temptation to fire them when they are unable to execute their responsibilities. There is significant potential for mistakes in managing the bureaucracy that can lead to political instability. The new government must put in place a good governance capacity building program to strengthen state institutions, retrain civil servants and provide new policy directives aimed at addressing the priorities of the people.

In many regions, the government capacity building aspect of foreign assistance has been overlooked by both the interim government and international community and has directly contributed to the failure of transitions. International actors are rightfully wary of working with bureaucracies where corruption has reined supreme or are too consumed with providing assistance to the transition leadership, and therefore have often neglected to provide this critical piece of support. This omission has led to countries becoming a “republic of NGOs” where the NGOs take over management of whole sectors of society, such as healthcare or education, because the state institutions are too weak to do so. This is the case in Haiti where institutions were too weak to even provide any response to the 2010 earthquake. In many cases, interim governments will need to actively seek this type of assistance.

Constitution. Without a democratic constitution, none of the above will be possible. This will be the most contentious part of the transition process and will require the most leadership. There is a tendency for overzealous and aggrieved democrats to use the new constitution to ban the members of the previous regime from politics. The transitional government must work to develop an inclusive constitution with political parties and civil society involved in the drafting process. The interim government should convene an assembly to draft the new constitution. The assembly should be inclusive and transparent, and, it must be clear that the transition government will put forward the final version of the constitution for a public referendum to reject or ratify the final document.

Regional Multilateral Institutions. In addition to the technical assistance provided to in-country actors, the transition process opens the opportunity to engage regional multilateral institutions. In Latin America in the 1980s, the Organization of American States passed Resolution 1080 that served as the basis for the drafting and ratification of the Americas Democratic Charter. This Charter provides some regionally agreed upon consequences for any government’s movements away from democracy. It also paved the way for the creation of new capabilities within the OAS, such as election observation, democracy training programs and civil society capacity building efforts. In the Middle East and Africa, there is an opportunity for the Arab League and African Union to be able to add this type of capacity and these new tools to strengthen their democratic credentials in their repsective region. Thus far, they have not played a role in any of these transitions, except Libya. The Arab League and the African Union could benefit from assistance to modernize their organizations in order to deal with this new era of transitions and democracy.

The Implementation Process
In addition to providing technical assistance and training to key actors, the interim government must develop a democracy roadmap, and then pull in all sectors of society to participate in the implementation. There will need to be a process that is public, transparent and inclusive. To be sure, the process will be painstaking, frustrating and full of setbacks, but in order to work and progress, it should be well mapped and well executed. Typically, the democracy roadmap is developed in four stages.
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 The first stage is to secure buy-in and legitimacy by conducting a democratic assessment of all key national actors, including political parties, military (where relevant), the private sector, media, and civil society, including women and youth groups, churches, and Diaspora.  All key actors should be consulted to gauge their challenges and priorities. This assessment serves as the basis for a set of reform recommendations.

With the recommendations developed, the second stage is to convene a National Convention to seek input and build consensus on national priorities and transition. The result of the Convention should be an official announcement of national priorities and the reform agenda and the establishment of topical working groups.
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In stage three, the government should begin to really drill down on how to achieve the reform agenda by convening the working groups to discuss the action plan and determine the mechanics of implementation. For example, the government could convene a national conference on constitutional reform with leading scholars and parliament to identify necessary legislative changes to achieve targeted reforms and what forms those laws should take. In this stage, the roadmap really begins to take shape, but the process also becomes complicated with many moving pieces across the political and economic landscapes.

The key stage is to implement the plans. To be successful, there must be clear benchmarks, timetables and monitoring mechanisms. This process needs good administrators and leaders to ensure the plans are being carried out. Action plans and roadmaps can be developed, but until they are actually implemented, they do not mean anything.

All of the above requires an enormous commitment by the country’s new interim leadership and a realistic view of how long it will take to secure a successful transition. And, of course, it will require resources during a time when the global economy is facing a downturn and the international community is tightening its belt and cutting spending. The US, one of the main providers of such technical support, is faced with the reality of serious spending cuts, and democracy assistance has been cut substantially. The International Republican Institute (IRI), The National Democratic Institute (NDI), and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) have strong track records in providing such assistance and will need more support to respond to the needs of the regions. In France, the International Organization of Francophonie (OIF), works with French speaking countries, but has limited resources and few programmatic activities that can support democratic transitions. In order to be effective, the Canadians and the French – through Francophonie – will have to expand their democracy assistance beyond electoral observation.  

Despite tight resources, this type of assistance should be a key component of any foreign aid packages and foreign policy. It does not have to be costly, in fact, it is often a small investment to effectively promote long term stability while minimizing the possibility of further upheaval and expense of military operations. Unless these resources are made available, a large part of the world could be heading toward long-term instability and potentially decline. 

Likewise, the transition governments in some of these countries have resources and should prioritize investing in their future by allocating funding and resources toward actively seeking and securing necessary expertise and technical support. Political parties, civil society groups and the private sector should all do their part as well and work to seek expertise and allocate funds to professionalize their institutions and turn them into productive participants in the new democracy. They courageously overturned a dictatorship and secured freedom and a better future for their country. They now need to take advantage of the opportunity and take responsibility for ensuring a successful transition. This is possible, but it takes time, patience, commitment, and a lot of work. The people of the Middle East and North Africa have a proud history and the fortitude and national strength to become vibrant, inclusive and prosperous countries. One can only imagine how much better off the world will be as a result of their unique contributions and participation.

*Stanley Lucas is a political development consultant. He has more than twenty years experience providing technical assistance to political parties, government and civil society in Latin American and the Caribbean, Africa, Afghanistan and the Middle East.  

Haiti Post Runoff Electoral Update # 2 by Stanley Lucas

Two weeks after Haitians went to polls to vote in the Presidential and Legislative runoff election in what appeared to be a peaceful and fair process, uncertainty remains. Given the recent announcement postponing the official results due to the detection of fraudulent tally sheets, there is a growing perception among the people that Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) is trying to fix the results at the instruction of President Preval and his ruling party INITE instructions. The unresolved elections have the potential to create serious political instability. Since Monday, March 28 the word on the street was that Preval had given the CEP instructions to slowdown the counting process so they could find ways to rig the elections. The March 20 election day was a success; voters were able to cast their ballots, and the elections happened without serious violence. But it seems President Preval will not deviate from his 20 year pattern of rigging and stealing elections as he did in 1997, 2000 and 2009. His efforts to undermine the electoral process in those elections led to a huge political crisis, and he failed in his aim to maintain power. During the first round of presidential and legislative elections last November, he tried to rig the results in favor of his chosen presidential candidate, Jude Celestin; he failed. Now it seems that is failing again in trying to change the runoff results so he’s stalling.

President Rene Preval
The lame duck president spent two weeks in Cuba for “treatment”. In reality, he was organizing Jean Bertrand Aristide’s return hoping to destabilize the electoral process. They quickly learned that Aristide’s influence and impact on Haitian society had dwindled to merely a few supporters. To gain more support, they will likely resort to spreading around money and arming their thugs. With the failure of Aristide to undermine the elections, Preval’s current goal is to manipulate the results in favor of his party and political allies. In conversations with his INITE operatives, Preval has been making the ludicrous claim that the US State Department sanctioned his manipulation of these elections. He says the State Department told him to do what he wants to with the elections. 

The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP)

The CEP is under pressure from Preval and his allies to change the results.  They are also under pressure from the Haitian people who are ready to take the streets to defend their vote. Members of CEP remember what happened back in November when the Haitian people took the streets on December 7 to reject the blatant manipulation of the results in favor of Preval and INITE. Preval almost resigned. The CEP and members of the ruling party were nowhere to be found; they were all in hiding.

So the CEP’s new strategy is to claim fraud and annul tally sheets that are not in favor of the ruling party candidates. They have annulled 20% of the tally sheets so far; however, the ruling party candidates still cannot win because of the wide margins in favor of the opposition candidates. Faced with that reality, the CEP postponed the released of the results that were scheduled for March 31 until April 4 claiming that they have to deal with the fraudulent tallies. In reality they are just buying time to determine ways to manipulate the process at the tabulation center, see: .

At the same time the CEP is trying to ban the publication of partial results of the elections using a misinterpretation of the Electoral Law. The Electoral Law actually requires that each polling station publicly post the results at the polling station immediately after closing of the polls and the counting of the results. Most observers conclude that the CEP’s efforts to silence the press tipped off the Haitian people to their true intentions to block transparency so they could manipulate the tally sheets. The publication of the partial results by municipalities would make it impossible for the CEP to change the results at the tabulation center. The comparison of the copy of the tally sheets of the polling stations with the originals that went to the tabulation center were instrumental in verifying the manipulation of the results by the CEP at the tabulation center in the first round. The following pictures show how the CEP changed the results on the original tally sheets from 11 (shown on the original copy at the polling station) to 111 votes (at the polling station) for the ruling party.
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 Counting the results
The tabulation center has put aside more than 20% of the tally sheets claiming that they were subject to fraud. But domestic observers disagree. The Haitian Research Center for Social Studies (CERESS) said that the system put in place by the CEP at the tabulation center has been opaque, and it is impossible to verify why the tally sheets are being put aside. They can only deduce that its for partisan reasons. The CEP is preventing observers from verifying the tally sheets that have been eliminated, see:

Meanwhile a parallel count by civil society groups reveal that Michel Martelly won the elections by a significant margin over Mirlande Manigat, and the Social Democrat Coalition Alternativ is emerging as the big winner of the legislative elections (see partial results below). People attributed Manigat’s loss to the alliance she made in the final week of the campaign with the ruling party INITE. Two Preval cabinet members, Marie Laurence Lassegue and Marjorie Michel, endorsed her and an INITE senator campaigned for her in the North.
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Security, Violence and Narco traffickers
The INITE ruling party is trying to impose its will through violence and the manipulation and politicization of the judicial system.  A number of political appointees have been named Justice of the Peace by the Ministry of Justice in an effort to support INITE at the local level in their quest to manipulate the elections and protect their perpetrators of violence. Violence has been perpetrated by INITE in the following departments: Grand Anse, Artibonite, Central Plateau and Northwest. INITE senators that have track records implicating them in cocaine trafficking in Tiburon and in Port de Paix are also involved.

Jean Claude Duvalier and Jean Bertrand Aristide
Haitian state institutions have issued official corruption reports on both Jean Claude Duvalier and Jean Bertrand Aristide detailing the funds they stole from the Haitian state. According to these records, Duvalier stole $200-600 million over 14 years and Aristide $350 million in nine years.  Aristide and Duvalier are also implicated in human rights violations including the killing and “necklacing” of political opponents. Both men have used the stolen funds to employ a cadre of American lobbyists that received millions of dollars in retainer fees and the promise of lucrative reconstruction contracts in exchange for reshaping their images. Duvalier employed former representative Bob Barr, and Aristide has former representative Ron Daniel, lawyer Ira Kurzban, and others who made millions with him when he was in power. Both men represent a threat to democracy and stability in Haiti. Haiti’s Attorney General has served notice to Duvalier that he will be tried for his crimes. Nobody knows yet when Aristide will be served. Haitians will insist that justice be served once and for all. 
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 Inauguration and Challenges
The President of Haiti should have been sworn on February 7; so we are already two months behind schedule. Haitians want that the new president sworn in two days after the publication of the results so that he can get to work immediately. The hurricane season, which starts on June 1, poses an imminent threat. Additionally, there are still 1.7 million people living on the street since the January 12, 2010 earthquake. The cholera epidemic continues to threaten the population resulting in 7,500 dead and 200,000 contaminated so far. Cholera will spread in the fast approaching rainy season, It is estimated that 800,000 people could be contaminated if nothing is done. There has also been a marked rise of food and oil prices that need urgent attention and solutions. The challenges facing the Haitian people are enormous. And, as usual, Preval remains steadfastly focused on how to retain power, which he has proven to only use to enrich himself and his allies rather than provide any improvement to the lives of the Haitian people. The votes reflect that. Time for Preval to realize the jig is up.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Haiti Post Runoff Electoral Update # 1 by Stanley Lucas

Haiti went to polls on Sunday, March 20 to vote in the runoff elections for a new president, six Senators and 77 Deputies. The Haitian voters entered the process with ongoing concerns about the partisan Provisional Electoral Council that attempted to rig the first round elections in favor of the ruling party, Preval’s INITE.  Voters were also wary of unresolved technical issues like the integrity of the voter lists, availability of ballots to vote, the presence of former strongmen Duvalier and Aristide in-country, and the link between INITE and narcotraffickers who are trying to maintain their control over the political system and potential violence.  There was also concern about domestic observers not able to do their job as several groups that participated in the first round were not accredited for the runoff.

Voters and Turnout
Despite these concerns, more voters went to the polls than in the first round. Turnout was estimated at 32-35%. Voters initially went early to the polls and encountered difficulties to vote because their names were not on the list, but were allowed to vote in the end because immediate actions taken by the CEP and local electoral officials. It seems that voters were satisfied and exercised their right to pick their leaders.

While the time was tight to update the voter lists for these elections, for the next Senatorial elections scheduled for this November, the voter list must be fixed. They also need to pay closer attention to stocking the polling stations. In more that fifty polling centers in the West department, basic materials like ballots boxes, ballots and ink were missing. The CEP reacted quickly to solve the problems, however. In some areas materials from the 2009 elections were distributed; an investigation is underway to shed light on this.

The Provisional Electoral Council
Knowing that voters remain very suspicious of them, on election day the CEP made a conscious effort to address technical issues related to voter lists, distribution of ballots that were not available at polling stations and other technical issues. Their interventions during the day to resolve these issues contributed to the level of confidence among the voters.  Overall -- despite some incidents -- the day went well.

At approximately 10:00 p.m. when members of the press started to broadcast partial results, the CEP went on the attack claiming that the electoral law does not permit such announcements. Their vitriolic reaction has triggered speculation that the institution was responding that way as part of a larger effort to prevent transparency so they could manipulate the results. According to Haiti’s electoral law, the votes are counted immediately after the closing of the polling stations. Within two hours, the tally sheets are publicly posted at each polling station, so the CEP was wrong about the law. Political party poll watchers representing the candidates were given a copy of the tally sheets as were domestic observers; an additional copy remains on file at the Departmental and Municipal Bureau; and the original goes to the tabulation center at the CEP headquarters in Port-au-Prince.  This process allowed the OAS Mission after the first round to identify the fraud of the CEP and the ruling party. They were able to compare the copy of the tally sheets that stayed at the polling station with the originals that they manipulated at the tabulation center. The picture below shows how the fraud was done by the CEP in the first round, at the polling station the ruling party INITE got 11 votes, at the tabulation center they turned it into 111. Hundreds of tally sheets were subject to that type of manipulation. The CEP’s efforts to stonewall the posting of results have been interpreted as a way to close the loophole that exposed their fraud in the first round. The broadcasting of the partial results directly from the polling stations would make it impossible to change the results at the tabulation center.
    Click on picture to enlarge

Counting the results
The process of counting the results at the tabulation center is underway with the presence of domestic and international observers. CEP employees have harassed the domestic observers because they speak the language and have a better understanding of how and what to observe while international observation is light. It seems according to the tally sheets that the big winner of the legislative elections will be the social democrat coalition ALTENATIV. For the presidential elections the CEP has only counted 33.80% of the tally, 23.06% for the Senate seats and 42.81% for the deputies. More details are available at:

But a parallel count is being conducted by civil society and is moving faster to prevent fraud. Their count is available on the internet. As of Wednesday afternoon, they counted the results of 7,757 tally sheets of the 11,181. There are 951,050 voters in the system.  Michel Martelly is significantly leading Mirlande Manigat. The following link shows Martelly’s vote in pink and Manigat’s in green, and for the vote count Manigat is “M” and Martelly is “T” for “Tet Kale” – his electoral nickname: 

Afficher Résultats des Dépouillements sur une carte plus grande

The popular mood around the results is that the government and the CEP will make a last attempt to steal the elections or spoil the entire process. People around Haiti are so alert that the government and the CEP would be in for a bad surprise if they do.

Security, Violence and Narco traffickers
Sunday’s elections were the least violent in Haiti’s recent election history. The Haitian National Police had a good security plan and acted in a non-partisan manner. They provided security to all. On election day violence occurred in two municipalities: in Dessalines in the Artibonite Department and Mare Rouge in the North West that reflected tensions between the ruling party and two opposition parties. In the following two days, violence occurred in the West, Center, Grande Anse departments mainly from the INITE party not accepting its defeat at the polls and still trying to manipulate the results.

It seems that part of the violence in the North West, Grande Anse and Center Departments are associated with the narco traffickers that are with or associated with the INITE party. These traffickers will try to manipulate the results in order to keep the status quo. The new government will need additional support from the US Drug Enforcement Agency to maintain political stability. Meanwhile the rest of country is quiet -- but alert -- awaiting for the results.

Jean Claude Duvalier and Jean Bertrand Aristide
Some analysts thought that these former strongmen could have an impact on these elections. They did not.  Haiti is ready to put them where they belong: in the past and in jail. When Jean Claude Duvalier debarked in Port-au-Prince in January that raised many hairs. The following days the Preval government -- weakened by corruption and an effort to manipulate the results of the November 28 elections -- was unable to react despite the clear corruption and human rights record of Duvalier. Meanwhile Haitian society reacted and demanded justice while only a couple hundred turned up to show support for the former president for life. Two days prior to the elections another strongmen linked to human rights violations and corruption, Jean Bertrand Aristide, landed from his exile in South Africa. He and his party Fanmi Lavalas wanted the annulment of the elections. Some analysts believed that his return could throw the country into political chaos and violence and the annulment of the elections. 

Aristide’s presence had no impact; in fact, the turnout was actually increased. These two strongmen represent a threat to democracy and stability unless a process of accountability is put in place by the new government with some international support. The following shows their alleged political and economic crimes and how Haitian society is seeking a judicial framework to try them.
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International Observers
All international observers have reacted positively about the way that Sunday elections went. They are following the counting process and have issued statements that the will of the people should be respected.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Truth About Aristide: Mob Boss or Persecuted Priest? by Stanley Lucas

Over the past 50 years, Haiti has suffered under the rule of strongmen:  Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier followed by his son Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, Jean Bertrand Aristide, and, most recently, Rene Preval.  This procession of corrupt, self-serving and violent leaders has left Haiti, a country with a proud history of being the first black republic in history, as one of the world’s tragedies – a true failed state.  Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and ranks at the bottom for every health and social metric.  After the January 12 earthquake and a devastating cholera epidemic, Haiti is literally in shambles.

Time and time again, the Haitian people have stood up against these leaders sending them into exile.  Now Haiti’s most infamous strongmen are vying for a role in their country once again.  Duvalier has returned to “help out”, see: ; Aristide is whipping up his supporters in-country and his international network to demand his return; and Preval is just stubbornly clinging to power by robbing the Haitian people of free and fair elections.  The international community – tested by other priorities and hot spots around the world – has paid little attention to Haiti.  The US government issued statements about Haiti needing to “look forward” rather than “looking back” to the old days under these leaders.  President Obama has called President Zuma of South Africa to express concern about Aristide’s return to Haiti from exile in South Africa.  The U.S. State Department issued a statement saying that the timing of Aristide’s return "can only be seen as a conscious choice to impact Haiti's elections." 

Aristide says he is going back because he is afraid that a newly elected President would revoke his passport.

Aristide was the buddy of the Clinton Administration when he requested military intervention from the United States to reinstate him to power in 1994, see:  For those who know Aristide -- the Haitian people, the Haitian Diaspora and some actors in the international community -- they have learned over the years that Aristide never keep his word. Before returning to Haiti in 1994 he promised the Haitian people and the Clinton Administration that he would organize free and fair elections, respect human rights, professionalize the police and the army, create jobs, invest in education and ensure good governance.  After his return, he did just the opposite.  His campaign of violence started right before the visit of President Clinton to Haiti in March 1995 with the execution of Me. Mireille Durocher Bertin.  The FBI linked the murder to then Minister of Interior Beaubrun who executed Aristide’s order and contracted the murder.  Aristide politicized the police, rigged elections, stole state resources and systematically violated the rights of women, peasants, youth, press, and religious groups.  No one was safe.  The Haitian people never tolerate such ruthless corruption.  In 2004 on the eve of the celebration of Haiti's 200 years of independence, they rose up against him and called for his resignation. In an effort to stop and repress the Haitian democratic activists around the country, Aristide requested from South African President M'Beki a military force to violently crackdown on the Haitian protests, see: .  As a reminder of those who stood up against the dictator see the following links:

·          Grassroots organizations:
·         Antineoliberal Groups:

       After the popular revolt, Aristide was rescued by the United States and was transported to South Africa – one of the only countries willing to take him.  Prior to his departure, he submitted his resignation.  After the dust had settled, he began a media campaign alleging that he was kidnapped by the United States and was forced into exile.  His own Prime Minister, Yvon Neptune, refutes that claim and has publicly stated that his claim of kidnapping were bogus, and he personally accepted Aristide’s resignation, see:

Both candidates have said that Aristide is welcome to return.  Haiti observers speculate that he is returning in order to disrupt and undermine the elections to create chaos in-country and prevent a newly elected government from auditing and exposing all the corruption and collusion with foreign profiteers that took place under Aristide’s reign.

The UN recently announced they would work with the Haitian Government to support their efforts to try Duvalier for his crimes.  Given Aristide’s public efforts to return, Haitians were surprised that they singled out Duvalier rather than offering to put together a framework to try any corrupt officials.  Haitians wondered whether the high profile support for Aristide by senior UN officials, namely Deputy UN Special Envoy Paul Farmer, was going to translate into a partisan approach to addressing corruption and human rights abuses in Haiti, see:

    Click on picture to enlarge

Aristide has almost completely evaded international scrutiny for the atrocities and corruption he committed while in office.  He has been wrapped in a powerful cocoon of international support that he has managed to cobble together.  His network includes idealists who view Aristide as a humble priest fighting against American imperialism and racial subjugation and foreign “profiteers” who have made money with Aristide through corrupt business dealings or lucrative lobbying retainers.  This alliance has risen to Aristide’s defense time and time again painting him as a champion of the poor, and a persecuted victim of the imperialist United States and western powers.  By extension, they paint his political party and support base in Haiti, Fanmi Lavalas, as Haiti’s most popular political party that has been unfairly excluded from participating in the electoral process.  Their efforts have resulted in scant press coverage detailing Aristide’s crimes, and extensive coverage outlining his unfair persecution.  They eschew the facts and evidence against Aristide in favor of invective, vicious accusations and conspiracy theories.  Anyone who critiques Aristide ends up the subject of personal attacks and baseless character assassination campaigns.  These foreign operators in particular single out Haitians in the Diaspora and in-country fighting for a better and more democratic future for their own country.

All evidence during Aristide’s, however, inconveniently points to the contrary.  Aristide has a well-documented track record as being a brutal power monger willing to leverage any ideology -- and Haitian resources -- to maintain his grip on power to enrich himself and his allies.  The economic and political crimes he committed while in office have set Haiti’s growth back decades.  His “popular” Lavalas party is anything but popular with the Haitian people.  The Party had an abysmal showing in the 2006 legislative elections (the last elections they participated in) winning only six of the 99 Deputy seats and three of the 30 Senate seats up for election.  Led by Aristide, Lavalas operates like a crime syndicate or a mob family trafficking in drugs, taking out political hits, and pilfering state resources.  Lavalas is Tonton Macoutes 2.0. 

Aristide’s Lavalas Crime Syndicate
The Lavalas Party finances its political activity largely through criminal activity including kidnapping and drug trafficking.  Almost all increases in Lavalas political or electoral campaign activity is linked directly with a surge in criminal acts and violence in Haiti.  More than 99% of all corruption cases, kidnapping cases and drug trafficking arrests involve people with links to Lavalas.  The following is a summary of the nettlesome facts about Aristide and Lavalas operations.

Drug Trafficking
Lavalas has long used drug trafficking to finance its political activity and electoral campaigns.  Almost 99% of the arrests by Haiti’s National Police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for drug trafficking are linked to Lavalas and Aristide.  The most famous case was against “Jacques” Beaudouin Ketant who was arrested on June 17, 2003 in Haiti, extradited to Miami and sentenced to 27 years in a U.S. federal prison on February 25, 2004.  In his testimony, he stated that Aristide was a “drug lord who controlled 85% the international drug traffic to Haiti”.  He told DEA agents that he paid Aristide directly $500,000 a month to have air traffic control clear in his plane used for drug transshipments.  He also made a $500,000 a year contribution to Lavalas.  Aristide, who previously declared Mr. Ketant “untouchable”, captured him and delivered him to U.S. authorities.  One diplomat noted that shortly thereafter, Aristide’s loans from the Inter American Development Bank were reinstated.

Aristide’s right hand man, the former Lavalas president of the Haitian Senate – and uncle of Preval’s favored Presidential candidate in 2010, Jean-Marie Fourel Celestin, was wanted by the Haitian police and the DEA on drug trafficking charges and went into hiding.  The U.S. Embassy released the details, and he was forced to turn himself in.  He was also extradited to the U.S. and served a reduced prison sentence in exchange for the information he shared with DEA agents.

    Aristide with drug kingpin Fourrel Celestin

Oriel Jean, Chief of Security for Aristide while he was president was arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking at Pearson airport in Toronto on March 12, 2004 debarking from a flight from the Dominican Republic.  He waived his extradition proceedings and was sent to Miami.  On March 19, 2004, he faced charges of conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the U.S.  He pled guilty to money laundering and was sentenced on August 11, 2005 to a three-year prison term on November 18, 2005.

Yvon Feuille, a close ally of Aristide and President of the Senate during the time of Aristide’s departure in 2004, was arrested on May 19, 2004 during an anti-drug operation in the Dominican Republic and placed under police surveillance in the coastal town of Les Cayes, south west of Port-au-Prince as part of a drug investigation case.

The former head of the Anti-Corruption Office (BLTS) under Aristide, Evens Brilliant, was deported on May 26, 2004 in Miami after being detained by the Multinational Interim Task Force for alleged involvement in cocaine trafficking to Colombia from Haiti via the United States.  He was indicted on June 18, 2004, but was later acquitted on October 8, 2005.

Several members of the Haitian National Police were also implicated in drug smuggling cases.  In fact, a former head of the Haitian police in exile in the U.S. testified that people he had arrested on drug charges in Haiti were actually being promoted within the Haitian police.  During his term in office, Aristide politicized the police and put members of Lavalas in key positions to protect drug trafficking and either carry out political violence and kidnappings against its opponents – or look the other way. 

Jean-Antony Nazaire was responsible for managing the President’s automobile fleet, which was used to move drugs throughout the country.  His US visa was revoked in January 2002 for his alleged involvement in drug trafficking and alleged human rights violations.  He was arrested on March 12, 2004 in Port-au-Prince. 

The former commander of the Haitian National Police Brigade, Rudy Therassan, was incarcerated on May 14, 2004 in Miami for cocaine trafficking and money laundering.  He pled guilty on April 20, 2005, and was sentenced to a 15-year term on July 13, 2005.

Former Director General of the Haitian police and member of the Aristide security team, Jean Nesly Lucien, was arrested on May 26, 2004 in Miami.  He was indicted for drug trafficking and pled guilty to money laundering on April 12, 2005.  He received a five-year sentence on July 13, 2005 after agreeing to cooperate with the US authorities’ investigation on other cases.

These cases scratch the surface of the extent of the Lavalas drug trafficking cases, but they illustrate their high level of involvement in trafficking.  There were not a few isolated cases; rather, this was an institutionalized campaign.  For further information on the drug trafficking-Lavalas link, see:


Kidnapping & Political Violence
More than 99% of the kidnapping cases under his reign through today involve Lavalas members.  Prominent members linked to kidnapping include: Samba Boukman, Amaral Duclona, General Bibi, Mercius Fenel (alias Ti Wilson), Riccardo Pyram (alias Kiki), Wilkens Pierre (alias Chien Chaud) Herold Gerard, Jean Daniel Francois (alias Bibi), Dread E.T., Spander Joseph (alias Bouboule).  All of these men are Aristide’s operatives and members of Fanmi Lavalas.  One of the most well known, Amaral Duclona, was arrested in the Dominican Republic a few years ago by French authorities for killing two French diplomats.  He was the head of Operation Pakatan’n, a violent campaign to return Aristide to Haiti, and murdered dozens of Haitians opposed to Aristide.

From 1991, when Aristide took power, through 2004 when Aristide resigned, kidnapping was a small part of the Lavalas operation.  Kidnapping victims were primarily political opponents, including opposition political party members, journalists and representatives of civil society who were critical of Aristide’s regime.  After 2004, kidnapping sharply increased and became a favorite tool to intimidate opponents and deteriorate the security situation in Haiti in order to force Aristide’s return.  Members of Lavalas broadened the kidnapping targets to include children, students, businessmen, Diaspora, teachers, and other innocent victims chosen solely for the purpose of terrorizing the public in a campaign of retribution for demanding Aristide leave in 2004.  Many victims were murdered even after ransoms were paid.

We saw the same dynamic with political violence.  The Aristide machine used violent tactics to kill their opponents pre-2004; people were “necklaced” with burning tires, killed with machine guns and hacked to death with machetes.  The violence was targeted.  After the 2004 ouster, the violence broadened and a wide scale intimidation campaign, known as Operation Baghdad I and II, was launched.  More than 2,000 people were killed, including 109 police offers.  Women were raped, priests were beaten and journalists attacked.  The Operation got its name because the Aristide operatives beheaded their victims imitating Iraqi tactics.  Obviously they have not considered how things turned out for the Iraqis. 

Political observers have noted a direct correlation between increased Lavalas political activity and increased violence.  Lavalas funds much of its political activity through money raised from kidnapping and drug trafficking; therefore, when there is an uptick in Lavalas demonstrations or political campaigns, there is a corresponding uptick in violence.  For further information on this link and on political kidnappings and violence, see:


After Aristide’s 2004 resignation, the Haitian General Accounting Office issued a report finding that he had embezzled almost $350 million during his nine years in office, see:  They even found more than $300,000 in cash rotting under the front porch of his home.  Where did he get that kind of money?  How do his champions explain that away?  He was framed?

Aristide made a lot of money trafficking drugs, but he and his network in the Groupe de Bourdon, a powerful business cartel that also supports current President Preval, also conspired to pilfer and raid state corporations.  This cartel with the support of Aristide and now Preval control 95% of Haiti’s economic activities, including banking, oil importation, telecommunications, customs, food, and insurance. They control the ministries of finances and commerce, the central bank, the tax office, customs and even part of the Haiti Interim Reconstruction Commission with their profiteering partners in the international community.

Specifically, Aristide sold profitable state owned companies for pennies on the dollar to foreign and domestic buyers.  For example, the state cement factory was valued at about $500 million, but was sold for only $50 million.  Aristide and his Lavalas cronies received huge cash kickbacks from the buyers for the “special pricing”.  This happened with several other state businesses that actually generated much needed revenue for Haiti.  These companies were built with an investment by the Haitian taxpayers, but taxpayers were robbed of the revenue from the undervalued sale of the company and, more importantly, were robbed of the ongoing revenue of the companies, which was previously invested in education, road and healthcare.  Instead of creating viable institutions by partly privatizing these institutions, Lavalas operatives were made rich, and they were able to secure new international allies through these sweetheart deals.  This is hardly “championing the poor” of Haiti.

Teleco is another infamous example of raiding state companies.  Teleco was the state telecom company controlling all phone traffic to and from Haiti, one of the most lucrative phone connections in the Caribbean.  When Aristide was in Washington, DC from 1992 through 1994 during his first ouster, he raided the Teleco bank accounts in the U.S. to the tune of $80 million for “living expenses”.  President George H.W. Bush allowed Aristide access to these funds as the head of the Haitian state.

When President Clinton restored Aristide to power in 1994, Aristide broke up Teleco into five companies: Fusion, Uniplex Telecom Technologies, Mount Salem Communications Group, Global, Terra Communication Group/Wecom, and Digitec.  Lavalas operatives were all given a stake in the companies.  He then awarded deals to wireless companies, like COMCEL, Digicel and Voila, through no bid contracts, which included substantive kickbacks for he and his friends.  The head of Digicel lamented in a public interview how much money he was making in poor countries like Haiti, and how he was struggling to reconcile that moral dilemma.  He touched on some weak efforts to rebuild the markets in Haiti to “give back” to the community.  These contracts were lucrative for everyone but the Haitian people.  In 2009, using the governor of the central bank, Preval finished the job of raiding Teleco by selling it to friends for a fraction of its value in a no bid contract.  For more on the raiding of state companies, see:


Aristide’s International Network
It was widely known in the U.S. and internationally that Aristide was directly involved in drug trafficking and human rights abuses, but unlike his colleague Panamanian President Manuel Noriega, Aristide was never tried on any charges.  Likewise, there has been no effort to pursue the money he stole from the Haitian state.  Many analysts speculate that this may be because of the international ramifications of such a trial, particularly in the United States, and who might be exposed as co-conspirators.  In fact, after the return of former dictator Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the UN announced that they would help the Haitian judicial system try Duvalier for his crimes carefully omitting any reference to Aristide even though he had been agitating about returning to Haiti.  The Haitian people overwhelming called for a framework to try former strongmen and secure rule of law in the country rather than focusing on one case.  Only after outrage in the Haitian community and in the Diaspora did the UN announce they would also work to try Aristide if he returned, see: .  Again, in a country that consistently ranks as one of the most corrupt in the world, what is needed is an overall framework to try corrupt leaders.

So why has Aristide been left alone?  He has been especially adept at putting together a coalition of international support that faithfully comes to his defense.  The network of Aristide supporters is two-pronged.  One the one hand, there are the ideologists who are motivated by a righteous and distorted view of Aristide as a crusader against racial oppression and U.S. imperialism.  On the other hand, there are the foreign profiteers motivated by preferential access to business deals or lucrative monthly lobbying retainers.  Like a chameleon, Aristide blends into each group.

These two groups come together to argue that: 1. Aristide is a humble priest who threatened “business as usual” in Haiti by “championing the poor”; 2. his political party, Lavalas, is the “most popular” in Haiti and has been excluded from participating in the political process; and, 3. he was “kidnapped” by the U.S. Government in 2004 and sent into exile in South Africa against his will.  Again, the facts support none of these conclusions and few facts are used to support these allegations.

Most of them do not really know who Aristide is.  They were coopted and influenced by two or three corrupt ideologists that are making money with Aristide.  Aristide leverages their idealism.  This group buys into Aristide’s arguments that he has been the victim of the international community and U.S. imperialism because they align with their particular ideology.  The interesting piece here is that he cobbled together a mélange of ideologies to advance his cause: anti-imperialists, civil rights advocates, and religion, including liberation theologists, voodoo practitioners, and Catholics.  In the end, he has betrayed and undermined all these ideologies in his quest for his one true belief:  absolute power.  

There are also ideologists who well know who Aristide is and are still helping.  They believe that the U.S. is an imperialist force around the world.  Robert Maguire is considered to be the intellectual father of the campaign of political violence that erupted after Aristide’s departure.  What was supposed to be an ideological armed rebellion modeled after the FMLN in Salvador and Sandinistas in Nicaragua morphed into an organized campaign through Operation Baghdad 1 and II.  Maguire organized the Bois Caiman Conference at Trinity College modeled after the 1789 slave ceremony that led to Haiti’s revolution.  EPICA, an organization that provided political training to leftist insurgents in Latin America in the 1980s, cosponsored the event.  During the conference, according to Haitian participants, it was made clear that violent revolt was the only solution.  At the close of the conference, they drank wine symbolizing blood to seal the deal.  When the participants returned to Haiti, they were supposed to setup an ideological arm insurgency for the return of Aristide, instead they setup a petty thug crime spree.  Haitians were indignant that a foreign supporter of Aristide corrupted part of their proud history to promote thuggery.  Ironically Robert Maguire is serving at the Peace Institute in Washington. Kim Ives a longtime Aristide aide and chief propagandist is also an Aristide ideologist.

Journalists such as Max Blumental and Walt Bogdanich, along with liberal think tank leaders such as Amy Goodman at Democracy Now, have worked to undermine Haiti’s democratic opposition through a series of character assassination pieces.  For them, Aristide is a persecuted champion of the poor, and the Haitian people are wrong.  They too never address the preponderance of evidence against Aristide.

Aristide has also leveraged race to advance his cause.  He has engaged high profile race advocates such as Randall and Hazel Robinson making them millionaires with Haitian tax payer’s dollars.  Additionally, for personal gain he has also tapped into reparation advocacy efforts to get France to repay with interest the money that Haiti paid to secure its freedom from slavery. 

Aristide has also aligned with controversial figures such as Louis Farrakhan and Reverend Jeremiah Wright to advance an argument that race plays into international policy in Haiti.  But Haiti’s problems are the result of bad leadership and corruption rather than race.  Race has been experienced very differently in the U.S. and Haiti.  It is disappointing to hear those people characterize everything in terms of race.  Haiti is 99% black and proud to be the world's first black republic; however, the independence was not just about race.  Haiti's founding fathers saw beyond race to the universal values of freedom and equality. Haitians fought alongside Simon Bolivar in his quest to liberate Latin America.  They fought alongside Americans in Savannah, Georgia during the Revolutionary War to secure freedom from the British.  It was not about Latinos or Americans.  For Haitians, it was about freedom and liberation.  Haitians worry that people using race as a political tool could taint the collective memory of the Haitian independence movement.

Dr. Paul Farmer, the Deputy UN Special Envoy for Haiti and head of Partners in Health, has been vocal and high profile in his support for Aristide even signing on to the full page ad that appeared in the Miami Herald demanding Aristide’s return, see:   


For many Haitians, this blatant partisanship on behalf of one of the UN’s most senior Haiti officials has been a hot button issue contributing to the overall decline in the UN’s reputation in country.  Dr. Farmer received more than $80 million in earthquake recovery money for his Partners in Health foundation and is getting most the USAID $55 million aids funds.  He has advanced Aristide’s arguments about being unfairly persecuted by the international community and certain sectors of the Haitian elite.  Such high profile support from such a well-respected UN official has lent some undeserved credibility to Aristide’s arguments

The bottom line is that Aristide has manipulated myriad ideologies to advance his cause, but has consistently proven that these ideologies are nothing more than tools in his political arsenal.  Aristide’s only real goal is securing absolute power and money.

Foreign Profiteers
On the other end, there are people in the international community that simply profit from Aristide being in power either through preferential treatment or kickbacks.

Aristide has made a number of Washington, DC lobbyists and political operatives millionaire with Haitian taxpayers money and telecommunications deals.  Some of his top lobbyists include: Ron Daniel, Ira Kurzban, Burton Wides, Brian Concannon, and others.  For their lucrative retainers, they turned a blind eye to Aristide’s well-documented corruption, human rights violations, political killings, drug trafficking, kidnappings, and election rigging.  During Aristide’s reign from 1995 to 2004, these effective and well financed lobbyists tried to mute the voice of the Haitian people and criminalize reformers and democratic activists that stood up for their rights. 

For a public account of how much money these operatives were making as Aristide lobbyists from a country where the average citizen makes $1 a day. These fees were only the tip of the iceberg.  According to one of Haiti’s former Prime Ministers, they made tens of millions more in other business deals under the table, see:


Aristide’s Return
Some of these lobbyists seeking to reinstate their fat retainers and secure a piece of the lucrative reconstruction funds are trying to bring chaos again to Haiti for their boss, Jean Bertrand Aristide.  Their objective is to undermine the elections, weaken institutions and create chaos in order to create conditions for Aristide’s return to power.  In this chaos – the reasoning goes – there will be no one to arrest Aristide upon his return or organize an investigation.  The second goal is to get rid of all the paperwork within Haiti’s central bank and Ministry of Finances that will implicate them when a new President takes over.  They have lobbied the Congressional Black Caucus on Aristide direction making the argument that the CBC owes him for things that he did for them.  Some Lavalas members have confirmed that the CBC will pressure Secretary Hilary Clinton and her chief of Staff Cheryl Mills to get Aristide back to Port-au-Prince before the election.  At the UN, they are counting on Aristide’s informal advisor Paul Farmer, who is Bill Clinton’s deputy UN Special Envoy to Haiti, to remove any roadblocks that organization might raise.

While Aristide is putting pressure on the Clintons, members of his network are making arrangements for him to fly to Haiti this week.  In Aristide’s mind the elections must be aborted and retribution must be sought.  Aristide tried the retribution policy through Operation Baghdad I and II, which were two bloody campaigns of political violence against his opponents resulting in the murder of more than 2,000 people, but failed.

On a parallel and separate track from his lobbying efforts (i.e. his lobbyists would be unaware of this initiative), Aristide has instructed Lavalas thugs to prepare a hit list with names of Haitian political leaders, union representatives and civil society activists.  Names on that list include:

Historians Michel Hector and M. Michel Soukar
Union leaders Jean Lavaud Frédéric  Jean-Claude Lebrun, André Lafontant Joseph, Charles Faustin, Fritz Charles, and Patrick Numa
Professor Anthony Barbier
President of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce (CCIH), Dr. Reginald Boulos
Human rights activists Jean-Claude Bajeux
Writer M. Jean-Claude Fignolé
Coordinator of Collectif de Cité Soleil, Charles Dunais
Secretary General of Nouvelle Haïti Foundation (FNH), Mrs Yanick Lahens
Director General of Radio Vision 2000, Léopold Berlanger
Engineer Pascale Oriol
Businessman M. André Apaid
Filmaker M. Raoul Peck
M. Gesner Armand
Sociologist and researcher M. Laënnec Hurbon
M. Claude Pierre
M. Luc Smarth
Mme Geneviève L. Esper
Representative of Village de Dieu
Mrs Florence Maître
Civil engineer Pierrot Exama
Peterson C. Orélus, the head of Civil Society Initiative (ISC)
Rony Desroches, the representative of the National Association of Haitian Doctors (AMH)
Georges Beauvoir, Engineer
Women activists Jessie Benoît and Mrs Evelyne Trouillot
Writer and poet M. Gary Victor
Charles Faustin
Professor Michel Hector
Writer and poet M. Lionel Trouillot
Professor Pierre Buteau
M. Pascale Oriol
Mrs. Paulette Poujol-Oriol
Mrs Florence Maître
Writer and poet M. Franck Etienne
Peterson C. Orélus, M. Michel Acacia, Charles Baker

Aristide has the right to go home.  No Haitians should be living in exile, but hundreds are right now as a result of his brutality.  Given his vast political and economic crimes, his return should be managed by a newly elected government in the interest of stability and democracy in a country that is facing tremendous challenges.  Like Jean Claude Duvalier, Aristide will need to face justice for his political assassinations, see:
 and the $350 million he stole during nine years from Haitian coffers, according to Haiti’s General Accounting Office, for more see: .  In the name of democracy and stability, and in the interest of the Haitian people who have yet to begin to dig out from the earthquake a year later, these lobbyists should put aside their personal ambitions and ideological zealotry and let our country breath.