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

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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?