Sunday, November 28, 2010

Haiti, the UN and cholera on election day

Originally Posted on:

Posted on: November 28th, 2010

Original link:

Haiti, the UN and cholera on election day
By: Kevin Edmonds
November 28th, 2010

My third day in Haiti, walking down Avenue John Brown in the center of Port-au-Prince I was confronted point blank with the desperation of the cholera situation.

On the side of the road, a shirtless man with brown pants and no shoes lay on the sidewalk outside a busy market entrance -- eyes open, with his arm in the gutter and flies buzzing around his face. He was dead. A couple photographers quickly snapped photos and jumped back into their vehicles as the ambulance crew arrived to pick up the body. He was another victim of an outbreak which will only kill the poor and the vulnerable -- which unfortunately makes Haiti a deadly conductor for the spread of the disease.

Despite denials by the United Nations and the Nepalese army, the cholera outbreak in Haiti has been traced to the Nepalese contingent of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has officially confirmed that current strain of cholera spreading throughout the shattered nation matches an outbreak confirmed earlier this summer in Nepal.

The Swedish Ambassador to the Caribbean, Claes Hammar, stated ``unfortunately that is the case. It has proved that the cholera came from Nepal," and when pressed about the source of the information Hammar stated, "I consider my source to be a reliable one. It is a U.S. official, but I cannot say who." While the transmission of cholera was released through a disregard for proper sanitation at the United Nations camp in Mirebalais, it raises serious questions about the benefits -- or lack thereof -- that MINUSTAH has brought to the majority of the Haitian people as a "stabilizing force."

According to the MINUSTAH website, "MINUSTAH's original mandate was to restore a secure and stable environment, to promote the political process, to strengthen Haiti's government institutions and rule-of-law-structures, as well as to promote and to protect human rights." However, the protection of human rights and the promotion of democracy which MINUSTAH has promoted on paper has not translated into practice on the ground.

Since the 2004 coup of democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his Lavalas party, MINUSTAH and Haitian police have continually referred to Lavalas supporters as "bandits," which they have used to justify illegal arrests and extrajudicial killings. MINUSTAH has killed civilians in Port-Au-Prince's slums, specifically in the Lavalas strongholds of Bel Air and Cité Soleil, silencing the demands of self-determination and socio-economic justice of the people in these neighbourhoods. MINUSTAH's shoot-first tactics have been well documented, and Haiti scholar Peter Hallward has compiled a lengthy list of human rights abuses and outright massacres by MINUSTAH in his book Damming the Flood (pp. 275-310).

The recent protests are a clear signal of the discontent the Haitian populace have both against MINUSTAH and the lack of success in containing the disease. At the time of writing, the death toll has climbed to nearly 1,500 people -- with the United Nations publishing grim estimates that the outbreak could kill as many as 10,000 people before the epidemic winds down.

Within Haiti, the camps themselves unfortunately hold the perfect conditions for the transmission of cholera. There is a dangerous lack of clean water, sanitation and access to basic health care. The overcrowded environments are teeming with people well aware of the disease and its origins, yet many of them report having no alternative than to drink water they know is contaminated. Thirty-nine per cent of respondents in a study conducted by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) in July highlighted this desperate and tragic fact.

On the ground in Haiti, in the internal displacement camps, it is amazing how much inhuman patience and resilience the Haitian people have displayed in dealing with all of the misfortune that 2010 has brought upon the island. The pre-existing poverty, combined with the earthquake, the lack of reconstruction, political uncertainty, hurricanes and the cholera outbreak has created a situation whereby the Haitian people have every right to voice and demonstrate their discontent. Despite this, the international media has negatively spun the cholera and anti-occupation protests as "politically motivated" -- as the ensuing violence was placed solely at the feet of subversive organizers and a few drunken thugs, not MINUSTAH.

MINUSTAH head, Edmond Mulet, has called for an end to the cholera protests, stating that: "Every second that passes can save or break thousands of lives. If this situation continues, more and more patients in desperate need of care are likely to die and more and more Haitians awaiting access to preventive care may be overtaken by the epidemic." While the protests present an obstacle to accessing the sick, it also must be taken within the proper context.

A crucial story which has yet to surface in the mainstream press is the role that the international community has had in undermining the Haitian healthcare system. A very big reason as to why the cholera is able to spread with such little resistance is the patchwork healthcare system, mostly provided by NGOs. The Haitian healthcare system, while never considered a model worthy of emulation, was significantly undermined, and further weakened by the numerous rounds of structural adjustment and public spending cuts demanded by international donor nations and institutions such as the International Monetary Fund.

It must be recognized that the extreme vulnerability of Haiti to such a cholera outbreak is unmistakably man made. In 1998, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) approved a $54 million loan which would facilitate the improvement of clean water and sanitation services -- resulting in an estimated 90 per cent decline in water costs for the poor. However, the Freedom of Information Act reveals that the United States blocked the loan as a way to undermine and suffocate the government of Aristide once more.

Another haunting example of such misguided collaboration can be seen through the closing of the medical school at the University of Tabarre in Port-au-Prince -- the first ever to provide free tuition. At the time of the school's opening on February 3rd 2004, Haiti had one of the worst doctor-to-patient ratios in the world (one to 10,000 in urban areas and one to 20,000 in rural areas). Less than one month after its opening, the hospital and the university complex it was part of were closed down at gunpoint and occupied by U.S. Marines and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The 247 new medical students watched as their classrooms were turned into barracks, their instructors forced to flee from political persecution (due to threats on his life, Dr. Yves Polynice fled to Europe), and much of their material and equipment pillaged to service the capital's private medical clinics.

Perhaps the saddest thing about the cholera epidemic is the fact that it does not need to exist at all. To be blunt, poverty is at the root of cholera. Globally, cholera and other diarrhoeal-related diseases are the second leading cause of deaths in the developing world. The western world has not had an outbreak of cholera for over 100 years. Despite the extreme poverty and lack of access to clean water in Haiti, this was also the case -- until the arrival of the Nepalese troops.

The horrific irony of the cholera epidemic is the fact that the same international community which dismantled the Haitian healthcare system through structural adjustment, conditionalities and intervention is now in charge of fighting the epidemic within the dreadful confines it helped to create. Rather than complementing and supplementing an already existing public healthcare system, it decided to undermine and erode the existing structures to the point that some 80 per cent of the country's basic services provided by the private sector through non-governmental organizations. The international community must also recognize their complicity in isolating and removing the only president who was committed to expanding access and availability of social services to the poor -- Jean-Bertrand Aristide (To see a recent interview with Aristide in, please click here).

However, with the international support and funding for the elections (and their widespread irregularities) on Sunday, Nov. 28, it becomes increasingly clear that the international community and MINUSTAH does not care about the health or welfare of the Haitian population.

The current health crisis has blatantly underscored how aid to Haiti has not been given with the intention of making the island more self sufficient, but rather more dependent on the international community. It is a tragic situation all too familiar to Haiti, where the poorest and most vulnerable are subjected to the deadly repercussions of the actions of the wealthy and powerful. The poor are demonized for the suffering while those responsible are absolved of any responsibility. If the international is seriously committed to building back a better Haiti, it needs to look at the how their actions, and that of MINUSTAH has led to greater instability, insecurity and crisis -- and divert the costs of occupation (an estimated $600 million per year since 2004) towards the building of a public healthcare system which serves the people, not the powerful.

Kevin Edmonds is a freelance journalist and graduate student at McMaster University's Globalization Institute in Hamilton, Ontario.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Canada is backing a deeply flawed election in Haiti

Originally posted to:

Posted on: November 27th, 2010

Original link:

Canada is backing a deeply flawed election in Haiti
By: Kevin Edmonds & Roger Annis
November 27th, 2010

The Haitian people were told several months ago by their president and partisan electoral commission that the country would go to the polls on Nov. 28 to elect a new president, legislature and partial senate representation. This event has many Haitians and international observers speaking out against it, and not only because of the deteriorating humanitarian calamity in the country. Months before the terrible cholera outbreak struck, the country's largest and most representative political party, the Fanmi Lavalas of exiled, former President Jean Bertrand Aristide, was ruled off the ballot by the Provisional Electoral Commission.

Imagine the holding of an election in Canada in which Elections Canada declared on a flimsy technicality that one or more of the Liberal, Conservative, NDP or Bloc Quebecois parties were inadmissible to run. The country would be up in arms.

Something similar to the above scenario has been going on in Haiti for several years. No wonder, then, that so many Haitians are condemning the Nov. 28 vote as a "selection" and are protesting in the streets without. Sadly, this electoral spectacle has not prompted a peep of concern in major media in Canada, nor from our members of parliament. Yet, Canadians should be deeply concerned because $5.8 million of Canadian tax dollars are financing what can only be called an electoral sham. That's the amount of backing announced by Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon on Oct. 5.

Haiti's electoral commission provided no credible reason for the exclusion of Fanmi Lavalas, nor for many of the other 13 parties whose applications to run for the presidency were rejected. The party was earlier banned from the two-round, partial senate election held in April/June 2009. The reason cited was a technical one -- the party was accused of failing to fill in its registration paperwork correctly, a charge its leaders and legal representatives hotly denied, and against which they provided counter-proof.

Following a call for a boycott of that election, less than five per cent of the electorate turned out.

In Nov. 2009, Fanmi Lavalas was again excluded, this time from the national election that was to take place in February, 2010. This month's election is the postponed version of that vote.

Canada, the U.S. and other major powers in Haiti began pressing for the holding of an election within months of the disastrous earthquake. Why the rush? Countries find many ways to effectively govern themselves in the face of calamitous events. Voices such as that of Haiti's leading human rights attorney, Mario Joseph, are saying that the Haitian government and foreign powers should be working to bring Haitians together in a national dialogue and plan for reconstruction.

The country's former president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, and his wife Mildred sounded this theme when they spoke from their exile in South Africa within days of the earthquake. They said they were anxious to roll up their sleeves and get to work with others in the gigantic task of recovery. Ten months later, they still sit in exile.

Joseph recently told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, in a wide-ranging interview, that the pre-conditions for a free and fair election in Haiti do not exist. He says the country's first priority is to have a strong program of national reconstruction in place in which the people have confidence and are fully participant. Then it needs an accurate voter list, easily obtainable voter registration, and polling stations with easy access for the population.

He is concerned that only one of the three pillars of government and constitutional law are operative in Haiti, the presidency. The president of the country's Supreme Court passed away in 2006 and was not replaced. The legislature and senate are dysfunctional. That leaves a president wielding, all proportions guarded, for next to none of the famous aid dollars to Haiti are directed to its government and ministries, extraordinary power.

"If you don't have the judiciary branch to apply the law, if you don't have the legislative branch to control the government, why are we talking about elections?" he says.

Members of the U.S. Congress share Joseph's and others' concerns. Forty-five of them penned an open letter last month to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, calling on her to withhold financial and other support to the flawed election. They wrote, "Haiti's next government will be called upon to make difficult decisions in the reconstruction process that will have a lasting impact on Haitian society, such as land reform and allocation of reconstruction projects among urban and rural areas. Conferring these decisions on a government perceived as illegitimate is a recipe for disaster."

Canadians need to wake up to the fact that very bad decisions by successive federal governments have been made in our name in Haiti, including the endorsement of the violent overthrow of elected government in Haiti in February 2004 and participation in the failed and increasingly despised UN Security Council mission/military occupation force known as MINUSTAH. It's time for a national dialogue in Canada, time for a sharp change in policy in Haiti.

National sovereignty and social justice are the two indispensable tools for meaningful reconstruction in Haiti. The Haitian people are demanding it. Foreign powers like Canada should get out of the way and assist, not hinder, this inevitable path.

Kevin Edmonds is a freelance journalist and graduate student at McMaster University's Globalization Institute in Hamilton, Ontario. Roger Annis is a coordinator of the Canada Haiti Action Network and one of the editors of its website. He resides in Vancouver.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Supporting a sham: The international community and Haiti’s elections

A statue of Henri Christophe, one of Haiti’s revolutionary leaders, surrounded by the Champ de Mars camp.

Supporting a Sham: The International Community and Haiti's Elections
By: Kevin Edmonds
The Straight

The normally bustling streets of Port-au-Prince are unnaturally quiet and tense today (November 26), as if the people are preparing in advance for the arrival of a storm. The upcoming elections in Haiti on Sunday (November 28) hold the potential to push Haiti over the edge, adding political fuel to the multiple crises the nation is already facing. Despite this, the international community has committed to supporting and spending millions on an election which has been widely criticized—both within Haiti and abroad—as illegitimate due pervasive allegations of fraud and the unconstitutional exclusion of 14 political parties.

The winner of the election will be responsible for the colossal task of rebuilding the nation’s shattered infrastructure and psyche after the January 12 earthquake and the ongoing cholera epidemic. To overcome these tremendous challenges, Haiti needs both an aggressive and progressive plan to move the country out of its present desperation through the building of strong state institutions and the development of widespread, basic social services. However, the current election is based on exclusion, clearly undermining the democratic process the Haitian people have sacrificed so much to obtain.

As pointed out by Dan Beeton in the Los Angeles Times, the hypocrisy of the international community in criticizing rigged elections in Burma but not in Haiti is highly troubling. Without a doubt it is due to the fact that international capital has yet to penetrate Burma, but has been given a blank slate in Haiti through the development of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Committee and decades of neoliberal policy implementation. The international community needs a leader which will rubber-stamp all of their lucrative and self-serving investment and development initiatives. At the time of writing, Haiti has the most privatized social-service sector in the Americas, with some 80 percent of the country’s basic services provided by the private sector through nongovernmental organizations.

The international community and the Haitian elite have successfully eliminated the most progressive and most popular political party—also their largest obstacle—through the banning of Fanmi Lavalas. Fanmi Lavalas was strong within Haiti’s most impoverished commu­ni­ties because they pro­moted the wide­spread build­ing of pri­mary social ser­vices such as health care and edu­ca­tion, attempted to halt the pri­va­ti­za­tion of pub­lic util­i­ties, and worked to raise the country’s low min­i­mum wage—all poli­cies that should be res­ur­rected to help the Haitian people, but remain widely absent from any of the international community’s reconstruction proposals.

In addition to electoral undermining, the political climate has been very oppressive to popular protest—as the recent cholera protests in both Cap-Haitien and Port-au-Prince were met with violence from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Despite their declaration of peacekeeping, MINUSTAH has taken a political stance in the country, actively opposing the kinds of policies that Lavalas was promoting before their violent ousting in 2004.

The Haitian people deserve peace and stability in order to rebuild, but in their current form, the November 28 elections are an electoral coup d’état engineered by the Haitian Provisional Electoral Council with the support of the international community. The pathway to democracy for the Haitian people has been barricaded by the actions of MINUSTAH, the CEP, and the international community, leaving little institutional space for the Haitian people to express their voices. After all of the Haitian people have been through this year, to expect any more patience from the Haitian people is both naïve and dangerous. International support for the rigged election process may just be reaching the climax of how much the Haitian people can take before they collectively push back.

Kevin Edmonds is a freelance journalist and graduate student at McMaster University’s Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition in Hamilton. He is in Port-au-Prince with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

MINUSTAH: Obstacle to Democracy in Haiti

Originally posted on: The Fresh Outlook

Posted on: November 24th, 2010

Original link:

MINUSTAH: Obstacle to Democracy in Haiti
By: Nicole Phillips and Kevin Edmonds
The Fresh Outlook
November 24th, 2010

Nicole Phillips, Staff Attorney at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and Assistant Director for Haiti Programs at the University of San Francisco School of Law, and Kevin Edmonds, freelance journalist, write about UN peace keeping force, MINUSTAH's involvement in the forthcoming Haiti elections.

Haiti’s elections planned for November 28, could aggravate the country’s tragedies and inequalities that were brought to the world’s attention after the January 12 earthquake. Highly politicized authorities have illegally excluded all the candidates from the country’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas, and other progressive candidates.

Haitians know a fraudulent election when they see one and took their complaints to the streets. Thousands of Haitians have protested all across the country. The United Nations peace keeping force, MINUSTAH, have assisted the Haitian National Police quell demonstrations and increased security patrols two weeks before the elections to help secure polling stations.

MINUSTAH’s presence at polling stations on November 28 is more likely to trigger violence than prevent it. Since MINUSTAH was sent to Haiti in 2004 to secure a coup d’etat government that overthrew democratically elected President Bertrand Aristide, it has represented an oppressive, occupying force – a significant obstacle to human rights and popular democracy. The protection that MINUSTAH’s presence offers primarily benefits the interests of the Haitian elite and their business partners in the international community, not the country’s poor majority.

Since the coup, MINUSTAH and Haitian police have referred to President Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas, as “bandits”, which they have used to justify illegal arrests and extrajudicial killings. MINUSTAH has killed civilians in Port au Prince’s slums, specifically in the Fanmi Lavalas strongholds of Bel Air and Cité Soleil, silencing the demands of self-determination and socio-economic justice of the people in these neighborhoods. Fanmi Lavalas was strong within these communities because they promoted the widespread building of primary social services such as healthcare and education, attempted to halt the privatization of public utilities, and worked to raise the country’s low minimum wage – all policies that should be resurrected and strengthened by the nation’s next government.

MINUSTAH’s shoot-first tactics have been well documented, most recently with the cholera protests. Haitian grassroots groups and Haitian internal displacement communities organized a protest on November 18 in Port au Prince, which was peaceful until MINUSTAH arrived and drew their weapons out at demonstrators. As the crowd fled for safety, MINUSTAH threw teargas canisters into the crowd and the nearby displacement camp. Several camp residents were taken to the hospital with injuries from the teargas. The United Nations callously referred to the popular resistance as “civil unrest” and the result of a political publicity stunt, not as an expression of grassroots discontent with the fact the same army may have been responsible for introducing an epidemic that has killed over 1,300 people.

MINUSTAH’s commitment to providing security for these elections is ironic, but not a surprise. The outright exclusion of Fanmi Lavalas in every election, since Aristide’s administration, is a testament to the fact that the international community and Haitian elite are bent on suffocating this popular movement with sham elections and outright force. The holding of an illegitimate election is the way to “legitimize” the international community’s reconstruction vision – one that further prioritizes and concentrates profits, property and power into the hands of few.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Complexities and Contradictions: CARICOM and Haitian Elections

Originally posted to: The Stabroek News (Guyana)

Posted on: November 22nd, 2010

Original Link:

Complexities and Contradictions: CARICOM and Haitian Elections

By: Kevin Edmonds

The upcoming Presidential and Parliamentary elections in Haiti on November 28th highlight the complexities and difficulties of intergovernmental organizations which seek to chart foreign policy positions outside of the umbrella of American regional power and influence. CARICOM, rightfully respected for both its previous advocacy and solidarity with Haitian people and their right to self determination following the devastating January 12th earthquake, and their opposition to the 2004 coup of Jean Bertrand Aristide, has since fallen in line with the international community on the question of the 2010 Haitian elections. What remains to be seen is whether or not this endorsement will serve to rubberstamp a process which is widely regarded as illegitimate, due to the highly contested makeup and actions of the Haitian Provisional Electoral Council, and how this will affect the foreign policy of CARICOM moving forward.

CARICOM, the United States and other international donors have committed to funding and working with the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), notwithstanding allegations of fraud, unconstitutional activity, and the politically motivated exclusion of candidates and entire political parties. The constitution does not grant the CEP the power to exclude any political party from participating in any election. The composition of the CEP has also come under scrutiny, as President Rene Preval has been accused of having a disturbingly close relationship with the organization, raising serious doubts about the Council’s ability to remain politically neutrally. In addition, its current members were unconstitutionally appointed by Preval, and the final candidate list appears to be highly influenced by his opinion – which includes his son in law, Jude Celestin. The resulting lack of confidence in the scandal plagued CEP has led to rising calls of boycotts due to the lack of fairness and transparency. Given this context, the execution of national elections has the potential to provoke widespread political unrest, further compounding the obstacles facing the Haitian people in their struggles for self-determination.

The admission of Haiti into CARICOM in 1998 was primarily made with the intention of ending the nation’s “decades of isolation to help promote the growth of institutional democracy.“ CARICOM’S current stance raises serious questions about whether the organization is, in effect, taking a position which could undermine the very same democratic process it intended to cultivate.

There is, a historical context to all this. On more than one occasion, CARICOM has also been threatened and sidelined by the major powers due to its position on Haiti. During Aristide’s presidency, CARICOM was consistently vocal about the suspension of nearly $1 billion worth of aid from the United States, the European Union, Canada and others. The 2004 coup of Aristide was met with significant and well deserved outrage from CARICOM, which warned that its acceptance by the international community set a “dangerous precedent for democratically elected governments everywhere.”

Due to their objections, CARICOM refused to participate in or legitimize the United Nations “peacekeeping” efforts, and called for an official inquiry into the coup – a position that was totally dismissed. In addition to the political acceptance of the coup by the United States, Canada and the EU, aid began to flow to the illegal government of Gerard Latortue. CARICOM’s prioritization of democracy; sovereignty and aid to Haiti was completely at odds with the actions and intentions of the international community.

In addition, the organization came under intense pressure after Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson granted Aristide permission for temporary residence in Jamaica; the then U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice explicitly threatened the Jamaican government if it did not rescind the offer. The fact that regional solidarity, the kind shown by Patterson to Aristide was viewed as a direct threat to American interests in the region, signalled that the United States was perversely focused on maintaining its hegemony by any means – including the suppression of the Haitian people’s popular movement towards democracy.

Given the region’s geopolitics, CARICOM’s role as an election observer in the Haitian elections scheduled for November 28th, is a complicated one. While not excusing the silence of the regional organization with regard to the substantive charges of flaws characterising the current electoral process in Haiti, CARICOM does recognize President Rene Preval as the legitimate government based on the 2006 elections. According to Professor Norman Girvan, this leaves CARICOM in a difficult position, as “the dilemma is that it would be difficult to oppose an internal process in a member state that is endorsed by its government which is in good standing with the Community. That would put CARICOM in the position of making a judgment about the internal political process that is at variance with the government of the member state of the country. That would in the eyes of many, if not all, CARICOM governments, constitute a dangerous precedent which could, in the future, be used against one of the other member states.”

If the United States threatened Jamaica and CARICOM when the stakes were much lower in comparison to now (control over billions of dollars in reconstruction funding and a relative blank slate), it is hard to imagine that the Obama administration, the international community, and the reconstruction committee of international capital led by Bill Clinton have not let their demands be explicitly known. Perhaps this too accounts for the complicity of the organization with regard to the elections.

CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General (Foreign and Community Relations) Colin Granderson was tasked with leading the CARICOM Special Unit for Haiti that was appointed following the devastating January earthquake, and is currently head of the CARICOM/OAS Observer Mission to the November 28 elections. Granderson has been previously involved as the head of the UN/OAS Mission to Monitor Human Rights for the Raboteau trial which investigated the massacre of Aristide supporters in northwest Haiti in 1994, some six months before Aristide was returned to power following the first coup in 1991 that deposed him. Granderson also worked with Aristide in the months prior to the February 2004 coup in an attempt to establish a compromise with the opposition to avert a political crisis – to no avail. Granderson’s prior positioning as a friend of Haiti can only lead to further speculation about CARICOM’s current complicity with the illegitimate elections, which have the potential to drive Haiti further over the edge, adding political fuel to the multiple crises the nation is already fighting. At a press conference on November 17, Ambassador Granderson called on Haitians to go to the polls. His comment that the electoral dynamic has been strengthened gradually as the process unfolded could perhaps be read as acknowledgment of flaws, but appears to take the position that these minor imperfections are not sufficient to call into question the process and likely the results next Sunday. As such, it does little to address the allegations that this is not a situation of minor irregularities but fundamental and unconstitutional flaws that nullify the integrity of the process itself.

If the elections go forward in their current contested form where 14 political parties have been unconstitutionally excluded – the Fanmi Lavalas party of Jean Bertrand Aristide was amongst those barred from participating – there is little chance that the results will not be contested by the Haitian people. Indeed, Ambassador Granderson’s caution at the recent press conference that concerns about violence remain an issue, highlight the very real possibility that unease and dissatisfaction with the electoral process – one that the OAS/CARICOM mission will go down on record as endorsing – will spill over into the streets. It is becoming blatantly apparent that the Preval government and the international community – embodied in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) – are working together to undermine the voice of the Haitian people in favour of the donor nations and business communities. Recent mobilizations against MINUSTAH in the wake of the cholera outbreak are a sign of the resurgence of the indomitable Haitian spirit of resistance, but the outcome and future for the nation remains anything but clear.

However, the future of Haiti – CARICOM relations is at a pivotal point. What will be the popular perception of CARICOM within Haiti? If the organization is seen as an accomplice of the international community which abandoned Haitians in such a significant time of need, this has the potential to derail any partnerships or projects going forward. It also has the potential to set back genuine efforts at reconstruction and self determination of both the Haitian state and people. The difficult situation CARICOM finds itself in, and the awkward silences this has produced with regard to the November 28 election, could leave a collective black eye on the regional institution. In the very near future, CARICOM might be reflecting upon whether or not the sacrifice of the integrity of the Haitian process was truly worth it, and how strong an organization which has had a strong track record on foreign policy co-ordination but which in this instance has so strongly compromised its founding principles, can continue to be moving forward.

Haiti’s November 28 Elections: Efforts to Legitimize the Illegitimate

I helped as a research assistant on this project titled "Haiti’s November 28 Elections: Efforts to Legitimize the Illegitimate" for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. It did have an impact on the way the election was covered in the media, however - the international communtiy did not take it's content into consideration and continued to support and fund deeply flawed elections which will have repercussions for years to come.

You can read the report here:

Monday, November 15, 2010

With friends like these...CARICOM and Haiti


Haiti was only accepted back into CARICOM in 2006, following the election of President Rene Preval in February of that year.

By Kevin Edmonds and Roger Annis

ONTARIO, Canada, Monday November 15, 2010 - In a troubling abandonment of its moral high ground on matters of Haiti, the organization representing the governments of the Caribbean Community, CARICOM, has bought into the flawed national election to take place in Haiti on November 28. CARICOM will join with the Organization of American States (OAS) and the European Union as official observers.

The decision effectively sanctions an electoral process that has excluded 14 political parties from participating, including Haiti’s largest, Fanmi Lavalas of exiled, former President Jean Bertrand Aristide. In addition, the current electoral conditions will not have the required facilities and voter registration in place to guarantee a fair and inclusive vote.

The council provided very poor reasoning for the exclusion of the 14 parties. Fanmi Lavalas was earlier banned from the two-round, partial senate election in April/June 2009. At that time, the reason cited was a technical one—the party was accused of failing to fill in its registration paperwork correctly, a charge its leaders hotly deny. Then in another incident in November 2009, Fanmi Lavalas was excluded for failing to submit an original party authorization for the April 2009 elections. The party’s attorneys provided documentation refuting the banning pretext and arguing it was an arbitrary and last minute invention. Nonetheless, the decision was carried over into the upcoming November 28th elections.

The decision by CARICOM to participate in this deeply flawed election constitutes a significant reversal of the position in took in February 2004 when Haiti’s elected president and government were overthrown by a paramilitary revolt with key backing from the U.S., Canada, France and the UN Security Council. At that time, CARICOM condemned the overthrow. It refused to recognize the appointed regime put in place by the foreign powers. It was the only inter-governmental organization to suspend Haiti’s membership.

CARICOM said the overthrow in Haiti violated its fundamental adherence to democratic principles, including the right to self determination of peoples and countries. On March 27, one month after the coup, CARICOM asserted that, “the restoration of democratic rule in the troubled nation is essential to its involvement in the regional community," and that, “no action should be taken to legitimise the rebel forces.”

Haiti was only accepted back into CARICOM in 2006, following the election of President Rene Preval in February of that year.

The silence of CARICOM in regards to the recent scandals surrounding Haiti’s current Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) which relate to its unconstitutional exclusions and its controversial makeup –is deeply troubling, and a step in the wrong direction for democracy and stability in the region. According to Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), the constitutionality of the CEP, “is not an easy question. The 1987 constitution does allow for a provisional council. The problem is that the body has never moved beyond its provisional status. That’s the fault not only of Preval today but also of the governments which preceded him.”

Critics say the executive branch of Haiti’s government has wielded great influence in the selection of the CEP, rather than the maximum of fairness and autonomy from political influence that should prevail. Preval himself is quietly favoring one of the candidates to be his successor--no less than his son in law, Jude Celestin.

The exclusion of Fanmi Lavalas and other candidates has led to a widespread lack of credibility for the election as well as calls for a boycott from the Haitian populace, including leaders of Fanmi Lavalas.

When asked about this exclusion, CARICOM Assistant Secretary Colin Granderson held firm, reiterating the official position of CARICOM that, "The Haitian electorate is benefiting, more parties are engaging, and the boycotting front is crumbling."

What CARICOM does not take into account is the effect that an election considered widely illegitimate would have on the social and political fabric of Haiti – a nation already ravaged by the earthquake, cholera and tropical storms. As 45 members of the U.S. Congress put it in an open letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month, “Haiti's next government will be called upon to make difficult decisions in the reconstruction process that will have a lasting impact on Haitian society, such as land reform and allocation of reconstruction projects among urban and rural areas. Conferring these decisions on a government perceived as illegitimate is a recipe for disaster.”

In April of this year, former Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson stated, “A strong CARICOM needs a strong Haiti.” However, the recent action of CARICOM is undermining the possibilities for Haiti to rebuild itself back as a stronger and more democratic state.

For any election to be successful, it must be fully inclusive and transparent. Haitian attorney and human rights lawyer Mario Joseph recently told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in a wide-ranging interview that the necessary pre-conditions for this do not exist. According to Joseph, the country’s first priority is to have a strong program of national reconstruction in place, in which the people have confidence and are fully participant. Then it needs an accurate voter list, easily obtainable voter registration, and polling stations with easy access for the population.

Joseph says the international community should help build effective government institutions, not press for the election of a new president in conditions where Haiti’s judicial and legislative branches are weak or barely functional. “If you don’t have the judiciary branch to apply the law, if you don’t have the legislative branch to control the government, why are we talking about elections?” he says.

How can CARICOM and the people of the Caribbean remain silent about the absence of democratic guarantees in this election? Haiti’s history is intimately intertwined with the history of the rest of the Caribbean. To abandon Haiti now is to abandon the ideals of justice and democracy that CARICOM is supposed to stand for.

CARICOM has taken the moral high road on matters of Haiti alone before, which makes this recent aligning of the organization with the traditional antagonists of the island all the more disappointing. Supporting the unfair and exclusionary elections in Haiti will only benefit the same members of the international community who have largely been responsible for deepening and profiting off of Haiti’s tragedy. Haiti needs CARICOM now more than ever in order to ensure these illegitimate elections do not undermine the demands for self determination voiced by the Haitian people in the rebuilding of their nation. Unfortunately, CARICOM is intent on underwriting the upcoming elections which will no doubt lock the Haitian people into a deeper state of desperation – adding political fuel to the already devastating humanitarian disaster.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Kevin Edmonds and Roger Annis.

Kevin Edmonds, a St Lucian, is a freelance journalist and graduate student at McMaster University’s Globalization Institute in Hamilton, Ontario. Roger Annis is a coordinator of the Canada Haiti Action Network and editor of its website, He resides in Vancouver.