USIP Webcast: Haitian Elections in the Time of Cholera (12/7/2010)

By Bryan Schaaf on Wednesday, December 1, 2010.

Transitions in Haiti are seldom uneventful.  An imperfect election on November 28th resulted in widespread frustration and frequent (but mostly nonviolent) protests.  On Tuesday, December 7th, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) will hold a panel discussion at 2:00 to discuss how the elections may influence Haiti’s recovery and how a newly elected government and the international community can best work together.  Panelists include representatives from Partners in Health, the Organization of American States, and the Haitian Embassy in Washington DC.  More information below.

 

Endangered by a cholera epidemic that has claimed more than 1600 lives, Haiti held elections for president and parliament on November 28. With political tensions running high, public protests have raised questions about the validity of the vote. How will the current crisis impact Haiti’s recovery? Moving forward, how should a newly elected government and the international community work together to ensure Haiti’s future? A panel of experts will address these questions in a public forum co-hosted by USIP’s Haiti Working Group and USIP’s Working Group on Health and Peacebuilding.

 

Speakers

Ambassador Louis Harold Joseph

Ambassador of Haiti to Washington, Embassy of Haiti

 

Ambassador Albert Ramdin

Assistant Secretary General, Organization of American States

 

Donna Barry

Advocacy and Policy Director, Partners in Health

 

Robert Maguire, Moderator

Chair, Haiti Working Group, U.S. Institute of Peace

Former Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow, USIP

Associate Professor of International Affairs, Trinity Washington University

 

Link to Live Webcast

www.usip.org/webcast 

 

Location

United States Institute of Peace

2nd Floor Conference Room

1200 17th St, NW

Washington, D.C. 20036 

 

Updates

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OAS and CARICOM Highlight Election Improvements (5/25/2011)

The Joint Electoral Observation Mission (JEOM) in Haiti deployed by the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) today highlighted that, in terms of efficiency, the second round of the presidential and legislative elections in the Caribbean country “was indeed far superior to the first round from a technical, organizational and security point of view.” Presenting his report to the OAS Permanent Council, JEOM Chief Colin Granderson stressed that notwithstanding “crises, protests and criticism, and the resulting emphasis on verification, process and rule of law procedure and not political fixes, the Haitian electoral process has emerged technically and institutionally stronger from this challenging and protracted experience.” Ambassador Granderson added that during the process, “critical steps forward” were achieved “in making the Haitian electoral process of the future more robust, transparent and equitable, and thereby enhancing its credibility and legitimacy.” The JEOM was present in Haiti beginning August 3, 2010, a period in which the first (November 28, 2010) and second round (March 20, 2011) of elections took place. Its mandate and monitoring responsibilities were completed with the coming into being of a newly elected executive and legislature. Being a long-term mission present in the 11 electoral departments of Haiti permitted the JEOM to monitor not only the voting itself but also the various preparatory phases leading up to the elections such as voter and candidate registration and campaigning, as well as the post-election phases, in particular the vote counting and complaints process.
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The elections resulted in Mr. Michel Joseph Martelly being elected President of the Republic of Haiti, and in the formation of a new Congress in the Caribbean country. Ambassador Granderson presented a series of recommendations on “key issues that can profoundly impact the quality of Election Day and the accuracy of the results.” He recommended reinforcing the training of electoral agents; instilling a sense of civic service towards the wider community; and for electoral judges to display greater transparency and fairness as well as greater familiarity with the CTV procedures in order for the Electoral Tribunal to fulfill its role in keeping with the Electoral Law. OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza congratulated the MOEC on “the ability and political strength shown at very complex moments; on its wise decisions; on its constant search for solutions in order to look for a satisfactory ending to the elections; and on the excellent result we achieved as an Organization.” The head of the Hemispheric Organization highlighted “the good collaborative work of OAS-CARICOM” as a good omen for future cooperation, and said that “we are all happy because there is a President legitimately elected by the Haitian people and because there is a Congress that also enjoys legitimacy in exercising its democratic duties.” The Permanent Representative of Haiti to the Organization, Duly Brutus, thanked the work carried out by the JEOM and reiterated his gratefulness to the international community for the support provided to his Government and country. Ambassador Brutus also highlighted the importance of the elections because “with them we have achieved the so-called democratic alternation. It is the first time that a Haitian government hands power to the opposition. This strengthens democratic institutions in Haiti, and therefore it is important that we acknowledged with joy these elections in Haiti.”
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During the session, representatives of the following countries also took the floor: Panama, United States, Mexico, Canada, Brazil, and Guyana (on behalf of CARICOM). They all highlighted the good work carried out by the JEOM, welcomed the democratic transition in Haiti through elections, and expressed their best wishes for the Caribbean country’s future. At the same session, the Permanent Council agreed to recommend to the OAS General Assembly of June 5-7 in El Salvador that a draft declaration on the Haitian elections be approved. The draft declaration congratulates the Haitian people on “their resolve, political maturity and commitment to democracy and the rule of law”; acknowledges “the efforts of the donor community” in support of Haiti, particularly the role played by the OAS and the JEOM; and reaffirms the continued engagement of the Organization to support the efforts of the Haitian authorities.”
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Reference: E-689/11
Organization of American States

Sweet Mickey: Bad Boy Makes Good (4/8/2011)

BY ELIZABETH MCALISTER
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When Michel Martelly hired the slick Spanish marketing firm Sola to manage his presidential campaign in Haiti last year, the candidate was running third out of three major candidates in the race, behind Mirlande Manigat -- the wife of an ex-president -- and Jude Celestin, the government favorite. The Spanish team, which previously worked on campaigns for Mexican President Felipe Calderón in 2006 and U.S. Sen. John McCain in 2008, advised him to embrace his position as a political outsider. They also helped him make use of his most powerful and singular asset: his voice. The voice of Martelly, better known in the country that this week elected him president as "Sweet Micky," has been the soundtrack to the lives of Haiti's youthful population, most of whom are under 24 years old. Like Proust's character dipping his petit Madeleine into his tea and being at once flooded by a wave of involuntary memories, Sweet Micky's voice has the capacity to transport Haitians back to a time when for an evening, the body felt good and life was all right. Before he was president-elect of Haiti, Martelly was know as the "president of konpa," the genre of Haitian dance music known for its upbeat tempo, carefree and pleasure-oriented lyrics, and cheek-to-cheek dance. In the darkened dance halls or outdoor squares where Sweet Micky's records have played for more than 20 years, people dance in the arms of their chouboulouts (darlings) and let the music wash their cares away, a fleeting pleasure in a country that has yet to recover from the catastrophic earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince last year.
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But Sola's consultants worried that Martelly needed to transcend his image as the "bad boy" of konpa; after all, this was a man known largely for lyrics such as "I don't care, I don't give a shit." It was a version of the problem that entertainers and artists moving into politics elsewhere in the world have faced as well, as Al Franken and Arnold Schwarzenegger could attest. But Martelly had a major advantage: He was running for office in Haiti, a country where political parties are weak and where musical celebrity goes a long way. The Haitian audioscape is as vibrant and blaring as the country's brightly painted "tap-tap" buses. Music is entertainment, but it is also a form of work, a form of prayer, and a form of politics. In a country where the median age is 21 and most people are not literate, listening is a refined skill and sonic information is knowledge. In the countryside, women sing to the rhythm of the mortar and pestle as they pound corn meal in their homes, and men hoeing fields or building houses coordinate movements to music in work parties called konbit. In Port-au-Prince's earthquake tent encampments, children unable to afford school sing to clapping games, and church groups sing prayers into the night. Students in schools chant their multiplication tables in unison, and walking street vendors play the "teedle-tee-tee-tee" of custom-made melodies on glass soda bottles to hawk cold 7-Up. Everybody is selling something, often with a distinctive sound to catch the ear and the attention.
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In politics, the lowest-tech expression of Haiti's musicality is the rara, the term for a style of parade music and the bands that perform it. Rara is distinctive for its portable drums and its long bamboo horns, cut to produce different pitches. (The horns are now often made of PVC piping, which produces a wonderful vibrating bass tone.) The horn notes are designed to carry far off into the countryside and are thought to have originated as the corps de musique of the Maroon armies that fought and defeated the white colonists in the Haitian Revolution. Often affiliated with Vodou congregations and believed to be under the patronage of a spirit in the unseen realm, rara bands are embedded in deep and wide political networks throughout the country; Martelly spent many hours of his campaign leading raras through the neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince and numerous provincial towns. Raras also have long served as a mouthpiece for popular opinion, a means by which the impoverished majority -- whom the elites try their best not to see -- can make themselves heard. They can boast about an aspiring candidate, "roast" a local community member by singing about a scandal, or launch criticism of the government. Haitians call this "voye pwen" -- "sending a point." Pwen can be silly, and even vulgar, in the bawdy tradition of Carnival. They can also be sharply political. When President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted by a military coup in 1991 after seven months in office, for example, one rara band sang about a woman who aborted a baby at seven months. If pressed, the musicians could always say they were just talking about Marie-Josephine down the block. But everybody knew that Marie-Jo was the military coup, and the baby was democracy.
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Several of the most popular pwen songs railing against the 1991 ousting of Aristide were penned by one of Martelly's closest current advisors: Richard A. Morse, the bandleader of RAM, a rasin ("roots") band (named after its leader's initials) that mixes Afro-Creole Vodou music with rock. RAM's 1992 song "Fey" ("Leaf") was shot through with cryptic criticisms of the coup, including a verse from a traditional Vodou song lamenting, "My only son, they made him leave the country." Because the lyric was in the first person, it belonged to everybody who sang along with it. The military leaders at the time banned the song from the radio, which of course only made its popularity soar among the raras in the streets.
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The political potency of Haitian music was such that all genres of it except for konpa were banned under the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier -- if konpa was Jean-Claude's favorite, he reasoned, it should be everyone's favorite, too. After Duvalier fell in 1986, Haitians embraced a number of musical genres, developing the exciting forms of rasin music, kreyol hip hop, ragga and reggae, jazz, and numerous hybrids. Most musicians, however, have stayed out of direct involvement in state politics. (One recent exception was the balladeer Manno Charlemagne, who was elected mayor of Port-au-Prince in 1995 for Aristide's Lavalas party, though he left office less beloved than he was when he entered it.) As for Martelly, he was less known for politics than for provocation: dressing in a pink skirt or wearing a diaper on stage, and cultivating an image of a macho "legal bandit" (as one song is titled) who boasted a bad-ass attitude but could never be caught breaking the law. Martelly had his own (right-leaning) politics, but they took place mostly behind the scenes. He was friends with, and played for, Haitian military members during the coup period, and was named by -- and for -- the original Sweet Micky, the feared Port-au-Prince mayor Michel Francois, who would later be convicted of human rights abuses. Nevertheless, a small measure of blunt and crass political commentary did find its way into Sweet Micky's music. As a performer, his signature pwen was a guitar riff with the unsung but widely known lyrics, "Whoever doesn't know Micky, here's Micky." The riff was followed by a crowd response, "ko langet manman'w:" literally, "your mother's clitoris," roughly meaning, "go fuck your mother." During Aristide's presidency -- which Martelly opposed -- he would add three notes to the response, directed at Aristide: "Go fuck your mother, Aristide!" Despite Aristide's mass popularity, audiences all over Haiti would sing along. Politics and music had never collided as forcefully in Haiti as they did in the 2011 election, which left the country's political elites shaking their heads at what one political cartoon in the national newspaper Le Nouvelliste dubbed the "Electionaval." By the end of its run, Martelly's campaign had gone all-star, featuring the support of Morse and the Haitian-American rapper and singer Wyclef Jean, a celebrity trinity representing the three most popular commercial musical forms in Haitian culture -- konpa, rasin, and hip-hop. (Jean and Micky had collaborated before in 1997, on the final track of Jean's solo debut The Carnival, and Jean recorded a pro-Martelly song last month.)
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Though his consultants fretted about the baggage of his diapered, bad-boy past, Martelly's genius for leveraging his keen entertainer's understanding of music's place in Haiti's public sphere was one of the most effective tools he brought to the race. His campaign capitalized on his famous voice with robocalls -- including ones to cell phones, which may have been illegal -- and a ringtone featuring a frenetic Carnival song in Micky's style urging all within hearing distance to "vote for the baldhead." But Martelly's greatest strategic play was making his campaign into the place where the party was. He staged his campaign stops as concert-rally hybrids long traditional in Haiti and known as koudyay (pronounced koo-JAYi, from the French coup de jaille, "bursting forth"). Coming out of a history of patronage politics, a koudyay is a public party sponsored by a local patron for a national leader to endorse a program or smooth over political tension. The patron pays for the music -- and sometimes food and liquor -- and the crowds play their part, drinking, dancing, and cheering for the cause.
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Martelly became both patron and featured guest in his koudyay. As he stepped onto the platform or balcony to greet the crowds, raras signaled to him and greeted him with a riff. Often the raras played for Martelly the same little melody that was once played for Aristide, and before him, for Jean-Claude Duvalier and his father Francois: "Oh Martelly, Oh Martelly, se ou-menm nou t'ap cheche/Jodi-a nou delivre" ("Oh Martelly, Oh Martelly, it's you we have been seeking/Today we are delivered"). For Sweet Micky to stand before throngs of hundreds of thousands was old hat; he was the master of the Carnival. He replied in kind to the delight of the crowd, punctuating his campaign speeches with songs. Every candidate in Haiti releases a campaign song, and Martelly's song, used in radio, TV, and YouTube ads, was a Carnival song in his style (though not sung by him). Jaunty and upbeat, it proclaimed, "Don't fall into a trap, be careful when you make your X [on the ballot]/ … We want development, a good education/Michel Martelly, Number 8" (his number on the ballot). Catchy and pithy, it was a masterpiece of effective political messaging, associating fun times with the candidate while reminding people how to vote for him and rattling off his campaign promises. After he won the election, supporters sang in the streets, "Martelly, the country is for you. Do what you like with it.'' The raras sang the same song for Aristide and, in turn, for Duvalier and others before him.
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Martelly and his supporters show signs of reenacting the messianic dance of the presidency in Haiti, where hopes and dreams are pinned on one person, who, in turn, ends up believing the messianic myth and consolidating power. The raras that sign on to political campaigns are made up of young men, unemployed but talented, frustrated by the system's utter failure and weak civil society. They are looking for possibility and hope -- and maybe a little rum and a few dollars for their work. Enlisting the support of the business classes who call the shots in Haiti and mobilizing disgruntled youth to channel their frustration into voting for Martelly was the easy part -- other Haitian presidents had done that, too. Now comes the hard work: Haiti's infrastructure, civil society, and basic law and order -- especially for women; rape is now a serious problem -- have yet to recover from last year's earthquake. But Martelly is disciplined, puts in long hours, and is fast learning the arts of political speechmaking. He has even brushed up on his etiquette, in a deliciously musical form. On April 6, he released a thank-you note -- a song of appreciation to everybody who voted.

New Haitian Leader Pledges Reconciliation (NYT - 4/6/2011)

By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — It was a new stage on Tuesday for Michel Martelly, the former hit-maker who nicknamed himself “president” in song and is now on the verge of serving as the real thing in this devastated country. Far from the glittering carnival floats from which he performed in diapers, dresses and dropped pants as the self-proclaimed “bad boy” of kompa music, Mr. Martelly on Tuesday strode onto a stage in the back of a high-end restaurant here that screamed presidential. As if in a State of the Union entrance, he greeted well-wishers for his first post-election news conference as he made his way to a lectern bathed in soft light and flanked by Haitian flags. He wore a conservative gray suit, pink shirt (the official color of his campaign), red tie and, rarely donned in public, reading glasses. He spoke from a script. It was almost entirely in French, the language of the elite here. The message was reconciliation and unity, not profane takes on past leaders. “I am president for all Haitians,” Mr. Martelly said. “We are going to work together for change.”
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And so Mr. Martelly, who, according to preliminary results announced Monday, won more than two-thirds of the votes cast in the March 20 presidential runoff, set about reassuring Haiti and the world that he has the capacity to lead a country still on its knees from the January 2010 earthquake, a cholera epidemic and decades of the worst poverty in the hemisphere. His political skills will quickly face a test, assuming the results hold up when the official outcome is announced April 16. Parliament is dominated by the party of President René Préval, potentially stalling any legislation Mr. Martelly puts forth and complicating his pick for prime minister, who must be endorsed by the legislature. It appears turnout was far lower than in previous elections — an Organization of American States and Caribbean Community projection put it at 30 percent, but no official figures have been released — potentially diminishing his claim of a mandate.
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There are also reserves of skepticism among the leaders of the thousands of nongovernmental organizations that form the backbone of social aid, as well as among diplomats of some countries contributing to the several billion dollars pledged, but far from fully delivered, to rebuild the country. Mr. Martelly must now “balance the exigencies placed on him by foreign governments and agencies with the needs and aspirations of the Haitian population,” said Laurent Dubois, a professor of French studies and history and a Haiti scholar at Duke University. “He is entering a particularly complex, multifaceted, and contorted political landscape.” Though large crowds flock around Mr. Martelly as the great pink hope, the process of getting power brokers to look past his carnivalesque stage persona began months ago, as it became clear he was emerging from political obscurity to become a force in the presidential race. He ascended largely on the back of young, desperately poor supporters who knew him and his bawdy act very well. Diplomats began arriving at his mansion in a hilly neighborhood. They took his measure, and he theirs.
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“We knew Madame Manigat much better, so there was a lot of getting to know you,” said one, referring to Mirlande Manigat, the college professor and former first lady whom Mr. Martelly defeated, who is a longtime opposition figure here. Another diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “We all had concerns about his preparation to run a country and his background and where the resources were coming from for his campaign. But we started a dialogue.” Mr. Martelly has yet to identify the donors for his multimillion-dollar campaign, and supporters of Ms. Manigat tried to use the fact that banks foreclosed on three of his Florida properties to tarnish his claims he would be fiscally responsible.
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But in these closed-door meetings, he used flashes of humor to disarm his guests and, acknowledging gaps in how government functions, promised to rely on a group of respected professionals along with his wife, Sophia, who runs the family’s charitable foundation. Mr. Martelly began allaying some fears. “He has a lot of good technocrats around him, so that gives us hope,” said an official at a large nongovernmental organization. Karl Jean Louis, who helps direct Haiti Aid Watchdog, which monitors nongovernmental groups here, said he had been so favorably impressed with Mr. Martelly’s requests for information following a January conference on aid distribution that he ended up joining the campaign as an adviser. “Haitians have to be a part of the reconstruction effort and people are frustrated at being left out,” he said. “I think he is serious about mobilizing Haitians.”
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Mr. Martelly, among his list of goals like expanding education, also played up kick-starting foreign investment and unclogging a backlog of delayed projects. Reginald Boulos, a pillar of the business community who said he had stayed neutral in the race, said many business leaders initially doubted Mr. Martelly’s readiness but grew more comfortable at the professional nature of his campaign. It was run by consultants who worked with Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and President Felipe Calderón of Mexico. It also does not hurt to have good relations with the prospective president. “I will call him to congratulate him,” said Mr. Boulos, who is the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce here and a veteran insider. “We elected a priest who did not bring prosperity,” he said, referring to Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former priest of the poor who in 1990 became the country’s first democratically elected president and made a sudden return from exile just before the runoff. “We have elected politician after politician who did not bring prosperity. If Haitians decide he is their choice, and clearly you can see he is their choice, what we can really hope for is the Haitian people will not be disappointed.”

How Sweet Micky Became Haiti's President (4/5/2011)

Christian Science Monitor
By Ezra Fieser
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From popular carnival singer known for dropping his pants on stage to buttoned-down president of Haiti, Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly is on the verge of completing an unlikely transformation. Haiti elects new president for Herculean task Back in Haiti, is Aristide eyeing presidency? The peacebuilders: Making conflict resolution permanent In a landslide victory, Mr. Martelly captured two-thirds of the vote in a run-off presidential election, according to preliminary results released Monday evening by Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council. Port-au-Prince was marked by celebrations following the announcement, as supporters launched fireworks, shot guns into the air, and played Martelly's songs on their radios, news media reported.
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His opponent, former First Lady Mirlande Manigat, can challenge the results, the release of which was delayed several days because of fraud. But it appears unlikely that she could close the 36-point gap, having taken 31.74 percent of the vote to Martelly's 67.57 percent. The final results will be announced April 16. The US embassy endorsed the tally, calling the announcement "another important milestone as the people of Haiti move forward to rebuild their country.... while there were cases of irregularities and fraud on March 20, these cases were isolated and reduced, especially when compared to the first round of voting." If the results stand, Martelly will have made a startling run from political outsider to president of a country in desperate need of strong leadership. Evidence of the January 2010 earthquake still remains widespread, with hundreds of thousands of people still living in tents, rubble on the streets, and the vast majority of people in the capital unemployed.
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Martelly seems an improbable savior. Just a decade ago, he was donning skirts and wigs, cursing, and drinking like a sailor while performing his flamboyant act. “When he first declared himself a candidate, people didn’t take him seriously because he was the guy who dropped his pants on stage,” says Robert Fatton, a Haitian-American professor at the University of Virginia. “His persona, which should have been a handicap, became a plus. It was really a very clever campaign.” Instead of turning his back on his flamboyant past, Martelly used pieces of it to motivate the youth vote and to position himself as a political outsider. The bubble gum pink splashed on his campaign posters and vehicles was a nod to his old act, as were the rallies, during which he mixed policy with stagemanship. The other side of the candidate was presidential. “He managed to, in a way, be all things to all people, which is very hard to do in politics,” Professor Fatton says.
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Martelly was able to reinvent his image thanks, in part, to the people he surrounded himself with, says University of Miami professor and former Haitian journalist Yves Colon. “He took the advice of a lot of very smart people and that was important,” Professor Colon says. Martelly hired Madrid-based Ostos & Sola, a consultancy that played an important role in the election of Mexico’s Felipe Calderón. Martelly’s public point man at Ostos & Sola helped run the John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. They positioned him as the candidate of change. And “Martelly tapped into a very strong desire on the part of the Haitian people who were looking for hope in a candidate, someone who was not a professional politician,” Colon says. He also had some help along the way. Martelly initially did not qualify for the run-off election. Preliminary results from the first round placed him third and out of the running for the second round. But after a review of votes by international electoral monitors and heavy international pressure, including a visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President René Préval’s hand-chosen candidate was dropped from the ballot. That put Martelly in line to face Ms. Manigat, a Sorbonne-educated academic and wife of former President Leslie Manigat. While politically she and her 20-years-younger opponent were both conservative, they could not have been more different stylistically. Now that Martelly appears to be going from candidate to president, the focus will become his agenda. In a November interview with The Monitor, Martelly said he wants to focus on getting earthquake victims out of tent cities and on investing in the agricultural sector. But moving those proposals through parliament will take negotiating, Colon says. A downside of being a political outsider is the lack of connections within the political establishment. “He doesn’t have any support in parliament. Not in the senate or in the lower house,” he says. “And he does not have any experience managing anything but a band. Let’s hope that he again surrounds himself with smart people.”

US hails Haiti's 'important milestone' after vote (4/4/2011)

AFP
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PORT-AU-PRINCE — The United States Monday hailed the results of Haiti's second round of elections as an "important milestone" and urged Haitians to keep their demonstrations peaceful as the process moves forward. Michel Martelly, a carnival singer who seized the mantle of change, is Haiti's new president after storming to a landslide victory, preliminary results showed. "The announcement by the Conseil Electoral Provisoire (CEP) of the preliminary results of the second round of the elections is another important milestone as the people of Haiti move forward to rebuild their country," the US embassy in Haiti said in a statement. Martelly, 50, faces the huge challenge of leading efforts to rebuild the Caribbean nation, which was the poorest country in the Americas even before a January 2010 earthquake flattened the capital Port-au-Prince and killed more than 225,000 people. With 67.57 percent of the vote, the popular singer trounced former first lady Mirlande Manigat, who was vying to become Haiti's first democratically elected female leader but finished with a disappointing 31.74 percent showing.
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"Election-day accounts by Haitian and international observers uniformly reported that, while there were cases of irregularities and fraud on March 20, these cases were isolated and reduced, especially when compared to the first round of voting," the US statement said. Washington "calls upon all political actors to resolve any outstanding questions of the electoral results through the contestation process. The Haitian people have shown great perseverance and patience throughout this process, and we hope that they continue to express themselves peacefully," it added."

Haiti Postpones Preliminary Results of Runoff Vote (3/29/2011)

The Associated Press
By Trenton Daniel
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haitians will have to wait at least a few more days to learn the preliminary results of their presidential election because of alleged irregularities and fraud uncovered at the vote-counting centre, officials said Tuesday. While not disclosing specifics, Gaillot Dorsinvil, the president of the Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council, issued a brief statement saying officials found a "high level" of fraud and irregularities of various kinds at the tabulation centre in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Dorsinvil said the discovery has prompted lawyers to adopt "more stringent verification measures," causing a delay in counting. He did not describe the alleged problems. The preliminary results are now expected to be released Monday, according to Dorsinvil. They were expected to be released Thursday.
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International monitors, who are observing the counting process, praised Haiti's March 20 presidential runoff, saying it was in sharp contrast to the Nov. 28 first round that was marred by disorganization and allegations of widespread fraud. Voters chose between Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly, a popular musician who has never held public office, and Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady and senator and longtime fixture on the political scene. Haitians are eagerly awaiting the announcement of the winner of this month's runoff vote after last year's first round was delayed because of the chaos and massive irregularities. The announcement of preliminary results from the disputed first round sparked nearly three days of rioting that shut down the capital. The Organization of American States eventually determined those results were flawed and Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council dropped the government-backed candidate from the runoff.
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Final results are due April 16. The election comes as Haiti struggles to recover from a cataclysmic earthquake in January 2010 that claimed more than 300,000 lives and caused billions of dollars in damage. The successor of outgoing President Rene Preval will be in charge of a multibillion-dollar reconstruction effort, along with stemming a deadly cholera outbreak that surfaced in October. In an effort to avoid the problems that plagued the first round, elections observers are helping oversee the counting at the voting tabulation centre. A campaign worker for Manigat wasn't surprised about the delay but held out hopes that poll workers and election observers were doing their best to keep a clean vote. "The CEP is doing everything it can to correct irregularities," said Smith Joseph, the Manigat campaign worker. "We are waiting to see what's going on." A campaign worker for Martelly's campaign declined to comment.

First Impressions of Elections (USAID - 3/25/2011)

By Ben Edwards
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Like most days in Port-au-Prince, Haitians began to fill the streets at sunrise. On this Sunday, however, they were headed to the polls, eager to exercise their democratic right in the presidential runoff and parliamentary elections. Voters at many polling stations waited calmly in line for their turn to vote. At a few other polling stations that opened late, long lines of would-be voters seemed anxious about the missing their chance to vote. I was part of a small U.S. Government team that traveled to several polling stations around the city. As we roved from polling station to polling station, we identified those that were running smoothly and those that were experiencing problems.
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It was my first time as an election monitor, so I was lucky that my two team members were experienced experts. Our team leader, Denise Dauphinais, also heads USAID’s elections support program in Haiti. She shares her first impressions of the polling stations she visited in the video embedded in this blog post. Among her impressions, she notes:
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There appeared to be more people in and around polling stations than there were during the first round of elections last November.
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There were logistical problems early in the morning that caused some polling stations in Port-au-Prince to open late, but the Provisional Electoral Council and United Nations seemed to address them.
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The mood appeared more comfortable and calm than it did during the first round of elections in November.
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Dauphinais and the rest of our small team were part of a much larger effort to support the elections on Sunday. The U.S. Government disbursed a number teams – more than 40 people all told – across the country to monitor election-day activities. The international community, led by the Organization of American States and the United Nations, and a cadre of domestic partners also provided important services throughout the day: election observation to vote counting to name a few.
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Support for elections in Haiti may have been most visible on Sunday, but it was only the latest crescendo in an effort that took millions of dollars and months of planning by Haitian institutions and the international community. The U.S. Government alone invested more than $15 million in support of both rounds of elections, including:
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A public information campaign using SMS messages, radio, television, billboards, and a call-center to inform people about the location of their polling station;
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Training for poll workers and election observers; and,
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Equipping poll stations with supplies such as ballots, ballot boxes, and tamper-evident transport bags.
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As we wait for the preliminary results to be announced by March 31, and final results by April 16, both Haitians and the international community are no doubt hoping that the relative calm on Sunday is a sign of what’s to come.

Haiti's Elections: Good Enough for Government Work (3/24/2011)

The Economist
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MANY polling stations opened late. At 60 centres in and around Port-au-Prince, the capital, ballot papers and boxes, as well as ink to mark voters’ thumbs, were missing for hours. Turnout was low. At least two people died in political violence. Nonetheless, Haiti’s presidential run-off, held on March 20th, was a relative success. For Gaillot Dorsinvil, the head of the electoral council (CEP), it was “a triumph for democracy.” A team of observers from the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the Organisation of American States (OAS) called it “quite an improvement in many ways on the first round.” That vote, held nearly four months ago, set a low standard. It was marred by fraud and disorganisation. And its outcome was changed in February, after a controversial review by the OAS found that second place should go to Michel Martelly, a singer—and not Jude Célestin, the chosen successor of the current president.
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The run-off was a much simpler affair, with just two contestants instead of a packed field. Moreover, Mr Célestin’s absence may have made the government less likely to try systematic fraud. And the electoral authorities learned some lessons from the first round. According to the OAS/Caricom observers, a “Where to Vote” publicity campaign, better-trained poll workers and monitors, and improved crowd control by the national police all helped to produce a more orderly vote. However, Haiti’s election remains far from over. Both Mr Martelly and Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady, claim to be ahead. Whoever finishes second in the preliminary results, due to be released on March 31st, is allowed to challenge them.
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Even greater problems await the victor, who could have trouble establishing his or her legitimacy. Legal corners were cut before the run-off. The first-round results were not published in the official gazette, as the law requires. And according to one CEP member, only half the council has endorsed the result, although a majority may not be formally necessary for it to count. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former president who returned from exile on March 18th, cast a shadow over the vote’s credibility by decrying the “exclusion” of his party. Even if all these concerns can be brushed aside, turnout in the run-off was probably fairly close to the first round’s 23%. Hopes for a Haitian government with a strong mandate remain faint.

Mapping Election Fraud with an SMS Reporting System

Haiti Rewired
By Arikia Millikan
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Inside a dark, mildly air-conditioned room at the Jeune Ayiti Centre de Projets in downtown PetionVille, 12 people sporting “Obsevate” t-shirts sat around the table with their laptops and smartphones. It was March 20, Election Day in Haiti. A small TV off to the side played an England soccer game, but attention was mainly focused front and center to a projection screen displaying a Google Map of Haiti. The map was covered in green house icons with a few red flags scattered around the countryside, testaments to incidents of voting fraud or irregularities that polling station supervisors had reported via an SMS text message.
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They were updating the Mwen Konte voting map, a Google map generated from a database of SMS text message reports of irregularities and fraud in the voting process. Cell phones are the communications backbone in Haiti, and they figured prominently in the little-noticed effort to provide transparency in the electoral process, which is typically riddled with fraud and corruption. Sunday's election was the second round of voting after the initial Nov election unraveled amid allegations of fraud. The two candidates that remain are Mirlande Manigat, a seasoned politician and former First Lady, and Michel Martelly, a charismatic show-boater who rose to fame from a career as a pop star. Tension was high before the election in part because of the spontaneous return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the first president to be democratically elected in Haiti. While motivations to his return remain speculative, the fact that his political party, Lavalas, was not allowed to participate in the election, piqued worries that his supporters would attempt to disrupt the election, possibly through violent protests at polling stations. This lay atop concerns that the allowed candidates or their supporters would attempt to fraudulently pull the election in their favor.
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The Mwen Konte map attempted to track any such disruptions so that after results were tallied, there would be data to back up any claims of fraud — which inevitably the losing party will claim. This version of the map is based on the concept of USHAHIDI maps, originally designed so people could anonymously report cases of violence and fraud in the Kenya elections. The software has been adapted for a number of purposes since then. Hans Tippenhauer, President of the Jeune Ayiti Foundation, worked with the software first in the Survivors Connect project, which allowed people to send SMS reports of human rights violations in Haiti. They found that people were much more likely to report crimes if they could do it anonymously and easily in the form of an SMS message, that that these reports could paint a telling picture for human rights organizations to decide where their services were needed most. Specifically, the USHAHIDI maps could illuminate systematic occurrences of child trafficking and crimes against women and pinpoint their locations. “While we were doing that, we found it was a good way to survey the population,” Tippenhauer said. The goal, he said, was to build a participatory democracy network, and thus Mwen Konte was established.
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Mwen Konte uses two versions of maps, a Google Map and a USHAHIDI map. The foundation for either map begins when employees enter the coordinates of the 1,500 polling stations located throughout Haiti. This step was completed by four people weeks before the election using a list provided by the CEP (Council Electoral Provisional), which is the organization officially responsible for carrying out elections in Haiti. Overlaid on the map will be reports from SMS contributors. Tippenhauer estimated there were between 1,200 and 1,500 registered contributors standing by to report fraud directly from polling stations across Haiti. The contributors were recruited in the previous months by Mwen Konte ambassadors who traveled through several cities explaining the technology of the election mapping systems. Participants who were interested in contributing were given a stipend of 400 Gourdes ($10US) in exchange for providing their name, location and phone number (or BlackBerry Messenger number) to be entered into the Mwen Konte database.
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They were also given 25-50 Gourdes of phone units that could be used for calls or text messages on either Digicel or Voila, the two main phone networks in Haiti. Here, instead of payment plans, most people buy small phone cards like these on a pay-as-you-go basis. The phone companies incentivize SMS messaging by giving away text messages, because so many organizations use SMS messaging to track projects. On Election Day, computer specialist Williams Ulysse sat in front of his laptop, manually overlaying descriptions of election irregularities onto the Google Map. The location data is derived either from geo-location tagging if the contributor had a BlackBerry, or from the location associated with the person’s phone number that was entered into the database upon registration.
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At 12:30 pm, Ulysee clicked on a polling station on the map projected onto the screen and entered, “10:15, no ink.” There is typically about an hour delay from the time the data is reported to the time it’s entered. Halfway through Election Day at about 12:30, there were no reports of fraud, only “irregularities.” This was a change from the previous election where at about the same time, they had already received over 200 reports of fraud. The distinction between fraud and irregularities is important. Fraud is when a candidate or his/her supporters attempt to pull the results in their favor. For example, people may try to vote multiple times, alter submitted ballots, or interfere with accurate tallying. Irregularities refer to flaws in the voting process itself regardless of voter behavior.
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Irregularities are the kind of data the Mwen Konte employees were entering into their mapping system on Election Day, as reports piled in of supplies (ballots, standard issue ballot boxes, ink to record who voted) not having arrived to the polling stations so that when voters arrived, they couldn’t vote. According to Tippenhauer, the materials came from both local sources, ie: the CEP, and foreign sources like the MINUSTAH (the acronym for the United Nations base in Haiti). What Tippenhauer noticed from the data, was that the missing materials were almost all ones that should have been provided by foreign sources and the MINUSTAH.
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Additionally, the missing materials were associated with polling stations that data from the previous Election Day indicated were in locations where Martelly was favored over Manigat. “This is not an accusation, just an observation from the data,” Tippenhauer said, though in full disclosure he did say he favored Martelly and had a part in managing his campaign. Because of the early morning irregularities at some polling stations, many were kept open an extra hour at the end of the day. But despite this, and all the efforts on behalf of several governments, including the US government, to encouraging people to vote, this election produced the lowest turn-out rate ever in the history of Haiti's attempts at democracy.

OAS Statement on the Second Round of Presidential Elections

3/21/2011
Organization of American States (OAS)
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The OAS-CARICOM Joint Electoral Observation Mission has observed through the 201 observers that it deployed throughout the country that the second round of the presidential and legislative elections was quite an improvement in many ways on the first round. The political climate of Election Day was in general more peaceful despite the friction and incidents of violence that took place during the last days of the campaign. The measures adopted by the Provisional Electoral Council to address the major organizational failings and shortcomings of the first round did have positive results. The problems related to the accuracy of the electoral registers and to the difficulties experienced by voters in finding their polling stations were far less prevalent. It is however clear that more work needs to be done with regard to the correctness of the voters lists. However, the intensification of the sensitization campaign on "Where to Vote" as well as the other mechanisms put in place was successful.
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The improvements of the second round were tarnished by logistical problems which delayed the commencement of the vote in West Department in particular. The operations of sixty Voting Centres were affected by errors in the delivery of the electoral kits and the sensitive voting material. Among other items, ballots, indelible ink and ballot boxes were missing. The observers also noted several instances where legislative ballots were sent to the incorrect locations.. The rapid response of the MINUSTAH mitigated a situation which could have degenerated and facilitated the resumption of voting in the affected Voting Centres around 10.00am. The Provisional Electoral Council took the decision to extend the period of voting for an extra hour in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area to give voters the opportunity to vote despite the late start. Another positive point noted by the observers related to an improved organization in the majority of the polling stations they monitored. This was due to the improved performance of the electoral agents and to the proactive role of the Haitian National Police (HNP). This contributed to a more orderly and effective voting process, especially in the Voting Centres where there were a high turnout. In a number of Departments, the observers signaled also an improvement in the performance of the supervisors and the poll workers, particularly in the better protected locations. The observers also noted the presence of "facilitators" in more than half of the polling stations monitored, but they were not always easy to identify. The late publication of the list of "facilitators" no doubt reduced a wider presence of the agents who played a useful role in bringing off the elections.
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The reports of the observers also reflected a positive change in ensuring the security of the day of elections. The action of the security forces was better coordinated, better targeted, and their response more rapid. In this regard, the HNP, in coordination with the military and police units of the MINUSTAH, were far more proactive in preventing disruption of the electoral process, addressing incidents of violence as well as in improving crowd control. Despite these efforts, several incidents of violence tarnished the day of the vote. The Mission deplores these incidents wile saluting the rapid reaction of the HNP and the MINUSTAH. The Mission also observed problems limited to areas where the friction between candidates for the Lower House took the form of ballot stuffing and voter intimidation. Nevertheless, these incidents were isolated and did not reflect the reality of the electoral process observed nation-wide. The voter turnout appeared to have been slightly higher that what was observed during the first round. It however did not meet the expectations raised by the high number of voter requests for information during the "Where to Vote?" campaign.
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The treatment of the results sheets (PVs) started earlier this morning at the Vote Tabulation Centre (CTV). The Mission has established a team of observers and specialists trained to monitor this process. The Mission will have a continuous twenty-four hour presence in order to monitor the tabulation and verification processes as well as the implementation of the recommendations made by the OAS mission on the verification of the tabulation. The observers will monitor the tabulation procedures in order to determine if the criteria set out in the CTV Manual posted on the CEP website are being applied consistently. The Mission wishes to remind that up until the proclamation of the final results on 16 April, and in accordance with Article 122.2 of the Electoral Law, any public demonstration in favour of a candidate is formally prohibited. Accordingly, the candidates have the responsibility to call on their supporters to await peacefully the results of the second round of the elections. The Mission reiterates that the candidates have the possibility of recourse to the legal mechanisms provided by the Electoral Law in order to submit their grievances during the two levels of the electoral tribunals following the publication of the preliminary results. The Mission will also monitor this phase of the electoral process. The JEOM welcomes the serenity and civility displayed by the Haitian people which contributed to the generally peaceful second round. This contributed to the country's democratic practice as well as to the credibility and legitimacy of the electoral process. For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.

Haiti's Elections Much Improved (Miami Herald - 3/21/2011)

By Jacqueline Charles
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PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Despite delayed start times, missing ballot boxes and attempted ballot stuffing, Haiti’s presidential and legislative runoff elections Sunday were much more improved than its highly chaotic and controversial Nov. 28 first round, international observers said Monday. Supervisors working at 1,500 voting centers were better trained, polling station monitors were more mature and, despite friction between rival candidates and sporadic violence in the last few days of campaigning, the elections were “much more peaceful,’’ said Colin Granderson, head of the joint Organization of American States-Caribbean Community observer mission. The mission deployed 200 foreign observers across a mountainous Haiti in the closely watched election that pitted musician Michel “Sweet Mickey” Martelly, 50, against Mirlande Manigat, 70, a former first lady and longtime opposition leader. There also were 76 legislative seats at stake.
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Still, Granderson called on election officials to continue to make improvements with Haiti’s 4.7 million voter electoral list. Frustrated voters were still turned away from polls without voting. On Monday, political parties were assessing how their candidates performed with supporters of both presidential camps declaring victory over the Internet. Haiti’s electoral law forbids the publishing of partial results and the joint OAS-CARICOM mission called on candidates to abide by the law. Preliminary results are due March 31, and final results on April 16. At a press briefing in Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner commended the peaceful nature of the election. Toner, however, stopped short of declaring it “free and fair’’ before all the information was in. “We’ll wait for …the assessment of the monitoring teams’ full assessment,’’ he said.
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Toner said initial assessments suggest that the elections “took into consideration some of the lessons learned from the Nov. 28 elections and were largely peaceful and conducted without significant report of any wrongdoing.’’ GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said she was pleased with the peaceful vote and signaled future support for Haiti. “If we have a better government — a clean government — the United States should remain fully engaged in helping the Haitian people build up their economy,’’ she told The Miami Herald’s Editorial Board. In Haiti, tally sheets from more than 11,000 polling sites were still making their way into the capital Monday evening where workers at the vote tabulation center were scrutinizing them for fraud and tracking the final results. Under OAS recommendations, the center was staffed with additional lawyers to detect problems, such as ballot stuffing, which occurred in some areas.
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One area that remained a debate was turnout. Both the heads of the Provisional Electoral Council and the U.N. Peacekeeping Mission told journalists Sunday that participation was high. But Granderson said while the participation appears to be slightly higher than for the first round — 22 percent nationwide — it doesn’t appear to coincide with the more than 1 million inquiries via telephone calls and text messages election officials received from voters wanting to locate their polling stations. “The final numbers were a bit disappointing,’’ he said, adding that they will have to wait for preliminary results for the actual turnout figure.

Delays and irregularities mark ‘smooth’ election day in Haiti

3/20/2011
Miami Herald
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES AND FRANCES ROBLES
jcharles@MiamiHerald.com
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PORT-AU-PRINCE -- It was a day of missing ballots, late starts — and relative calm — in Haiti on Sunday, where a presidential runoff took place four months after a disastrous first round that saw widespread violence and contested results. In some places, there were no ballots. In others, only dry ink to mark a voter’s finger. In many more, disenfranchised voters were turned away from polls and boisterous political party operatives got in the way. But despite the irregularities, authorities said the day went smoothly, without the widespread fraud that marred November’s election.
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“Democracy is on the brink of winning a big victory in our country," said Gaillot Dorsinville, the head of the Provisional Electoral Council. The second round pitted musician Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly against former first lady Mirlande Manigat. Both candidates are considered right of center. Martelly is the dark horse candidate who enjoys the support of the nation’s youth, weary of the country’s old political guard. The winner will replace René Préval, Haiti’s first democratically elected president to finish two terms without being toppled.
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Preliminary results are expected March 31; final results will not be announced until April 16. The elections took place two days after the return of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who showed up after seven years of exile in South Africa. Many people worried that the former leader’s arrival would upset the race, cause some to sit out, change their choice of candidates or even take to the streets. Voting appeared light in Port-au-Prince and Gonaives, where the only lines were at the poll stations that lacked the supplies to open.
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“The political class hasn’t shown any results for Haiti,” said Kenold Thercy, a 34-year-old engineer who cast his ballot in Gonaives. “So the people think, ‘I will go with this other guy Martelly, who sings and dances and maybe he will do something for the country.’ He’s an embarrassment for Haiti. He’s going to sit down at a table with [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy or Obama?” When Martelly showed up to cast his ballot, hundreds of jubilant supporters took over the streets. After Manigat cast her ballot, crowds chanted — for her opponent. Charlemagne Achille, 25, who was unable to vote in November because he could not find his name on the electoral list, said Martelly represents the change Haiti needs. “I want this country to move forward,” Achille said, standing outside Petionville High School. “We can’t afford to plunge deeper into misery.” Police said at least one person was killed in Marchand Dessalines in the Artibonite Valley, where rival political party supporters shot at each other. Saying that the hip hop star Wyclef Jean had refused to meet with investigators, Haitian police were still trying to make sense of a report that he had been shot in the hand on election eve.
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Seventy four voting centers out of 1,500, including the four largest in Port-au-Prince, were affected by logistical problems and missing material, the Organization of American States observer mission said. Voting in the capital was extended one hour to make up for time lost. Colin Granderson, head of OAS observer mission, said the second round was “much improved’’ from the first. “The atmosphere was calm and people seem relaxed,’’ he said.
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In Thomassin, an affluent suburb in the hills of Port-au-Prince, poll workers at two neighboring voting centers arrived to find everything from ink to ballots was missing. At one center with 22 polling stations, elections authorities sent ballots for senate races instead of for the chamber of deputies. There was no senate election in that district. There were 76 legislative races nationwide. At the Port-au-Prince stadium, ballots arrived more than six hours after the start of voting, causing some voters to suspect the delay was a deliberate maneuver to dissuade people from voting. Dozens of people were turned away from polling places in Gonaives when they couldn’t find their names on the master list. One Canadian elections observer noted that many of the people whose names were not on lists were over the age of 70. Nadia Paul, the supervisor at the College Union de Gonaives downtown, said one poll booth list showed up three pages long. They’re usually up to 16 pages in length. “That could be 100 or more people” not on the list, Paul said, waiting for authorities to come with another list.
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Ladimene Lassere, the supervisor in a rural Poteau district, said no more than 50 people were turned away there. “It’s a lot more than 50!” shouted back Ricot Desinor, a disenfranchised voter who lacked a government-issued I.D. card. Minor bouts of disorder were repeated at stations throughout the country. One man counted ballots, while a gallery of observers heckled him. “I’m counting the ballots and he’s telling me I need to go faster. If I go faster, he’ll tell me I missed some!” the poll worker said. “Don’t talk so much. You’re confusing me.” In most cases, there were more political observers and roving operatives present than voters. And in still other incidents, the observers were causing a ruckus amid accusations that they had helped sway vulnerable voters’ opinions.
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“Don’t forget you need your mother!” three beefy guys told voters entering the La Sainte Famille polling station in downtown Gonaives, a reference to Manigat. In Port-au-Prince, Martelly’s supporters yelled and whispered “Tet Kale” – the bald one – as voters made their way in. That’s illegal under Haitian electoral law. At another polling station, a furious supervisor yelled at an observer who helped an illiterate man mark his ballot — but marked the box for the opposing candidate. “A lot of people here are nothing, hired by nobody, and they’re telling people who to vote for – and they are changing people’s votes,” said Jean Paul Pierre, a party representative for a local legislator in rural Gonaives. “They’re big tough guys and nobody can stop them. They are there to cause confusion and be disruptive.”
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At the Universitie Chretienne D’Haiti in Gonaives, poll supervisor Nadege Saint Louis said a local legislator’s operatives showed up with special permission slips that allowed them to vote anywhere. They came again and again. “They voted five times! That’s why we called the police: there were a dozen of them,” Saint Louis said. “They scratched the ink off their fingers, but you could still see the little stain.” Fanfan Saint-Claire, a national observer supervisor in the capital, said some poll workers were not marking voters’ fingers in ink, allowing them to vote twice. “The biggest problem we have is the ink,’’ he said. Voter Jhams(cq) Joseph, 30, shouted from Cite de Soleil polling booth to polling booth, demanding a ballot. “I’m not going to act up, but I’m going to vote. They will have to give me a ballot,” said Joseph, a Martelly supporter. After he cast his ballot, Joseph held up his fingers. Both thumbs were black, indicating he voted twice.

Rebuilding Haiti: Can an Election Change the Hopelessness?

4/17/2011
The Economist
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A BIG sewage channel runs through Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, heading for the sea. If any of its raw sewage actually gets there, it can only dribble out. The channel is clogged deep with plastic bottles, garbage and human faeces. A video on the World Bank website shows a crane scooping it clean, removing rubbish “the size of a small mountain”. But since no one has resolved the issue of why the channel was blocked in the first place, it is clogged up all over again. More than a year after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated the country, Haiti is still a mess. The chaos affects its politics, too. The first round of the presidential election, held in November, was marred by charges of fraud. An outside review found that the government’s chosen candidate, who had been proclaimed the runner-up, had actually finished third. He was removed from the run-off and replaced with Michel Martelly, a singer best known for a trouser-dropping routine, who recently admitted defaulting on over $1m of loans on property in Florida.
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On March 20th voters will choose between Mr Martelly and Mirlande Manigat, a grandmotherly former first lady and legal scholar. Both are right-wingers. Ms Manigat’s ties to the political establishment may hurt her, given Haitians’ dissatisfaction with the slow pace of rebuilding. Recent polls give Mr Martelly an edge. “Only a bad boy can fix this country,” said one recent caller to a local radio show.
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The first order of business is organising a successful election. Some 500 poll workers were fired after the first round, and their replacements are supposedly better trained. The typeface on voter rolls will be bigger, too. Nonetheless, most residents of tent cities have no idea where they are supposed to vote. Any whiff of fraud could spark violent protests. A further distraction is the impending arrival of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former president, who has announced that he will return from exile in South Africa before the vote. Mr Aristide was toppled by a rebellion in 2004. His opponents accuse him of ties to drug traffickers; many of the poor, however, still see him as their champion.
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The turmoil surrounding the election risks delaying the hard work of reconstruction even further. Emergency aid operations certainly saved thousands, but all the aid agencies and all the money pledged cannot put Haiti together again. Only Haitians can do that. Even a year later, no one knows how many died in the quake. The UN and most agencies think 222,570 were killed and 300,572 injured. But Jean-Max Bellerive, Haiti’s prime minister, claims that the real death toll was 316,000. Others, more cynical, say this figure was bumped up so that it would be higher than those killed in the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. Big numbers bring more sympathy and more money.
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Following the quake the United States and others rushed to bolster the 7,000 UN troops already there. Around 8,930 foreign soldiers now keep the peace, with 3,300 police to “stabilise” this chronically unstable country. All the big humanitarian aid agencies, plus thousands of small ones, piled in. To avoid muddle and duplication, they grouped themselves into “clusters” according to whether they were dealing with, for example, food, sanitation or water, and tried to work together. The result was encouraging. Within four months of the quake those who had lost their homes were under shelter, receiving food and chlorinated water. Figures are unreliable, but UN data show that the peak of tent-dwelling was reached last July, when 1.5m people were packed into them. By January that figure was down to 810,000 in 1,150 camps. Yet even now massive tent camps still crowd into every available space in Port-au-Prince, nearby Léogâne—the quake’s epicentre—and other places. Many of those who remain under canvas will be far harder to shift than those who have already sorted themselves out. Perhaps 70% of them were previously renting their homes. So they have no house to rebuild, no land and no money anyway. They feel they are better where they are.
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Ask people in these tent cities if they have been receiving regular aid and they will tend to tell you they have not. But, says Mr Bellerive, people always say that. He asked a woman he had seen receiving food the day before, who lives in a camp in the gardens of his quake-wrecked office, why she had said on television afterwards that she had received nothing. “Because it is the only way to make sure people will continue to help,” she replied. Tent dwellers, used to journalists and do-gooding foreigners, are now well-aware that they can play to the media.
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A large but unknown number of people in the camps are choosing to stay in them. Life is better there than in the sprawling, gang-infested slums. Camp-dwellers pay no rent. Nor do they have to pay for sanitation, because latrines are often provided by the aid agencies, or clean water, since that is often supplied by the agencies or by the government. Medical services are also easier to find and, again, probably free, courtesy of agencies like UNICEF or charities like Médecins Sans Frontières. A cholera epidemic makes that all the more vital.
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Nigel Fisher, who oversees the UN’s aid operations in Haiti, worries about this. Haitians need permanent solutions, including jobs and education; but many now have no incentive to move. Aid is filling a gap that should be filled by the Haitian state. Unless the government can take charge again, properly providing for its people, Haiti will remain chronically and disastrously addicted to foreign aid. Ever since Christopher Columbus landed on the island of Hispaniola in 1492, Haiti’s history has been brutal. Its moment of glory came in 1804, when its former slaves founded the first independent black republic. Yet the violence of the revolution wrecked the country; Haiti also had to borrow to pay crippling reparations to France, the former colonial power: the loans were not paid off until 1947. Haiti’s people lived under sanctions, isolated and oppressed by a succession of generals, dictators and bad rulers. Ever since 1804, laments Lorraine Mangones of FOKAL, a local NGO, Haiti has been unable to overcome its history and create a modern state.
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Since the quake Haiti has received headline pledges of $10.2 billion in aid, including $1.1 billion in debt relief. Of this, under firmer promises, Haiti is supposed to receive $5.5 billion over three years. Mr Bellerive and Bill Clinton, former president of the United States, are in charge of deciding how and where much of the aid is disbursed. To date $1.28 billion has been paid out. But even the full $5.5 billion, divided among 10m Haitians, amounts to less than $185 a year per person. Mr Bellerive also points out that at least 40% of any aid money goes on the salaries, insurance, cars and so on of the foreigners who come to hand it out. So aid alone can help, but it cannot fix Haiti. Unless development is co-ordinated by the government, it will not be sustainable.
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Haiti is often mocked as “the Republic of NGOs”. In the aftermath of the quake, says Mr Bellerive, the government was more or less ignored. Now it is trying to reassert control. That is far easier said than done—and not just because almost every government building was toppled, and nearly one in five civil servants died. One consequence of Haiti’s poverty trap is that 84% of Haitians with more than a secondary education lived abroad in 2000, according to a study cited by the World Bank. How can the next Haitian government do even half of what it needs to do, if so many of the best and the brightest have fled? And there is worse. According to Joel Boutroue, an aide to the prime minister, the Haitian government’s reputation for incompetence and corruption means that foreigners no longer trust it. Although the government cannot operate unless it is reinforced with money and manpower, aid agencies constantly bypass it, condemning the state to stay forever weak. Compared with many other big aid recipients, Haiti’s government gets little direct budget support, says Mr Boutroue, sadly, “but it is far from being the most corrupt in the world.”
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Given enough resources and training, Haitians can work well. You need only look at the symbols spray-painted on almost 400,000 buildings across Port-au-Prince by Haitian engineers. The tags indicate that they have examined the buildings and determined whether they are safe, need repairing or should be demolished. Yet the next stage of reconstruction will be crucial. The absence of a functioning government means there are no building regulations. Haitians tend to build walls with light concrete blocks which are not reinforced and they then use heavy concrete slabs for roofs and ceilings. Shake the walls and they crumble, so that the concrete falls and crushes anyone underneath. Much of what is now starting to be rebuilt may be as deadly as what was there before. And it is only a matter of time, say the experts, before another earthquake strikes.

The Haitian Lazarus (NYT - 3/15/2011)

By AMY WILENTZ
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SAY the name Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti this week, and it’s as if the revolutionary slave leaders Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines were still riding over the plains and mountains here, astride Delacroix-worthy steeds, making their descent with sabers drawn upon the vast plantations of the French masters. The Haitians one meets on the street or in their little shops or in the market or on the byways of the countryside and in the shantytowns of the provincial capitals are for the most part pleased at the prospect of former President Aristide’s return this week from seven years’ exile in South Africa. But when members of Haiti’s tiny elite, small middle class and growing international community here discuss Mr. Aristide, they look over their shoulders, shake their heads, raise their eyebrows. They speak in whispers or in great gulps of nervousness.
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Cut off their heads and burn down their houses, Dessalines told his troops, who went on to win a historic and singular victory over the French Army in 1804. Two centuries later, the elite, some of whom are descendants of the French colonists, still have a profound fear of the poverty-stricken general population. They understand fully that the triumph of the slaves never brought about the structural changes in Haitian society for which those early, bloody battles were fought. The ruling class still fears the overturning of the customary order. Revolution is a scary thing. When the slaves gathered in 1791 to plot the end of French rule, there were about 500,000 of them on the island, and some 40,000 French colonists. Today the demographics are even more skewed, with about nine million people living in unimaginable poverty, while a microscopic elite guards among themselves whatever wealth is to be had here. Among all this flits the aid and development community, who have arrived in droves since the January 2010 earthquake, with their airy expensive apartments, S.U.V.’s, vans and pickup trucks, and packets of money to hand out.
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In some places, the schism between haves and have-nots is almost farcical. Around the Place Boyer in Pétionville, the wealthy town above Port-au-Prince, clubs and restaurants with security guards cater to the elite and to foreigners, while across the street, in a refugee camp, hundreds of Haitians huddle under tarps and in tents in the mud and wind of the season’s unpredictable rains. It’s perfect volatile tinder in which to toss the match of Mr. Aristide’s return. Plunk a three-cornered hat on Mr. Aristide’s head and sit him on a horse, and he is another revolutionary leader. The people in those camps are his people — though not, by far, his only people. Jean-Bertrand Aristide has a complicated history. During the troubled times after the ouster of the dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986, he repeatedly confronted the interim junta with enormous, even foolhardy, personal courage. A Roman Catholic priest from a shantytown parish, Father Aristide gave sermons in those days that were biting and vituperative, intended both to enrage the country’s rulers and make the people laugh at power. His amazing escapes from the many assassination attempts against him made him a kind of folk hero, a Lazarus who could not be eliminated. I knew him then, and remember him rising from these attacks, each time with a greater following.
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For a long time, Mr. Aristide had no money; he had no social standing; he had no political party; he had no powerful foreign friends; his own church reviled him. These were all points in his favor among the Haitian people. For a long time, the people were his only power. While all other politicians (except for those whom he has supported) have had to rush around stuffing ballot boxes, altering counts and paying for votes, Mr. Aristide has twice been elected in clean balloting. The first time was in 1990, in the first successful election after 29 years of dictatorship by Mr. Duvalier and his father, François. He won handily, but, with his leftist rhetoric and his huge support from the poorest sectors, he was not exactly the leader that the international community had envisioned when they promoted democracy and elections in Haiti. Reluctantly, international monitors certified his election. Finding himself alone in a political sea of the entitled and the empowered, Mr. Aristide believed that all he could trust in the end was the brute power of the street — the “rouleau compresseur,” as it is called in Haitian politics, or the steamroller. He was almost pathologically reluctant to work toward agreement among his advisers, among equals. He shares this distaste with many Haitians, who believe that theirs is a fatally polarized society and that consensus-building here almost inevitably leads to capitulation to the elite, and by extension to the international community.
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Seven months after he took office, Mr. Aristide was overthrown by the Haitian Army with the tacit approval of the United States and the international community. The steamroller did not save him, and he was sent into exile. His second term was much more violent, with supporters repulsing perceived conspirators with guns and machetes. There were also allegations of human-rights abuses and corruption. It ended with another coup, in 2004, that was again supported by members of Haiti’s business elite and tolerated, at least, by Haiti’s international allies, putting an end to the people’s flailing baby steps toward power. Mr. Aristide gave the Haitian people two invaluable things: self-confidence and a voice, and thereby earned their lasting loyalty. That’s not nothing, after 200 years of repression, but it is perhaps his only positive legacy.
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During his first exile, in Washington, Mr. Aristide agreed to make compromises and concessions that were entirely the opposite of what he’d always stood for. Like a kidnapping victim negotiating his own ransom, he was willing to accept any demand in order to be allowed to return to Haiti. Here was a people’s president who, from a comfortable banishment, lobbied successfully for a brutal embargo against his own country, and who, returning to power in 1994, accepted international demands for a rapacious end to Haiti’s import bans. Here was a Haitian patriot and intransigent denouncer of all collaboration with “imperialists” who was brought back to Haiti on the shoulders of an international military intervention led by the United States, and who countenanced the establishment afterward of what was essentially an international occupation force run by the United Nations, which controls the forces of order in Haiti to this day, Mr. Aristide having disbanded the army that helped oust him.
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Mr. Aristide, of course, did not see this as hypocrisy. Above all, he felt, the people wanted him to return. And he was right the first time he returned, and he’ll be right the second time. The Haitian people want justice and a decent life, and they think he’s the man to give that to them. Yet they have already poured their love onto him and he has repaid them with nothing but dreams. By the end of Mr. Aristide’s two abortive terms, the Haitian revolution had once again failed. The only Haitians whose lives he improved were those to whom he personally gave jobs or for whose communities he personally — for reasons of political loyalty or old connection — provided housing or schools. He changed nothing structurally; he put in place only one institution, his own Aristide Foundation for Democracy, which runs a small university, mobile schools in five earthquake camps and many youth and women’s groups.
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In the past weeks, as Mr. Aristide plans his return, the United States has been putting pressure on the South African government to prevent him from coming back to Haiti at such a fraught political moment. Jean-Claude Duvalier, the ousted scion of the old dictatorship, has just come back to Haiti himself in a surprise move, and can be seen here and there, dining in expensive restaurants like the ones in Place Boyer, and moving around the city in big, rich-man’s cars. MR. DUVALIER’S appearance provided further justification for Mr. Aristide’s return, for if the former reviled dictator can come back, how about the first democratically elected president? Haitians are preparing to vote (or not to vote) on Sunday in a contested runoff presidential election. The sudden entrance onto the proscenium of both controversial former leaders — one stage right, the other stage left — has highlighted the unreality of the current campaign, which pits a constitutional scholar against a popular musician.
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Mr. Duvalier is unlikely to be permitted to run for office. And Mr. Aristide has said that he wants to return as a simple educator and to open a medical school. Having technically served his constitutionally allotted two terms, he could come to power now only if he were to pull off some Machiavellian scheme. Whatever Mr. Aristide chooses to do in Haiti, his voice is likely to be very powerful, as long as he can avoid assassination. Given his popularity, he should be able to influence election results far into the future, if not the one immediately upon us. As always at election time, violence simmers just below the surface, and has exploded once already in this voting season because of anger over fraud.
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Meanwhile, those who helped to overthrow Mr. Aristide or who thwarted his ambitions or who disagreed with him are worried for their own security after he returns. “Aristide does not have to open his mouth for his vengeance to be done,” one young man said to me last week, with admiration. There is a perception of an impending payback time. The incredible thing is that a narrative most Haitians thought was over is now to begin again. Because he is such a potent symbol of democracy for a huge number of people here, Mr. Aristide keeps popping up in Haitian history like a return of the repressed. In traditional Haitian belief, a person’s soul goes back to Africa, or lan guinée, when he dies. For Jean-Bertrand Aristide to reappear in Haiti from his African exile would be a real resurrection.

UN plans to reinforce police for presidential run-off elections

3/8/2011
United Nations News Service
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The 3,500-strong United Nations police force in Haiti is planning to reinforce its support of national police for the presidential run-off election on 20 March, although it does not expect trouble, according to the head of the contingent. "I don't see any major risk for this second round," Marc Tardif, head of the police component in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), told the UN News Centre in an interview. "Clearly it's going to be a tense period but I don't think we will have big trouble. We have a good working relationship with the national police and our robust presence will deter anybody wanting to create problems," he said, noting that in the first round in November the two forces worked together, and despite some incidents, the poll took place in much greater calm than previous elections.
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"Still, we're going to reinforce our positions at those places that were unstable during the first round," he added. Trouble broke out after the announcement of provisional results in December from the first round, with thousands of protesters rampaging through the streets of Port-au-Prince, the capital, accusing the ruling coalition of rigging the polls, after tallies put former first lady Mirlande Manigat and outgoing President Rene Préval's party candidate Jude Celestin in first and second place, thus qualifying for the run-off. Popular musician Michel Martelly was less than one percentage point behind in third place, but thus excluded from the run-off, and his supporters set up burning barricades of timber, boulders and flaming tires. After a re-examination of the ballots, the Provisional Electoral Council last month announced that Mr. Martelly had come in second and would thus face Ms. Manigat in the run-off. Apart from its police component, MINUSTAH, which has been on the ground in Haiti since mid-2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest, fields some 8,500 peacekeeping troops in the impoverished country.

OAS/CARICOM Joint Mission Present in All Departments

3/10/2011
Organization of American States (OAS)
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The Joint Electoral Observation Mission (JEOM) of the Organization of American States (OAS) and of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has deployed at present 50 electoral observers in the eleven electoral departments of the country. In addition to monitoring the election campaign and the various stages of the electoral process, the JEOM will be meeting with election stakeholders. During this period of preparations for Election Day, the observers are paying particular attention to the actions taken by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to implement the measures it has adopted as well as the recommendations submitted by the electoral observation missions, including the JEOM, and by the OAS Expert Mission on the verification of the tabulation in order to improve the organization and orderliness of the second round of the presidential and legislative elections. These measures and recommendations apply in particular to the electoral registers, the public information campaign with regard to "Where to Vote," sensitization and public information on the electoral process in general, the training and conduct of poll workers, and the operations of the Vote Tabulation Centre (CTV).
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The JEOM welcomes the measures taken by the CEP to improve the organization of the second round and to thereby increase the credibility of the electoral process and the legitimacy of the persons elected. The Mission has noted that the telephone numbers to help voters find out where they should vote have been operational since February 21. In addition, the number of operators at the call centre has been increased. Moreover, efforts have been made to upgrade the training of supervisors and poll workers and to ensure that it is carried out in good time. Electoral workers whose performance was unsatisfactory during the first round have been excluded and will be replaced on the basis of merit and other criteria. As concerns the recommendations of the OAS Expert Mission on the verification of the tabulation, particular attention has been devoted to improving the functioning of the CTV through training, increasing the number of lawyers comprising the Legal Control Unit, establishing consistent criteria for verifying the validity of the results sheets, and reinforcing the quality control aspects of the verification.
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As a means of reinforcing communication and the confidence of the stakeholders involved in the elections which could result from such an approach, the JEOM has been encouraging the CEP to convene a second meeting with the political parties and candidates in order to engage and inform them on its activities, on the smooth implementation of the measures adopted, and on the difficulties experienced in implementing some of the measures such as the recruitment of "facilitators" to help voters find their polling stations on Election Day.
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The Mission encourages the candidates and stakeholders to take part in the elections seminars organized by the MINUSTAH in the different departments with the objective of disseminating information on the organization of the second round and on the recommendations made to improve it. The Mission is also encouraging the candidates to sign the code of conduct which seeks to promote a climate of tolerance and of calm during the election campaign and on Election Day. The Mission wishes to reiterate that its mandate does not include the provision of technical assistance to the electoral institution nor to participating in the organization of the elections of March 20, 2011. Its objective is to observe the various phases of the electoral process as well as to formulate recommendations to improve the process, which was done following the first round. The Mission intends to reinforce its presence in all the departments and will deploy some 200 observers during the coming elections.

FCC Investigates Campaign Calls (2/28/2011)

Miami Herald
By Frances Robles
frobles@miamiherald.com
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The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is investigating last year’s series of fervent campaign “robo-calls” by Haitian presidential candidate Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, which led to evacuations at the Fort Bragg military base, The Miami Herald has learned. In the weeks prior to Haiti’s November election, anyone who had ever placed a call to Haiti received a string of pre-recorded calls from Martelly. After the Jan. 12 earthquake, the list included countless Haitian Americans, journalists, non-profit groups and the U.S. military. They heard Martelly shouting in Creole, urging the Diaspora to support tet kale – the bald-headed one. His frantic tone even spooked the U.S. Army. “There were people who didn’t understand what it was and speculated it was a terrorist threat in a foreign language,” said Fort Bragg spokesman Ben Abel. “Two or three buildings where the calls came in were evacuated.”
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On Nov. 17, the Army criminal investigations team swept the cleared buildings for explosives and listened to recordings left on voice mailboxes, Abel said. “I listened to it and thought: ‘That’s not Arabic. That’s not Pashto. That sounds like French,” Abel said. But there’s a problem: The U.S. Telephone Consumer Protection Act has specific rules for automated pre-recorded calls. For one, they can’t go to cellular phones when the receiver has to pay for the call. On residential lines, there needs to be full disclosure on whom the call is coming from and how to reach that person. The FCC would not reveal details of the investigation. “We are aware of the situation and are looking into the matter,” said Robert Kenny, director of media relations for the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. “The Commission aggressively enforces provisions of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which generally prohibits delivery of prerecorded messages to residential phones and also prohibits the use of automatic telephone dialing equipment in certain situations, such as calls to emergency lines, hospitals, and mobile phones.”
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He noted that the law applies not only to calls made within the United States, but also to calls made from outside the country to U.S. phones. Penalties are $16,000 per violation, he said. If the violator does not have an FCC license, the Commission usually gives a warning first. Individuals can seek damages of $500 per violation. Campaign spokesman Damian Merlo said the candidate used a Haitian company to make what he called “awareness calls” and was unaware of any problems. “We used a company and assume they know what they are doing,” Merlo said. “We have not had any inquiries about the calls. No one in our camp was aware of an FCC investigation.” For the March 20 runoff, the camp has ceased making the pesky calls. They’re pushing Martelly’s promises of dual nationality and two years of tax-free investments using unsolicited — and legal — text messages instead.

Presidential Candidates Both Get UN Advice (2/25/2011)

Caribbean 360
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The United Nations independent expert on human rights in Haiti, Michel Forst, has urged candidates in the country’s upcoming presidential run-off election to spearhead the fight against impunity and champion greater respect of human rights. “As the country prepares to choose its next president, I hope that solemn commitments are made in the field of human rights and that the signals are sent for a greater respect for human rights, judicial reform, the fight against impunity and access basic services for all,” Forst said in a press release. Former first lady Mirlande Manigat and popular musician Michel Martelly are the two candidates in the run-off poll scheduled for March 20. Forst has chosen the fight against impunity as one of his main themes during meetings with Haitian officials and representatives of international organisations. “It is important that the fight against impunity be carried out through judicial means, and I want to remind the victims that we will explore all possibilities in this area, especially for the most serious crimes of the past,” he said.
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“However, the fight against impunity is not limited to judicial remedies only. There are also additional steps to be taken in education, awareness. Other countries in Latin America and Africa have used innovative ways to exorcise the past crimes. Haiti would do well to learn from these experiences.” After visiting several prisons and talking with many judges, the independent expert noted that reform of the justice system, including the independence of the judiciary, has not been implemented for several years despite the passing by parliament in 2007 of laws on judicial reform. He also called for greater attention to human rights during the reconstruction of the country after last year’s catastrophic earthquake. “I want to stress that water, housing, access to [health] care are not only humanitarian needs. They are rights guaranteed by the Haitian State. It is urgent that parliament ratifies the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” said Forst, whose current mission to the Caribbean nation will end on Sunday.

War of Promises between Presidential Candidates (2/22/2011)

Prensa Latina
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The electoral campaign of both presidential candidates is marked today by a war of promises in attempts to secure votes for upcoming elections on March 20. Michel Martelly, representative of the Peasants' Response Party, promised to invest in education if he is elected the successor of President Rene Preval. The singer by profession thinks to raise the funds necessary to restore the National Lottery, suspended years ago in Haiti. Another Martelly's promise is to promote tourism, and announced he will build on vacant land found in the Northern Department to develop the so-called industry without chimneys. During his tour of the northern zone, Martelly combines his campaign speeches promising improvements in infrastructure, education and health, with the performance of songs from his repertoire.
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Voters do not want money, but drinking water and roads, said the candidate, who also referred to the possibility of getting 200 million USD of assistance from the International Monetary Fund. His political program focuses on increasing women's participation in political decision-making bodies, expand the access for children and youth to education and remove the cholera epidemic that claimed more than 4,000 lives. On the other hand, for many Mirlande Manigat looms as the favorite to win the run-off, after winning in the first round, held on November 28. In the elections on March 20, in addition to the new president, will also be elected 79 members of the House of Representatives and seven Senators, who will complete these bodies with the officials already elected in the first round.

Wyclef Jean backs Musician in Haiti election (2/16/2011)

Reuters
By Joseph Guyler Delva
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Hip-hop star Wyclef Jean threw his support on Wednesday behind a popular musician competing in Haiti's March 20 presidential run-off. The public endorsement by Jean, who is Haitian-born and last year was forced to abandon his own bid for the presidency, may provide a boost to the candidacy of Michel Martelly, a well-known singer and a political newcomer. "I want the international community and all my friends in Haiti and around the world to know I endorse my good friend, Michel Martelly, to be the next president of Haiti," Jean told reporters, with Martelly by his side. After a chaotic November 28 first round vote triggered fraud allegations and street protests, Haiti's electoral authorities announced this month that Martelly, 49, had qualified for the run-off with former first lady Mirlande Manigat. Martelly, popularly known as "Sweet Mickey", is a star of Haiti's Kompa dance music, which mixes African and Latin rhythms, and his charismatic personality has rallied support among young Haitians in the poor Caribbean nation.
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Manigat, 70 and a long-time figure in Haiti's opposition, was the top vote-winner in the first round but failed to garner more than 50 percent to win the election outright. The winner will take over from outgoing President Rene Preval, who is prohibited from running for a consecutive term, and will face the challenge of steering a country struggling to recover from a crippling 2010 earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people. Haiti is also suffering a cholera epidemic. Jean praised Martelly's status as a political outsider. "I think Martelly represents real change," he told Reuters. Jean, who has lived most of his life in the United States, was barred by Haiti's electoral authorities last year from running for president on the grounds he failed to meet residency requirements. His short-lived candidacy drew enthusiastic support from Haiti's youth, but prompted questions about whether a politically inexperienced celebrity was the best person to govern the crisis-ridden volatile country. (Writing by Kevin Gray; editing by Pascal Fletcher and Mohammad Zargham)

Clinton, candidates discuss Haiti reconstruction (2/15/2011)

Associated Press
By DAVID McFADDEN
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Former U.S. President Bill Clinton on Tuesday discussed the future of efforts to rebuild earthquake-torn Haiti with the two candidates who meet next month in a presidential runoff delayed by a political crisis. During his one-day visit, Clinton met separately behind closed doors at the upscale Hotel Karibe with top vote-getter Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady, and singer Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly, a pro-military populist who was earlier this month determined to be the No. 2 finisher in a fraud-ridden, disorganized first-round election in November. Clinton, the U.N. special envoy to Haiti, said he had no preferred candidate. He said he was careful not to do anything in his role as co-chairman of an interim reconstruction commission to compromise his ability to help Haiti and move hundreds of thousands of homeless people out of encampments on fields and plazas. "If we can continue to work very hard and speed up decisions - and we plan to do so this year - that will help whoever wins be a more effective president," Clinton told reporters during a news conference after a commission meeting attended by the two candidates.
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He expressed confidence that the March 20 runoff is "going to happen on time." The fact that the two candidates met with the reconstruction commission will be "well received by the donor community," he said, "and I think it increases our chance that we will get the money we need to move more people out of the camps." Many Haitians who have been living in tent camps since the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake believed they would start getting new homes - or at least sturdier temporary shelters - months ago. Clinton would not respond to questions about the likely impact of the possible return of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from exile in South Africa, saying only that it was a matter for Haiti's political leaders. Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected president, was ousted in a violent rebellion in 2004 and left the country. Speculation that he might come back to Haiti soared after ex-dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier stepped off an Air France jet in January in a shocking return after nearly 25 years of exile.
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Last week, Aristide's U.S. lawyer traveled to Port-au-Prince and picked up a diplomatic passport for the ousted leader that was issued by the government of outgoing President Rene Preval. A U.S. State Department spokesman recently said Washington believes that Aristide's re-emergence would disrupt the calm needed for the March 20 vote and warned him not to come back to Haiti ahead of the election. But Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said Aristide has the right to return at any time as a Haitian citizen. He said Tuesday he had no clue what the "personal intentions of President Aristide are or other formalities that he will have to resolve" if he leaves South Africa. Bellerive, the reconstruction commission's co-chairman, said Haiti's government has "had no official communication from the State Department telling us in any way, shape or form that they prefer that President Aristide not come now or be delayed in coming." In response to a question from reporters after his morning meeting with Clinton, Martelly said Aristide has the right to return to his Caribbean homeland. "If there is a problem, the justice system will take care of it," Martelly said, standing in a scrum of reporters in the hotel's courtyard. "Right now, we have a second round, and that is what we are worried about." Manigat later voiced the same sentiments to The Associated Press, saying Aristide has as much right to return as did Duvalier. The 70-year-old law professor added: "Because Mr. Aristide and Mr. Duvalier are not ordinary citizens it is possible their presence might create a problem. But we will have to deal with that." Campaigning for the runoff election, originally slated for January, is set to begin Thursday. The final vote count - the naming of Haiti's next president - is not foreseen until April 16.

Duvalier foes seek justice for dictatorship abuses (2/10/2011)

Associated Press
By DAVID McFADDEN
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As a political prisoner in the 1970s at Haiti's most dreaded lockup, Claude Rosier sat in his squalid, crowded cell and dreamed of the day that tubby, boyish dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier would face justice. The 79-year-old, who was starved and tortured in the notorious Fort Dimanche and other prisons for nearly 11 years during the 29-year Duvalier family dictatorship, said Friday he is hopeful that long-awaited day of reckoning may soon be at hand. "All I hope to see with the Duvalier case is justice. Not just for me, but so history does not repeat itself in Haiti," Rosier said at a Port-au-Prince hotel, where he joined another ex-political prisoner and a human rights lawyer to speak about the prosecution of Haiti's former "president for life." Just 19 when he assumed power after the death of his infamous father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, in 1971, Baby Doc's 15-year rule was marked by torture, extrajudicial executions and the disappearance of hundreds of people. The strict order was enforced by the feared Tonton Macoute secret police, which killed and extorted from countless Haitians. Duvalier was deposed, put on an American plane and flown in 1986 to France, where he lived in quiet exile ever since - until he stunned the nation by abruptly showing up in his earthquake-shattered homeland last month. He claimed he wants to help with reconstruction, though some have speculated that he hoped returning might help him unlock millions of dollars frozen in Swiss bank accounts. Whatever his motivation, the 59-year-old Duvalier now faces an investigation into allegations of corruption and human rights abuses dating to the dictatorship era, and a judge has until April to decide whether it will go to trial.
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The complex case is part of a global push to hold former dictators accountable for atrocities during their reigns, said Human Rights Watch counsel Reed Brody, and it could break important new legal ground in Haiti, where the judiciary - like other institutions - is historically weak and ineffective. "This case provides a real chance to put Haiti's justice system squarely on the side of those who have suffered under his rule," Brody said. "It will set a precedent and will be a civics lesson on a very dark period in Haiti's history. "The trees need to be shaken to get people to come forward, even if people are still scared. But I think there's good evidence so far," Brody added. "And as far as we can tell, the political will is there. ... It's important that it be carried over into the next government" - a reference to the power transition that should take place in the coming months from Presidential Rene Preval to his yet-undetermined successor.
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U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has offered to assist in the prosecution, saying the alleged crimes have no statute of limitations. Duvalier has mostly stayed inside his guarded compound since returning and not commented on the accusations other to offer, in public comments last month, "my profound sadness toward my countrymen who consider themselves, rightly, to have been victims of my government." One of his U.S. lawyers, Mike Puglise, said people are beginning to "voice their support" of Duvalier in Haiti. He pointed out that some residents of the seaside town of Leogane enthusiastically greeted Duvalier and his entourage during a visit this week. "They understand that his return is what he said at the beginning, that he's trying to help his people," he said earlier this week. A handful of loyalists campaigned for years to bring Duvalier back, launching a foundation to improve the dictatorship's image and reviving Baby Doc's political party. Millions are too young to remember life under the dictatorship, and at least some Haitians hope that Duvalier could help restore order to the chaos. "Welcome, President Duvalier," read two separate graffiti scrawls in Port-au-Prince, though pro-Baby Doc demonstrations have been relatively small.
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Bobby Duval, a former soccer star who was starved and tortured during 17 months without charge in Fort Dimanche, on the edge of the Port-au-Prince harbor, said Duvalier more rightly belongs behind bars. "For myself, yes, I need closure. But a trial is really needed to bring light to all these victims who disappeared," Duval said. "There hasn't been a family in Haiti who hasn't been hurt by the Duvalier regimes, both father and son." Associated Press writer Jacob Kushner contributed to this report.

Just 2 Candidates, but Worries for Haiti’s Runoff (2/6/2011)

New York Times
By DAMIEN CAVE
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Mirlande Manigat walks and speaks with the slow grace of a sophisticated grandmother. She keeps a series of expensive pens in a glass case on her desk. Posters for Mirlande Manigat were plastered in Port-au-Prince last week. Ms. Manigat, 70, was the top vote getter in the Nov. 28 presidential election. Michel Martelly, 49, arriving at a news conference in Port-au-Prince last week. He is best known for drawing young people into politics.
Michel Martelly struts. A popular Carnival performer who is 21 years Ms. Manigat’s junior, he is best known for drawing young people into politics, and dropping his pants on stage. The stylistic contrast between the two candidates competing in the March 20 runoff to become Haiti’s next president could not be more stark. Yet their differences may be the only predictable elements in the homestretch of a race that has sowed more doubt than faith. The Nov. 28 election, marred by fraud and incompetence, was just the beginning of an opaque process that has included delayed results, contentious protests by Mr. Martelly’s supporters, a review by international observers, and finally last week, after a visit from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, a reversal by election officials that put Mr. Martelly in the runoff by discarding a government-backed candidate. Now many Haitians and experts worry that the second round will be just as rough.
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“I’m pessimistic, considering the state the country is now in and the effort of transcendence that Haiti needs to really become engaged in reconstruction,” said Michèle D. Pierre-Louis, the former prime minister who now heads the Open Society Institute in Haiti. “Unless there is something which I can’t foresee, we’re heading toward major problems.” In a nation devastated by an earthquake early last year, with tens of thousands of displaced people still living in tent cities, the challenges are both structural and political. Will the problems with disenfranchisement in Round 1, when only 28 percent of the electorate voted, be improved in the runoff? Will turnout be high enough to give the winner a mandate, or will the loser take his or her cause to the streets? President René Préval is another wild card. No one here seems sure whether he will hand over power on Monday, as he had promised, or stay on through the runoff. There is also the possibility of a jack-in-the-box surprise if he grants the recent passport request of his mentor, the deposed president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Despite such open questions, a smooth transition is still possible, said Mark L. Schneider, a Haiti expert at the International Crisis Group. But he said that would require a raft of urgent voting reforms and an expanded international role in the runoff.
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First, he said, Haitian election officials must fire and replace poll workers at the sites where they know fraud occurred in the first round. He added that the country’s election council, the C.E.P., also needs to accelerate training for poll workers, overhaul how it informs voters where they should vote and create a provisional voting system so that people who are registered but appear at the wrong location can still cast ballots. Jose Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, which made similar recommendations before the November election, said that the challenge would be to create a better system in time for the runoff. He said that while the O.A.S. planned to expand its corps of international observers to 200 from 120, the bulk of the effort needed to come from within Haiti. “The important thing is the quality of the workers in the polling places,” he said. “I’m not sure if in 40 days they will be able to do it.” The O.A.S. review of the election found that intimidation and potential fraud were not limited to Mr. Préval’s party and its candidate, Jude Celestin. Haitian officials, Mr. Insulza said, “will have to work really hard to regain people’s trust.”
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Elections officials have said they will try. Richardson Dumel, the C.E.P.’s spokesman, said Saturday that they planned to hold another training session for poll workers. He said they would also add more phone lines that voters could call to find their precinct, and increase the size of the lettering on posted voter lists on Election Day to make them easier to read. Still, criticism of the process continues to snowball. Several members of Congress, including Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, responded to Mr. Martelly’s advancement by reiterating earlier calls for a do-over, arguing that the election was flawed from the start. At least one of the eight C.E.P. members, Ginette Chérubin, also sent a letter to Haitian news outlets this week saying she and three of her colleagues did not sign on to the decision adding Mr. Martelly to the runoff, casting further doubt on its legitimacy. On the street, even among the usually engaged, disgust has become conventional wisdom. Thermidor Jon Jerome, 55, a high school French teacher reading at a bookstore in an alley downtown, was one of many who said the foul process had stripped Haiti of its sovereignty and dignity, as the United States and international donors have pressured Haiti to expedite the process. Though he voted in Round 1, he said, “I’m not going to vote in the second round because the next president will be chosen by the United States.” Young Martelly supporters may be the only ones who are excited. They celebrated in the streets after the announcement on Thursday that Mr. Martelly would advance to the second round, and among a group of Martelly-loving vendors hawking trinkets outside the presidential palace, the mere mention of his name provoked shouts and fist-pumping. “The international community fought for us,” said Samuel Saus, 22, one of the many vendors. “And now we have the result we wanted.” In terms of policy, Mr. Martelly, 49, and Ms. Manigat, 70, share similar goals; both are conservative and have campaigned on law and order. Haitian analysts said Mr. Martelly appeared to have gained momentum by successfully standing up to Mr. Préval and his handpicked successor.
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Ms. Manigat maintains that this is not the case, citing a rally outside Port-au-Prince in November with 45,000 supporters. But Robert Maguire, a professor of international affairs at Trinity University in Washington, said Mr. Martelly’s rebel reputation, confirmed by protests that helped changed the result, may fit the moment. “I’d think that irreverence would be attractive to youth who have grown up to become disillusioned with the political and economic establishment,” Mr. Maguire said. Pinnson Sévère, 25, standing near business books just a few steps from Mr. Jerome, the French teacher, said that was exactly right. “This is the time to take a chance,” said Mr. Sévère, a college student who voted for Mr. Manigat in the first round, but now plans to vote for Mr. Martelly. “The country is completely destroyed so it’s a new Haiti, and we want a new kind of person.”

Haiti 'gives ex-President Aristide new passport' (BBC - /7/2011)

The Haitian government says it has issued former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide with a passport, opening the way for his possible return. A government official told the AFP news agency the diplomatic passport had been issued on Monday. However, one of Mr Aristide's lawyers said he had not received it. Mr Aristide was ousted seven years ago and has been living in exile in South Africa, but has said he wants to return to Haiti. The news comes at a critical time for Haiti, with continuing uncertainty over the presidential election, due to go into a second round in March. A government official, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Agence France-Presse news agency the passport had been issued on Monday. "All the formalities have been completed," the official was quoted as saying. But Ira Kurzban, the lawyer who has been representing Mr Aristide, told AFP he had neither received the passport, nor had the Haitian authorities told him they had issued it. Haitian officials announced on 31 January they were ready to issue the passport, if Mr Aristide requested it. Mr Aristide has repeatedly expressed his wish to return to Haiti. The former Catholic priest was the first democratically elected president of Haiti. He first came to power in 1990, but was ousted only months later in a coup led by Brigadier-General Raoul Cedras.
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He returned to Haiti in 1994 after the military regime relinquished power in the face of an imminent US invasion. He served his term until 1996. He was re-elected in 2000 but was forced out of power again early in 2004, after several months of increasing political turmoil. Analysts say he still commands a sizeable group of supporters. Mr Aristide's party, Fanmi Lavalas, was barred from standing in the current election, allegedly due to technical errors in its application forms. Reports of the government issuing him with a passport come at a critical time, with more than 100 people protesting in the capital, Port-au-Prince, on Monday. Demonstrators in downtown Port-au-Prince on 7 February Protesters demanding that President Rene Preval leave office immediately clashed with police The protesters demanded that the outgoing President, Rene Preval, step down immediately. Mr Preval's term was due to end on Monday, but with the second round of the presidential election delayed until the end of March, the president announced he would stay in office for an additional three months. Police dispersed the demonstrators by firing teargas and shooting into the air. Last week, election officials ruled that the second and deciding round of Haiti's presidential election would be contended by the former First Lady Mirlande Manigat and popular singer Michel Martelly, edging out the government backed candidate Jude Celestin. The first round, which international monitors said was rigged in favour of Mr Celestin, triggered wide-spread protests. The second round was supposed to take place last month, but was postponed because of the dispute between supporters of Mr Celestin, who according to preliminary results came second, and Mr Martelly's supporters, whose candidate came third. Mr Preval's chief of staff confirmed on Monday that President Preval would stay in office until 14 May 2011, for which he already had parliamentary approval.

The former pop singer who could be Haiti’s president

2/7/2011
Miami Herald
BY TRENTON DANIEL
tdaniel@MiamiHerald.com
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PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Hours after Haiti’s electoral council announced that Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly was heading to a runoff with former first lady Mirlande Manigat in the presidential vote, the former pop singer sat down with a small group of reporters from the foreign press corps, including The Miami Herald. In the Jimmy Buffett suite at the Hotel Oloffson, the fabled inn managed by Martelly’s cousin Richard Morse, Martelly sat in a white wicker basket chair. Wearing a dark suit with a burgundy tie and a Haiti flag pin, the candidate sipped a Coke as he held court.
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Q) Last month you said your campaign was broke.
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A) Still broke.
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Q) Now that you’re in a position where you have to go and campaign again, are you worried about getting the resources?
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A) Not at all. As a matter of fact, I got in that situation because people did not believe in me, at first. Now, they have realized that the people of Haiti are with me, I’m pretty sure that money will start flowing as early as today. We will have money at this time, because they realize that we have money, that we have potential, that we are in the second round. As of today, we have a 50 percent chance of becoming the next president of the country. They are starting to take me seriously. So we don’t worry about money — not at all. Even when we did not have money, we did not worry. Thanks to our campaign we found the right strategy.
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Q) If you were to win, can you give us a sense of what your vision for the first six months would be?
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A) First of all you said, “if I were to win. . .” Well, I’m here to win. When I win, we will focus on moving people out of the tents. The cholera issue. Agriculture. Where we have other areas where we need change that don’t require a lot of money. Eradicating corruption. Allowing the judiciary system to follow its course. Reinforce the authority of the state. Let the police do their job. These are very important in Haiti. For example, bandits have been arrested and the forces let them go because they work for certain people. Things like that need to change. So you can start working and make people feel confident. But you got to understand how much money is available. Job creation is part of the economic plan.
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Q) Who is funding your campaign [led by political strategists from OstosSola, a Spanish consulting firm that worked for John McCain in his 2008 presidential bid]?
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A) They are here. They are paid by people who believe in us. But who do not want to give us the money. Friends from out of Haiti, the States who decided to give us support.
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Q) Who exactly?
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A)You talk to them.
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Q) What do you say about your past during the de facto years in the early 1990s when you ran with members of the FRAPH paramilitary group?
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A) I don’t think it’s an issue, as far as I’m concerned. I’m concerned about Haiti, about the future of my country. I think every human being has made a mistake in the past, I don’t know even what mistake we’re talking about. I would talk about my attitude on stage. That’s mainly what someone could talk about. Only my attitude on stage. As I stated downstairs, I have been a clean man. I’ve never been involved in monkey business. Everyday something new appears on my behalf, talking about coup e’tat. And this and that. It’s mainly people opposing Michel Martelly talking about these stories. But I feel confident. Believe me, I don’t feel good talking about these questions anymore. I allow everyone to go and look on the Internet, look in my past, look at what I’ve done wrong.
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Q You raised questions about the Provisional Electoral Council, or CEP, and fraud and lack of credibility. Now that they’ve put you in the second round, do you think they’ve proved themselves to be credible?
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A) They have just followed the people’s will. But they are not more credible for that. What I will say on the CEP is that our campaign is consulting, they are working on it. Within the next 24 hours, we should have our position on what exact step needs to be taken as far as the CEP is concerned.
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Q) Typically, human-rights prosecutions need a strong state, a strong backing from executive leaders. What priority will you give the prosecution of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier for his misappropriation of funds and human-rights violations?
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A) This has to do with judiciary. I have nothing to do with it. If they have something against him, he needs to answer to them. I’m not going to stand on anybody’s side who has a problem with the justice system.
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Q) What do you plan to do with the housing impasse and issues of land-tenure?
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A) There’s a huge piece of land that’s been given to the people by Route Neuf and the road that goes to the north. There they could have built nice lodging instead of giving the land to the people and let them build another slum. There’s no project. There’s no plan. There’s no concern. There’s no good faith. Besides that there are people who want to do good. The money’s here. We need public servants. We need people who come to the government to the serve the Haitian people, not to be a chief or to have money or people who are looking for a job. We need people who want to invest their time, their heart in Haiti. People who are doers.

Haiti's president confirms 3-month term extension (2/7/2011)

Associated Press
By DAVID McFADDEN
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Haitian President Rene Preval will stay in office for another three months as his country chooses a successor in a delayed election, his chief of staff said Monday. Chief of Staff Fritz Longchamp confirmed Preval's exit date of May 14 in a phone interview with The Associated Press following uncertainty about the Haitian leader's plans. Preval's term had been scheduled to end Monday, but his successor will not be elected until Haiti holds a presidential runoff on March 20. He had been silent about his intentions in recent days, leading to rumors that he might appoint a temporary successor. "He will stay in office until May 14. He will not leave today," Longchamp said.
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An emergency law passed by members of Preval's former party in an expiring Senate allows him to remain in office for up to three more months because his 2006 inauguration was delayed. The U.S. and other nations have signaled they agree with Preval staying in office for a few months past the end of his term to avoid a power vacuum atop Haiti, where foreign governments have collectively spent billions on recovery efforts after last year's devastating earthquake - and pledged billions more for reconstruction. "I would assume that there will be greater stability and more movement on reconstruction with this situation if he remained than if he were to name a temporary successor - which would clearly be unconstitutional," said Mark Schneider, special adviser on Latin America for the International Crisis Group. On Monday morning, about 50 anti-Preval demonstrators protested outside the quake-destroyed National Palace, blocking traffic with overturned trash bins and burning tires. A crowd of onlookers watched as protesters hurled rocks and chanted "Preval is a crook!" "He must step down to avoid people getting hurt," said 32-year-old demonstrator Gardy Lumas.
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The protesters were later dispersed by national police. Preval is deeply unpopular, especially in urban areas, after years of continued poverty and following his perceived inaction in response to the earthquake. Last week, Haiti decided to eliminate Preval's government-backed candidate, Jude Celestin, from a presidential runoff. The decision ended a standoff with the country's international partners who questioned an earlier official count showing Celestin had qualified for the runoff. Instead, first-place presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat will face popular singer Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly. Campaigning for the second round, originally slated for January, is set to begin Feb. 17. The final count - the naming of Haiti's next president - is not foreseen until April 16. Associated Press writer Jacob Kushner in Port-au-Prince contributed to this report

Sweet Success for Mickey (The Economist - 2/4/2011)

AFTER weeks of rumours and diplomatic pressure, Haiti’s electoral council announced yesterday that it had booted the ruling party’s man, Jude Celestin, from the presidential race, and replaced him with a popular political outsider, Michel Martelly (pictured). The delayed run-off vote, now scheduled for March 20th, will pit Mr Martelly, formerly a wild-child musician known as Sweet Micky, against Mirlande Manigat, a constitutional scholar and former first lady who appeals to middle-class voters. The outcome of the election remains highly uncertain, since no public polls have yet been conducted on the new second-round matchup. Nonetheless, the decision has restored a modicum of calm and security to the country. “It’s a good day in Haiti again,” the United States ambassador, Kenneth Merten, said yesterday.
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It was certainly a victory for American diplomacy. The United States had immediately criticised the preliminary results, released on December 7th, which gave Ms Manigat a solid lead and put Mr Celestin in the run-off by a slim 0.64% margin over Mr Martelly. Following the announcement, thousands of the singer’s supporters took to the streets in sometimes-violent protests. A mission from the Organisation of American States (OAS) was then allowed to review the tabulation process. Its report—which was leaked, possibly by the United States—found fraud among all the leading contenders, and suggested that, were the chicanery removed, Mr Martelly would have narrowly edged out Mr Celestin as the runner-up to Ms Manigat. The government of René Préval, which was accused of rigging the election, objected to the report’s methodology.
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Yet the foreign pressure to dump Mr Celestin continued, especially from the United States, which put $14 million into the election. Last month, it suspended the visas of some members of the ruling party, INITE. Its ambassador to the UN implied that American aid might depend on the electoral council’s acceptance of the report. The coup de grace was a visit on January 30th from Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, who met the three leading contenders and Mr Preval. She told reporters, “We have made it very clear we support the OAS recommendations, and we would like to see those acted on.” And so they were. Given the delays in announcing the result and the closeness of the electoral council’s five-to-three vote, many horses were likely traded in its back rooms this week. One may have been the legislative races, which INITE dominated: it won or advanced to the second round in 68 of 99 seats in the lower house, and all but one of 11 open Senate seats. The OAS report did not address the legislative results, and foreign leaders have not publicly criticised them.

That’s no small matter for the next president, be it Ms Manigat or Mr Martelly. Parliament approves and can oust the prime minister, and many ambitious policy proposals have withered amid executive-legislative deadlock—as Mr Preval, who dissolved the parliament in his first term, can attest. The next president will need strong legislative support to oversee the politically charged reconstruction from the country’s devastating earthquake last year, with its attendant issues of land rights and relocation. In addition, Mr Martelly has spoken sweepingly about jobs, education, and agriculture, while Ms Manigat has argued for reining in NGOs and phasing out the UN’s peacekeeping force.

A more immediate concern for the first-round winners was to shore up their legitimacy. Just 22% of the electorate turned out for the first round, and countless others were disenfranchised by fraud or disorganisation. Indeed, both Ms Manigat and Mr Martelly had called for a do-over election—until it appeared they would advance to the run-off. As for outside influence in the election, Mr Martelly argued yesterday that his inclusion in the second round was “not a gift of the international community” but an instance of foreigners standing with the Haitian people. Many Haitians are not so sure: Le Nouvelliste, a newspaper, called the revised results “the end of the illusion of sovereignty”, echoing a widespread sentiment that they reflect, mostly, their government buckling to international pressure. The country’s longstanding tension between its desire for sovereignty and its need for outside assistance will not be resolved anytime soo

Foreign Powers Praise Election Decision (AP - 2/3/2011)

By JONATHAN M. KATZ
Associated Press
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Haiti's decision to eliminate the government-backed candidate from a presidential runoff won praise from foreign powers Thursday, and the U.S. and others signaled they would agree with President Rene Preval staying in office for a few months past the end of his term. The move ended a weekslong standoff with international donors. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had made a last-minute visit in the midst of the Egypt crisis to reiterate personally to Preval that Washington supported the Organization of American States recommendation that ruling-party candidate Jude Celestin be dropped from the ballot. The early morning announcement that first-place candidate Mirlande Manigat will face popular singer Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly prompted cheers of relief in the surrounding suburbs of the capital, where residents had feared a repeat of pro-Martelly riots in December after preliminary results showed Celestin as the No. 2 vote-getter. That joy was surpassed by the reaction abroad. "It's a great day in Haiti today again. We had some positive results from the (electoral council) earlier this morning," U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten told reporters in Washington. "We are pleased to note that they seemed to have been very diligent in following the OAS verification mission's report's recommendations."
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Governments that have collectively spent billions on Haiti's stalled recovery from last year's earthquake - and pledged billions more for reconstruction - wanted to see an acceptably elected government in place to continue with their investment, aid and reconstruction plans. International frustration with Preval was high. The U.S. suspended visas to a number of officials in the lead-up to the final results as rumors swirled that Celestin would be given a spot in the runoff. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said support depended in part on following the OAS recommendations. On Thursday, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the final results and "encouraged all actors to take advantage of this opportunity to move forward with the electoral process."
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An OAS expert team was brought in to sort through a messy first round election on Nov. 28 that was nearly derailed by fraud, disorganization, voter intimidation and calls by candidates - including Martelly and Manigat - to throw out the vote while polls were open. Though international observers initially said problems had not invalidated the election, the Dec. 7 announcement that Celestin could advance and subsequent rioting prompted immediate statements by the U.S. Embassy and others questioning the results. Some, including members of the U.S. Congress, called the OAS report a whitewash and foreign meddling in Haitian affairs. On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters said the United States, Canada and France "used (their) tremendous power and influence to determine the outcome of the first round" and denied Haitians "the opportunity to express their will." The left-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research called it "a big setback." Both said the race was fundamentally flawed because it excluded the party of exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who remains popular among many Haitians and has a dedicated following overseas. But many Haitians, especially in the capital, said they were happy with the result.
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"If people didn't vote for the candidates we wouldn't have had these problems" in the streets, said Adlair Saintil, a 28-year-old bread vendor. Haitian electoral officials dropped the government-backed candidate from the upcoming presidential runoff on Thursday, ending a standoff with the U.S. and other international powers over the results of a first-round of voting that was marred by fraud and disorganization. President Rene Preval could conceivably remain in power for a few weeks beyond his soon-to-expire term if the election for his successor is deemed to be proceeding fairly, senior U.S. officials said following a one-day visit by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The U.S. State Department said Friday it revoked the visas of about a dozen Haitian officials, increasing pressure on the government to drop its favored candidate from the presidential runoff in favor of a popular contender who is warning of renewed protests if he is not on the ballot. The United States has no plans to halt aid to earthquake-ravaged Haiti in spite of a crisis over who will be the nation's next leader but does insist that the president's chosen successor be dropped from the race, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday.
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He supports Martelly because of promises to move government services and jobs to areas outside Port-au-Prince. "A lot of people died because they had to leave their hometowns," Saintil said. The second round, originally slated for January, is now expected March 20 with campaigning set to begin Feb. 17. Final results - the naming of Haiti's next president - is not foreseen until April 16. Preval's five-year term is supposed to end Monday. He extended his term for up to three months through a law passed by members of his party in an expiring Senate. Haitians fed up with his government protested and he pledged to step down on time, but more recently reversed course and said he wants to remain until a successor is elected.
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"If him continuing in his position until a new president is elected supports stability and peace in the country then I think it's a good thing," OAS Assistant Secretary-General Albert Ramdin told The Associated Press by phone. "But this is a decision to be made by the Haitian authorities," he added. Merten, the U.S. ambassador to Haiti, agreed. "Our goal is again to support what the Haitian people want and for there to be a peaceful turnover of power from one legitimately elected president to another," he said. Asked about Preval's plans, his chief of staff, Fritz Longchamp, told the AP: "We have to wait until he makes a public statement." Despite a crowded and fractured field, candidates of Preval's Inite, or Unity, party advanced to runoffs or won outright 68 of 99 races for the lower house of parliament and all but one of the 11 open Senate races. Opponents allege Inite used fraud in those races as well. But Ramdin said that was an internal matter and that the OAS expert team focused solely on the presidential race.
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Parliament ratifies - and can remove - the presidentially nominated prime minister, who serves as head of government under the president, who is head of state. A beaming Martelly said after the runoff announcement that justice had been done. "I don't think (foreign governments) have decided the political future of Haiti. I think that the support that they have brought to Haiti matches the people's will toward change," he said at a news conference. Most people were just glad to have not added another problem to their often insurmountable daily struggles - poverty, the lack of rebuilding, a cholera epidemic and the lack of basic institutions. "Everyone is very happy that the country woke up calm," said Ronald Joseph, a 37-year-old mechanic. "Hopefully we can have a second round and things will move ahead."
Associated Press writers Evens Sanon in Port-au-Prince, Bradley Klapper in Washington and Anita Snow at the United Nations contributed to this report

Haiti sets up run-off in dispute-plagued elections (2/3/2011)

Reuters
By Joseph Guyler Delva
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Haiti announced on Thursday that former first lady Mirlande Manigat and musician Michel Martelly would contest a presidential run-off next month as the country moved ahead with its dispute-plagued elections process. The definitive first round results from a chaotic November vote, which saw government-backed candidate Jude Celestin eliminated from the run-off, averted a showdown between Haiti's rulers and electoral officials and the Organization of American States and Western donors including the United States. Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council announced that opposition matriarch Manigat, 70, and singer and entertainer Martelly, 49, finished first and second in the November 28 first round election and would contest a March 20 run-off. Manigat did not gain enough votes to win outright. No percentages, just the positions, were immediately announced. But these positions were in line with a revision carried out by OAS experts, who, citing serious irregularities in the first round vote tallies, had recommended Martelly go through to the run-off instead of Celestin, who had originally been placed second behind Manigat in disputed preliminary results.
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After Martelly supporters rioted in December against these initial results, the United Nations, United States and other western donor governments had piled pressure on Haiti's leaders and electoral authorities to adopt the OAS recommendation. There were fears the unrest could escalate and derail the elections, threatening the handover of power by outgoing President Rene Preval and putting at risk billions of dollars of aid pledged to help the poor Caribbean nation recover from a devastating 2010 earthquake. The results announcement came as a relief to some. "I'm very happy about this decision. I was very anxious because I didn't know what was going to happen if Martelly did not get into the run-off. Now I can open my business without fear," said Jonel Joseph, 42, who has an auto parts business. The Western Hemisphere's poorest state, which lost more than 300,000 people in the earthquake, is also grappling with a deadly cholera epidemic hampering reconstruction efforts.
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At the electoral council offices in Port-au-Prince guarded by U.N. and Haitian police, frustration among waiting local and foreign journalists had mounted through the night as the authorities failed to deliver on an original commitment to announce the results on Wednesday. On Wednesday, amid fears of possible violence over the awaited election results, many banks, businesses and schools in Port-au-Prince had closed early. Adding to the already nervous political atmosphere is the possible return of ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who has asked the government for a diplomatic passport so he can come home from exile in South Africa. Several hundred pro-Aristide protesters demonstrated on Wednesday outside the Foreign Ministry to demand Aristide be issued a passport.
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Washington and other Western donors, which are trying to keep the contentious presidential election on track, are wary that Aristide's return could inflame Haiti's fractious politics. The firebrand leftist ex-Roman Catholic priest retains a passionate following in Haiti. He became Haiti's first freely elected president in 1990 before being ousted by an armed revolt in 2004. Outgoing President Preval's mandate formally ends on Monday, but he has parliament approval to stay on if necessary until May 14 so he can hand over to an elected successor. President Barack Obama's administration had signaled it was wary of the effect that Aristide's return could have. "We note that what Haiti needs right now is a period of calm, not divisive actions," a U.S. State Department spokesman wrote in an e-mail response to a question about Aristide's possible return.
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Haiti's uncertain outlook has been further clouded by the reappearance of ghosts from its turbulent past. Former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier came home from exile in January, running into corruption and human rights charges, and Aristide is now preparing his own homecoming. Despite a visit on Sunday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to emphasize U.S. backing for the OAS results option, the Provisional Electoral Council had kept Haitians and its foreign partners guessing over whether it would follow the OAS recommendation. Celestin, a protege of outgoing President Rene Preval, had refused to drop out despite pressure from his own INITE party. Ordinary Haitians were sanguine about whether the first round results could bring stability. "We take what they give us. Now I hope life can continue and we can live in peace," said Jonaldo St Jules, 20. (Additional reporting by Allyn Gaestel; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Vicki Allen)

Haiti panel announces candidates for run-off elections

2/3/2011
Washington Post
By William Booth
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Many Haitians sighed with relief Thursday after election officials announced that longtime opposition leader Mirlande Manigat will face Michel Martelly, a carnival singer known as "Sweet Micky," in a runoff presidential election next month. The long-delayed decision by Haiti's electoral council pushed government-backed candidate Jude Celestin out of the running. Celestin, a previously unknown bureaucrat who ran the state road-building agency, was the the handpicked successor of sitting President Rene Preval, whose response to last year's disastrous earthquake and management of the slow recovery effort have disappointed many Haitians. Shops and schools were closed as anxious Haitians braced for the announcement. An analysis of the Nov. 28 vote by the Organization of American States (OAS) found widespread fraud, missing votes and altered tallies. The group said supporters of all three leading candidates had attempted to steal votes.
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The OAS recommended that the electoral council reverse its preliminary results - which had Celestin finishing in second place - and stage a runoff between Martelly and Manigat. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled to Haiti on Sunday and pushed the Preval government to accept the OAS conclusions and pull its candidate out of the second round, now scheduled for March 20. The next question is what happens with Preval. Under the constitution, Preval's five-year term is supposed to end Monday. An emergency decree passed by the Senate last year would allow him to remain in office until May, because his 2006 inauguration was delayed. Preval could remain in office until a successor is elected. The president has repeatedly stated that he wishes to remain in Haiti after his term is over - and not flee into exile as many of his predecessors have done. If Preval steps down, the Haitian constitution says the top member of Haiti's supreme court should serve as a caretaker leader for no more than 90 days. The court's presidency is currently vacant. As the election drama unfolds, many projects to help Haiti recover from the earthquake have slowed as donors wait to see if the country will face more chaos and violence. Diplomats have stressed that Haiti could lose billions of aid dollars if the Preval government and the electoral council do not not accept the OAS's recommendations.

Michel 'Sweet Micky' Martelly advances in Haiti (2/3/2011)

Christian Science Monitor
By Ezra Fieser
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The Organization of American States (OAS) has suggested Jude Célestin should be dropped to third place and, therefore, ineligible for the run-off vote. Law professor Mirlande Manigat and singer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly would then face off in the vote. Hillary Clinton presses Haiti's René Préval to break election stalemate How one program curtails the sex abuse that skyrocketed after Haiti earthquake Haiti earthquake anniversary highlights faltering aid effort The months-overdue announcement Thursday morning from Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) about who will advance to an election runoff for the presidency broke an electoral impasse that had gripped the country since Nov. 28, when Haitians went to polls in the first-round of voting. But election observers caution that the road ahead still looks rocky.
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"I'm not confident that just finalizing the results from the first round will bring stability to the country," says Robert Fatton, a University of Virginia professor who studies Haiti. "The first round was clearly fraudulent. What's to say that the second round will be any better?" Mr. Martelly and former First Lady Mirlande Manigat will now face off in second-round presidential voting on March 20. The announcement comes during a complex period in Haiti’s post-earthquake political landscape that began with the disputed first-round vote. That day of voting ended in violent demonstrations in Port-au-Prince after 12 of the 19 presidential candidates – including Martelly and Ms. Manigat – called for the election to be annulled due to fraud. Initial poll results from the CEP had placed Mr. Célestin, who was endorsed by President René Préval, ahead of Martelly by a margin of less than 1 percent of the vote, with Ms. Manigat firmly in the lead.
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A team from the Organization of American States (OAS) analyzed a sample of ballots and suggested Martelly, not Célestin, compete in the run-off election. The OAS findings were backed by the international community and pushed by the US. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Haiti on Sunday to urge Mr. Préval and the candidates to accept the report’s findings. President Préval had initially balked at the OAS recommendation, but under international pressure, his INITE (Unity) party released a statement last week urging Célestin to step aside. Martelly, known as “Sweet Micky,” was a colorful kompas musician before turning to politics. His profile as a singer won him support in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s toppled capital. He also received an endorsement from Pras Michel, a Haitian rapper and former member of band The Fugees with Wyclef Jean, who also sought to run for the presidency.
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Stevenson Lafond, a 27-year-old voter, recently told the Monitor that he wanted to see a new face in office. “’Sweet Micky’ isn’t a politician. He comes from outside politics and we’ve had enough politicians as president. They haven’t done much for us," he says. "Why not give someone from outside a chance?” That sentiment may play against former First Lady Manigat. A respected career academic, Ms. Manigat “may have a difficult time as president because she does not have a real base in Haitian politics, including in parliament,” says Yves Colon, a Haitian-born professor at the University of Miami.
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The Organization of American States (OAS) has suggested Jude Célestin should be dropped to third place and, therefore, ineligible for the run-off vote. Law professor Mirlande Manigat and singer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly would then face off in the vote. Hillary Clinton presses Haiti's René Préval to break election stalemate How one program curtails the sex abuse that skyrocketed after Haiti earthquake Haiti earthquake anniversary highlights faltering aid effort “Martelly can probably produce more people, more of a base than Manigat, but it’s going to be difficult for either of them because INITE [Préval’s political party] will still be powerful,” Professor Colon says.
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A steady, but often ignored, drumbeat calling for the election to be canceled and held anew has persisted. Last month, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a left-leaning think tank in Washington, said its own analysis found "it was not possible to name the top two vote getters" and "suggested holding the election anew." On Tuesday, the US Congressional Black Caucus released a statement urging “the United States and the international community to uphold the ideals of fairness and support a new Haiti election process that is free and fair, respecting the rights of the Haitian people.”
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Amid the tension around the elections, former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier shocked the country when he returned from exile in France last month. Mr. Duvalier, who says he returned to help the Haitian people, now faces charges ranging from corruption to torture dating to his rule of Haiti from 1971 to 1986. Duvalier’s return sparked rumors that former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide would attempt to follow suit. That’s exactly what’s happened. Mr. Aristide, who fled after an uprising in 2004 and has been living in South Africa, applied for a diplomatic passport to return to the earthquake-torn country. In a letter, his Miami-based attorney Ira Kurtzban asked the Foreign Affairs and Interior ministries to expedite the passport and for Haiti to begin talks with South Africa to facilitate Aristide’s return. Haitian authorities said they would process the passport request, potentially opening the door for Aristide’s eventual return.

Calls for a new election grow louder in Haiti (2/2/2011)

Miami Herald
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
jcharles@MiamiHerald.com
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As Haitian elections officials prepare to announce the first-round results of the country's chaotic and disputed Nov. 28 elections, calls continue to mount for a new vote. The Congressional Black Caucus' foreign policy task force on Tuesday called on ``the United States and the international community to uphold the ideals of fairness and support a new Haiti election process that is free and fair, respecting the rights of the Haitian people.'' Also calling for new elections are 19 Haitian and international organizations. They are calling on the Obama administration to ``cease supporting'' recommendations from the Organization of American States that suggests the legislative and presidential elections could be salvaged with an improved second-round and by switching of placements of the third- and second-place finishers announced in the preliminary count.
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Preliminary results had government-backed candidate Jude Célestin headed into a runoff with longtime opposition leader and former first lady Mirlande Manigat. The OAS report suggests that the runoff should be between Manigat and popular singer, Michel ``Sweet Micky'' Martelly, after a controversial review of 919 of 11,000 tally sheets. Experts recommended that 234 tally sheets be excluded as being irregular or fraudulent, which put a difference of .3 percentage points between Martelly and Célestin. ``Though it may take a few more months to meet the necessary conditions for such elections to be held, the benefits for Haitian democracy and recovery far outweigh the potential costs,'' the U.S. groups said in a statement. In recent days, a number of religious leaders in Haiti have joined the Group of 12 presidential candidates in asking President René Préval to scrap the first round. Préval has floated the idea of canceling just the presidential portion -- a move that has been rejected by the United States and others in the international community.
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Meanwhile, the Group of 12 and political opposition want to meet with Préval to discuss the handover of power to a transitional government in the coming days. Haitian elections officials have designated March 20 as the day of the runoffs. They can either accept the OAS recommendations, confirm the initial results of the presidential race or decide that there is a statistical tie for second and declare a three-person runoff. Any decision to cancel the election would come from Préval, who has not said whether he would cancel the entire elections. On Tuesday, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti warned employees that the security situation could deteriorate Wednesday and they should make preparations.

Edgy Haiti waits to see who will contest presidency (2/2/2011)

Reuters
By Joseph Guyler Delva and Allyn Gaestel
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Haitians will learn on Wednesday who will contest the presidency in a March run-off election shrouded in political uncertainty and complicated by the possible return home of a polarizing former leader. Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) is scheduled to announce definitive first-round results from chaotic Nov. 28 elections that triggered riots and fraud allegations in the poor, volatile Caribbean state. The council has to decide who will join former first lady Mirlande Manigat in the March 20 run-off -- popular musician Michel Martelly or government-backed Jude Celestin. Manigat had the most first-round votes but not enough to win outright. The renewed instability comes in the wake of a massive crippling earthquake a year ago that killed more than 300,000 people and a deadly cholera epidemic that has heaped misery on inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere's poorest state. The uncertain outlook has been further clouded by the reappearance of ghosts from Haiti's turbulent past. Former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier came home from exile in January, running into corruption and human rights charges, and firebrand populist ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is also preparing a homecoming from exile.
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The United States, United Nations and Organization of American States have weighed in to try to avoid an electoral debacle and more unrest that could threaten billions of dollars of reconstruction aid pledged by foreign donors. They have pressed Haitian authorities to adopt an OAS report that recommends revising preliminary Haitian results to put Martelly in the run-off in place of Celestin. OAS experts cited irregularities in vote tallies from November's vote. Despite a visit on Sunday by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ram home U.S. backing for the OAS option, the Provisional Electoral Council has given no clear indication that it will follow the OAS recommendation. Celestin, a government technocrat and protege of outgoing President Rene Preval, has refused to drop out despite pressure from his own INITE party. There is expectation that the OAS-recommended Manigat-Martelly line-up for the second round will prevail, not least because of the threat of protests by Martelly supporters if their candidate is excluded. They rioted in December when initial results from the electoral council put Celestin in the runoff, narrowly ahead of Martelly.
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"Now the CEP sees what the people want and now the United States, a strong power, is making them stand up for what the people want. They will kick Jude (Celestin) out (of the runoff). It's Martelly we want," said Jean-Claude Dece, 38, a construction worker and Martelly supporter. "There are no good options in Haiti but accepting the OAS formula and moving to a second round on March 20 appears to be the best one," Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue, told Reuters. He and other analysts saw the possible return of Aristide, a leftist former Roman Catholic priest who can mobilize fanatical supporters, as a potentially disruptive wild card in the already roiled political climate.
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"Aristide still has many supporters in Haiti and they are passionately committed to him," Shifter said. "But Aristide also arouses strong passions on the other side and his return is bound to make an orderly process in Haiti more problematic." Aristide became Haiti's first freely elected president in 1990 before being driven out by an armed revolt in 2004. There are fears that if he comes back before the runoff, it could cause unrest and hinder the second round. "Unfortunately, everything is possible in that environment," said Eduardo Gamarra, a Latin America and Caribbean expert at Florida International University. Some diplomats speculate the electoral council might opt for a three-way runoff between Manigat, Celestin and Martelly, given the tiny, disputed margins separating the last two. Preval's presidential mandate formally ends on Feb. 7 although he has parliament approval to stay on if necessary until May 14 so he can hand over to an elected successor. (Writing by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Bill Trott)

Hillary Clinton presses Haiti's René Préval to Break Stalemate

1/31/2011
By Ezra Fieser
Christian Science Monitor
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After two months of electoral stalemate from Haiti's disputed national election, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the Caribbean nation on Sunday with a clear message for their president: Move out of the way.
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More unexpected guests? Exiled ex-president Aristide eyes return to Haiti Haiti's political twist: Former dictator Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier shows up Haitian stability threatened in wake of contested presidential election "It is important that the election go forward so there can be a new president," she said in a series of interviews Sunday. "There is so much work to be done in Haiti, and the international community stands ready to help." Mrs. Clinton met with outgoing President René Préval – whose existing term expires Feb. 7– and the three leading presidential candidates from an initial round of voting on Nov. 28. The two leading vote-getters are to compete in a second round of presidential voting, now set for March 20 after a delay. The electoral council has said it would finalize the ballot Wednesday.
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Clinton did not mince words about who she prefers to see in the runoff, saying she would push for Mr. Préval to accept the recommendation of the Organization of American States (OAS). While initial election results showed former first lady of Haiti Mirlande Manigat winning the vote and Préval-backed candidate Jude Célestin placing second, OAS election monitors analyzed a sample of ballots and found popular singer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly had placed second. “We have made it very clear we support the OAS recommendations, and we would like to see those acted on,” she told reporters, according to a transcript, adding that "at this time" there was no talk of suspending aid to Haiti. Préval had initially balked at the OAS recommendation. His INITE (Unity) party, citing intimidation from the OAS, released a statement last week urging Mr. Célestin to step aside. Célestin has not announced his decision. There may yet be a middle way conducive to all parties. Robert Fatton Jr., a Haiti expert and professor at the University of Virginia, says one option being discussed is that the electoral council will announce a statistical tie between Célestin and Mr. Martelly, meaning three candidates will compete in the final round.
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“I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what they did. It’s probably the easiest thing for them. That way, they would not be rejecting the OAS report, just modifying it,” he says. “The question would be whether the Americans would [support] that.” Yet the OAS report has been criticized. An independent analysis of first-round ballots by the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research found Célestin did place second. The center recommended elections be held anew. Yves Colon, a Haitian-born professor at the University of Miami, says the US wants to see the election impasse resolved because “everything is hinging on the elections, meaning the reconstruction, the release of aid, everything. Nothing can be done until the election is resolved,” he says. More than a year after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck, the country still covered in rubble and tent cities. With the pace of reconstruction expected to pick up this year, Mr. Colon says there is reluctance to partner with a government in which Préval would still be influential. “Préval has not proven to be a very good partner. He’s been maneuvering behind the scenes … it’s Haitian politics as usual,” he says. “And Célestin is widely seen as Préval’s water boy.” Clinton said she was going to discuss whether Préval would stay in office beyond Feb. 7, when the new president was originally to be inaugurated, or if an interim government would take over.

Haiti to issue ex-president Aristide with passport (2/1/2011)

BBC
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The Haitian government says it is ready to issue former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide with a passport, opening the way for his possible return. Mr Aristide was ousted seven years ago, and has been living in exile. The news comes at a critical time, with the final results of the disputed first round of the presidential election due on Wednesday. He would be the second ousted president to return, after the surprise arrival two weeks ago of Jean-Claude Duvalier.General Secretary for the Haitian Presidency Fritz Longchamp told the Reuters news agency that "the Council of Ministers, under the leadership of President Rene Preval, decided that a diplomatic passport be issued to President Aristide, if he asks for it." The ministry of information issued a statement saying that as soon as it received a request from Mr Aristide, it would swiftly grant him the passport.
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Mr Aristide's lawyer quashed rumours that the former leader was already in Cuba, awaiting passage to Haiti. The lawyer said he had asked the Haitian government to facilitate "his immediate return". The move to grant Mr Aristide a visa comes as political tension runs high in Haiti, ahead of Wednesday's expected announcement of final first round results from November's presidential election. The surprise return of Jean-Claude Duvalier prompted street protests Preliminary results put government-backed candidate Jude Celestin in second place behind former first lady Mirlande Manigat, with pop star Michel Martelly in third. But international observers said the election was marred by widespread vote rigging in favour of Mr Celestin. Supporters of Mr Martelly took to the streets in protest demanding that their candidate go through to the second round. The United Nations, the Organisation of American States and US officials have recommended Mr Celestin be dropped from the race because of irregularities in the tally.
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His party has withdrawn its backing, but Mr Celestin has refused to confirm that he is pulling out. Political tension was further heightened by the return of former leader Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier on 16 January after 25 years in exile. Mr Aristide already announced his desire to return to Haiti a year ago, shortly after the devastating earthquake which left much of the country destroyed. At the time, he said he wanted to return to help his countrymen recover from the quake. Mr Aristide was the first democratically elected president of Haiti. The former Catholic priest first came to power in 1990, but was ousted only months later in a coup led by Brigadier-General Raoul Cedras. He returned to Haiti in 1994 after the military regime relinquished power in the face of an imminent US invasion. He served his term until 1996. He was re-elected in 2000 but was forced out of power again early in 2004, after several months of increasing political turmoil. Analysts say he still commands a sizeable group of supporters. Mr Aristide's party, Fanmi Lavalas, was barred from standing in the current election, allegedly due to technical errors in its application forms.

Clinton seeks to give Haiti 'post-quake boost' (AFP - 1/31/2011)

By Lachlan Carmichael
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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was due in Haiti on Sunday to give a boost to the impoverished Caribbean nation struggling to rebuild from last year's quake and decide its future leaders. The chief US diplomat, who traveled to Port-au-Prince days after a devastating temblor killed 220,000 people over a year ago, was to meet outgoing President Rene Preval as well as candidates in the disputed November polls.She will also visit a cholera clinic. Not only has little been rebuilt in Haiti since the January 2010 quake; its people have seen a cholera epidemic claim more than 4,000 lives since October and suffered violence and uncertainty following presidential and parliamentary elections.
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Clinton will "consult with members of civil society, political actors, Haiti's president and international partners on the ongoing electoral situation as well as reconstruction efforts," her spokesman Philip Crowley said. Among those she will meet is Edmond Mulet, the special representative of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who urged the world not to abandon Haiti when the anniversary of the quake was marked just over two weeks ago. "The United States and Haiti share the mutual commitment to building Haiti anew after the devastating earthquake one year ago, and to ensure a strong future for Haiti?s people and its democracy," Crowley said in a statement.Haiti's election commission has said it will announce definitive results from the election's first round on Wednesday and has scheduled a long-delayed second round for March 20. The final results of the second round will be announced on April 16, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) said Friday.
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The announcement of preliminary first round results last month kicked off days of unrest when Preval's handpicked candidate Jude Celestin narrowly edged a popular singer out of the second round run-off. According to preliminary results from the November 28 poll, Celestin garnered 7,000 more votes than Michel Martelly, securing a place in the run-off. Within hours of the announcement, protests swept Haitian towns, leaving five dead and the country in crisis as opposition candidates accused Preval and the electoral commission of rigging the poll. A team of international monitors called in by Preval found widespread vote tampering and fraud in Celestin's favor and recommended that he withdraw. But earlier this week, the ruling party bowed to weeks of US-led pressure and widespread allegations of fraud, announcing that Celestin would not advance to the next round. However, Celestin has yet to confirm his exit, and his spokesman said the CEP has not been officially notified. Celestin's exit would appear to leave the field open to Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady and the clear winner of the first round, and Martelly, the popular singer widely known as "Sweet Micky." Haitians had hoped the presidential and parliamentary elections would bring a new leadership that could rebuild the country. The tense political standoff was thrown into further confusion earlier this month by the surprise return of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, a former strongman driven out by massive protests 25 years ago.

Clinton Visits Haiti Beset by Undecided Election, Delayed Aid

1/30/2011
Bloomberg
By Nicole Gaouette
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to visit Haiti today to meet with Haitian President Rene Preval and presidential candidates as the outcome of Haiti’s election remains undecided and the effort to rebuild after last year’s earthquake is drawing criticism. “I’m going to do my own assessment about the way going forward,” Clinton told reporters traveling with her to Haiti today after she appeared on U.S. Sunday morning talk shows to urge elections in Egypt, where tens of thousands of demonstrators are demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. The top U.S. diplomat had planned to visit the Caribbean nation earlier, shortly after Haiti marked the one-year anniversary of the 7.0 earthquake that struck on Jan. 12, 2010. Presidential elections held Nov. 28 were marred by violence and allegations of fraud, with 12 of 18 presidential candidates calling for the vote to be annulled. A second round vote is scheduled for March 20. “There are strong indications that there was significant, you know, voter fraud and the preliminary findings do not reflect the actual voting of the Haitian people,” State Department Spokesman Philip J. Crowley said Jan. 26.
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The Organization of American States urged Preval’s ruling party presidential candidate Jude Celestin to withdraw from the runoff race after a recount showed him finishing behind Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady, and Haitian pop-singer Michel Martelly. Clinton is scheduled to meet with all three candidates. “We’ve made it clear we support the OAS recommendation,” Clinton told reporters today. “This is an international message. We stood behind the OAS when they sent their independent” officials to do an election assessment, Clinton said. Former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier returned Jan. 16 after 25 years in exile. Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, ousted in a 2004 rebellion, is also seeking to return after six years of exile in South Africa. The Haiti earthquake relief effort has been criticized by the British-based charity Oxfam, which issued a report Jan. 6 saying the relief effort was at a “standstill.”
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Reconstruction has been “steady but not adequate to the task we’re facing,” Clinton told reporters today. The U.S. isn’t considering cutting aid to Haiti, she said. Clinton’s husband, the United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti and former U.S. President Bill Clinton, acknowledged problems at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 27, saying he was not satisfied by progress in rebuilding Haiti. A survey by the Chronicle of Philanthropy found that of the $1.4 billion Americans donated to Haiti, only 38 percent has been spent to aid the country’s recovery and rebuilding effort. Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, has only received $1.2 billion of the more than $5 billion pledged in March for earthquake relief, according to a Jan. 28 World Bank report. Such aid is “essential” to rebuilding an economy that contracted by about 120 percent after last year’s quake, the International Monetary Fund said in August.
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While the pace of reconstruction is “relatively slow,” the Caribbean nation is showing signs of a recovery, led by growth in agriculture, construction and textile manufacturing, the IMF said. In Haiti, 80 percent of the population lives under the poverty line, according to the CIA World Factbook. Two- thirds of Haitians rely on agriculture for their livelihood. The country of 10 million has a gross domestic product of $6 billion, according to the World Bank. The government relies on international aid, while remittances are the primary source of foreign exchange, equaling nearly a quarter of GDP and more than twice the earnings from exports, according to the Central Intelligence Agency website. In 2010, the U.S. Congress extended a law to provide Haiti tariff-free access to apparel products. The apparel sector accounts for three-quarters of Haitian exports and nearly one- tenth of GDP, according to the CIA. To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Washington at ngaouette@bloomberg.net.

Clinton says no plans to suspend US aid to Haiti (1/29/2011)

Associated Press
By BRADLEY KLAPPER
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Clinton says the U.S. is deeply committed to helping the impoverished nation rebuild from last year's earthquake and cope with a cholera epidemic. She told reporters traveling with her that the U.S. would push for recommendations made by international experts about the fraud-marred first round in the presidential voting in November. Those experts said President Rene Preval's preferred successor finished third — and the U.S. wants that candidate to bow out. Clinton plans to meet with Preval and the three leading candidates. The runoff is in March. Clinton says she sees no circumstances where the U.S. would withhold aid for Haiti.

Clinton to discuss reconstruction, election standoff in Haiti

CNN
1/30/2011
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Haiti on Sunday to discuss the nation's reconstruction efforts and the disputed November polls with top officials. Clinton will meet with Haitian President Rene Preval, other political leaders and electoral candidates. She also plans to visit a cholera treatment clinic. Haiti's political crisis will not be resolved until well into spring as the nation's election panel announced a timetable for a runoff and subsequent vote tally. Electoral officials will this week announce the long-awaited results of the disputed presidential vote, with a runoff scheduled for March 20. Final results will not be known until April 16. Attempts to resolve the political turmoil came as the toll in the nation's cholera outbreak surged past 4,000, the public health ministry said.
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More than 200,000 people have been sickened and 4,030 have died as of January 24, according to the latest report posted by the ministry. Haiti, which was struck by a massive earthquake a year ago, has been struggling to recover. Its troubles were compounded first by cholera and then by the November 28 presidential elections that became mired in controversy. In early December, the electoral council announced that former first lady Mirlande Manigat had won but lacked a majority of votes for an outright victory. Initial results put her in a runoff with Jude Celestin, a protege of the president. The third-place candidate, popular musician Michel Martelly, claimed he had won more votes than Celestin and a review of results by an Organization of American States team supported that contention. That review suggested that Martelly earned a spot in the runoff. It's unclear whether Preval's ruling Inite (Unity) party plans to withdraw its support of Celestin in light of the election review. Discontent with Preval and his government manifested itself on the streets of Haiti after the preliminary results were announced. Haitians charged vote fraud and burned cars, tires and Celestin's campaign headquarters in Port-au-Prince. The electoral council said it will announce the final results of the first round on Wednesday.

Haiti ruling party pulls candidate from run-off (1/26/2011)

AFP
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Haiti's ruling party bowed to weeks of US-led pressure Wednesday and pulled its candidate out of the presidential run-off after he was found to have benefited from widespread fraud. "Even though we are certain Jude Celestin received the necessary number of votes and was therefore through to the second round, INITE (Unity) has agreed to withdraw his candidacy for the presidency," a party statement said. There was no immediate confirmation from Celestin himself, and one source said he was refusing to sign the necessary documentation and threatening to hold a press conference to deny the move. The United States has led warnings that Haiti -- still emerging from decades of political upheaval, dictatorship and bloodshed -- must install a credible government or risk losing international support.
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The impoverished Caribbean country is still struggling to recover from a devastating January 2010 earthquake, and is dependent on international aid to feed its 10 million people. According to preliminary results from the November 28 first round poll, Celestin garnered 7,000 more votes than popular singer Michel Martelly, securing a place in a run-off against former first lady Mirlande Manigat. Within hours of the announcement, protests swept Haitian towns, leaving five dead and the country in crisis as opposition candidates accused President Rene Preval and the electoral commission of rigging the poll.
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A team of international monitors called in by Preval found widespread vote tampering and fraud in Celestin's favor and recommended he should withdraw from the race and leave the field clear for a Martelly-Manigat battle. The second round, originally scheduled for January 16, has been indefinitely postponed, even though Preval is due to step down in early February and hand over leadership of the poorest country in the Americas. Political tensions have been furthered heightened by the surprise return earlier this month of ousted dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier after 25 years in exile, mostly in France. Duvalier has been charged by Haitian prosecutors with corruption, embezzlement of millions of dollars from state funds and criminal association during his repressive 1971-1986 rule.
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Four individual lawsuits alleging torture, forced exile and crimes against humanity have also been lodged against the former strongman, whose political motivations, if any, remain unclear. In the past week, the United States has led intensified efforts to force a resolution to Haiti's political impasse. Top diplomats from the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and France met with election officials on Monday to press them to accept international monitors' recommendations. And last week, Washington revoked the visas of an unspecified number of officials. Haitian media reports said the move was against nine or 10 members of Celestin's party. Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, had earlier warned Haiti to carry out the recommendations of Organization of American States (OAS) monitors and establish a legitimate government or risk losing goodwill. Hours before Wednesday's ruling party statement, US senators called for a democratic solution to the crisis in a symbolic resolution urging that a legitimate new government take office on February 7 or soon after. The measure, crafted by both senators from the state of Florida -- Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio -- reaffirmed US support for the long-term reconstruction of Haiti.

Haiti's Ruling Party Says Candiadte Out But No Confirmation

1/26/2011
Associated Press
By JONATHAN M. KATZ
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Haiti's ruling party announced Wednesday that President Rene Preval's chosen successor is withdrawing from the disputed race for president under pressure from the U.S., the Organization of American States and local protests. But it was not immediately clear if the Unity party's statement was enough to end the candidacy of government construction official Jude Celestin, who had been heading to a runoff vote against former first lady Mirlande Manigat. Rival candidates and some foreign governments have questioned the results of the first round of voting that put in Celestin in second place. Electoral council spokesman Pierre Thibault Junior told The Associated Press that the council "has not received anything formally" from the Celestin campaign.
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Haitian leaders have come under strong pressure from Washington, the OAS and others to drop Celestin from the two-person runoff in favor of Manigat and popular singer Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly. The December release of preliminary results showing Celestin edging out Martelly for the last spot in the runoff triggered widespread protests and rioting in major Haitian cities. Disgust with the once-popular Preval soared both in the streets of Haiti and in some international circles following the January 2010 earthquake over what was seen as ineffective leadership as millions suffered in homeless camps and broken buildings. Celestin was seen as his "dauphin," or royal heir. An OAS-sponsored team of experts was called in to sort out the electoral mess. That analysis, which is not universally accepted, said their analysis showed that tossing out fraudulent ballots resulted in Martelly finishing second. It was seized on by the United States, France, Canada and others, many of whose officials had questioned the announced first-round results as soon as they were released.
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Wednesday's statement from the Unity party officials, whose faction is known as Inite in Creole, said their decision was aimed at maintaining stability in the politically fragile country under what it deemed the threat of an embargo from the international community. "Unity understand the game very well," said the letter written in Haitian Creole and distributed to journalists. "Because Unity does not want the people to suffer even more, we chose not to provoke the international community over the election." "We thank Jude for understanding the situation, though neither he nor we agree with the way things have occurred." The Unity party coordinator, former Sen. Joseph Lambert, confirmed the letter from himself and other senior party officials including Kelly Bastien, Levaillant Louis Young and Joseph Moliere. But he told AP by text message that: "It's only Celestin who can (drop) out of the race legally." Celestin, who has made few statements to the media during his campaign, has not commented so far.
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The Martelly campaign said it was reviewing the situation. The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince said it was not sure that the embattled president's successor was really out of the race. "We're still monitoring the situation which is very fluid and we're continuing to seek an electoral outcome that reflects the will of the Haitian people," spokesman Jon Piechowski told AP. The U.S., which currently holds nearly $1 billion in reconstruction aid originally promised for last year, is insisting on the OAS recommendations in order to guarantee "sustained support from the international community, including the United States." The U.S. State Department also confirmed it had revoked the visas of about a dozen Haitian officials amid the controversy.
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"It's not that we are picking one (candidate) over the other. It's that there are strong indications that there was significant voter fraud, that the preliminary findings do not reflect the actual voting of the Haitian people," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters Wednesday before the announcement. Among the vocal critics of the OAS recommendations has been a left-leaning Washington think tank, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which maintains that the entire election should be thrown out. One of its principal objections is the exclusion of the Fanmi Lavalas party of ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. "The U.S., France, Canada and other actors in the international community have no justification to demand that the Haitian government adopt the OAS Mission's conclusions," CEPR's Dan Beeton said in an email to journalists.

Haiti's tainted would-be leader may quit run-off (1/24/2011)

AFP
By Clarens Renois
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Haiti's two-month political stalemate appeared close to resolution Tuesday as the ruling party said its candidate may quit the presidential run-off, after deadly protests and fraud allegations. Jude Celestin could "withdraw his candidature in the next hours," Senator Joseph Lambert, a senior INITE (Unity) party official, told Radio Metropole, after weeks of international pressure to end the political crisis. The party of President Rene Preval could also throw its support behind one of the two finalists, he said. "In any case, we will come out winning, because INITE will win the legislative elections and the next president will have to negotiate with us," Lambert said. The United States, a top aid donor to its Caribbean neighbor, has led warnings that Haiti -- still emerging from decades of political upheaval, dictatorship and bloodshed -- must install a credible government or risk losing international support.
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Haiti's election commission known as the CEP had initially ruled that Celestin, Preval's handpicked successor, had come in second in the November 28 presidential and legislative elections. According to preliminary results, Celestin garnered 7,000 more votes than popular singer Michel Martelly, securing a place in a run-off vote against former first lady Mirlande Manigat. But within hours of the announcement, protests swept Haitian towns, leaving five dead and the country -- still struggling to recover from a devastating January 2010 earthquake --in political limbo. The run-off vote was also postponed, even though Preval is due to step down in early February and hand over power in the poorest country in the Americas.
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A team of monitors called in by Preval found widespread vote tampering and fraud in Celestin's favor and recommended he should withdraw from the race and leave the field clear for a Martelly-Manigat battle. Political tensions have been furthered heightened by the surprise return earlier this month of ousted dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, who ended his 25-year exile saying he had come to work for national reconciliation. Top international diplomats pressed Haitian election officials Monday once again to accept the recommendation of the experts from the pan-regional Organization of American States (OAS). The OAS recommendations "show the path to follow to get past this impasse," UN envoy Edmond Mulet told AFP after a 90-minute meeting in Port-au-Prince between diplomats and election officials. "It's up to the authorities, to the CEP, whether or not to implement these recommendations, but it's the path to follow and we are hoping they do," said Mulet, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's representative in Haiti. Both Mulet and the US ambassador to Haiti, Kenneth Merten, stressed the international community did not support canceling the polls, as had been mooted by some officials. "We simply want the will of the Haitian people to be respected and we are certainly in favor of the continuation of the elections," said Merten.

Préval Pressured To Schedule Runoff (1/24/2011)

BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
jcharles@MiamiHerald.com
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PORT-AU-PRINCE -- With just 14 days left in his presidential term, Haitian President René Préval could find himself deemed illegitimate and his government not recognized by the international community unless runoff elections to choose his successor are announced before Feb. 7, diplomatic sources say. In ongoing discussions within the international community Sunday, it was agreed that should Préval seek to pull the plug on the presidential elections and stay on beyond Feb. 7, some countries would request that the Organization of American States start consultations at the Permanent Council level in order to declare him illegitimate based on the Democratic Charter of the Americas. ``No recognition of him as president, Jean-Max Bellerive as prime minister after that,'' said a diplomat, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter. In recent days, Haitian authorities have floated the idea of canceling the presidential elections and holding a first and second round before May 14. Earlier this year, Haitian senators agreed to allow Préval to remain in office until May 14, five years to the day he assumed power in 2006, if his successor had not been elected by Feb. 7.
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But in recent days the international community has grown increasingly impatient and frustrated with the stubborn president. Last week, the Obama administration stepped up pressure on Haiti by revoking U.S. visas ``for a number of'' Haitian government officials and citizens close to Préval. Also, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, suggested the country could lose international support unless it moves forward. The United States and others are urging Haiti to accept the findings of an OAS report that suggests government-backed candidate Jude Célestin be removed from the runoff spot. Preliminary election results had Célestin headed into a runoff with former first lady Mirlande Manigat. But according to the OAS report, the runoff should be between Manigat and musician Michel ``Sweet Micky'' Martelly. Préval and Bellerive have taken issue with the report, saying that its methodology, based on a review of 234 tally sheets, is flawed. On Friday, Haitian elections officials spent about five hours listening to disputes by attorneys for Célestin and Martelly, as well as one other candidate.
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Hearings are scheduled to resume Monday. That same day, the eight members of Haiti's electoral council, who have said they will take the OAS report into consideration, are scheduled to meet with the international community. The international community paid most of the $29 million elections tab. ``Préval's constitutional term is coming to an end as of Feb. 7 and the international community is trying to find a way of supporting the electoral process for a second round after he is gone,'' the diplomat said. Under the Haitian Constitution, the president of country's highest court would be president and the current government, led by Bellerive, would remain in place until the new president is inaugurated. On Saturday evening, Préval made a surprise trip to the Dominican Republic. Some believe he's trying to get Leonel Fernandez to help mediate the political crisis, along with former presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Bill Clinton of the United States.

Haiti braces for unrest ahead of protests (AFP - 1/22/2011)

By Clarens Renois
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Haiti braced for more unrest on Saturday after calls for fresh demonstrations to demand the annulment of November presidential elections marred by fraud allegations. The calls came as Haiti's election commission (CEP) began hearing legal complaints about the elections, the initial results of which saw President Rene Preval's handpicked candidate edge a popular singer out of a run-off. The political crisis has compounded the woes of the western hemisphere's poorest country, still in ruins from a catastrophic earthquake a year ago that killed some 220,000 people and now battling a cholera outbreak. And the surprise return of former strongman Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier -- who ruled Haiti with an iron-fist for 15 years before he was driven into exile in 1986 -- has further muddied the political waters. "There is only one way (forward), and that is the complete annulment of the elections," said Jean-Henry Ceant, one of 12 presidential candidates who have called for "peaceful" demonstrations on Sunday at 9:00 am (1400 GMT).
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Another of the 12 candidates, Charles Henry Baker, on Friday filed a formal complaint with the election commission, saying the November 28 vote was "riddled with fraud and marked by irregularities." Election monitors from the Organization of American States (OAS) have said Preval's candidate Jude Celestin should step aside, allowing the singer Michel Martelly to face front-runner Mirlande Manigat, a popular former first lady, in a second round run-off that has been indefinitely delayed. The election commission has said it would take the report into account but would only revise the initial rankings based on legal complaints. The announcement of the initial results in mid-December saw Martelly's supporters pour into the streets in days of violent riots with rival factions that left at least five people dead. "The electoral system is broken," Martelly told reporters on Friday. "We'll take to the streets peacefully if the CEP doesn't accept the OAS recommendations."
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The United States, backed by Britain and France, has warned Haiti's leaders that they should follow the OAS recommendations to ensure a credible government is in place or risk losing international support. Stepping up the pressure on Preval, the US State Department said Friday it had revoked visas for some Haitian government officials. The former "president for life" Duvalier, who has returned to Haiti 25 years after being driven out by massive protests, has said he has no intention of wading into the post-election morass. But he has not ruled out a future political role in the country despite a growing number of legal challenges from the current government and those who say they are victims of his regime, and many Haitians fear his ambitions. Duvalier's 1971-1986 reign was brutally enforced by the dreaded Tonton Macoutes, a secret police force loyal to his family that has been accused of abducting, torturing and killing tens of thousands of people. He has been formally charged with corruption, embezzlement of millions of dollars from state funds and criminal association, and six private lawsuits have been filed over alleged human rights violations. The Swiss government alleges Duvalier looted between $400 million and $900 million from Haiti during his rule, and Haiti's chief prosecutor said legal complaints have been pouring in since the ex-strongman's return last Sunday. On Friday, in his first public statement since his arrival, Duvalier said he had come back to work for national unity and expressed sorrow to "fellow countrymen who say, rightly, that they were victims under my government." However, he appeared to reserve his greatest sympathy for supporters of his regime who he said were the targets of revenge attacks after his departure.

Canada Urges Haiti to Accept OAS Report Findings (1/22/2011)

AFP
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Canada on Friday joined calls for Haiti to accept OAS election monitors’ recommendations that include ruling out the president’s protege from a runoff. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Canada "endorses" the Organization of American States’ report on preliminary results of the Haitian presidential election. And he urged Haiti’s provisional election council "to accept and implement the report’s recommendations and to proceed with the next steps of the electoral process accordingly." "Time is running out," he warned. Election monitors from the OAS said key candidate Michel Martelly actually finished second, not third as was initially claimed, ahead of President Rene Preval’s chosen candidate, Jude Celestin. Adjusting the totals to disallow fraudulent tallies, the monitors said Celestin had placed third with 21.9 percent of the vote, which would rule him out of a second round run-off. In second place Martelly, a popular singer with 22.2 percent, trailed former first lady Mirlande Manigat who won 31.6 percent of the vote, the OAS report said. The OAS also recommended that poll workers and supervisors of polling stations where irregularities were discovered be replaced prior to a second round of voting.

U.S. Revokes Visas of Haitian Officials (AP - 1/21/2011)

By BEN FOX and JONATHAN M. KATZ
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The U.S. State Department said Friday it revoked the visas of about a dozen Haitian officials, increasing pressure on the government to drop its favored candidate from the presidential runoff in favor of a popular contender who is warning of renewed protests if he is not on the ballot. Revoking visas that let prominent Haitians enter the United States is the latest step in an escalating effort to persuade Haiti's government to accept international monitors' finding that Michel Martelly rightfully belongs on the second-round ballot Martelly has adopted a combative stance and urged his supporters to take to the streets peacefully if the electoral council does not allow him to run against top vote-getter Mirlande Manigat in the runoff, in place of Jude Celestin. Demonstrations in December shut down all Haiti's major cities for days, hampering earthquake reconstruction and efforts to halt a cholera outbreak that has killed nearly 4,000 people. "We are ready to fight for justice for everyone," Martelly said at a news conference while surrounded by bodyguards. "We won't accept an electoral coup." Preliminary official results from the first round of voting showed Martelly failing to reach the runoff - finishing just behind Celestin, President Rene Preval's chosen successor.
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But an international team of experts from the Organization of American States found problems with the count. Its calculation indicated Martelly, a singer known as "Sweet Mickey," beat Celestin and should be in the runoff. The U.S. and other foreign forces have been pushing the government to accept that ruling. A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of privacy concerns, would not specify the names of the officials whose visas were revoked or state the specific reason for the action. But State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley stressed to reporters that the U.S. wants to see the Haitian government accept the OAS recommendations. "To the extent that there are individuals who are connected with episodes of violence or corruption, you know, we will not hesitate to take appropriate action," he said. Haiti has been in a political crisis since the announcement of results from the Nov. 28 election, which featured documented cases of fraud and widespread disorganization.
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The second round was originally scheduled for Jan. 16 but postponed amid the wrangling. Critics including the left-leaning Washington think tank Center for Economic and Policy Research have argued that the entire election was flawed and should be thrown out and done over. If the Haitian government accepts the OAS recommendation, Martelly, a populist who says he will be more active than Preval and advocates re-establishing Haiti's banned military, would be a strong challenger to Manigat, a former first lady and law professor who is a more muted conservative and finished comfortably in first place. Though he accepted the OAS team's presence during the election, Preval is reportedly unhappy with its recommendations and incensed that its report was leaked to the press before he had officially received it. He has not commented publicly. The provisional electoral council, appointed by Preval, played down the OAS recommendations, saying it would consider them as one appeal among others filed by candidates and observers.
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But on Thursday, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, made it clear that Washington wants the report implemented. "Sustained support from the international community, including the United States, requires a credible process that represents the will of the Haitian people," Rice said. Washington is waiting to release nearly $1 billion in promised post-earthquake reconstruction aid to Haiti. Billions more have been promised by other nations. Martelly read Rice's comments as a threat of possible sanctions similar to a crippling embargo against the military junta that ruled Haiti in the early 1990s. "How can Haiti afford an embargo right now?" he said. Haitian radio also reported Friday that the U.S. tourist visas of several officials close to Preval had been suspended. The U.S. Embassy declined to comment, citing privacy rules for individual visa decisions. U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy also warned that Haiti could face more political instability unless the government accepts the OAS recommendations. Following the Dec. 7 announcement of the election results, pro-Martelly demonstrators paralyzed cities across Haiti for days. The United States renewed its travel warning for Haiti on Thursday, citing in part the recent demonstrations. "We are going to take to the streets peacefully," Martelly said Friday. "I am in a fight to make sure the voice of the people is respected." Associated Press writer Desmond Butler in Washington contributed to this report.

Haiti's political crisis deepens (AFP - 1/21/2011)

By Alice Speri and Emily Troutman
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PORT-AU-PRINCE — Haiti's political crisis deepened Friday as a presidential hopeful vowed further street protests, and the United States stepped up pressure revoking visas for some government officials. Adding fuel to the fire is the presence of ousted ex-dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, who five days after returning without warning after more than two decades in exile, has yet to explain why he is back. Many fear he is seeking a return to power by capitalizing on the current political chaos stalking the quake-ravaged Caribbean country. "The electoral system is broken," said popular singer Michel Martelly, who came in third place in November's presidential elections according to initial results released by Haiti's election commission (CEP). Martelly said he believes the fix is in, and that he will be pushed out of the second round of the elections despite the recommendations of international monitors from the Organization of American States. "We'll take to the streets peacefully, if the CEP doesn't accept the OAS recommendations," Martelly told journalists.
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The OAS said many of the tally sheets it reviewed had been tampered with or altered in favor of President Rene Preval's chosen candidate, Jude Celestin. If the results were adjusted to take account of the fraud, then Martelly had finished second, ahead of Celestin who should quit the race, the OAS mission said. Martelly would then battle former first lady Mirlande Manigat in a delayed second round run-off. The United States, backed by Britain and France, has warned Haiti's leaders that they should follow the OAS recommendations to ensure a credible government is in place. "Sustained support from the international community, including the United States, will require a credible process that represents the will of the Haitian people," the US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said Thursday.
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Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is struggling to recover from a deadly 2010 earthquake, which razed whole areas of the capital, leaving Haitians more dependent than ever on international aid. Stepping up the pressure on Preval, the US State Department said Friday it had revoked visas for an unspecified number of Haitian government officials. "Our focus at the present time is in ensuring a free, fair, credible election process in Haiti," spokesman Philip Crowley said. "To the extent that there are individuals connected with episodes of violence or corruption, we will not hesitate to take appropriate actions," he warned. Haitian media earlier reported that nine or 10 members of Celestin's party had had their US visas revoked.
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Meanwhile, "Baby Doc" Duvalier was also under pressure as Amnesty International said Haitian officials were opening a probe into alleged torture and killings during his 15-year rule from 1971 to 1986. "It's an important moment for fighting impunity," Gerardo Ducos, Haiti researcher for Amnesty, told reporters. Duvalier returned on Sunday to the Caribbean nation he fled in disgrace in 1986 after being ousted in a popular revolt. The exact motives behind Duvalier's return remain unclear. He has said he wants to help the country after last year's devastating earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people and left 1.3 million homeless.
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But one theory, which has gained wide currency here, is that he returned in hope of getting back some $5.7 million frozen in Swiss bank accounts. Under a Swiss law which goes into effect on February 1 the last of Duvalier's frozen assets could be confiscated and returned to Haiti even if that state has not taken legal action to get them. The law sets forth two conditions, however -- that the failure to take action was due to the weakness of the state's structures, or the unavailability for trial of the affected person. "That means that Switzerland could confiscate the money and repatriate it to Haiti, without Haiti having to prosecute Duvalier," said Reed Brody, counsel to Human Rights Watch. "But if Duvalier goes back to Haiti and is not prosecuted, then he could say I was available for prosecution, and you didn't prosecute me: Give me my money back." The Swiss government alleges Duvalier looted between $400 million and $900 million dollars from Haiti during his rule.

Haiti must respect international mission’s electoral findings

1/20/2011
UN News
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Haiti’s electoral council must take full account of an international mission’s findings, reportedly eliminating the Government candidate from the presidential run-off, or face the prospect of considerable unrest, the United Nations peacekeeping chief warned today. “After a year marked by the devastating earthquake of 12 January 2010, and the ongoing cholera epidemic, it is of paramount importance that the current political crisis is brought to a swift conclusion so that the Government and people of Haiti can focus on the challenges of reconstruction and recovery,” Under-Secretary-General Alain Le Roy told the Security Council. Thousands of protesters last month rampaged through the streets of Port-au-Prince, the capital, accusing the ruling government coalition of rigging the results, after tallies of the 28 November first round released by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) put former first lady Mirlande Manigat and outgoing President Rene Préval’s party candidate Jude Celestin in first and second place, qualifying for the run-off. Popular musician Michel Martelly was less than one percentage point behind in third place, but excluded from the run-off between the two top-vote winners.
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Mr. Préval invited an Organization of American States (OAS) mission to assess the results, and its report, delivered 10 days ago, recommends putting Mr. Martelly in second place, thus eliminating Mr. Celestin, according to media accounts. These accounts say that Mr. Préval “has reservations” over the mission’s findings. “Having officially received the report of the OAS technical mission, the CEP must now honour its commitment to fully take into account the report’s recommendations with a view to ensuring that the results of the elections truly reflect the will of the Haitian people,” Mr. Le Roy said. “Should the CEP decide otherwise, Haiti may well be faced with a constitutional crisis, with the possibility of considerable unrest and insecurity. At this critical juncture, it is vital that the CEP be allowed to carry out its work without political interference,” he added, urging Member States to continue working with all parties “to ensure that CEP is able to steer the electoral process towards an outcome that is both credible and legitimate.” He told reporters afterwards that the 15-member body all agreed that the OAS mission’s recommendations should be followed. “Everyone expressed the need that the will of the people be respected,” he said.
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In his briefing Mr. Le Roy noted that for the time being, the overall security situation remains calm despite sporadic instances of violence, and he mentioned the return from exile earlier this week of former president Jean-Claude Duvalier, which media accounts have cited as a possible destabilizing factor. Earlier this week the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said there were major issues concerning human rights abuses that took place in Haiti during the 15 years that Mr. Duvalier was in power from 1971 to 1986. “In the critical days and weeks ahead, it is vital that the international community stand united in impressing upon all relevant actors in Haiti the need to set aside their narrow partisan interests and work towards a better future for their country,” he said. “Haiti is at a crossroads. The choices made in coming days will determine whether the country continues to move forward along the path to stability and long-term development. The recommendations of the OAS technical mission provide the elements of a path out the current crisis and merit our full support,” he added, pledging full UN support “to ensure that dialogue, and respect for the country’s laws and institutions ultimately prevail.”
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A peacekeeping mission, known by its French acronym MINUSTAH, currently with nearly 12,000 military and police personnel, has been on the ground in Haiti since mid-2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest. Giving the Council an update on the humanitarian situation in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos warned of the “urgent need for massive mobilization activities to promote prevention and early treatment” in the cholera epidemic, which has already infected almost 200,000 people and killed over 3,700 since October. She noted that Haiti has “ideal conditions” for cholera’s spread, with poor and non-existent water, sanitation, and healthcare infrastructure, population density especially in the urban slums, and lack of knowledge of how to prevent infections through hygienic steps. But the overall fatality rate has dropped from a peak of 9 per cent to around 2 per cent, indicating that while the infection is still spreading, treatment facilities and intensive public information campaigns on how to protect from the disease are working. She warned, however, that these efforts require stability in the country, adding: “If aid supplies and aid workers cannot move around freely, or if sick people cannot reach help in time, the fatality rate will quickly rise again.” On the earthquake, which killed 220,000 people and made 1.5 million others homeless, Ms. Amos said much had been achieved in the past year but 800,000 people are still in camps. “The relief effort has helped millions of people, but it has not – and will not – provide the long-term solutions which are desperately needed. Accelerating recovery efforts must be the absolute priority for 2011,” she cautioned. “It is important to still be realistic about how long it is going to take to get everybody to where they want and need to be. We cannot expect that Haiti, the poorest and least developed country in the Western Hemisphere before the earthquake, will be rebuilt in one year or even two. Humanitarian agencies are prepared to stand beside the poorest and most vulnerable Haitian people for as long as it takes to recover.”

Haiti Under US-Led Pressure Over Tainted Vote (1/20/2011)

AFP
By Edouard Guihaire
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US-led pressure mounted on Haiti's President Rene Preval to withdraw his handpicked protege from elections after international monitors slammed the vote as tainted by fraud. Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said Haiti must carry out the recommendations of an investigation by the Organization of American States (OAS) and establish a legitimate government or risk losing goodwill. "Sustained support from the international community, including the United States, will require a credible process that represents the will of the Haitian people," Rice told a UN Security Council debate on Haiti. "We urge the Haitian authorities to outline a very clear way forward that will lead promptly to the inauguration of a democratically-elected government." The US move, backed by Britain and France, came as the shock return of former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier threatened to further muddy the political waters in the quake-hit Caribbean nation.
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Duvalier, who returned late Sunday after 25 years in exile, has yet to explain why he came back to his homeland, and whether his motivation is political or personal. He has been charged by Haitian prosecutors with corruption, embezzlement of millions of dollars from state funds and criminal association during his repressive 1971-1986 rule. Four individual lawsuits alleging torture, enforced exile and crimes against humanity have also been lodged against him. Duvalier's lawyer Reynold Georges said the former strongman planned to stay in the country and clear his name, and a Haitian judge later said the ousted leader had in fact been barred from leaving the country. "A flight ban has been issued against Duvalier. He is barred from leaving the country because there is a court order against him," a Haitian judge told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
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But Duvalier's presence is adding to the political uncertainty as the country remains in limbo over the disputed presidential elections. The OAS mission on Wednesday called for Preval's protege Jude Celestin to be eliminated from the delayed second round of the presidential elections. Initial results in mid-December showed that opposition candidate Michel Martelly lost out to ruling party contender Celestin by less than 7,000 votes, sparking riots between rival factions that left at least five people dead. Opposition candidates accused Preval of being in cahoots with the electoral commission to orchestrate massive fraud in favor of 48-year-old Celestin. After analyzing tally sheets, the OAS mission advised that the second and third finishers should be switched so Martelly would face Mirlande Manigat -- the 70-year-old former first lady who clearly topped the poll -- in the run-off. But Preval has yet to comment on the report and the election commission insists it can only change the order if legal complaints from the candidates are upheld.
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"We urge the Provisional Electoral Council to implement the OAS recommendations," Rice said, calling for a "timely" timetable to hold the decisive second round. A year after the quake claimed more than 220,000 lives, much of the capital remains in ruins and a desperate populace is crying out for responsible leadership as the toll from an ensuing cholera epidemic nears 4,000. And the international community, which has pledged some 10 billion dollars to help Haiti rebuild after a devastating earthquake, does not want to just sit by and watch a protracted legal process ensue. UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy told the Security Council he believed the electoral commission would announce definitive first round results on January 31 and aim to hold the second round mid-February. Memories of Duvalier's brutal regime remain strong, and human rights groups have accused him and his late father of having presided over decades of oppression and abuse. Rice highlighted US concern over Duvalier's return. "Given the continuing turmoil surrounding the November 28 election, the United States is concerned about the unpredictable impact that Duvalier's return may have on Haiti's political situation," she told the UN Security Council. "My government is clear about Duvalier's notorious record of human rights abuses and corruption."

US: Haiti Needs Credible Elections (AP - 1/20/2011)

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Thursday that Haiti must accept the Organization of American States' call to replace the candidate backed by President Rene Preval in a disputed presidential election. American Ambassador Susan Rice said that Haiti has to sponsor a credible election if it wants to retain the support of the United States and the international community. The OAS, a regional political grouping in the Americas, has called for government construction official Jude Celestin — who is backed by Preval — to be dropped to third place in the preliminary tally because of widespread election fraud. He would be replaced in second place by singer Michel Martelly, who would face a runoff election with former first lady Mirlande Manigat, the top vote-getter.
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Haiti's electoral commission has said it will consider the OAS recommendation as one among many appeals filed before the Jan. 24 deadline, but will not be bound by it. "Sustained support from the international community, including the United States, requires a credible process that represents the will of the Haitian people, as expressed by their votes," Rice told the U.N. Security Council. Rice spoke during a council briefing on the situation in Haiti one year after a devastating earthquake killed more than 200,000 people. U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy warned that Haiti could face more political instability unless the government accepts the OAS electoral recommendations.
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"Should the (electoral council) decide otherwise, Haiti may well be faced with a constitutional crisis, with the possibility of considerable unrest and insecurity," Le Roy told council. The U.N. has a 12,000-strong peacekeeping operation in the Caribbean country. Street riots erupted in December when provisional electoral results showed that Celestin had edged out Martelly, a popular figure known as "Sweet Micky," for second place and the chance to advance to the runoff. Martelly supporters barricaded streets and burned Celestin's campaign headquarters to demand their man be named president. A Jan. 16 runoff was postponed and the OAS called in to review the allegations of fraud. Haiti's political situation remains shaky one year after the earthquake. A cholera epidemic has complicated reconstruction efforts, and this week's surprise return of former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier has provided a new distraction. After the briefing, Le Roy acknowledged to reporters that "for the time being, the political situation is very complicated" with Duvalier's return.
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It could become even more complicated because former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is saying he might return as well. "Given the continuing turmoil surrounding the November 2010 election, the United States is concerned about the unpredictable impact that Duvalier's return may have on Haiti's political situation," Rice told the council. Duvalier was 19 when he assumed the presidency following the death of his father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, and ruled from 1971-1986. The two leaders presided over a dark chapter in modern Haitian history with a secret police force known as the Tonton Macoute torturing and killing political opponents. "My government is clear about Duvalier's notorious record of human rights abuses and corruption," Rice said. "The situation on the ground is obviously fluid, but the government of Haiti seems to be taking initial steps to hold Duvalier accountable for his actions during his time ruling Haiti."

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