Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch

Deportations from the Dominican Republic: The IOM Changes its Tune

July 22, 2015 - 12:30

On July 14, 2015, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) released a statement regarding the situation on the Haiti-Dominican Republic border. The IOM interviewed some 1,133 individuals who had crossed the border between June 16 and July 3, finding that “408 persons (or 36.0 per cent) said that they had been deported by different entities, including the military, police, immigration officials and civilians.”  These findings directly contradicted statements from the Dominican Republic and U.S. officials that no deportations had occurred.

However, within two days the press release was pulled from the IOM website and on July 21, IOM issued a new press release making no mention of deportations.

U.S. Special Coordinator for Haiti Thomas Adams, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 15, 2015, stated, “They -- they [the Dominican Republic] have assured us that there will be no mass deportations and none have begun yet.” He added: “There were reports of others that when they investigated, they found out that they weren't -- they weren't really deportees.” A day later the IOM press release had been pulled from the website.

When contacted by HRRW last week, Ilaria Lanzoni, a press officer with the IOM, e-mailed that “They [IOM Headquarters] are currently revising the note.” When the release was re-posted, however, all mentions of deportations were removed. The original release contained a quote from Gregoire Goodstein, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Haiti, stating: “A proper monitoring system is essential to overcome the current uncertainty about the conditions and number of deportations …” However in the updated release, Goodstein’s quote has been changed to “… the current uncertainty about returns.” The rest of the changes can be seen in the screen grabs, below.

Edited Paragraphs of IOM press release with changes highlighted (original on right). Click to enlarge.

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On Campaign Trail, Martelly Pledges to Restore Disbanded Military Force

July 21, 2015 - 11:50

After launching the electoral campaign of his political party, Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (PHTK), in Cap-Haitien last week, Martelly has renewed his 2011 campaign pledge to restore the Armed Forces of Haiti (FAd’H), reports Le Nouvelliste. In a rally held in the Palmes region in the Southeast department over the weekend, Martelly stated that his previous pledge was not false. He added that since his mandate began, “I have been around the world to meet with representatives of major countries on the issue.”

In February 2014, Martelly formally requested technical advice on the creation of a military from the Washington D.C.-based Inter-American Defense Board (IADB), a body of the Organization of American States.  Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide disbanded the military in 1995 as the force was involved in numerous human rights violations and coup d’etats. Nevertheless, on June 25, 2015, the IADB met with Haitian authorities in Port-au-Prince to officially present a “white paper” outlining the formation of a new defense force. The process has been led by Haitian Minister of Defense Renauld Lener, himself a former major in the FAd’H.

The Director General of the IADB, Vice Admiral Bento Costa Lima Leite de Albuquerque Junior, in announcing the finalization of the “white paper” told the audience:

The principle innovation of the Haitian White Paper, with respect to others, is that it covers the global interests of security, without limiting exclusively to questions of defense. It defines the strategic guidelines of security and national defense that give answers to “all the risks and threats that could make the life of the nation vulnerable” and the interweaving with the economic development and social sustainability of the country. The field of national security includes defense policies, but doesn’t limit itself to it. Other policies, like the exterior policies and the economic policies, also contribute directly to national security.

Therefore, we understand that the Haitian White Paper of also [sic] defines a concrete space of international cooperation in the future, to the extent that the document ordered, systematized and establishes axes and sets areas of priorities for the country.

When Martelly first came to office pledging to restore the Haitian military, the plan was met with fierce resistance, both within and outside of Haiti, with key donor governments including the U.S. opposed to the idea. Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch told the Associated Press in 2011: “The Haitian army has basically been an army that's been used against the Haitian people … It was there as an instrument of repression, so it's hard to see what Haiti gains by bringing back the army.”

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USAID Funded Group Supporting Haitian President in 2010

July 15, 2015 - 09:55

CEPR Research Associate, Jake Johnston, reports in Al Jazeera America on US government funding to Mouvement Tét Kale, a political organization with close ties to President Michel Martelly, during the 2010-11 elections: 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The U.S. Agency for International Development gave nearly $100,000 to a Haitian political movement with close ties to President Michel Martelly in the country’s 2010 elections, documents obtained by Al Jazeera show. The money was allocated shortly after Washington helped overturn the election results to thrust Martelly into power.

On the afternoon of Haiti’s Nov. 28, 2010, elections, 12 of 18 presidential candidates took the stage at the glamorous Karibe Hotel, high up in the mountains that surround the capital. The elections were a fraudulent mess, they told the gathered press, and the only way out was to cancel the poll and start over. Chaos soon engulfed Port-au-Prince and other cities, as thousands of young Haitians, many clad in the pink synonymous with Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, took to the streets to simultaneously denounce electoral fraud and herald the victory of their candidate, many days before any official results would be announced.

In the midst of the mayhem, key international actors mobilized. At an emergency meeting at the home of the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission, Edmond Mulet, leading diplomats pushed then-President René Préval to accept their offer of a plane to take him out of the country and avoid further confrontation. Mulet also approached the front-runners, including Martelly, telling them they had secured a spot in the second round and to cease calls for the election’s cancellation. Days later, when the electoral council announced preliminary results that did not have Martelly advancing to the runoff, the streets were once again taken over by largely pro-Martelly protesters. The U.S. Embassy released a statement questioning the announced results, fueling the demonstrations in Port-au-Prince.

The pressure of these pro-Martelly demonstrators — on the day of the elections and during the following weeks — was a key factor in convincing the U.S. and other international actors to intervene in Haiti’s elections and force the electoral authority to change the results of the first round, so as to ensure that Martelly remained on the ballot.

According to numerous firsthand accounts, Mouvement Tét Kale (MTK), a political organization with close ties to Martelly, was active in these street mobilizations. Now documents through Freedom of Information Act requests reveal that the U.S. government later provided nearly $100,000 in support to MTK, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

To read the complete article, click here. The document showing the support to Mouvement Tét Kale from the for-profit contractor Chemonics has also been posted online and is available here

Key Lawmakers Request Improvements to State Department Reports on Haiti Assistance

July 10, 2015 - 14:37

Democrats and Republicans may not see eye to eye on much these days, but one thing a number of them do strongly agree on is the need for greater accountability and transparency around U.S. assistance to Haiti. Last year, Republican representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Ed Royce joined senior Democrats from the Senate and the House of Representatives in supporting the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act (APHA), a bill originally introduced by progressive California Democrat Barbara Lee. In a rare display of constructive bipartisanship, the bill was quickly passed by both houses of Congress last July and signed into law by President Obama in early August. 

Now, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are again working to try to ensure that the APHA is properly implemented.  In a July 6 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, 12 House representatives called for the APHA to be implemented “in accordance with both the spirit and the letter of the legislation” and requested that the State Department make a number of significant improvements to the APHA-mandated annual reports on the “status of post-earthquake recovery and development efforts in Haiti.”

The letter cannot be easily ignored by the State Department. It is signed by some of the most senior members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, including its chair, Ed Royce (R-Calif.); its ranking member, Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.); and other top-ranking members like Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.) and Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.).  It is also signed by nearly every Congressional Black Caucus member who is focused on Haiti, including Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) and Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.).

The annual report that the congressional members want to see improved is the centerpiece of the Assessing Progress Act. It includes reporting requirements designed to provide policymakers and the public with a clear picture of exactly how U.S. funds are used in Haiti aid programs and what progress is being made toward meeting pre-defined objectives and benchmarks. Having written extensively about the glaring lack of transparency around U.S. aid programs, we were supportive of the passage of the APHA and pleased to see that its reporting requirements took into account a number of our recommendations.

When the State Department’s first report was made public in January of this year, we noted that it provided a lot of useful information for researchers to work with but that often the information provided was incomplete and that there were “instances where State’s reporting may formally comply with the letter of the law, but not with its clear intent of providing lawmakers and the public with a better idea of the concrete results of U.S. Haiti assistance.”

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Dominican Republic Spending Big Bucks on DC Lobbyist to Pushback on Criticism of Expulsions

July 10, 2015 - 08:03

In September 2013 the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court ruled that those born to undocumented foreigners would not be able to maintain citizenship, mainly impacting Dominicans of Haitian descent. The deadline to formalize one’s legal status passed in June, with many thousands left unable to do so because of a lack of documentation. Already nearly 40,000 have “voluntarily” self-deported to Haiti, fearing a looming crackdown in the country many of them have never left. At a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) Wednesday, Haitian foreign minister Lener Renauld accused the Dominicans of leaving Haitians at the border “like dogs.”

But just three months after the court’s ruling, before the world’s attention turned to the island of Hispaniola and the humanitarian crisis on the border, the Dominican Republic hired a D.C.-based lobbying firm to assist with “consolidating and strengthening the image of the Dominican State in the eyes of the [sic] international public opinion,” according to documents filed as part of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

The documents show that the Dominican Republic paid the lobbying firm Steptoe & Johnson over $820,000 between January and August of 2014. The relationship appears to be ongoing however, and it is likely that those costs have only increased with the spotlight now firmly on the Dominican Republic and the firm bringing in hourly rates of around $1,000.

Image: Talking points distributed by Steptoe & Johnson to congressional and executive offices

Lobbyists for Steptoe & Johnson distributed copies of talking points (image above) to congressional and executive offices, describing the migration policy as “modern and transparent” and as a means of protecting the “fundamental rights” of everyone living in the Dominican Republic. Between January and May 2014, the lobbyists met with the offices of at least 24 members of congress, including key players on the foreign affairs committee. In addition to interactions with congress, the contract between the Dominican Republic and Steptoe & Johnson describes a number of other actions, including placement of “interviews, features, opinion pieces in U.S. mainstream media.”

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Electoral Council Denounces Threats as Another Employee is Killed

July 7, 2015 - 12:37

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti. 

On Sunday, July 5, an employee of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), Wikenson Bazile, was shot and killed in the busy Delmas 32 neighborhood. Bazile worked in the office of Jaccéus Joseph, the representative of human rights groups to the CEP. The spokesperson for the CEP, Frantz Bernadin, told Alterpresse on July 6, “We have no interpretation of what happened, we leave the judiciary and the police to do their job and we wait for the results of the investigation [in order] to have more information.”

The electoral advisor, Joseph, however was quick to point out that it was likely an assassination attempt. Joseph explained that there was no indication that Bazile had been robbed, and also pointed to threats he has received. “Taking into account the threats which I am the object of and assassination attempts during my presence in the CEP, I do not take this action lightly,” Joseph told the Nouvelliste, while adding that he would leave it to the police to do its job. Jaccéus Joseph stated that he believed the threats were a result of the neutrality shown by the electoral council.

In a radio interview last week, another CEP member, Nehemy Joseph, alleged that a group of disqualified candidates paid $5,000 USD to “a few assassins whose mission was to kill [CEP member] Jaccéus Joseph, myself and other councilors.” The allegation was quickly denied by Jonas Coffy, a representative of the group, who alleged that Nehemy Joseph had solicited bribes from excluded candidates for their reinstatement.

In May, Professor Emmanual Gouthier, Vice Director at the Ministry of the Interior was shot and killed. Gouthier was tasked with investigating potential candidates. There has been no further information released on the status of the investigation.

Today, the U.N. Special Representative to the Secretary General and head of the U.N. troop contingent in Haiti, Sandra Honoré, condemned the killing of Bazile and called on the police to conduct a prompt investigation into the circumstances. Honoré reiterated a call for all Haitians to reject violence, especially during the electoral period. 

Haiti Election News Roundup - June 22

June 24, 2015 - 12:51

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti. 

The Organization of American States (OAS) signed an accord with the Haitian government to send international observers to monitor elections in 2015. In 2010, the OAS election observation mission was considered highly controversial due to its role in certifying the presidential elections. Haitian Foreign Minister Lener Renauld believes this accord “reaffirms the determination of President Martelly . . . to support the electoral calendar,” and indicates the commitment of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to administer elections on schedule. Nevertheless, there has been considerable speculation and doubt over whether elections will be administered on time.

Presidential candidates Jacky Lumarque and Francois Levelt were disqualified by the CEP over the weekend. Lumarque, running under the VERITE party of former President René Préval, was disqualified for failing to have a décharge. Levelt, running under the Party for the Haitian Diaspora for Haiti, was disqualified after prior felony convictions came to light. Earlier in the week, a coalition of 17 political parties sent an open letter to the CEP urging for Lumarque’s disqualification due to his failure to secure a décharge, and calling on the CEP not to engage in double standards. Although CEP President Pierre Louis Opont previously stated that the presidential candidate list was final, he later said the CEP would continue to review the eligibility of presidential candidates.

The CEP put out an informational video on enhancing women’s political participation in the upcoming local elections. The one-minute video, currently broadcast on local television and radio, calls on political parties to include more female candidates and party representatives. The Haitian constitution and Electoral decree both mandate a 30% quota for women in public office, though the current rate of female representation is around 5%.

Former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe criticized the CEP for the unjustified exclusion of political candidates. On Wednesday, June 17, Lamothe issued a strongly worded statement alleging that the electoral process has been “forever tainted” by the CEP’s arbitrary exclusion of candidates. Although Lamothe was disqualified for the same reason as many other candidates, he has nevertheless called on the international community to “understand the kind of elections that will transpire in Haiti if nothing is done to restore my candidacy. It has allowed and even seemingly encouraged this process to unfold; it now should also play a role in redirecting the course before once again Haiti faces major political turmoil.”

USAID Says it Built Houses in Caracol to Earthquake Safety Standards. It Didn’t.

June 19, 2015 - 11:51

In February, USAID suspended Thor Construction, one of two contractors responsible for designing and building 750 houses in Haiti’s north, in Caracol. In March, the second contractor, CEEPCO, was also suspended. As previous HRRW reporting revealed, the houses were found to be of poor quality, with numerous structural deficiencies including the use of substandard concrete. USAID is currently investigating and putting together a potential legal case against the contractors; however, they continue to downplay the problems and their own role in them.

HRRW has obtained an internal assessment of the Caracol-EKAM housing development, performed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers last year. The report directly contradicts USAID’s public comments on the housing development.

On its website, USAID has a “fact sheet” on the project, explaining: “To address natural disaster concerns, the 750 houses are designed to International Building Code earthquake and hurricane safety standards, and constructed with reinforced concrete masonry.” The webpage says it was updated in February 2015, nearly a year after USAID first began investigating. There is no mention of any problems with the houses in the “fact sheet.”

Turning to the Army Corp of Engineers report, it makes clear that from the very beginning, International Building Codes were ignored. The report “found no evidence that a formal internal or external review” of the housing design was conducted and further, that “the project was designed with inconsistent application of code and latest design criteria,” despite the contract mandating compliance with the International Building Code. The lack of any oversight provided at this crucial early stage is a clear indictment of USAID’s own role in the project’s failure.

Summary of Findings from US Army Corp of Engineers Technical Assessment

USAID also maintains that the houses are built with “reinforced concrete masonry” and are built to hurricane and earthquake safety standards. Not so fast, says the Army Corp of Engineers: “The project was constructed with significant variances from the contract plans and specifications. These variances could result in major damage from a hurricane or seismic event and excessive maintenance requirements if left uncorrected.”

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Haiti Election News Round-Up

June 15, 2015 - 14:09

The following is cross-posted from the Haiti Elections Blog, which was created to help promote the free access to information and accountability within the electoral process. The blog is co-managed by several non-governmental organizations who work with and within Haiti. 

On Friday, the CEP published the final list of approved presidential candidates for the upcoming election scheduled to take place October 25, 2015. Of an initial 70 candidates, the CEP accepted 58. Among those excluded from the race was former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe as well as former government ministers Thierry Mayard Paul and Josefina Gauthier. Among the 12 excluded candidates, 9 were excluded for lacking the proper discharge certificate. Radio Kiskeya provides a brief biographical description of each of the 58 candidates, while Le Nouvelliste provides a description of what they describe as the 12 leading candidates. Both Le National and Le Nouvelliste discuss the potential for political alliances in the run-up to elections. Le National points out that the “Lavalas movement is well represented” by a number of candidates but risks splitting the vote if they do not reach some sort of alliance. 

The “Core Group” released a statement on Friday welcoming the CEP’s publication of the list of presidential candidates. The statement reads in part: “The publication of the list of presidential candidates constitutes an important step in the implementation of the electoral process. The ‘Core Group’ reiterates its full support to the work of the Council and the ongoing organization of elections. The Group invites all stakeholders to continue to participate constructively in the 2015 electoral process. The ‘Core Group’ salutes the efforts of the Government of the Republic towards the continued strengthening of democracy in Haiti. The members of the Core Group emphasize the importance of building on the current momentum and supporting the CEP, the Government and people of Haiti, including the political parties, in the conduct of fair, transparent and inclusive elections in a climate of serenity.”

Many political parties are still questioning the electoral schedule provided by the CEP, reports Alterpresse. Legislative elections scheduled for August 9, despite assurances from the CEP that they will be held on time, are being questioned by leaders of Fusion, OPL and MOPOD among others. Secretary General of Fusion, Ramon Pradel, told Alterpresse that, “we do not believe that the elections will take place on that date," due to logistical questions that have yet to be worked out. Fusion and OPL have 97 and 93 candidates in the legislative race respectively, while MOPOD has 23. A key issue has been a significant funding shortfall in the electoral budget, but U.S. Haiti Special Coordinator Tom Adams stated over the weekend that the U.S. would increase their financial contribution. Adams has previously publically expressed his opinion that the August election should be delayed and incorporated into the October 25 presidential election as a way to save money, a position which is supported by many political parties in Haiti.  

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USAID Failing to Ensure Sustainability of Programs in Haiti, Says GAO Report

June 4, 2015 - 13:15

Image of flooding at Caracol EKAM Shelter site from internal USAID document. Caption reads: “Site flooding due to improper drainage”

Despite USAID allocating some $1.7 billion for the reconstruction effort in Haiti, its projects have exhibited varying levels of success and face serious sustainability challenges, according to a report [PDF] released yesterday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO analyzed 23 USAID projects across all eight sectors of USAID’s portfolio. Each program was allocated at least $10 million. The GAO report found that because of delays, USAID has extended its Haiti strategy for three more years, through 2018.

According to USAID officials, the factors leading to cost overruns, delays and poor results were a “lack of staff with relevant expertise, unrealistic initial plans, challenges encountered with some implementing partners, and delayed or revised decisions from the Haitian government.”

The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles reports:

The release of the report by the GAO, which works for Congress, came a day ahead of a visit to Haiti by U.S. congressional staffers from the House Foreign Affairs committee. Led by Eddy Acevedo, senior policy advisor to U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the delegation plans to visit some of the projects, including empty housing plots, where work stalled because the agencies that were supposed to build the homes on behalf of USAID pulled out.

The GAO report found that five of USAID’s six major infrastructure projects had to reduce planned outcomes and “encountered delays in 4 of these activities.” Non-infrastructure activities also faced delays and reduced outcomes, but to a lesser extent. The various delays have led USAID to extend its time frame for Haiti work by three years, through 2018.

Though results varied across sectors, the GAO report revealed that in the 17 non-infrastructure projects analyzed, not a single one met or exceeded all of its performance indicators. In the case of infrastructure projects, the results were even worse. The auditors report that during a site visit to the Caracol EKAM shelter program:

we observed unresolved concerns such as blocked drainage pipes and ditches that led to flooding in the settlement after heavy rains, and blocked and crushed sewage pipes. We also observed open water catchment tanks adjacent to some houses that had become breeding areas for mosquitoes.

The report notes that the original plan was to prepare 15,000 lots and build 4,000 homes, but that “The mission had reduced the planned number of plots to 2,013, or by 87 percent, with 906 of the houses to be built by USAID, a reduction of 77 percent.” Meanwhile, costs per house increased, for an original plan of $8,000, on average, to over $24,000 by September 2014. Unmentioned in the GAO report, however, is that the two contractors responsible for the program have been suspended from receiving further government contracts and are under a legal investigation for using shoddy materials and disregarding contractual obligations.

But above and beyond the missed timelines and reduced outcomes, perhaps the most damning part of the GAO report focuses on USAID policies around the sustainability of its projects.

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ProPublica and NPR Release Damning Exposé on Red Cross Projects in Haiti

June 3, 2015 - 08:12

(Updated June 4, 2015, 11:34 a.m. to include references to NPR's report.)

ProPublica’s Justin Elliott and NPR’s Laura Sullivan have published damning new exposés on the American Red Cross’ work in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake (ProPublica's here; NPR's here). The reporting not only validates much of the criticism previously leveled at the ARC for its questionable priorities, slow pace of spending and short list of accomplishments; it offers some stunning new revelations – some of them coming from internal ARC communications.

One of the clearest failures is embodied in the ProPublica article’s headline. While the ARC itself says that it spent 35 percent of its funds raised for Haiti on shelter, and that it “has helped 132,000 Haitians to live in safer conditions—ranging from providing temporary homes and rental subsidies to repaired and new homes,” it has, ProPublica and NPR report, delivered only six new, permanent houses.

The article begins:

In late 2011, the Red Cross launched a multimillion-dollar project to transform the desperately poor [neighborhood of Campeche], which was hit hard by the earthquake that struck Haiti the year before. The main focus of the program — called LAMIKA, an acronym in Creole for “A Better Life in My Neighborhood” — was building hundreds of permanent homes.

Today, not one home has been built. Many residents live in shacks made of rusty sheet metal, without access to drinkable water, electricity or basic sanitation. When it rains, their homes flood and residents bail out mud and water.

The Red Cross received an outpouring of donations after the quake, nearly half a billion dollars.

The group has publicly celebrated its work. But in fact, the Red Cross has repeatedly failed on the ground in Haiti. Confidential memos, emails from worried top officers, and accounts of a dozen frustrated and disappointed insiders show the charity has broken promises, squandered donations, and made dubious claims of success.

The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people. But the actual number of permanent homes the group has built in all of Haiti: six.

After the earthquake, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern unveiled ambitious plans to “develop brand-new communities.” None has ever been built.

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Differing Opinions on Changes to the Electoral Schedule

May 28, 2015 - 09:46

Last week, in a conversation with Haitian journalists in Washington, D.C., Thomas Adams, the Haiti special coordinator at the State Department, said the U.S. would be in favor of Haiti holding two elections this year instead of the planned three. The electoral timetable announced in March by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) called for the first round of legislative elections to be held August 9, followed by a first-round presidential election and second round of legislative elections on October 25. Finally, the second round of the presidential election and local elections would be held in late December.

In an interview this past weekend with Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald, Adams explained:

there’s some discussion about going to two rounds of elections instead of three. The pros and cons of that, I think they’ll decide fairly soon whether they want to do that. That would give a little more time to the CEP and it would also save some money if they want to go that route. That is an option.

Moving the first round of the legislative election to the same day as the presidential election would save an estimated $30 million, according to Adams. But while the proposed changes have some support from political parties in Haiti, the CEP has remained steadfast that it is determined to follow the electoral calendar that was announced.

According to Alterpresse, Alix Richard, the vice president of the FUSION party commented that the party had “always sought the election in two stages,” and recommended a discussion between the executive, the CEP and political parties to reach a decision. Both the Patriotic Movement of the Democratic Opposition (MOPOD) – the party of former presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat – and the Organization of People in Struggle (OPL) refused to comment directly on the proposal, saying that they were ready for elections at any time. However Pierre Étienne Saveur, director of OPL, criticized the manner in which Adam’s comments were received. He said that his recommendations would have been better served going through diplomatic channels as opposed to a public statement to the press.

Moise Jean Charles, of the opposition platform Pitit Dessalines, came out in favor of the reduction to two elections. Charles also noted that the change would save the CEP millions of dollars – the electoral body is currently facing a funding shortfall to the tune of over $20 million. Donor countries, including the U.S., have stated that they are ready to provide additional financing, but are waiting for steps to be taken by the Haitian government and electoral council before any disbursements are made.

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UN Points to MINUSTAH as “Model of Accountability” for Sexual Abuse Cases

May 27, 2015 - 06:26

The New York Times reported Monday on the lack of accountability for sexual abuse on the part of U.N. peacekeepers around the world, focusing on recent allegations that French soldiers “forced boys to perform oral sex on them” in the Central African Republic. The article notes that the U.N. “does not have the legal authority to prosecute or punish a country’s soldiers,” and cites a recent internal audit that found that despite the organization’s “zero-tolerance” policy for sexual abuse, its enforcement “is hindered by a complex architecture, prolonged delays, unknown and varying outcomes and severely deficient assistance.”

The Times reports that U.N. officials responded by pointing to the U.N.’s response to a case in Haiti, in which Pakistani troops were accused of abusing an underage boy, as a “model of accountability.” HRRW reported on the case in 2012, pointing out a likely cover-up, and in January journalist Kathie Klarreich expanded:

Take the case of the Pakistani contingent of MINUSTAH. In January 2012, several Pakistani soldiers reported to their commanding officer that contingent members were sexually abusing a mentally handicapped 13-year old boy in the town of Gonaives, some 50 miles north of the Port-au-Prince, since he was eight years old, passing his name from contingent to contingent for five years. Following the chain of command, the Pakistani commander should have reported the abuse to MINUSTAH, but he decided to handle it himself, hoping it seems, that it would disappear, since he was also abusing the boy.

UN police quickly ascertained that the Pakistani military had hired two local boys to take the victim away from the town without his mother’s knowledge or permission. They found the boy unharmed: one of the kidnappers escaped but the second, Alexandre Vladimir, was arrested and jailed. Vladimir admitted that the MINUSTAH commander from Pakistan had asked him to remove the boy from the area, and that the Pakistanis had come to his home bearing gifts for his mother: $12 and a sack of rice.

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CEP Releases Final List of Candidates for Legislative Elections

May 19, 2015 - 07:54

Early Friday morning, Haiti’s electoral authority posted online the final list (PDF) of approved candidates for legislative elections scheduled to be held in August. Over 2,000 candidates registered, representing some 98 different political parties. The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) rejected 522 candidates – 76 for the Senate and 446 for the lower house – leaving 1,515 candidates to compete for 138 open seats.

The CEP, in announcing the rejection of over one-quarter of registered candidates, provided no rationale for individual cases. CEP member Lucie Marie Carmelle Paul Austin told Le Nouvelliste that the list is final: “The CEP did its work in a completely equitable manner and in compliance with the law.” She added that in many cases candidates were rejected because they did not have proper paper work proving their Haitian nationality.

All the leading parties saw a significant number of candidates rejected, with Martelly’s Pati Hatien Tet Kale (PHTK) having the most rejected: 31. Still, PHTK had registered the most candidates, and other parties had a higher percentage of their candidates rejected, such as Platfòm Pitit Dessalines and Renmen Ayiti. After the CEP’s rejections, VERITE, the new party created by former president René Préval and former prime minister Jean-Max Bellerive, has the most candidates in the upcoming election, with 97 followed by PHTK with 94.

Although the CEP has said the decisions are final, political parties have expressed their frustration with the lack of transparency in the process. The coordinator of Fanmi Lavalas, Dr. Maryse Narcisse, told the press that the party had requested an explanation from the CEP, adding, “I think the right of all has to be respected and if there are people who have been unfairly rejected, we will present ourselves to the CEP, we will begin a legal process so that they do justice to those they unjustly rejected,” according to Haiti Libre.

After the publication of the list by the CEP on Friday, the Haiti Press Network reported that some candidates led protests against the decisions. Supporters of German Fils Alexandre, a candidate for deputy in Petit Goâve under the VERITE ticket, blocked National Highway #2, while in the Central department PHTK Senate candidate Willot Joseph threatened to block elections from happening unless the CEP decision was reversed.

The rejection of First Lady and PHTK Senate candidate Sophia Martelly had already been announced, but with seven other candidates for Senate rejected, PHTK can no longer field a candidate in every department. The only political party that is fielding senate candidates in all 10 departments is Fanmi Lavalas, which has been excluded from participating in past elections. In response to the CEP’s decision, the PHTK party released a statement “strongly challenging” the rejection of their candidates and calling on supporters to remain calm.

Nevertheless, some of the rejections could hardly come as a surprise. These included former Senator Rudolph Boulos, of the PHTK party. He had previously been forced from his post after it was determined that he held a U.S. passport, making him ineligible to hold office in Haiti.

While rejections made the headlines, some interesting names did make the cut. Jacqueline Charles reports for the Miami Herald:

Among those who will be vying for one of those empty Senate seats is Guy Philippe, a former Haitian police officer who led the 2004 coup that toppled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Over the years, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents have tried — and failed — on at least three occasions to arrest Philippe, who has been wanted in the United States since 2005. This will be Philippe’s third try at elected office in Haiti.

The registration period for presidential elections is ongoing.

UPDATE 5/26: On Sunday, May 24, the CEP released a list of candidates who had originally been rejected but have been reinstated. No rationale was provided. Overall, the CEP allowed an additional 47 candidates for the Senate to participate and 294 candidates for Deputy. There are now a total of 233 candidates for the Senate and 1,624 for Deputy. After the CEP's decision, VERITE still has more candidates than any other party, with 115. PHTK has 110. With the reinstatements, PHTK and Fanmi Lavalas had the highest percentage of their candidates rejected with 12% and 10.8%, respectively. This compares to an overall rejection percent of 8.9. 

Chemonics Responds to VICE on HBO Segment on Haiti Reconstruction Aid

April 29, 2015 - 14:20

On Friday, April 24, VICE on HBO aired a segment entitled “The Haitian Money Pit,” which focuses on the impact of aid to Haiti, now over five years after the earthquake. The episode takes a critical look at the billions in relief and reconstruction pledged to Haiti, finding that much of it went to U.S.-based contractors with little reaching those most in need.

In the episode, VICE on HBO correspondent Vikram Gandhi travels to Caracol, in the north of Haiti, home to the international community’s flagship reconstruction project, the Caracol Industrial Park. Gandhi visits a police station, which cost over $2 million as well as soccer field and cultural center. As Gandhi states, “when we looked at the costs of many other projects, we noticed the same contractor kept coming up.” Chemonics.

In an interview aired during the episode, I explain that Chemonics was the largest recipient of post-quake U.S. disaster relief and in fact, is one of the largest aid contractors in the world. A topic that we have covered on this blog for years.  In a response to the episode, Chemonics claims the “segment does not provide a complete or accurate picture of Chemonics’ work in Haiti over the past five years.”

Chemonics continues:

As part of our USAID-funded Haiti Recovery Initiative, which ended in 2013, both the soccer field and the cultural center were designed to build a greater sense of community in the north of Haiti. Taken separately, these community projects may seem random. However, they were part of a larger strategy to stimulate growth in the region.

While this may be true, it does not address the main issue which VICE raises: that so much post-quake aid went to a community that wasn’t impacted by the quake. Further, the priority for Chemonics in implementing a USAID program was to provide support to the industrial park. Chemonics also funded the public relations firm for the inauguration of the park, paid for billboards that dot the area declaring it “open for business,” as well as other efforts aimed at promoting the park. This very well may be what Chemonics was asked to do by USAID, but it doesn’t mean it was a good use of aid dollars.

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Vice on HBO Follows the Money in Haiti

April 25, 2015 - 09:41

Vikram Gandhi, VICE on HBO correspondent travelled to Haiti to see just what happened with the $10 billion in aid pledged after the earthquake that occurred more than five years ago. The episode aired at 11 PM EST 4/24/15.

In a sneak peek, Gandhi goes to the site of a housing expo held in 2011. Organized by the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission led by Bill Clinton, the expo was meant to showcase model homes that could be built across the country. With more than a million made homeless, and hundreds of thousands of homes damaged or destroyed, providing new housing was seen as key to “building back better.”

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VICE on HBO Follows the Money in Haiti

April 24, 2015 - 07:48

Tonight, Vikram Gandhi, VICE on HBO correspondent travels to Haiti to see just what happened with the $10 billion in aid pledged after the earthquake that occurred more than five years ago. The episode airs at 11 PM EST.

In a sneak peek posted yesterday, Gandhi goes to the site of a housing expo held in 2011. Organized by the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission led by Bill Clinton, the expo was meant to showcase model homes that could be built across the country. With more than a million made homeless, and hundreds of thousands of homes damaged or destroyed, providing new housing was seen as key to “building back better.”

“If we do this housing properly, it will lead to whole new industries being started in Haiti, creating thousands and thousands of new jobs and permanent housing,” Clinton stated after the earthquake.

But, as Gandhi shows, the expo never had the intended impact. Instead, the homes were abandoned and left to decay. Now, years later, the model houses have been occupied by residents, creating a new community in the rubble of the international community’s broken promises.

Gandhi speaks with CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston, who explains how the U.S.’ premier aid agency, USAID, had an ambitious plan to build some 15,000 houses. But while costs nearly doubled to over $90 million, currently only 2,600 are planned and only 900 have been built thus far. USAID is no longer involved in new housing construction.