PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (sentinel.ht) -The top U.S. diplomat stopped in Haiti on Tuesday to reaffirm his support for President Michel Martelly and a seriously troubled electoral process that has the overwhelming majority of Haitians calling for a transitional government.
Secretary of State John Kerry only spent a few hours in his first ever trip to the island nation still recovering after being ravaged by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake in January 2010. Kerry came at the request of President Martelly, who has been ruling the country by decree since the fifth-year anniversary of the earthquake, January 12, 2015.
Kerry’s arrival provided the Martelly administration an opportunity to use the Secretary of State’s presence in the heat of election season towards his political ends. The National Palace released a press note saying that the Secretary “is in Haiti to support Michel Martelly in his efforts to better the lives of the Haitian people.”
Elections were the focal of discussions in only one meeting John Kerry had which was with a tight-knit group that included the president, prime minister and ministers of his government. Even the most moderate of opposition did not make the audience on the matters shaping Haiti’s future.
Following the meeting, Secretary Kerry stood side-by-side with Martelly in a joint press conference. He announced firmly that the U.S. is opposed to a “transitional government”, which the U.S. Ambassador in Haiti recognized on September 10, 2015 that “MANY”, she wrote on the Embassy page, Haitians were calling and protesting for.
An Electoral Coup d’Etat
Human rights organizations point to the Martelly regime as most responsible for violence, intimidation and ballot box stuffing on the first day, August 9, 2015, of three election days scheduled for this year. Systematic irregularities that favored the regime’s candidates were also found and results published nearly two months later include decision not consistent and in favor of the regime’s candidates.
A protest nearing a thousand was in the streets during Kerry’s swing through Port-au-Prince. The protesters called the events of August 9, 2015 an “electoral coup d’etat” and faced threats from heavily armed agents who kept a significant number home, according to organizers.
A dwindling moderate opposition called for corrections in order for elections to continue. Human rights lawyer Brian Concannon expressed this in a Miami Herald op-ed entitled Instill Integrity in Haiti’s election. The closer Haiti moves towards election day 2 and problems continue to remain unresolved, these moderates have gone to grow the numbers demanding the resignation of the CEP and a new transitional government.
On Friday, Haitians learned of the resignation of arguably the most credible member of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), Nehemie Joseph. In his resignation letters, dated September 30, 2015, a day before the U.S. Embassy announced Kerry’s visit, Joseph wrote that his respect for every Haitian citizen’s vote led him to the decision. He said to continue as a member of the council would be to continue in illegality.
Joseph, the representative of the farming/peasant sector on the council said that despite clear “mistakes” the institution led by Pierre Louis Opont did not intend to address or correct them. Kerry acknowledge briefly the problems of August 9 but no new measures to correct the forthcoming election days were announced.
The August 9, 2015 “Masquerade”
In the West Department, six of the most populous and disenfranchised communes in Haiti, such as Cite Soleil, (pop. 400,000), were excluded from voting on August 9, 2015. Pressure forced the electoral council to announce a repeat of the votes in those areas on October 25, 2015.
The numbers of the communes account for more than a third of the West Department which has 12 communes, but on September 25, 2015, the CEP published final results for its senate race. Mathematically, those communes are within a margin to have changed the outcome.
In the Department of Grande Anse, where one commune of seven just could not vote on August 9, 2015, final results were withheld for the senate race whose outcome would not have been affected by the math.
In the Artibonite Department, a very unpopular incumbent who served as Presidential Adviser to Michel Martelly over the past three years was reported to have won a senate seat in the first round. Violent protests began in the city of Saint Marc over those results where notes by the Electoral Disputes Bureau says the candidate produced voting center results that the electoral institutions, itself, did not have.
There are many nations in Africa that organize better elections than Haiti and on August 9, 2015, U.S. taxpayers paid $38 million for it. This is more than four times $8 million, the cost paid by a comparative nation like Rwanda of far better quality of election. Haiti is corrupt to the core said the U.S. Ambassador in late August 2015 and perhaps she had a point.
The Totalitarian Regime
Indicative of the Obama foreign policy is the disconnect with a real world reality. Most striking of Secretary John Kerry’s declarations in Haiti is that the country is already in a “transitional government”.
An agreement was made between President Michel Martelly and four political parties on January 11, 2015, the day before two-thirds of the Senate and the entire 99-member Chamber of Deputies was dissolved.
The political parties sent members to integrate into the government of Prime Minister Evans Paul, who was three weeks in office and in de facto status.
The Martelly administration would rule by decree but would only issue one, single decree that would be the announcement of the organization of elections.
Since the agreement, all four of the political parties have withdrawn their members from the government and Michel Martelly has issued 9 decrees, each scandalous.
A decree was issued to restructure the budget, which under normal circumstances needed the vote of the Legislature. Funds were sent to ministries and programs with the least transparency and susceptibility to politicization. This was brought to light by a September 14, 2015 internal memo of President Martelly’s Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK) which directed huge amounts of money and resources to be used for their candidates’ political campaigns.
A decree was issued to renew the mandate of the Director General of the Haitian National Police, Godson Orelus, for another three years, which under normal circumstances would need the ratification of the Senate. Rather than assuming an interim title, as precedent would dictate, Martelly’s decree declares a new term for a police chief who has politicized the force over the past three years to a degree not seen since the days of the old Haitian army.
A decree was issued to create five new communes, which under normal circumstances would require the vote of the Legislature following hearings with local officials and members of the population. Among the communes creates is Les Arcadins, a strip consisting of the beautiful coastline of the town of Arcahaie and a new multi-million dollar home built by Martelly last year. Schools in Arcahaie have been closed since the July 30 decree and a major national artery, Route National 1, has gone days blocked by violence.