WASHINGTON, D.C. (sentinel.ht) – The Obama administration on Thursday denied its suspension of electoral assistance to Haiti was for the sake of leverage after the island nation resolved to scrap a massively fraudulent election from 2015. State Department Spokesman John Kirby fielded and stumbled over questions from journalists during the July 7, 2016 press briefing on the matter.
The State Department was clear in its opposition to a suspension of the electoral cycle on January 22, an investigation and subsequent findings of massive fraud, May 1 to May 31, and the decision of a new Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to at least redo the presidential contest. “We’ve made no bones about the fact that we had concerns about the way the process was unfolding. And as I said, we had no plans – did not plan for funding for two more electoral rounds,” said Mr. Kirby undenying of the Obama administration displeasure. But when asked whether the suspension of electoral assistance was linked to Haiti’s decision to scrap the first contests, he began to stumble.
The nature and timing of the suspension of aid was not lost on journalists who asked Mr. Kirby about the timing. He could not confirm when the decision to suspend was made but did say that diplomats began expressing their “concerns” in April 2016. This was the month where Haitian Provisional President Jocelerme Privert entered into talks with political actors regarding the establishment of a commission and terms for a fair investigation of the 2015 elections.
Mr. Kirby was then asked “in terms of maintaining diplomatic influence, is the U.S. in a way giving up leverage by withholding the electoral funds, or does the U.S. see that it has more influence over a recommitment to democratic principles and policies in Port-au-Prince?”
To this question he reiterated that the European Union (EU) and the Organization of American States (OAS) had found the 2015 elections acceptable. It deserves noting that the OAS is highly criticized for its role, in concert with the Hillary Clinton State Department, in the changing election results in 2010. He also spoke of U.S. support for reconstruction and development since the 2010 earthquake which has been criticized widely by journalists, researchers and observers alike, to the expenditure and actual work done.
Again, Mr. Kirby was forced to answer the question of influence in Haiti again when asked, “but are you concerned –“. He responded, “this isn’t about – this isn’t about leverage, Ros. This is about what we believe is in the best interests of the Haitian people and about being able to prioritize the assistance going forward on issues which we know they still need help with.”
The journalist was asking a two-folded question. Firstly, was the aid for Haiti’s 2015 cycle really needed in the first place, secondly, is the play to suspend aid a method for influencing Haitian actors? To these points, she asked Mr. Kirby “but you’re not concerned that because of the decision to scrap the previous election’s results that undemocratic principles may be coming into play within the Haitian political sphere?”
Mr. Kirby responded, “no, these are decisions that the – these are decisions Haitian leaders have to make. And again, we’ve made clear what our concerns were about the electoral process thus far. We’ve been nothing but candid and forthright about that. But ultimately, these are decisions that they have to make, and we want to continue to urge them to make the right ones.”
The journalist further asked, “if they continue on a path that the U.S. Government really doesn’t favor, is the U.S. willing to reconsider its humanitarian aid?” Mr. Kirby would then make a response he had said twice earlier but one its points caught the ear of another journalist. Mr. Kirby said, “we’re going to continue to prioritize the support in areas we believe are important to Haiti that – I don’t – I don’t foresee any change to U.S. support for the Haitian people in all manner of ways, and certainly economic assistance is one of them. And I think I’d leave it at that.”
This brought another journalist to enter into an exchange with the spokesman in order to get on record the amount of money that is being “prioritized” elsewhere and to what targets. The following exchange between the two previous journalists and the spokesman ensued:
[State Department transcript]
QUESTION: How much money is involved here? In other words, the decision not to fund additional kind of rounds of this election saves you how much money that you can then deploy —
MR KIRBY: It wasn’t – we didn’t plan for funding —
QUESTION: I know, but —
MR KIRBY: — for two more rounds, so it’s difficult to put a dollar figure on that. But what I can tell you is that in the assistance for the 2015 electoral cycle was at – over – a total of over $30 million.
QUESTION: Yeah, you said 33 million, right?
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: But my question is you – I wouldn’t have asked you the question if you had just said, look, we didn’t plan for this and we’re not going to fund it. But you said you’re going to use the – that money for other things, right? And therefore it seems to me you must have some idea of how much money you’re not going to give them for this if you’re going to use it for other stuff, right?
MR KIRBY: I said it rather – it allows us to maintain priority assistance on things that we are already funding, so we’re going to continue that. I don’t have a dollar figure in terms of this because it wasn’t funded, it wasn’t budgeted. It would be impossible for me to make up that number.
QUESTION: So, but if you had funded it, you would have had to have taken it out of those other areas?
MR KIRBY: Not necessarily, but it’s certainly – not necessarily, but it does – but it certainly would have to be taken in consideration of the totality of the assistance that goes to Haiti.
QUESTION: So it would have had to have come out of total assistance from Haiti?
MR KIRBY: It is part and parcel – electoral support’s part and parcel of the aid and assistance that goes to Haiti.
MR KIRBY: And so certainly, in that regard, yes, it would come out of total assistance that goes to Haiti —
QUESTION: Right, but —
MR KIRBY: — but I don’t – but again, we weren’t – we had not budgeted for this. I mean, we have to do – you have to forecast ahead —
MR KIRBY: — for even education assistance or disaster relief assistance. You have to have a budget going ahead.
MR KIRBY: We did not budget for additional electoral cycles.
QUESTION: I get that, but —
MR KIRBY: So —
QUESTION: But if it wouldn’t necessarily come out of the hide of the other priority programs, I don’t see how you can – I mean, if you had said yeah, it would have come out of the other Haiti-related programs, I’d be like, okay, I understand that, fine. But you’re saying no, not necessarily, which implies you could have gotten money from elsewhere, which implies to me that it’s not actually coming out of Haiti.
MR KIRBY: We didn’t make those decisions, so it’s impossible for me to tell you exactly how much money would have come out of additional funding somewhere else or out of the existing budget for aid and assistance from Haiti.
QUESTION: Right, but if it didn’t – but if it wouldn’t definitely have come out of the other Haiti assistance – right – and you’re saying “not necessarily” —
MR KIRBY: Right.
QUESTION: — then how can you argue this allows you to maintain your other priority funding, because maybe you could have maintained your other Haiti priority funding and gotten the money from another pot?
MR KIRBY: Because we’ve made a qualitative decision here that we’re going to continue to support Haiti going forward in these other areas —
MR KIRBY: — and I can’t tell you with certainty that those other areas will see increases or not. They might.
MR KIRBY: I don’t know. But we didn’t budget for additional electoral support and we’re going to maintain our focus – as I said, we’re going to maintain our focus now on the other priority areas which we think are important to the Haitian people.
QUESTION: Right, but I don’t see how you can argue that the decision has been made so that you can maintain your priority funding elsewhere. It seems to me you’ve just made the decision, you don’t know where the other money might or might not come from.
MR KIRBY: No. Arshad, I’ll try this again.
QUESTION: Yeah, no, I’m not trying to be tendentious. I’m trying to understand it.
MR KIRBY: There are two factors here. One, we didn’t plan for additional electoral cycles.
MR KIRBY: And we’ve already expressed our concern about additional electoral cycles.
MR KIRBY: And as I said, $33 million of U.S. taxpayer dollars were spent to help them with the 2015 electoral cycle because we think that’s important, and we thought it was important when they had a result and we would have liked to have seen that process go through to completion.
So we didn’t plan for 2016 or 2017 cycles and we’ve already stated where we are on the 2015 cycle. So we’re going to now focus – we’re not turning our back on the people of Haiti. My whole point of saying this was we’re not turning our back on the Haitian people, and the aid and assistance that we have in place will stay in place and we will examine whatever options are going forward in terms of additional assistance for other purposes. We just don’t – I don’t have any new decisions or announcements to make.
QUESTION: Okay. But the decision not to fund additional electoral expenditures is not because you want to protect the other funding, right? Because you’ve acknowledged it isn’t necessarily coming out of that funding. It’s for another reason. It’s because you’re just not going to support the electoral funding even though you’re definitely going to support all the other stuff.
MR KIRBY: It’s because we didn’t fund, we didn’t budget for 2016-27. We have maintained a budget for other kinds of Haitian assistance —
QUESTION: Right, right.
MR KIRBY: — and that’s going to continue.
QUESTION: And – but you have contingency funds of all kinds – of all sorts, right? And you’re choosing not to go into any other contingency funds to fund the Haiti election, to not fund additional Haiti —
MR KIRBY: We did not budget – we did not – I don’t think I can say it any differently. We did not budget for additional electoral rounds and we are now – we’re going to continue to prioritize and maintain the priorities – the word I use, “maintain” the priority on assistance – other assistance that we give to the Haitian people.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) ask for additional aid —
QUESTION: And why not – just last one from me, please: Why not try to find extra money somewhere for – I know you didn’t budget for it. I also know $33 million is not an inconceivably huge amount of money. I mean, it’s a lot of money, but I’m sure that if you wanted to find another 5 or 10 million or whatever it was, you probably could have found it somewhere. Why —
MR KIRBY: Because we believe the assistance that we are providing in other areas are put to better use for the Haitian people.
QUESTION: But it’s not coming out of that money.
MR KIRBY: I’ve answered the question, Arshad. I don’t know how I can do it any other way.
QUESTION: Well, let me ask it this way: Did the Haitians try to bargain with the U.S. for getting some sort of electoral assistance?
MR KIRBY: I don’t talk —
QUESTION: Did they ask and did the U.S. say no?
MR KIRBY: I’m not going to get into the details of diplomatic conversations.
QUESTION: Can we move on?
After 5 years of supporting a regime propped by the Hillary Clinton State Department, through not organizing elections until it was totalitarian regime in January 2015, the United States had committed to funding elections to reinstitute the Parliament, local governments and elect a new president. The August 9, 2015 elections were marred by widespread violence and electoral fraud. The political party of the regime was cited as most responsible for the violence leading up to and on election day. The October 25, 2015 elections were more calm, but was criticized of having been tainted by massive fraud. Haitians brought the elections to a halt in January of 2016 and demanded a review of the process and vote. It was found that nearly all tally sheets, nationwide, were fraudulent and not acceptable.