Haiti Election Fiasco: Chickens Come Home to Roost

Haiti is on edge after Haiti’s election council announced preliminary results in the November 28 election, which even the US Embassy has questioned:

Like others, the Government of the United States is concerned by the Provisional Electoral Council’s announcement of preliminary results from the November 28 national elections that are inconsistent with the published results of the National Election Observation Council (CNO), which had more than 5,500 observers and observed the vote count in 1,600 voting centers nationwide, election-day observations by official U.S. observers accredited by the CEP[the Provisional Electoral Council], and vote counts observed around the country by numerous domestic and international observers.

According to the results announced by the CEP, Jude Célestin, Haitian President Preval’s anointed successor, will advance to a runoff along with Mirlande Manigat. But this outcome depends on a razor-thin margin in the CEP’s tally: only 0.64 percentage points – 6,800 votes – separate Célestin from Michel Martelly.

The CNO – financed by the European Union – had predicted that Celestin would be eliminated, based on polling voters at 15 percent of polling stations.

But even putting the CNO evidence to the side, 6,800 votes is way too small a margin to have confidence in the outcome, given the widespread allegations of fraud.

This was a disaster foretold. Back in June, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee published a report prepared under the direction of Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, the ranking member, calling for Haiti’s electoral council to be reformed. But the Obama administration ignored Lugar’s report, despite the fact that the US government was paying for the elections, as 45 members of the House pointed out in an October letter.

Why was Senator Lugar’s report ignored? It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the overall framework of US policy has been: the right people are in charge, the people that we support, so we can’t push them too hard, because that might inadvertently result in the wrong people being in charge.

How did the “right people” get to be in charge in Haiti? The US supported a coup against democratically elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004. UN troops have been there ever since, maintaining the “order” brought about by the US-supported coup. One of the electoral council’s most controversial decisions was to exclude the Fanmi Lavalas Party of former President Aristide. Senator Lugar and 45 members of the House criticized this, but the administration was silent. That represents continuity with the Bush administration’s support of the coup against Aristide in 2004.

Opposition in Haiti to the presence of UN troops has crystallized recently with accusations that UN troops were responsible for the outbreak of cholera in Haiti, which has killed at least 2,000 people. The UN and others initially dismissed these accusations as unfounded rumor, but now a report by a leading French epidemiologist, selected by the French government to assist Haitian health officials in determining the source of the outbreak, says that UN troops were the likely source of the cholera outbreak.

The flawed election, ignoring warnings about the electoral council, and the lack of honesty about and accountability for the cholera outbreak, suggest it is high time to turn a new page in US relations with Haiti, toward the restoration of full Haitian sovereignty. US officials should support a timetable for the withdrawal of UN troops from Haiti. You can sign a petition to US officials here.

A key obstacle to reforming US policy is that major US media downplay, to the point of invisibility, the history of US policy. You would have to look hard to find an article in the major establishment media that acknowledges the US role in the 2004 coup, and the continuity of that with present US policy. This is part of a larger pattern of failure by US media to acknowledge the US role in coups in Latin America.

Oliver Stone’s documentary “South of the Border” tried to do something to correct the record. It documented the role of the US in the 2002 coup in Venezuela.

On Friday, December 10 – Human Rights Day – people in 20 cities around the US will be hosting screenings of “South of the Border.” You can check here to see if there is a screening near you.

Here is a clip from “South of the Border,” in which Scott Wilson, formerly foreign editor of The Washington Post, describes the involvement of the US in the coup in Venezuela: