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  January 26, 2016

After Haiti Elections Postponed, Is the U.S. Rushing to Protect Clinton?


After massive protests and reports of election fraud, the U.S. continued to push for a presidential election runoff, but former OAS Haiti mission head says the US is protecting candidate Clinton's record
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After Haiti Elections Postponed, Is the U.S. Rushing to Protect Clinton?JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN: In the midst of massive protests, the Haitian Election Council, or CEP, canceled Haiti's presidential runoff, which was scheduled on Sunday, January 24. The CEP cited incidents of arson and violence, causing an unstable environment for elections. But one other major problem was that there was only one candidate on the ballot in what was supposed to be a runoff.

This all began on October 25 during the first round of presidential elections. Independent reports of rampant fraud seriously put into question official results. But the United States, the European Union, and the Organization for the Americas all recognized the legitimacy of the results, placing candidate for current sitting president Michel Martelly's party, Jovenel Moise, and former presidential candidate Jude Celestin in the final round. Celestin rejected official results, calling the election a farce that he would not participate in, leaving only Jovenel Moise on the ballot.

Other opposition political figures, members of civil society within Haiti and the diaspora, and even Haiti-based electoral observation organizations discouraged the elections from moving forward on January 24.

NIKOLAS BARRY-SHAW: One organization called OCD, Observatory on Citizen Democracy, which is funded by the U.S. and Canada, so the U.S. is funding this organization to observe elections. And even they're saying, you know, these elections aren't credible enough for us to actually participate in them as observers.

Within Haiti there was near-unanimity. Anyone who wasn't the government or the CEP or directly allied to them was basically against these elections being held on January 24.

DESVARIEUX: Nikolas Barry-Shaw was an observer during the October 25 election and worked for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. He says the United States was key in helping the Haitian government maintain its stance to move forward with the elections on January 24.

So far the United States has spent $31 million in the electoral process. Some critics see its insistence on moving the elections forward as dictating the process without regard to its credibility. In a recent article in Haiti's leading French newspaper, le Nouvelliste, former mission head in Haiti for the Organization of the American States, Ricardo Seitenfus, said the design of the situation was clear. Quote: “The Haitian electoral calendar is subject to the U.S. schedule.”

BARRY-SHAW: And he specifically mentioned Hillary Clinton and her campaign to become president, or to become the Democratic nominee for president. And their, Clinton's campaign really not wanting Haiti to become a big front-page issue when it was such an important part of U.S. foreign policy during her tenure as secretary of state. And it's important to remember that, you know, Martelly's only in office, he's only in the executive because of interventions by the State Department, you know, in 2010 and in 2011 while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. So she has a big hand in putting him in office, and he waited for many, many years without organizing any elections. And they just wanted to, you know, kind of okay, finally, hold these elections and sweep it under the rug.

DESVARIEUX: Another big hand in getting the current ruling party in power was the business elite. A FOIA request revealed that in the last presidential election in 2010, the Haitian private sector and the American government were working together to ensure that current presidential candidate Jude Celestin did not enter the second round of elections back in 2010. An email between then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton's chief of staff Cheryl Mills and America's ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten found that Merten wrote, quote: “[Boulos] and private sector have told RP [Rene Preval] that Celestin should withdraw. They would support RP staying to the 7th of February. This is big.”

But now leading businessman Reginald Boulos and the Haitian Chamber of Commerce is distancing itself from the Martelly administration, coming out in favor of canceled elections. Martelly has been a friendly partner, considering his Haiti is open for business policy stance.

BARRY-SHAW: He's been a tireless promoter of industrial parks, export agriculture, of tourism. And so all these things fit very much with the interests of Haiti's elite. So I don't think there's really any, any deep concerns amongst the Haitian elite about, you know, Martelly perpetuating his political dynasty through the candidature of Jovenel Moise. Where it becomes a problem is when it becomes apparent that the Haitian people won't accept this, and are willing to, you know, protest and, and protest disruptively even, to prevent this from being forced on them through fraudulent elections.

So you know, they're concerned about Haiti maintaining an image of stability, as the Americans are, because they are the ones who would primarily benefit from increased foreign investment. And so I think that's, you know, that's really the, kind of the realpolitik of the situation is, the Haitian elite was saying that this isn't, this isn't good for their interests. This isn't good for business anymore. And they had to kind of break with the Martelly government on this point. But I don't see it as a fundamental break with Martelly.

DESVARIEUX: Now with the cancellation of elections, a traditional government appears to be the next step. But what will happen after President Martelly's term ends on February 7 is still being negotiated.

BARRY-SHAW: There have been, apparently, negotiations that were being conducted, again, amongst business leaders, probably people like Boulos, and the Haitian parliament and the executive over how to deal with this situation. From what I understand, Martelly really wants to at least be on hand to hand, you know, to transfer power to the next president. But the opposition is very strongly opposed to this, because they don't believe fair elections can be organized while he's still in office.

DESVARIEUX: But constitutionally, if a president is not elected at the end of Martelly's term, then ruling authority falls on the prime minister and the council of ministers to appoint a provisional president to organize an election in 60 days.

For the Real News Network, Jessica Desvarieux, Washington.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.



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