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28260: Haiti Progres (News) This Week In Haiti 24:05 4/12/2006 (fwd)
From: Haïti Progrès <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
April 12 - 18, 2006
Vol. 24, No. 05
SEEKING AN "EVEN PLAYING FIELD":
WASHINGTON AND UN WORK TO CREATE ANTI-LAVALAS COALITIONS
By Jeb Sprague
As Haiti's legislative run-off elections approach, it is worthwhile to
review elements of Washington's campaign to rig the vote in favor of its
local client parties. This "democracy promotion" - which is anything but
that - is strategically critical to winning the Haitian parliament, with
which President-elect René Préval will name the new prime minister,
Haiti's most powerful executive post. Researcher Jeb Sprague has
published the findings that are the basis of this article on his weblog
In the years leading up to Haiti's 2006 presidential and legislative
elections, whose second round are now set for April 21, the
International Republican Insitute (IRI) helped form and coach three
coalitions of right wing and social-democratic parties, which were all
partisans of the Feb. 29, 2004 coup d'état against President
IRI's goal was the "strengthening [of] democratic political parties,"
according to an October 2004 IRI document I obtained through a recent
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. But in the past, as pointed
out in Irwin Stotzky's Silencing The Guns in Haiti, the IRI proposed
"leadership training exclusively for non-Lavalas centrist political
party representatives," considering supporters of Lavalas as
"undemocratic." All of the client parties trained and facilitated by the
IRI were arrayed against the FL in the Democratic Convergence political
front, supporting the 2004 coup.
Nonetheless, IRI had a hand in merging a rump faction of former FL
leaders into a coalition with the Movement for the Installation for
Democracy in Haiti (MIDH) of Marc Bazin, whose ill-fated campaign as a
supposed "Lavalas" presidential candidate netted him only 0.68% of the
February 7 vote. According to interviews conducted by Canadian
journalist Anthony Fenton, the IRI was involved in the meetings to merge
the rump "Lavalas" and MIDH.
FOIA discoveries by researcher Jeremy Bigwood indicate that Marc Bazin
was involved in meetings with IRI prior to the 2004 coup.
IRI is the Republican arm of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED),
a quasi-official foundation which carries out Washington's
"democratization" programs in nations around the globe - working to
promote candidates and parties that further U.S. strategic interests.
IRI has worked continuously to undermine democracy in Haiti, as made
clear in the January 28, 2006 New York Times article "Mixed U.S. Signals
Helped Tilt Haiti Toward Chaos" (see Haiti Progres, Vol. 23, No. 47,
2/1/2006). IRI's Democratic Party counter-part at the NED is the
National Democratic Institute (NDI). In addition to other funding, the
IRI and NDI have a joint $5.7 million contract in Haiti for 2002-2006
Meanwhile, through another FOIA request, I have learned that the U.S.
State Department's Agency for International Development (USAID) recently
funneled $3 million through the United Nations Office for Project
Services (UNOPS) to provide "logistical support to democratic political
parties during the 2005 electoral campaign." According to the released
USAID document, USAID and UNOPS "invited the democratic parties" - again
no mention of who the "undemocratic" parties are - "to attend an
information meeting on Friday, November 4 ." At that meeting the
parties were asked to "sign memoranda of understanding" that would allow
them to use SUVs and minivans "for outreach and election-monitoring
activities in outlying cities." The USAID money also went to "purchasing
media time for campaign messages" and the providing "shirts, posters,
campaign materials, etc." as well as the all important "operational
expenses for political party representatives" monitoring the elections.
All this for "democratic parties" who came to an "understanding" with
USAID and UNOPS. USAID's Haiti Country Team selected the "democratic and
law-abiding political parties and coalitions... in consultation with"
IRI and NDI. According to the document, the $3 million was to be
disbursed from August 22 through December 31, 2005 "with possibility for
extension... due to election delays."
Reportedly, René Préval's Lespwa party refused the UNOPS/USAID funding.
Meanwhile, leaders of the Lavalas Family party were jailed or exiled by
the de facto government. With millions going to help rival political
parties in Haiti, it is no wonder that USAID says that its UNOPS project
would help "even the playing field for the upcoming elections."
It is also interesting the importance that USAID gave to helping create
a "socialist" coalition between the Struggling Peoples Organization
(OPL) of Paul Denis, the National Progressive Revolutionary Haitian
Party (PANPRA) of Serges Gilles, the National Congress of Democratic
Movements (KONAKOM) of Victor Benoit and Micha Gaillard, and Ayiti
I believe that the IRI is working to neutralize and destroy the parties
championing Haiti's Lavalas ideals by strengthening and constructing
rival parties and coalitions. Is this democracy when neo-conservative
political operatives, funded by the world's foremost superpower, work to
undermine the political process of the Western Hemisphere's poorest
The OPL's Paul Denis surely suspected that his IRI and USAID support was
not going to put him in the lead. Just before the election, he
"denounced what he termed the lack of determination by the Provisional
Electoral Council to make corrections to the electoral process before
February 7, 2006, the date of the first round of the presidential and
legislative elections," the Haitian Press Agency (AHP) reported. "The
OPL provided an upbeat assessment of [Denis's] electoral campaign and
considered that the failure to regularize the situation will result in a
low voter turnout, which could in turn lead to doubts about the
legitimacy of the results of the election and a new confrontation in
Haiti. Mr. Denis said he feels assured of victory, but he regrets that
his advice was not taken into account by the actors involved in the
Here is an extract from the IRI documents my FOIA request released:
"Since 2002, IRI has formulated seminars, targeted at women and youth
from political parties and civil society, on campaign management,
political party structure, fundraising, polling, political
communication, platform development and the uses of Internet Technology
to strengthen political parties. . . Throughout the year , IRI
helped with the ongoing emergence of three major coalitions and one
merger of left of center parties. The coalitons are: the Grand Front
Centre Droit (GFCD), Union Patriotique, and Fronciph. . . From July 31
to August 1, 2004, leaders of left of center parties, Ayiti Kapab,
KONAKOM, OPL, and PANPRA met to discuss ways to accelerate a merge and
the various techniques needed to advance the goal at the municipal
level. At the end of the session, they put in place a work plan for the
departments and municipalities to implement the merger of the four
parties, now called the Groupe Socialiste. . . IRI is still working with
the Christian democratic parties for a similar coalition. . . IRI's
information technology trainings have helped political parties create
their own websites:. . . OPL. . . GFCD. . . MDN. . . Generation 2004."
The Haiti Democracy Project, an elite-funded think-tank, has put on its
website an interview between pro-coup journalist Nancy Roc and Paul
Denis. In the interview, Denis discusses the OPL's role in Democratic
Convergence's campaign against Haiti's democratically elected
government: "We had a Convergence which gathered parties from the left
and the right, but we were joined together around the same objective:
the fight against Aristide and for his departure."
This is the kind of "democratic and law-abiding" party that IRI and
USAID are spending millions to support.
All articles copyrighted Haiti Progres, Inc. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED.
Please credit Haiti Progres.