by Yves Pierre-Louis and Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)
After installing a new government led by Prime Minister Enex Jean-Charles, Haiti’s interim president Jocelerme Privert has now passed a second hurdle: setting up another Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) on Mar. 30, 2016. This is the sixth CEP formed in the past four years.
The new CEP has as its president Léopold Berlanger, formally the representative of the National Association of Haitian Media (ANMH) and the Association of Haiti’s Independent Media (AMIH). Berlanger is also the informal representative of Haiti’s bourgeoisie and the so-called “Core Group,” the ambassadors who follow U.S. leadership in Haiti.
The CEP’s vice-president is lawyer Carlos Hercule, who represents the Catholic Church of Cardinal Chibly Langlois and Bishop Patrice Aris.
Marie Frantz Joachim, the representative of Haitian Women Solidarity (SOFA), is the CEP’s Secretary General, while Dr. Frinel Joseph, representing Haiti’s Protestant sector, is the treasurer.
Haiti’s human rights sector, represented by the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH) and the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH), nominated Jean Simon Saint-Hubert to the new CEP while the Peasant and Vodou sector sent Kenson Polynice. Marie-Herolle Michel represents the business community on the new CEP, while Josette Jean Dorcely represents the trade union sector, and Lucien Jean-Bernard, the university sector.
Mr. Bernard was a member of the CEP which organized the massively boycotted election of Jan. 17, 1988 that brought to power President Leslie François Manigat. Four months after his Feb. 7, 1988 inauguration, Manigat was overthrown by the same general, Henri Namphy, who put him in power. That 1988 CEP was chaired by Jean Gilbert, who held his election less than two months after a Nov. 29, 1987 election was aborted after paramilitary thugs macheted and shot to death dozens of would-be voters around Haiti.
The new CEP is also trying to hold an election in an extremely polarized and volatile political atmosphere. The big question is this: will it annul the Aug. 9 and Oct. 25, 2015 rounds, as demanded by Haiti’s people and most of the political class, or will it attempt to hold a third round which accepts the results of the first two, as demanded by the “Core Group”?
Haiti’s leading presidential candidates demand the formation of an independent commission of inquiry to review the ballots and tally sheets of the Aug. 9 and Oct. 25 pollings, marred by fraud and violence, to determine what the true results were, if that can even be done. Many doubt it can.
If the independent investigation is not carried out, it is doubtful that any major presidential candidate will participate in the elections whose schedule the new CEP must establish.
On Apr. 4, popular organizations and students organized a sit-in in front of the National Palace and the Justice Ministry to demand that in addition to an independent commission of electoral verification, there be formed a commission to audit the management of three funds.
First, they want an investigation of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), co-chaired by former U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton, which decided how to spend about $13 billion in post-earthquake international aid to Haiti.
Secondly, they want to know how over $1.5 billion was spent by the government of President Michel Martelly out of Haiti’s PetroCaribe account, where 40% of all state oil sales are parked to provide capital for social welfare programs. Even Mary Barton-Dock, the World Bank’s Special Envoy to Haiti, told the Financial Times that “transparency in the use of PetroCaribe funds is minimal.” Today, Haiti owes 86% of its foreign debt to Venezuela, and it has not paid the 60% of oil revenues it owes Venezuela up-front for over nine months.
Finally, Martelly and his Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe established an illegal tax (it was never ratified by Parliament) of $1.50 on every international money transfer and five cents on every international phone call. The tax generated tens of millions of dollars which have never been accounted for, although the money was supposed to be “funding education.”
The demonstrators also denounced the interference of the Core Group, the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH) chief Sandra Honoré, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Peter Mulrean, and Canadian Ambassador Paula Caldwell St-Onge in Haiti’s internal affairs. Under the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations, accredited diplomatic representatives are formally prohibited from interfering in their host nation’s internal affairs.
In recent weeks, students mobilizing at State University’s Faculty of Ethnology and the Faculty of Law have clashed with the Haitian National Police (PNH), as they clashed with MINUSTAH troops last year. Today, they say loud and clear that they will not obey the dictates of the Core Group and Washington. If Leopold Berlanger allows his CEP to be used by Washington like that of his predecessor of Pierre-Louis Opont, he will suffer the same fate of having to resign in disgrace, they say.
Interim President Jocelerme Privert and Prime Minister Enex Jean-Charles are also not immune from popular anger if they don’t establish commissions to verify Martelly’s elections and audit his finances, demonstrators say.