Haiti Democracy Project, Not So Democratic

On May 4, 2005 a privately funded NGO, the Haiti Democracy Project published on its website (haitipolicy.org) a “fact-finding report” carried out during mid February of 2005 in Haiti.  The fact finding mission, while visiting Haiti, met with nine members of Group 184 (a coalition of the wealthy elite) and 26 others, ranging from Coup Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, to U.N. and Haitian Police officials, U.S. Ambassador James Foley, and the Brazilian, Argentinean, Canadian, and Dominican Republic Ambassadors to Haiti. In the report the Haiti Democracy Project’s executive director James R. Morrel along with other members of the "fact-finding" delegation, including three former U.S. Ambassadors, conclude that, “Monitoring the election will likely be easier with polling stations reduced to six hundred or so from the twelve thousand of previous elections”.  The report also mentions the “utility of a voter registration card”.  Both of these measures will work to exclude large swaths of the Haitian population from the upcoming vote and allow the interim government of Gerard Latortue and the former military to better censor the role of Lavalas and the poor.  95% of all the polling stations used in previous elections will be excluded in the upcoming election. This is not surprising when the HDP was one of the primary groups lobbying in the United States for Aristide to step down and organized protests infront of the Haitian Embassy.  

While there was violence and corruption perpetrated by some within Aristide's government (example: some former officials face jail time in the United States over drug related charges) the HDP uses this to argue against the legitimacy of the entire governemnt and Famni Lavalas as a whole. The HDP’s report provides clear statements of advice to the U.S. overseers of Haiti on how best to guarantee the stability of its client state.  The HDP advises that the United States government work to create a “psychological sense of momentum and excitement” towards the upcoming election.  The HDP also advises that the United States “implement a fast track..for the purchase of appropriate armaments, helmets and protective gear for the Haitian National Police”.  This statement coming just weeks after Haiti Information Project journalist Kevin Pina exposed a massive illegal shipment of $7 million worth of armaments to the Haitian government from the United States, a violation of the 13 year arms embargo on Haiti.  These are also the same Haitian National Police forces that on April, 29th 2005 were accused by Amnesty International of using “lethal and indiscriminate violence..to disperse and repress demonstrators..”  The Amnesty report states that after police officers opened fire against Lavalas demonstrators “at least 5 people died..and 4 others are reported to have died later on as a consequence of their wounds.”

The HDP “fact-finding” report, while claiming that President Aristide’s Administration was “predatory” and “murderous”, completely neglects to mention the hundreds or possibly thousands of deaths that have occurred over the course of the last year at the hands of the Haitian National Police under the Latortue government, which has been well documented in such reports as the University of Miami’s Haiti Human Rights Investigation during November of 2004 (http://www.law.miami.edu/news/368.html).  

Under a subsection of the HDP “fact-finding” report entitled, “Haitian views on the police” the only view provided is that of the Haitian National Police themselves.  In this “viewpoint” section the Haitian police stated to the HDP that “the U.N. mission needed to be more aggressive.”  Meanwhile, on April 29, 2004 citizens of the Port-Au-Prince slum Cité Soliel accused the U.N. forces led by the feared Jordanian contingent of surrounding their community and lobbing at them fragmentation and incendiary type bombs.  While heavily armed and violent U.N. incursions into and around Cité Soliel have been well documented (http://www.haitiaction.net), the HDP and the Haitian police want more.

The HDP argues that a “triple threat” of drug traffickers and Aristide supporters (“chimères” & ex-FADH) provide a potential threat to which “U.S. policy must respond”.   In meeting only with the highest echelons of the Haitian government and international presence in Haiti the HDP's "fact-finding" mission provides an extremely skewed report.  Knowledge or information based on real occurrences (facts) is difficult to ascertain in reading the report because of its extreme bias.

The Haiti Democracy Project on its website, states that it is “an independent research group promoting the cause of settled, responsive government in Haiti and U.S. policies conducive to this end.”  Founded in 2002 as an independent organization approximately 2 years before the downfall of the Aristide government, the HDP board of directors is made up of former U.S. ambassadors, wealthy members of the Haitian-American community, and policy analysts well connected to think tanks in Washington D.C..  The HDP has clear links and friendships with the Latortue government, the Groups of 184, and the opposition to Aristide.  

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About Jeb Sprague

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Jeb Sprague can be reached at JebSprague-at-gmail-dot-com. Visit Jeb Sprague's University web page: http://www.uweb.ucsb.edu/~jhsprague/