Electoral observer missions and foreign interference in Haiti.

Author:Phillips, Mark
Position::Book review

Ricardo Seitenfus, L'echec de l'aide internationale a Haiti : Dilemmes et egarements, translated to French from the original in Portuguese by Pascal Reuillard (Port-au-Prince: Editions de l'Universite d'Etat d'Haiti, 2015).

The core of this newly translated book is a personal narrative of Ricardo Seitenfus's tenure as Organization of American States (OAS) Special Representative to Haiti during the country's 2010 triple catastrophe: the infamous earthquake, the introduction of cholera by the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), and a stolen presidential election. Seitenfus exhibits a sense of powerlessness to prevent election results from being manipulated by a trio of election aid benefactors, namely Canada, France, and the United States. His personal narrative is framed by his broader historical analysis of international aid as a tool of control and exploitation in Haiti.

Seitenfus provides an insider's view into how MINUSTAH and the OAS observer apparatus themselves were leveraged to alter the vote count of Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP). His cavalier writing style might undermine his credibility, if his tale was not so convincingly corroborated by others. United States (US) embassy cables, for example, mirror Seitenfus's reports of the animus that donor representatives expressed in private toward presidential candidate Jude Celestin (who was ultimately excluded) and then-President Rene Preval. (1)

Seitenfus tells of how then-MINUSTAH-head, Edmond Mulet, even sought to put Preval on a plane out of the country, cutting short his presidential mandate. The OAS mission head and President Preval himself have both confirmed the incident. (2) The tactic is also not unprecedented in Haiti--the United States previously ended two Haitian presidencies in this manner. (3)

Seitenfus then describes how the OAS observers abruptly reconstituted themselves as a mission to review the CEP's results. This re-evaluation team was controlled by Canadian, French, and United States representatives. Haiti's constitutionally mandated CEP had determined that Celestin won second place during the first round and, as such, should participate in a run-off vote against the first-place winner, Mirlande Manigat. Seitenfus explains that, without performing a recount, the OAS mission excluded ballot boxes from its statistical analysis at a rate deliberately calculated to eliminate Celestin, reversing the CEP decision. The Center for Economic and Policy...

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