The United States, the European Union and the United Nations decided to support Haiti’s recent presidential and parliamentary elections despite believing that the country’s electoral body, “almost certainly in conjunction with President Preval,” had “emasculated the opposition” by unwisely and unjustly excluding the country’s largest party, according to a secret US Embassy cable.
The cable was obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to the Haitian newspaper Haïti Liberté, which is collaborating with The Nation on a series of reports on US and UN policy toward the country.
At a December 1, 2009, meeting, a group of international election donors, including ambassadors from Brazil, Canada, Spain and the United States, concluded that “the international community has too much invested in Haiti’s democracy to walk away from the upcoming elections, despite its imperfections,” in the words of the EU representative, according to US Ambassador Kenneth Merten’s December 2009 cable.
Haiti’s electoral body, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), banned the Fanmi Lavalas (FL) from participating in the polls on a technicality. The FL is the party of then-exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was overthrown on February 29, 2004, and flown to Africa as part of a coup d’état that was supported by France, Canada, and the United States.
This history made Canadian Ambassador Gilles Rivard worry at the December donor meeting that “support for the elections as they now stand would be interpreted by many in Haiti as support for Preval and the CEP’s decision against Lavalas.” He said that the CEP had reneged on a pledge to “reconsider their exclusion of Lavalas.”
“If this is the kind of partnership we have with the CEP going into the elections, what kind of transparency can we expect from them as the process unfolds?” Rivard asked.
Despite the Lavalas exclusion, the European Union and Canada proposed that donors “help level the playing field”—they could, for instance, “purchase radio air time for opposition politicians to plug their candidacies.” They were presumably referring to “opposition candidates” who would come from parties other than the FL.
That plan was nixed by the United Nations, but when the elections finally did take place on November 28, 2010, followed by a runoff on March 20, 2011, Washington and the international donor community played an influential role in determining their outcome.
When the first-round results were disputed, international donors arranged for an evaluation by the Organization of American States, which pronounced that pro-coup candidate Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, 50, a former konpa musician, should face another neo-Duvalierist candidate, Mirlande Manigat, in the final round. Martelly emerged as the victor in the runoff.