Originally: On Occasion of Meeting of OAS Permanent Council

1. Recommendations

1.  Clearly, the time has come for the OAS?s Permanent Council, in its scheduled meeting on Thursday, April 3, to invoke Article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and convene a special session of the General Assembly to consider the suspension of Haiti from the exercise of its right to participate in the OAS (under the Charter?s Article 21). 

By invoking Article 20, the Permanent Council would explicitly acknowledge that an unconstitutional alteration of Haiti?s constitutional regime has seriously impaired democratic order in that country, and that its diplomatic initiatives have thus far proved unsuccessful in fostering the restoration of democracy.  After more than two years of fruitless effort and in response to the regime?s continued recalcitrance, such an acknowledgment is not only appropriate, but both necessary and timely.  Its effect will be to increase the urgency of diplomatic efforts to resolve the Haitian crisis and to focus those efforts squarely on changing the behavior of the principal actors responsible for the continuing interruption of democratic order in that country, the Haitian state and government apparatus.  To do otherwise is to undermine the spirit of the recently adopted Charter itself, and to invite either more vigorous bilateral initiatives or eventual U.N. involvement in a situation that properly falls within the purview of the hemispheric organization.

2.  Simultaneously, the Permanent Council should resolve to advocate the formation and support the efforts of a transitional administration in Haiti, charged with addressing the country?s immediate humanitarian, economic and security crises and leading the nation to free-and-fair elections within a more reasonable time frame than that currently ensconced in Resolution 822; perhaps as much as two years may be required.  Such an administration would be technocratic in nature, apolitical in composition and?in keeping with the Haitian Constitution?functionally autonomous of the presidency. 

Modeled on the OAS-brokered formula that provided the consensual basis for constituting a new Provisional Electoral Council?to which all parties agreed more than a year ago?any new formula for creating such a transitional government would properly be anchored by a preponderance of civil society participation, input and oversight, though it might well include limited political party participation in one or more of these roles as well.  (Under similar circumstances in 1990, an internationally-backed government and CEP based on an essentially extra-constitutional political compromise succeeded in leading the country to its first?and arguably most credible?post-Duvalierist national elections, those that brought Aristide to his first presidency on February 7, 1991.)

Such a transitional administration, overseen by a civil society-based council of some sort and supported technically by foreign donors, would immediately open the door to the normalization of Haiti?s relationship with the international financial institutions, based on an IMF staff-monitored lending agreement and pursuant to a clearance of Haiti?s current arrears to the World Bank and the IDB.  This resumption of multilateral assistance, in turn, is the sine qua non for tackling the humanitarian emergency now threatening the country, and for underwriting the substantial costs of the extensive disarmament program that will be required if public security and confidence are ever to be restored definitively.  The mere creation and presence of a credible and internationally sanctioned transitional administration would itself have sufficient impact in this connection to jump-start the long-delayed electoral process. 

Moreover, the Permanent Council?s charting of such a course at this juncture would have the additional virtue of recognizing that the international community?s most reliable and enduring ally in the current effort to restore democratic functionality to Haiti is Haitian civil society itself, which in recent months has demonstrated itself to be both willing and able to transcend the internecine political wrangling that has paralyzed the political class, and ready to act in the higher interests of the nation.  Not only the recently formed civic coalition known as the Group of 184, but other organized elements of Haitian civil society from across the ideological spectrum, together with the established churches, should be immediately called upon by the OAS to join together in order to become full partners in the continuing and increasingly urgent search for a lasting solution to this persistent crisis?a crisis whose origins are clearly political, but whose resolution must, finally, be civil.

        Security requirements point to an initial 150 to 400 armed foreign police monitors to help reprofessionalize the police, which have been heavily politicized since 1999. Among the initial complement should be a substantial U.S. component. Until the international community commits in this way, it can look for little positive response from civil society which fears being exposed without foreign backing (against a regime which, lest we forget, itself was installed by foreign intervention).

2. Rationale and background

        1. Invoking the Democratic Charter
        Once again, the Lavalas regime has failed to meet the OAS?s most recent deadline to demonstrate its good faith by taking substantive action to establish minimum conditions of public security and confidence that would permit the immediate formation of a credible Provisional Electoral Council and the initiation of a transparent electoral process leading to the conduct of technically feasible, free-and-fair national legislative and local elections by the end of this year, as called for in CP/RES. 822 (1331/02), dated September 4, 2002. 

GOH maneuvering since the visit of the OAS?s high-level delegation earlier this month has been universally decried as a series of empty gestures, at best.  At worst, some of the regime?s putative ?responses? to the delegation?s long-overdue insistence on compliance with the terms and spirit of Resolution 822 by March 30th?most notably the appointment of a number of the president?s unqualified personal cronies to high-echelon command positions within the Haitian National Police?seem expressly aimed at making a mockery of the growing outcry against impunity from within Haiti, and of the international community?s own mediation efforts to date.  Meanwhile, the continuing repression of peaceful dissent, the persistence of threats against civic and opposition leaders, the ongoing suppression of a free press and a series of well-documented attempts to unduly influence the judicial process give the lie to the regime?s disingenuous protestations to the contrary.

        The precedent was already taken in the exclusion of the Haitian government from the world congress of democratic nations in Seoul, South Korea, last November.

        The international community should recognize that its natural ally in Haiti is not an undemocratic regime but the struggling forces of civil society and democratic opposition parties, with whom the international community aligned in the downfall of Jean-Claude Duvalier and the formation of the Conseil d?Etat in 1990 which oversaw the free election of December 16, 1990. It is time once again to make this alliance.

        By so doing we use an asset that may not be available for too much longer in conditions of repression and economic devastation. The civil-society Group of 184 has made conscientious efforts to strike a moderate tone and surmount traditional class barriers. Neither the civil-society groups nor the opposition parties have used violence, which has remained a virtual monopoly of the regime. The civil-society opposition is capable of staffing a transitional administration and electoral commission that could conduct truly free and fair elections. Only such elections hold the potential to finally resolve Haiti?s prolonged post-Duvalier political crisis and implosion.

        The most recent statement of the Group of 184, a civil-society coalition, makes clear its willingness to lead democratic opinion in Haiti toward participation in elections given a minimal security environment. Recent statements of the OAS high-level mission which imply that the civil society is insufficiently willing to go to elections or appeals to both sides to abjure violence are counter-factual. Civil society clearly wants free elections and violence is the virtual monopoly of one side.

        2. Forming a transitional administration
        The formation of a new administration to oversee elections is, likewise, a step driven by the regime?s repeated failures to respect the undertakings it has made to the OAS. The urgency of the step has grown with time. If the incumbent party was willing to impose a miscount in June 2000 when it was evidently leading, how much more incentive will it have to manipulate the vote now that its popularity has plummeted (according to a November 2002 poll commissioned by the U.S. embassy)?

        The decisive collaboration of Haitian civil society and the international community on free and fair elections will give the incumbent president a choice:
        1. He could observe the 1987 constitution?s severe limits on the powers of the presidency, in which case he could cohabit with a transitional administration, preside over Haiti?s bicentennial and free elections, and serve out his term.

        2. He could flagrantly overstep the bounds of the constitution by continuing to sponsor armed gangs and other extra-constitutional forms of political violence, which will force the civil-society/international alliance to protect the electoral process by various means such as a reinforced foreign presence, a shortening of his term, or outright calls to step down.

        The option for a transitional administration to oversee free elections does not prejudge the outcome of the Aristide presidency; that choice would remain Aristide?s to make. There are many precedents in Haitian history for a political agreement to repair an unconstitutional situation.

        Another important argument for a transitional administration is that only it could create sufficient confidence to allow a full resumption of the aid Haiti so desperately needs. The administration must have sufficient international support to begin to counter the corruption which prevents A.I.D., the European Union, and international financial institutions from committing to Haiti.

        It would be a serious blunder for U.S. policy to seek to push Haiti toward elections, as in 1987, without these common-sense preconditions. It makes no sense to urge Haitian politicians and leaders to join an unprotected electoral commission, which would then call candidates to campaign and voters to vote in conditions dominated by armed gangs, impunity, intimidation, and ballot tampering and miscounts. As in the 1987 Ruelle Vaillant massacre or the discarding of 1.1 million non-FL votes in 2000, this would be merely leading lambs to slaughter. Far from incrementally leading to a solution in Haiti, such a travesty of elections would only prolong the crisis.