Much like the years before it, 2005 was for Haiti a year of insecurity, impunity, incompetence, inefficiency, and incoherence.
In the political arena, the incompetence, inefficiency, and incoherence of the national as well as international actors prevented them from achieving any of their objectives.
The transitional government intended to hold credible, honest, and democratic elections by the end of 2005 and transfer power to the elected president on February 7, 2006. It was unable to deliver. There are many reasons for this and enough blame to go around, but more fundamentally, political analysts generally agree that, after February 2004, the very organization and governing regulations of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) should have been changed, since the circumstances leading to its formation had changed profoundly.
Let?s take the problems of the year in order:
1. Incompetence and Inefficiency
The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) took first prize for incompetence, inefficiency, and incoherence. Too busy with petty conflicts of personality and interest among its members, the CEP was unable to recognize the magnitude of its responsibility to Haiti and plan effectively for it. The first conflict of interest buzzed around the awarding of a data-processing contract. The second was a conflict between the president of the institution and the Conseil des Sages, the Council of Eminent Persons put in place by the transitional agreement of April 2004. These conflicts multiplied and culminated in the resignation of this president, Rose Laure Julien. The government got the Catholic Bishops? Council to appoint another delegate in her place. Although another dispute arose over the attempt of some members of the council to award themselves danger pay, the change in personnel did help to mitigate, although not eliminate the conflicts.
The general public is unaware of the content of the work plan and timeline used to prepare the electoral budget. However, the CEP presented a budget to the government and the international community. The total cost of operations reached an estimate of nearly $50 million. Each donor had an opportunity to display its commitment. As usual, Canada, the United States, and the European Union were the major contributors. They chose the UNDP and the OAS to coordinate technical and financial assistance to the CEP, with the two organizations dividing up responsibilities. Even the Haitian government?s financial contribution had to be channeled through the UNDP.
Obviously, the CEP was operating in a bind, with little room to maneuver. However, it was still the constitutional entity mandated to organize and control, in complete independence, all electoral activities in the entire country until the results were declared. In spite of the overlapping control by the international community, the operation appeared possible within the time-frame mentioned, under one condition: that all actors share the will to succeed. Such did not turn out to be the case. Instead, bad faith, division, and discord poisoned the CEP. To repeat an old saying, the worm was within the fruit. The CEP carried within itself the seeds of its own inefficiency. That cut into its credibility and the trust of its partners, as the electoral process unfolded.
According to basic management principles, any change in the completion date of one activity jeopardizes the completion of the next activity, and is likely to throw off the entire plan. The registration of potential voters started spottily in Gonaives. Registration offices opened at an extremely slow pace. The lack of topographical knowledge of Haiti by the CEP?s foreign partners, plus the inaccessibility of some neighborhoods in the capital, made for a bumpy start. Nevertheless, an electoral decree was issued and published in the official paper Le Moniteur in an effort to reassure both the CEP?s partners and the politicians intending to run for office.
At the date set to complete that first stage, only a small percentage of the population of voting age had registered. So the process had to be extended. That extension delayed the next stage, the preparation of the identification cards. Similarly, the postponement and extension of the period of candidates? registration, not counting the delays for challenges and appeals, delayed the ballot printing. One can also add the accumulated delays in identifying polling stations, as well as the selection, training and placement of personnel in the voting centers spread among the ten geographic departments of the country.
Postponements became routine. From the beginning of October, the first round of the presidential and legislative elections was deferred to the end of November, before being scheduled for January 8, 2006. Many were skeptical about the CEP?s ability to meet that deadline, either. However, the setting of the January date did succeed in breaking a symbolic date, that of February 7, the date set in the constitution for the inauguration of the president. Now, there was no more deadline, any date was possible.
Internal conflicts weakened the CEP and undermined its credibility to its Haitian as well as foreign partners. The executive branch took advantage of the situation to encroach on its power despite its presumed independence. It formed a Commission of Support, imposed the appointment of an administrator in the person of a new director-general, and tailor-made rules of internal policies. Recourse to these tactics made it possible to avoid outright dissolution of the ill-functioning CEP as well as indefinite postponement of the elections. Itself divided, the CEP was caught between the anvil of the government and the hammer of the international community. As if at their mercy, it could be “counted, weighed, and divided,” like the Kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar.
The International Community
Since 1987, technical assistance for the elections in Haiti and their financing has been provided by international donors. This year, the line-up was as follows: the CEP played the part of project manager, the UNDP coordinated the entire financing as well as the disbursing of funds, and the OAS managed voter registration and other operations up to the installation of the voting centers.
However, these two organizations did not have the reputation of being efficient. Their bureaucratic procedures require that they refer for the least decision to their headquarters in New York and Washington. The incompetence, inefficiency and incoherence of the CEP, coupled with that of the UNDP and the OAS, meant a clumsy electoral machinery. However, only the CEP was accountable to the Haitian people. To cover their failure and redeem themselves, these other organizations lowered the projections of the size of the voting age population, in spite of official statistics provided by the Haitian Institute of Statistics and Data Processing (IHSI), thus depriving a million Haitians of their constitutional right to vote.
The administrative and financial trinity UNDP-OAS-CEP required much coordination as well as a scrupulous adherence to the schedule of events, especially with regard to procurement of goods and services. For example, the OAS awarded the contract to prepare electoral cards to an American firm located in Mexico, Digimark. That firm could not deliver within the deadline the 3. 5 million electoral cards ordered, because of the many delays in the preceding stages. The distribution of those cards to potential voters was chaotic, involving cases of beatings and even cases of death by suffocation.
Thus, from the registration process to the receipt of the electoral card, the Haitian citizen had to pay a price in blood for the exercise of a constitutional right, namely the right to vote. Now, she had to travel miles before reaching a voting place in order to fulfill her civic duty. Registered in her district, she had to vote in another district, at a walking distance of several hours. How could she choose among legislative and local candidates whom she does not even know, because they do not represent her? Such nonsense was contrary to any guiding principle of a credible election. Even the most elementary rules of courtesy, which consist in giving priority to the old or handicapped, even to women, were ignored. And the CEP and its international partners offered official statements to deplore this development, as if it were beyond their control. Will the well-nigh inevitable disaster of these elections be presented to us as one more failure of the Haitian people on their tumultuous path? Who shall bear responsibility for the failure of the operation, when at least 80 percent of it was directed by the OAS and MINUSTAH?
b. The Political Parties
Elections have always been divisive in Haitian politics. One recalls the strained unity which emerged between some political parties and the civil society to get rid of Jean-Bertrand Aristide?s dictatorial regime. This made foreign observers say that Haitian politicians are more ready to unite against rather than for something. An illustration of the divisiveness was the very number of political parties registered with the CEP to participate in the elections.
Close to forty presidential candidates registered, more precisely thirty-seven, including one woman. Two were disqualified on grounds of foreign citizenship. The government had to modify the electoral decree and resort to the creation of an Inter-ministerial Commission on Nationality to help the CEP deal with two ?foreigners? acting against the provisions of the Haitian fundamental charter on the conditions of eligibility to the presidency. The incompetence of the CEP had made it possible for one of them to receive a favorable ruling from the Haitian supreme court.
The question of dual citizenship generated a lot of talk and written debate among Haitians. That question is worth discussing. This year, an American citizen of Haitian extraction was denied a ministerial appointment, while she was leading one of the major employers’ organizations in the country. We recall her previous media interventions during the conflicts which occurred in the tax-free zone on the plain of Maribaroux in the North Eastern Department. The matter was discussed with much emotion, and mainly with hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy, because at least one minister of the government of transition is an American citizen. Hypocrisy, because several citizens coveting of the positions of senators or representatives carry a foreign passport. Hypocrisy, because the majority of those who speak in radio-televised broadcasts carry a foreign passport. Hypocrisy, because the Haitian diaspora, which mostly includes naturalized citizens, contributes more than one billion American dollars each year to the economy of the country, in remittances and food shipments to relatives living in their native land.
Emotion, because we praise and honor the achievements of our fellow nationals who migrated to foreign lands. The cases are legion. For the record, let us mention those of Michaelle Jean, recently appointed governor-general of Canada, therefore representing the British Crown; of Luc Mervil and Wyclef Jean. The latter manages a foundation, which provides humanitarian assistance to populations living in poor neighborhoods of the capital. Also, he never misses an opportunity to display the national flag during his international artistic performances. In addition, those native Haitians always express their solidarity with their country of origin, especially in situations of catastrophes and natural disasters, such as in the cases of Mapou, Fonds-Verrettes and Gonaives.
In this beginning of the twenty-first century and in this era of globalization, it appears unjust to want to maintain only a relation of ?send me money? with the fellow nationals of the diaspora. Let us get rid of these flaws and backward behavior, marred with hypocrisy and emotion, toward fellow nationals who had to leave the country either to save their life, or to provide the advantages of living abroad to their offspring. Other countries use this as a strategic development base. However, this requires peace, stability and safety.
Before closing this section devoted to the elections, let us recall that the electoral campaign began in October. It is dull. It mainly involves a contest of posters, banners, commercials, and sound trucks rather than generating in-depth discussions on the major issues concerning the future of the country.
On that matter, we salute the efforts of civil society organizations such as Université Notre-Dame, ECOSOF, Groupe Croissance and various media which offered forums intended to raise the level of the electoral debate. Similarly, with the help of ISPOS, several political parties notably signed an electoral code of conduct and a pact of governability. Recently, and on their own initiative, some reached a political agreement should one of them reach the second round. It is an altogether creditable effort, a new exercise in Haitian political history. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go: they would need to agree on a single candidate to the presidency.
Another originality of the electoral season is the integration in the electoral decree of the provisions of articles 281 and 281.1 of the 1987 constitution. Those articles stipulate that during national elections the state covers part of the expenses incurred during electoral campaigns, proportionally to the number of votes obtained. At the same time, the articles state the conditions of eligibility for public financing.
Given the organizational weakness of the political parties, the electoral decree softened the conditions and decided to provide an advance to any party having submitted to the CEP a list of forty thousand members officially recorded as registered voters, or approximately 10 percent of the electorate. The government claims to have reserved 55 million gourdes for this financing. Clearly, parties which were unable to submit a list of five thousand members in order to register with the CEP will have trouble obtaining this subsidy. It is like climbing a greasy pole.
The security situation in the country was alarming. The two institutions responsible for law and order, in fact the PNH and MINUSTAH, almost failed in their mission. Armed gangs ruled. The insecurity reached its climax in the first quarter of 2005. Neighborhoods such as Solineau, Bel-Air, La Saline, Cité Soleil, and Grand-Ravine were inaccessible. Also, insecurity prevailed in cities such as Petit-Goâve and Hinche.
Deprived of material and equipment, the PNH could not guarantee the safety of lives and property throughout the country. Entire communes were without police officers. The staffed police stations needed more personnel. The PNH faced a triple problem. 1) manpower was scant; 2) its personnel included criminals; 3) a U.S. government embargo prohibited its procurement of weapons on the regular market.
Successive classes of four hundred police officers were trained every four months at the police academy, aimed at bringing up the force to seven thousand by the end of the term of the government of transition. The personnel faced continuous purges. The chief of police was even dismissed and replaced by a former officer responsible for the judicial police. The U.S. House of Representatives adopted a resolution prohibiting the sale of weapons to the PNH, accused of human rights violations.
A blunder by a PNH patrol during a football game sponsored by USAID in Martissant lent color to these claims. Reports from national and international human rights organizations assailed the PNH. Following a report by the inspector-general, the police chief firmly sanctioned such behavior. Two high-ranking officers and ten agents were jailed while awaiting the results of the investigation on the matter. Their detention generated noisy, even violent, demonstrations by supporters of one of those two senior officers.
This international force, created according to UN Security Council resolutions, has not yet succeeded in pacifying the country. From listening to testimonies of the victims of insecurity, one can wonder whether it has the will to do so. Doesn’t the violence provide a justification for its prolonged presence, with juicy salaries? Is the insecurity a ?nasty business? for the gangs on the one side, and MINSUTAH on the other? Haitians tend more and more to believe it. With seven thousand soldiers and twelve hundred civilian police officers, MINUSTAH appeared well equipped to do the work. But it claimed to be hard pressed to restore order in Bel-Air and Cité Soleil.
That may be due to the rules of engagement defined in the above resolutions. However, doesn?t the higher principle of assistance to a person in danger take precedence over any resolution? General Heleno de Ribeiro?s desire to protect his soldiers? lives was a main concerns. He looked more like a TV evangelist than an army general. By mid-year, he was replaced as the head of MINUSTAH?s military forces by another Brazilian general. Similarly, the Commander of the Civilian Police force, renamed UNPOL, was also transferred.
The gangs attacked MINUSTAH and that rattled some of its troops. As a result, businesses and their employees were mishandled. The commanders of those troops had to apologize publicly to the victims of such acts of aggression, on behalf of the MINUSTAH soldiers.
However, in Delmas, Cité Militaire and Cité Soleil, bands of armed gang members continued to rule. A day did not pass without tens of people being kidnapped or killed. In July, the kidnapping and assassination of poet and journalist Jacques Roche was condemned on a national as well as international level. The rule of armed groups did not follow an identifiable pattern, whatever their zones of influence.
On the one hand, former soldiers led by Ravix Remissainthe sowed unrest in Petit-Goâve, Morne-à-Cabrits, Hinche, and Frères. Around February, an alliance between Ravix and Rene Jean Anthony, alias Sonnen, brought more pressure on the Delmas population. On the Monday of Mardi-Gras, they chased a police patrol in the area of Clercine.
Consequently, two officers who had just graduated with the sixteenth policy-academy class lost their lives as they provided security to a Mardi-Gras float. Ravix and Sonnen continued to spread terror to the point of claiming responsibility for firing upon the CEP?s headquarters. Around April, they were fatally wounded during exchanges of gunfire with the police in Delmas, according to the spokesperson of that institution.
After that operation, a group of demobilized soldiers based in Cap-Haitien reached an accord with the government in which they were to receive compensation; those eligible would be integrated into the national police force and the remainder in other public service positions. That group moved to the School of the Magistrature, the provisional seat of the commission in charge of matters related to the demobilized soldiers.
On the other hand, men like Ti Will, Ti Kenley, Robinson Thomas alias La Bannière, and Emmanuel (Dread) Wilmé sowed unrest in Gonaïves, Petit-Goâve and Cité Soleil. The last three had the same fate as Ravix and Sonnen, whereas the first continued to benefit from the situation of impunity which prevailed in the country.
This year, a string of sensational episodes brought to light the weaknesses of the Haitian legal system, characterized by dependency, corruption and incompetence.
The first episode was related to the cases of Jean L. Dominique, Brignol Lindor and the children of Viola Robert, whose files have been sitting for more than three years in the cabinets of the courthouse in Port-with-Prince.
The second episode concerns the case of the massacre of La Scierie, in Saint-Marc. Several people were jailed for more than a year for their presumed involvement in this massacre. But the name of just one of the prisoners caught the attention of the international community, which used pressure, threats, and ploys to obtain his release, in complete disregard of the laws of this country. It was former prime minister Yvon Neptune, now detained in a villa rented especially by the Haitian government in one of the most upscale neighborhoods of the capital.
Foreign delegations of all kinds demanded his unconditional release. For example, the French magistrate, responsible for Haitian matters at the office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights in Geneva, and the chief of MINUSTAH participated in schemes toward his release and transfer to the Dominican Republic.
A medical bulletin from a physician assigned to MINUSTAH?s military hospital announced his imminent death. A second evaluation of the prisoner?s health, made by a team of Haitian doctors, revealed that the prisoner was in good health. Finally, the American ambassador, James B. Foley, and some members of the U.S. Congress took it upon themselves to demand the dismissal of Justice Minister Bernard Gousse. The latter had to resign, as he lost support from the presidency and received only lip service from the prime minister.
Sometime later, the office of the investigative judge in Saint-Marc rendered a decision to transfer to the criminal court about thirty indicted individuals, including Neptune, former Minister for Justice Calixte Delatour, and former police chief Mrs. Jocelyne Pierre. The new justice minister, who had promised Neptune?s release, could only abide by the ruling of the courageous investigative judge, Cluny Pierre Jules. The case is still dragging. Perhaps some of the accused appealed to the Gonaïves Appellate Court against the decision.
The third episode is that of Father Gerard Jean Juste who was present, dressed in his soutane, in the church where the funeral of the journalist and poet Jacques Roche was about to take place. The police took him in for questioning and later referred him to the public prosecutor?s office. The latter sent the case to the investigative office of the Port-au-Prince district court. Jean-Juste has been held in jail since, pending a decision from the investigative judge. The latter had a legal deadline of ninety days to process and issue that decision. However, the file was sent to him right before the judicial summer recess. Since the opening of the judicial year last October, the courts have experienced difficulties in holding sessions regularly in the Port-au-Prince courthouse. When it was not the sitting judges who were absent, the government attorneys were.
The fourth episode is the aggregate information provided in the investigative reports of a government-appointed Administrative Board of Inquiry, and of the Central Processing Unit of Financial Information (UCREF) about the expenditures of the Lavalas government from February 2001 to February 2004. Following those two reports, writs of debit are needed from the Higher Court of Accounts and Administrative Affairs (CSCA) to allow for the indictment of the accused by the investigative judge.
The fifth episode is that of presidential candidate Dumarsais Mécène Siméus. After the CEP rejected his candidacy, he made an appeal to the supreme court against that decision which accused him of misrepresentation of facts. The court granted his appeal and rejected the CEP?s decision.
Inopportunely, however, the court cited, in its reasons, a law adopted in 2002 on the privileges granted naturalized Haitians and their descendants. Had it not been for that mention, the judgment would have remained consistent with the supreme court?s conventional treatment of cases.
However, the CEP in its awkwardness appealed to the supreme court to rescind the preceding decision. A panel of judges declared the petition inadmissible. Simeus?s attorney interpreted that new supreme-court decision as an order to reinstate the candidate.
Panicked, the executive branch dismissed the supreme-court judges who had signed this last decision, asking them to take advantage of their right of retirement. It should have proceeded by stages: first by replacing the vice-president George Henry, deceased the previous week; and then, negotiating the retirements with the concerned parties. However, the way in which the executive branch chose to proceed confirmed an impression of significant control over the judiciary. Once more, the principle of the independence and separation of powers, stated in the constitution, was violated by the very ones responsible for its application.
It should not come as a surprise if the successor of Magistrate Boniface Alexandre inflicts upon him the same fate as he did to his colleagues. In his inaugural speech, the new tenant of the national palace will thank him and use the occasion to ask him to take advantage of his right of retirement. What goes around comes around!
The sixth episode was the transfer of four alleged Haitian kidnappers to the American justice system. While it reinforced the global jurisdiction claimed by U.S. courts, that action weakened the Haitian judicial system, which is unable to guarantee to the accused the right to a fair trial within a reasonable time. The proof: two of those accused are about to be sentenced to prison for life by a federal court in Washington D.C; on the other hand, those held in Haiti for several months are still awaiting trial.
The major loser in this tragicomedy is the judicial system, and, through it, personal freedom. Today, 3,670 prisoners are stagnating in prison, in twenty-one detention centers controlled by the Correctional Facilities Management Administration (DAP). Of this total, only 417 have been convicted, and 3,253 are in extended preventive detention. They include 2,920 men, 212 women, and 121 minors. The latter should have been placed in rehabilitation centers, according to Haitian laws and the conventions ratified by Haiti.
Let us recall that this year once again, the national penitentiary was emptied by the spectacular escape of more than one hundred inmates, on February 19, 2005. No investigation has identified the secret accomplices of the escaped prisoners.
The government, the CEP, the political sector, the civil society, and the international community practice the art of incoherence. They do not even display any concern for matching their words with their daily actions.
First example: Decentralization. All have admitted that governmental structuring must begin at the local level, i.e. the communal section, the commune, and the department. However, none disputed the fact that the CEP decided to organize local elections after the presidential and legislative ballots. That way, the winning party at those two levels is likely to dominate the local elections. Moreover, those elections are a determining factor in the formation of the Permanent Electoral Council, the Higher Court of Accounts and Administrative Affairs, and in the appointment of judges at all levels.
The mission of the Council of Eminent Persons should be questioned in this context. That entity allowed the agreement of April 4, 2004 to reduce it to the mere role of a barrel of contention. Now a councilor threatens to resign if the council is not broadened into a council of state. Now she resigns from the Committee of Support to the CEP because of lack of attention from the government. Now another comrade threatens to resign if the supreme court judges sent to retirement are not reinstated. Loftily, the executive branch ignores all that criticism.
The political sector offered another example of incoherence. In 1987, the Haitian left had united to promote the candidacy of Gerard Gourgue to the presidency. In 2001, in an alternate inauguration to that of Aristide for a second presidential mandate, the Democratic Convergence chose the same individual as a symbolic president.
At the end of 2003 and beginning of 2004, they joined to fight Aristide. However, that objective once achieved, each political party “owner” hastened to run alone for president. Consequently, the entire GNB grassroots movement was a futile exercise which only led back to the status quo. As much as to say that people get the government that they deserve.
Last, in 2005, the government undertook two cabinet reshuffles which, far from promoting cohesion within the leadership team, rather exposed the existing rivalries between the president and prime minister. This year, President Boniface Alexandre participated in two regional meetings of heads of state, one in Panama and the other in Argentina where the Conference of the Americas took place, with the thirty-four heads of state of the area in attendance.
Several dignitaries also visited the country in 2005: the prime minister of Canada, that of Quebec, the American secretary of state, the president of the Dominican Republic, and the secretary-general of the OAS. Violent demonstrations by Haitian students protesting the mistreatment of their fellow citizens living in the neighboring country occurred during the visit of President Leonel Fernandez Reyna in Port-au-Prince, on December 12, 2005.
Results were mixed on the economic front. The government continued its efforts to restore public finances. It revised the decree on income tax, balanced the budget, and reiterated its will to fight against corruption, to the satisfaction of the international financial institutions. For the second consecutive year, the budget for fiscal year 2005-2006 was adopted before October 1, 2005.
However, those efforts did not result in any improvement of the living conditions of the population. Haiti continued to remain at the lowest end of the scale. The country ranked 153rd on the yearly UNDP index on human development. The German nongovernmental organization Transparency International classified Haiti among the four most corrupt countries in the world in its annual report.
This year, the Haitian economy rebounded with a positive growth rate of its Gross National Product (GNP). But this growth of 1.5 percent was insufficient compared to the growth rate of the population, estimated at 2.5 percent. Moreover, internal as well as external shocks severely impacted the economy.
Internally, the sociopolitical instability, which has prevailed in the country for the past two decades, discouraged any inclination to invest for production and capital growth. National and international investors chose more favorable locations for the successful operation of their business. Furthermore, insecurity and natural disasters struck the final blow to an economy already on the wane. Many are the business owners and industrialists who had to close their companies to flee the country. The informal sector also paid a price in fire and blood. Suspicious blazes completely destroyed the efforts of men and women who had faced danger each day in high-risk areas.
The dramatic rise in the price of oil on the international market worsened the above situation. The fuel price increase adversely affected the economy. No area was spared. First, the transportation sector had to adjust its rate upwards. From one day to the next, fares on major routes almost doubled. The same applied to the cost of transport for water, sand, iron, and cement. Consequently, the prices of vital commodities and those of building materials increased considerably.
The country did not produce sufficient goods and services to meet its internal needs. Almost all current consumer goods were imported from abroad. At the same time, Haiti?s exports could not offset its imports, either in volume or in value. Consequently, Haiti had a negative trade balance as compared to all its trading partners. Closer to us, the country represented an outlet for products coming from the Dominican Republic. It even imported lemon, coconut, and banana from there.
In addition, to compensate for the failures of the state electrical company, EDH, the majority of households, businesses, and even public institutions, arranged to produce their own electrical power. Generally, they resorted to purchasing generators and inverters. That expense, added to those for fuel, further impacted their production costs. In the end, the Haitian consumers paid the steep bill. And that did not fail to erode their meager income.
Thus, Haiti needed more and more dollars to finance its expenses. Theoretically, those dollars come from exports, tourism, remittances, and government aid to development. As we said earlier, exports provided little. Those from tourism were almost insignificant. Remittances from Haitians living abroad were the oxygen which barely kept alive the national economy. Demand for currency exceeded supply. The result was a stronger depreciation of the gourde compared to the U.S. dollar.
In July 2004, the international community as a whole had pledged to finance the projects contained in the Interim Cooperation Framework (CCI), jointly designed with the transitional government for a period of two years. The commitments amounted to more than $1 billion for that period. Had the promises been kept and the disbursements made, Haiti would have been transformed into a huge jobsite. Infrastructures of all kinds were either to be built or rehabilitated. Nothing happened. The fruits did not carry forth the promises of the flowers. Once again, the international community conned Haitian leaders, preferring to walk them from Montreal to Brussels, passing through Ottawa and Cayenne. In 2005, unemployment affected more than 60 percent of the country?s workforce. It is ironic to note that the Haitian National Police generated most of the country?s new jobs.
In the social area, the results were negative. Poverty, fear, exodus were the lot of the Haitian population in 2005.
Poverty affects a larger portion of the Haitian population. Statistics show that 60 percent are living on less than one U.S. dollar per day. The middle classes lives under increasingly precarious conditions. They scarcely manage to meet their most basic needs.
The situation of children is alarming. Malnutrition is one of the major causes of infant mortality. The number of children in poverty, particularly street children and AIDS orphans, is on the rise. Sexually-transmitted diseases continue their ravages among the youth.
People live in fear in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. Kidnappings and murders provoke increasingly frequent population movements. Entire neighborhoods are deserted. The streets of Port-with-Prince are left empty at nightfall. People no longer circulate at night. It would not be surprising to note an increase in cases of cerebrovascular and cardiovascular diseases, so great is the trauma.
Consequently, the brain and manpower drains increased in 2005. Potential participants to the exodus can be found in all sectors of the Haitian population. The most underprivileged take to the sea or cross the border to the Dominican Republic in search of better living conditions. This year, they were subjected to the worst treatments. Others arranged to go illegally to other Caribbean islands, North America, or Europe. The Canadian migration program attracted the most gifted among the most fortunate. Today, it is estimated that several thousand Haitian professionals have followed that route for the past five years.
Lastly, the environment has deteriorated at an alarming pace. Cultivable land is reduced in many areas of the country, as construction increases anarchically. This construction have spared neither the mountainsides nor the hollows of the ravines. During the rainy season, torrential rains took human and animal lives and destroyed property in several parts of the country. Also, unclean streets increased the risks of epidemics in many areas. Among the major endemic diseases, malaria brought its procession of corpses this year.
At the dawn of 2006, Haiti is at a crossroad. Has chaos already settled there? Its symptoms are insecurity, impunity, indiscipline and irresponsibility. Are we going towards stabilization, with more than $1 billion spent to support MINUSTAH and the electoral process? Stabilization requires efforts and sincerity. It implies vision, competence, commitment, and responsibility.
Chaos is a state and stabilization a process. Today, Haiti represents a threat for the Island of Quisqueya, the Caribbean, and the Continent. It underwent two foreign interventions in ten years, and three occupations in less than one century.
To spare us another slap on the face, let?s stop counting on others. More and more national and foreign observers think that, in the end, MINUSTAH and the OAS find the Haitian tragedy a lucrative affair.
But how do Haitians see themselves? What do they say? What can they do together? Those are the questions. Because, they alone have the stake in building a prosperous and proud Haiti.