The very timely conference called by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Inter-American Dialogue drew more than fifty people from the government, academia, and thinktanks. Among them were five from the Haiti Democracy Project. During the discussion period, members of the project raised these questions:
Had not the panel been overly sanguine about the performance of President Preval? Late last year, Preval gave a speech calling for the constitution to be changed to allow consecutive presidential terms. Although he had said he did not intend to benefit personally, one had to wonder. Since then, Preval had complicated prospects for free elections by maneuvering out the very able administrator of the electoral commission, Jacques Bernard. This was the man who had been most responsible for Haiti’s three excellent elections in 2006. Preval had also orchestrated the exiling of the vice-president of the Haitian senate, Sen. Rudolph Boulos, who was present in the audience today. U.S. and international policy-makers needed to take a severely realistic reading of Preval’s direction because despite all their investment of resources, it was Preval who was still driving the car.
The panel was asked to address the lack of activity by the Haitian government to facilitate private investment. This investment would have to be the motor of growth in Haiti. Compared to Asian countries with their high rates of investment and savings, Haiti was running in place.
The panel was asked to consider the effect of President Preval’s speech last October when he called the constitution the most destabilizing element in Haiti. Might not Preval’s questioning of the constitution and his moves against elections and parliament be the most destabilizing element? On the economic front, anyone who visited Haiti last year and talked to people on the street would have known that the high price of basic foods was killing the people. Was it not ironical then that in a country that could not feed itself, both the president and prime minister were agronomists? What were they doing with their terms in office, since they were clearly not increasing food production?
Left picture. From left: Dan Erikson, Inter-American Dialogue; Amb. Raymond Joseph; Jason Steinbaum, chief of staff, House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee; Johanna Mendelson Forman, senior associate, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Right picture. From right: Amb. Ernest H. Preeg, chairman of Haiti Democracy Project; Sen. Rudolph H. Boulos, founding member.
Left picture. From right: Peter DeShazo, director, Americas program, Center for Strategic and International Studies; Margaret Ellen Gilroy, State Department; Flavio Espinal, ambassador of the Dominican Republic
Right picture. From right: Elmide Meleance, Haiti Democracy Project; Ambassador Preeg
Gerald Gourdain, Haiti Democracy Project