Originally: The U.S. Defends Democracy in Haiti
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice backs the OAS’s report of fraud in Haiti’s presidential election.
The return to Port-au-Prince of exiled Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier a week ago Sunday stunned that nation. Pundits called it another bad break for Haitians and warned that the increased instability it could provoke is just what the impoverished country doesn’t need.
But let’s face it: Duvalier did not fall from the sky like a loose tree limb in a hurricane. His return was engineered, like the rampant government corruption that goes on every day.
Haiti’s troubles are not, by and large, the bad luck of a cursed nation. They are man-made results brought about by local thugs and abetted by foreigners. Expecting change in Haiti without confronting this reality is lunacy. This is why reversing the fraud in Haiti’s November presidential and parliamentary elections is so important.
The Duvalier dictatorships (from 1957-1986) not only stole from Haiti in real time but also set a precedent. Jean Bertrand Aristide, who was president first briefly in 1991 and then returned in 1994, took over the rackets, as if it was legitimately his “turn.” President René Preval inherited the same role in 2006. Now the kleptocracy is trying to hang on through crooked vote counting. Remarkably, Organization of American States’ (OAS) Secretary General José Miguel Insulza apparently thinks he should help them.
It is still not clear why “Baby Doc” chose this time to return to his homeland. But count me as one of many who are skeptical of Mr. Preval’s claim that Duvalier’s visit was unannounced and unwelcome. Haitian officials would have had a copy in advance of the Air France manifest of his flight from Guadeloupe. It could have stopped him from boarding or, once in Haiti, turned him away. Remember, he was using an expired diplomatic passport. But he was allowed in, and it’s hard to ignore the fact that the timing of his return was fortuitous for Mr. Preval.
Haitian presidential candidate Michel Martelly (center) was fraudulently disqualified from the upcoming runoff, according to a report by the Organization of American States.
The next day, Mr. Insulza arrived in Port-au-Prince. An OAS “verification commission” had been invited into Haiti by Mr. Preval in December to audit the election results. The Haitian president seems to have been expecting a rubber stamp. But as part of its work, the commission conducted “a statistical analysis of a national random sample of the vote count” to help it identify tally sheets containing highly unlikely returns, e.g., more votes claimed than voters registered in a given precinct.
A copy of the commission’s report had been leaked days earlier to the press. When tainted tallies were tossed out, the report said that the commission could not support the Provisional Electoral Council’s (CEP) claim that Mr. Preval’s hand-picked candidate, Jude Celestin, had qualified for the runoff. Instead, it said, Michel Martelly?a famous Haitian musician, successful entrepreneur and political outsider?should be given the second-place slot.
Haitians and diplomatic observers were eagerly awaiting Mr. Insulza’s visit and the public statement he was sure to make about the fraud that the verification commission had found. Monitoring elections is, after all, a key role for the OAS. But instead of headlines on Monday about Mr. Insulza’s visit, the fourth estate spilled its ink on Baby Doc’s return.
Certainly Mr. Preval was pleased to have the Duvalier diversion. But he may not have been the only one unhappy with the election commission report. Several reliable sources told me that Mr. Insulza himself had sought to dilute the report by removing the commission’s conclusion that Mr. Martelly won a runoff spot. That’s quite a charge, so I called and emailed the OAS press office to see if Mr. Insulza would deny it. I received no response. My sources say that his goal of removing the report’s major substantive recommendation is what propelled someone to leak the report to the press before it could be tampered with.
That allegation gained credence when the OAS put out a press release on Thursday about the commission’s findings. It avoided repeating the commission recommendation: that “the position of the candidate in third place . . . [be] change[d] to second.”
Mr. Insulza may pay a price. On Thursday the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, issued a tough statement at a Security Council briefing on Haiti, saying that Haiti must “outline a very clear way forward” that “include[s] announcing first-round results and conducting second-round elections in a manner consistent with the recommendations and findings of the OAS technical review.” The ambassador also said “sustained support from the international community, including the United States, requires a credible process that represents the will of the Haitian people, as expressed by their votes.”
Mr. Preval knows that the U.S. puts a high price on stability, and that Mr. Insulza is loath to offend OAS members like Hugo Chávez, who favor authoritarian rule. But the election fraud, the return of Baby Doc, and proclamations from Mr. Aristide last week that he too is ready to go back mean trouble is brewing. Blessing a stolen election will only make things worse. It’s time to send Mr. Preval and his minions packing.
Write to O’Grady@wsj.com