An interview with former Organization of American States diplomat Ricardo Seitenfus, on his new book. The book speaks of NGOs’ and the United Nations’ often-toxic relationship with Haiti and an alleged “silent coup” by the international community against former president Rene Preval.
Interview: Former OAS Diplomat Exposes the Crimes of the “International Community” in Haiti
Georgianne Nienaber and Dan Beeton, Haiti Liberte
between March 5 and 11, 2014
In his new book, Ricardo Seitenfus writes about the “electoral coup” which brought President Martelly to power, the UN’s “genocide by negligence” through importing cholera, and Venezuela’s “new paradigm” with PetroCaribe
(First of two parts)*
The title of Brazilian professor Ricardo Seitenfus’ book, HAITI: Dilemas e Fracassos Internacionais(“International Crossroads and Failures in Haiti,” published in Brazil by the Editora Unijui – Universite de Ijui– in the series Globalization and International Relations) appropriately opens with a reference to existentialist philosopher Albert Camus.
Camus’ third great novel, The Fall, is a work of fiction in which the author makes the case that every living person is responsible for any atrocity that can be quantified or named. In the case of Haiti, the January 2010 earthquake set the final stage for what amounted to what Seitenfus says is an “international embezzlement” of the country.
The tragedy began over 200 years ago in 1804, when Haiti committed what Seitenfus terms an “original sin,” a crime of lèse-majesté for a troubled world: it became the first (and only) independent nation to emerge from a slave rebellion. “The Haitian revolutionary model scared the colonialist and racist Great Powers,” Seitenfus writes. The U.S. only recognized Haiti’s independence in 1862, just before it abolished its own slavery system, and France demanded heavy financial compensation from the new republic as a condition of its honoring Haiti’s nationhood. Haiti has been isolated and manipulated on the international scene ever since, its people “prisoners on their own island.”
To understand Seitenfus’ journey into the theater of the absurd, it is necessary to revisit the months after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. As the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Special Representative in Haiti, Seitenfus lost his job in December 2010 after an interview in which he sharply criticized the role of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the devastated country. But it appears that the author also had insider information about international plans for a “silent coup d’etat,” electoral interference and more.
On the Ground in Haiti: October-December 2010
It was not yet one year since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed 220,000 or more, left infrastructure in chaos, and 1.5 million people homeless. Accusations were rampant in October international press reports that the United Nations mission to Haiti (MINUSTAH) had introduced cholera into Haiti’s river system. As of Feb. 9, 2014, 699,244 people contracted cholera and 8,549 have died.
Ground zero for the outbreak was negligent sewage disposal at the Nepalese Mirebalais MINUSTAH camp. The malfeasance was first documented by the Associated Press and ultimately provided crucial proof of the U.N.’s guilt. Thousands were infected and the number of dead rose exponentially. On Nov. 28, the national election was contested in what can only be termed an electoral crisis. Hundreds of thousands of voters were either shut out of the electoral process or boycotted the vote after the most popular party in the country — Fanmi Lavalas — was again banned from competing. Many of those displaced by the earthquake were not allowed to vote, and in the end less than 23% of registered voters had their vote counted.
Eyewitness testimony on election day reported numerous electoral violations: ballot stuffing, tearing up of ballots, intimidation and fraud. Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council , responsible for overseeing elections, announced that former first lady Mirlande Manigat won but lacked the margin of victory needed to avoid a runoff. An OAS “experts” mission was dispatched to examine the results. Even though it was indeterminate that he should advance, due to the OAS’ intervention, candidate and pop musician Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly was selected to compete in the runoff instead of the governing party’s candidate Jude Célestin.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) subsequently released a report showing that there were so many problems with the election tallies that the OAS’ conclusions represented a political, rather than an electoral decision.
CEPR reported that for some 1,326 voting booths, or 11.9% of the total, tally sheets were either never received by the CEP, or were quarantined for irregularities. This corresponded to about 12.7% of the vote not being counted and not included in the final totals that were released by the CEP on Dec. 7, 2010 and reported by the press. CEPR also noted that in its review of the tally sheets, the OAS Mission chose to examine only a portion, and that those it discarded were from disproportionately pro-Célestin areas. Nor did the OAS mission use any statistical inference to estimate what might have resulted had it examined the other 92% of tally sheets that it did not examine.
The runoff was finally scheduled for Mar. 20, 2011 and Martelly was declared the winner with 67.6% of the vote versus Manigat’s 31.5%. Turnout was so low that Martelly was declared president-elect after receiving the votes of less than 17% of the electorate in the second round.
Into the fray stepped Brazilian professor Ricardo Seitenfus. Seitenfus, a respected scholar, made statements to Swiss newspaperLe Temps criticizing international meddling in Haiti in general and by MINUSTAH and NGOs in particular. He was abruptly ousted on Christmas Day. The press was equivocal on whether Seitenfus was fired or forced to take a two-month “vacation” before his tenure ended in March 2011.
Was Seitenfus let go for citing a “maléfique ou perverse” (evil or perverse) relationship between the government of Haiti and NGOs operating amidst fraud and waste; his accusations about the cholera cover-up; or more troubling, knowledge of a silent coup being orchestrated against then-President Rene Préval by a secret “Core Group?” Was he silenced because of his knowledge of covert meetings between the then Special Representative of the Secretary-General and MINUSTAH chief Edmond Mulet, then U.S Ambassador Kenneth Merten, and then-Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive?
Seitenfus’ passionate accounting of the events in the year after the January 2010 earthquake reveals a man seemingly at odds with his internal moral compass and what he describes as “the black hole of western consciousness” in relations between Haiti and the international community of donor nations. This is a book written by a man enthralled by the beauty and promise of Haiti. It is also a book written by a professor serving as a diplomat struggling to be a whistleblower in the absurd and troubling world of international diplomacy.
Q: You write about international collusion in plans for a “silent coup.” Why wait until now to name the perpetrators? Does the fact that Mulet, Bellerive and Merten have all moved on from their offices have anything to do with your timing? You state emphatically that you opposed the coup plans.
RS: No. It is not true that I kept quiet. I gave various interviews to the Brazilian and international press, in late December 2010 and early January 2011, mentioning this and other episodes. See, for example, the BBC and AlJazeera.
The problem is that the international press was manipulated during the electoral crisis and never had an interest in doing investigative journalism. In the interviews that I gave, and especially in my book (“International Crossroads and Failures in Haiti”), soon to be published in Brazil and other countries, I describe the electoral coup in great detail.
Furthermore, the vast majority of the elements I reveal, I discovered in a scientific research project over the past three years. Many questions were hanging in the air, without adequate answers. I believe I managed to connect the different views and actors, providing the reader a logical and consistent interpretation about what happened. We are dealing with a work that is required by the historical memory, without any shadow of revenge or settling of scores.
Q: Were you the background press source on early reports of the cholera epidemic being caused by MINUSTAH in October 2010? You write about the “shameless” attitude of the United Nations (including Edmond Mulet and Ban Ki-moon) and ambassadors of the so-called “friends of Haiti;” countries that refused to take responsibility after MINUSTAH introduced cholera to Haiti. You say that this “transforms this peace mission into one of the worst in the history of the United Nations.” Would you be willing to testify in the current class action lawsuit, filed in a U.S. federal court, accusing the U.N. of gross negligence and misconduct on behalf of cholera victims in Haiti?
RS: There is no doubt that the fact that the United Nations — especially Edmond Mulet and Ban Ki-moon — systematically denied its direct and scientifically-verified responsibility for the introduction of the Vibrio cholera into Haiti, projects a lasting shadow over that peace operation. What is shocking is not MINUSTAH’s carelessness and negligence. What is shocking is the lie, turned into strategy, by the international community. The connivance of the alleged “Group of Friends of Haiti” (integrated at first by Argentina, the Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Chile, the United States, Guatemala, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, as well as Germany, France, Spain and Norway, in their role as Permanent Observers before the OAS) in this genocide by negligence, constitutes an embarrassment that will forever mark their relations with Haiti.
Even former President Clinton, in a visit in early March 2012 to a hospital in the central region of Haiti, publicly admitted that “I don’t know that the person who introduced cholera in Haiti, the U.N. peacekeeper, or [U.N.] soldier from South Asia, was aware that he was carrying the virus. It was the proximate cause of cholera. That is, he was carrying the cholera strain. It came from his waste stream into the waterways of Haiti, into the bodies of Haitians.” 
Although soon after he stated that the absence of a sanitation system in Haiti propagated the epidemic, these statements by the Special Envoy of the U.N. Secretary General for Haiti represent the first major fissure in the denial strategy of the crime committed by the United Nations.
Currently, the United Nations hides behind the immunity clause conferred by the Jul. 9, 2004 agreement signed with Haiti legalizing MINUSTAH’s existence. Now, this agreement is void, since it was not signed, as provided in the Haitian Constitution (Article 139), by the Acting President of Haiti, Boniface Alexandre, but by the PM [Prime Minister] Gerard Latortue. According to the 1969 and 1986 Vienna Conventions on the Law of Treaties, any treaty signed by someone who lacks jus tractum — that is, treaty making power — is null and considered ineffective.
As with any legal action, without validity it has no [legal] effect. The existence of a lack of consent — whether due to the inability of state representatives to conclude a treaty or to an imperfect ratification — results in the absolute voiding of the action (Vienna Convention, Article 46, paragraph 1).
With the contempt for Haitian constitutional rites and for the legal principles that govern the Law of Treaties, the United Nations demonstrated, once again, the constant levity with which it treats Haitian matters. Responsible for establishing the rule of law in the country, according to its own mission, the UN does not follow even its own fundamental provisions, thus making the text that it supports and that should legalize its actions in Haiti void and ineffective.
Therefore, the UN’s last recourse in trying to deny its responsibility for introducing cholera in Haiti can be easily circumvented, since MINUSTAH’s very existence is plagued with illegalities.
Clearly, I am and will always be available to any judicial power that deals with this case. Even federal courts in the United States. If asked, I will testify, with the goal of contributing to establish the truth of the facts and the search for justice.
Q: Were you threatened in any way prior to your departure from Haiti? Since you were effectively fired, why not name names and discuss the actions of the “Core Group” in 2010?
RS: As a coordination agency for the main foreign actors (states and international organizations) in Haiti, a limited Core Group (which includes Brazil, Canada, Spain, the United States, France, the UN, the OAS and the European Union) is an indispensable and fundamental instrument in the relations between the international community and the Haitian government. It is not about questioning its existence. What I was able to verify was that on [election day] Nov. 28, 2010, in the absence of any discussion or decision about the matter, [then head of MINUSTAH] Edmond Mulet, speaking on behalf of the Core Group, tried to remove [then president of Haiti] René Préval from power and to send him into exile. Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince published a press release at 9 p.m. the same day dismissing the voting results and imposing its position on the whole Core Group. Still, the majority of the decisions in which I participated as representative to the OAS in the Core Group during the years 2009 and 2010 were sensible and important.
Q: You write about the “maléfique ou perverse” (evil or perverse) relationship between NGOs and Haiti. In your view, has this problem become institutionalized? You said some of the NGOs exist only because of Haitian misfortune?
RS: There is a will — deliberate or tacit — by the international community to bypass the Haitian institutions and to give preference to Transnational Non-Governmental Organizations (TNGOs).  Their overwhelming invasion following the earthquake reached levels never before imagined. [Then] U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, herself pointed out in an interview some months after the earthquake that more than 10,000 TNGOs were operating in Haiti. This means that there was an increase in their presence of over 4,000% in the course of a short period of time. This NGOization turns Haiti into what many have called a true “Republic of the TNGOs.”
In the face of a weakened state and one that was almost destroyed by the earthquake, the emergency aid apparatus had no option but to directly confront reality. Direct connections were established with the victims and even those in charge of the UN system in Haiti were not taken into account. A true pandemonium came into being in which everyone decided on his own what to do, and when and how to do it.
An optimistic and official report, presented by Ban Ki-moon to the UN Security Council in October 2012, recognizes that of the alleged US$ 5.78 billion in contributions made over the 2010-2012 period by bilateral and multilateral donors, a little less than 10% (US$ 556 million) was given to the Haitian government. It is worth mentioning that the governments of the donor states use both private donations and public resources to cover the spending of their own interventions in Haiti. As such, for example, more than US$ 200 million in private donations from U.S. citizens served to finance the transportation and stay of U.S. soldiers in Haiti soon after the earthquake.
Traditionally in Haiti, the “goods” such as hospitals, schools and humanitarian aid are delivered by the private sector, while the “bads” — that is, police enforcement — is the state’s responsibility. The earthquake further deepened this terrible dichotomy.
The circle was closed with the ideological discourse to justify this way of proceeding. According to this [discourse], the transfer of resources is done through the TNGOs for the simple reason that the Haitian state suffers from total and permanent corruption. Sometimes, the lack of managerial capacity is cited. Therefore, there is nothing more logical than to bypass public authorities without even thinking that without a structured and effective state, no human society has managed to develop.
The former Governor General of Canada, Michäelle Jean — of Haitian origin — is one of the rare voices in the international community to propose a complete change of strategy. To her,
“Charity comes from the heart, but sometimes, when it’s poorly organized, it contributes more to the problems than to the solutions. Haiti is among the countries that’s been transformed into a vast laboratory of all the experiments, all the tests, and all the errors of the international aid system; of the faulty strategies that have never generated results, that have never produced or achieved anything that’s really sustainable despite the millions of dollars amassed in total disorder, without long term vision and in a completely scattered fashion.” 
Certainly, direct financial cooperation with a state that has a lack of administrative capacity increases the risk that resources will be misused. However, there is no other solution: either the public management capacity of the Haitian state is strengthened or we will keep plowing the sea.
Unfortunately, the international community prefers to continue with the strategy that has already proved to be thoroughly inefficient. It not only impedes financial transfers to Haitian institutions, but it also tries to force them to channel their own meager resources to be administrated by international organizations. There was, for example, an attempt to transfer the PetroCaribe fund resources for Haiti to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission. The determined resistance by Préval and Bellerive terminated this move. Nonetheless, in every election campaign, the donor countries insist on having the resources of the Haitian treasury be administered by the UN Development Program (UNDP). Therefore, the strategy of the international community not only impedes institutional strengthening, but it also takes away from the Haitian state the little financial autonomy that it possesses.
The model imposed on Haiti since 2004 has two elements. On the one hand, there is the military presence through MINUSTAH, and on the other the civil presence in the form of the TNGOs and the alleged private development corporations. Added to these are the bilateral strategies of the member states in the so-called Group of Friends of Haiti. In interpreting the popular sentiment, it is impossible to disagree with these words by Liliane Pierre-Paul:
“The great majority of Haitians weren’t mistaken and the promises ultimately did nothing to change the disastrous perception of an international community that was bureaucratic, condescending, wasteful, inefficient, and lacking in soul, modesty and creativity.” 
As long as this model is not significantly revamped there will be no solution. Social vulnerability and the precariousness of the state continue to be major Haitian characteristics. With the model applied by the international community through the UN system, the TNGOs and the United States, we are deceiving ourselves, misleading world public opinion and frustrating the Haitian people.
Q: What are your thoughts on the amount of agricultural land taken out of production to make way for the Caracol Industrial Park, a $300 million public-private partnership among a diverse set of stakeholders??
RS: Caracol symbolizes a development policy far more than any loss of mainly agricultural lands. It so happens that the Caracol model was used during the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier and its results are known to everyone. As a complement to agricultural production, Caracol is acceptable. Nonetheless, to want to turn Haiti into a “Taiwan of the Caribbean”  is to completely disregard the social, anthropological, historical and economic characteristics of the country.
Q: You write that Venezuela’s PetroCaribe initiative was a key motive for the U.S. government’s turn against Préval. Why then do you think the U.S. and the OAS wanted a candidate – Michel Martelly – in the second round of elections who would ultimately be even friendlier with Venezuela? Do you think Martelly’s relations with Venezuela might pose a threat to him as well?
RS: Compared to the alleged development cooperation model imposed by the international community on Haiti, Cuba and Venezuela follow absolutely opposite paths. Whatever our opinion about the domestic policies of these countries, it cannot be denied that their form of cooperation takes into account more the demands and needs expressed by Haitians themselves. Cuba — lacking financial resources and rich in human resources –since 1998 has implemented a local family health and medicine program that reaches the most remote places in Haiti. Cuban medical diplomacy directly benefits the most humble of the Haitian people and attempts to compensate for the brain drain in the health sector promoted by certain western countries, particularly Canada.
In turn, although recent, the Venezuelan development cooperation offered to Haiti asserts itself as a new paradigm in the Caribbean Basin. It is sustained through the following trilogy: on the one hand, Caracas listens to the Haitian claims and strives to make its offers and possibilities compatible with these demands. On the other, nothing is carried out without the knowledge and previous consent of the public institutions and the Haitian government. Finally, the cooperation aims to bring direct benefits to the Haitian people without taking into consideration any ideological discrepancy there may be with the incumbent government in Haiti. This is a principle equally espoused by Cuba and it explains not only the absence of any interference by the two countries during the election crisis of 2010, but also the excellent relations maintained, both by Havana and Caracas, with the Martelly administration.
The PetroCaribe program is the crown jewel of Haitian-Venezuelan cooperation. Everything is put into it. Everything depends on it. In the face of a true boycott of Haitian public power promoted by the so-called Group of Friends of Haiti, the resources made available by the PetroCaribe program represented, in 2013, 94% of the investment capacity of the Haitian state. 
Most of the beneficiary countries — as with Haiti — do not include the resources from the PetroCaribe program in the national budget, preventing legal and accounting oversight. This situation generates distrust and criticism, both domestic and foreign, due to the lack of transparency in using them.
Far beyond its results, the philosophy on which the Venezuelan cooperation is based contrasts with that of the developed countries. The energetic Pedro Antonio Canino Gonzalez, Venezuelan ambassador in Port-au-Prince since 2007, highlights the principles that guide the actions of the ALBA countries in Haiti: “We did not come to carry out an electoral campaign in Haiti. Why would we make spurious commitments? Venezuela’s assistance aims to attenuate the Haitian people’s misery without any strings attached. My government isn’t even interested in the Haitian Republic’s diplomatic relations with other countries, including the U.S.. This is a prerogative of the Haitian authorities, who are free to have relations with whomever they wish.” 
This is the exact opposite of the long and constantly increasing list of conditionalities that characterizes the cooperation offered by the west. With disregard for national idiosyncrasies, the idea of democracy is used as a screen to camouflage their own national interests.
The United States and its allies in Haiti should pay attention to the lessons of the young Venezuelan cooperation because, in addition to respect for the public institutions of the host state, as a current Haitian leader bluntly states, ” Friendship with a country as poor and with as many needs as Haiti isn’t measured in the number of years of domination, but in how many millions are on the table. “
Although the PetroCaribe program is based on an anti-imperialist and liberationist discourse to mark a break between Monroe and Bolivar, it is, in fact, a counter model to traditional development aid from the developed countries and international organizations. In the universe of the international cooperation provided to Haiti, Venezuela constitutes an exception, being the only one that provides, regularly, financial resources directly to the Haitian state. 
(To be continued)
* This article was originally published under the title “International Crossroads and Failures in Haiti” by the LA Progressive. Georgianne Nienaber is a freelance writer and author and frequent contributor to LA Progressive. Dan Beeton is International Communications Director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and a frequent contributor to its “Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch” blog.
Click HERE for original article with notes.