FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Diaspora Groups and Leaders Ask Kerry to Drop
U.S. Resistance to Haiti Vote Fraud Inquiry
Boston, April 7 – 28 Haitian-American diaspora organizations and 32 political, religious and community leaders wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry today calling on the U.S. to support an inquiry into electoral fraud during the 2015 elections in Haiti. American officials have staunchly opposed the establishment of a verification commission to examine fraud allegations, a stance which has “undermined democracy while harming the United States’ credibility in Haiti,” according to the letter.
Haiti’s electoral process has been stalled since January 22 when massive street protests forced the suspension of the vote. After singer-turned-politician Michel Martelly stepped down as president on February 7, a transitional government was put in place and a new electoral council formed, tasked with restarting the democratic process. The creation of a verification commission is currently under consideration by the interim authorities.
“Haiti needs a vote verification commission,” said Pierre Imbert, former Director of the Massachusetts Office of Refugees and Immigrants and an endorser of the letter. “It is the only way to help restore Haitian voters’ confidence in the electoral process.” Haitian observer groups documented extensive fraud during previous rounds of voting, and a January 2016 public opinion survey showed that Haitians were extremely sceptical of the validity of the official results.
Going forward with the final round of elections without first examining the impact of fraud on the results would cast a “cloud of political illegitimacy” over Haiti’s next government, the letter warns. Presidential, legislative and municipal elections held on August 9 and October 25 were marred by fraud, violence and grave irregularities, which many claim favoured candidates close to former President Michel Martelly. “Haiti’s elections to date have been unacceptable by any reasonable democratic standard,” the letter states.
Among the 28 endorsing organizations are the Alliance of Haitian Professionals (AHP), the National Alliance for the Advancement of Haitian Professionals (NAAHP), the Haitian American Lawyers Association of New York (HALA-NY), and the Haitian American Lawyers Association of New Jersey (HALA-NJ).
U.S. officials have dismissed allegations of fraud and insisted that the final round of elections proceed based on the current, strongly-contested vote totals. In an April 4 interview, Ambassador to Haiti Peter Mulrean stated unequivocally that the U.S. was opposed to the creation of a verification commission and urged the interim government to quickly complete the electoral cycle.
“The arrogance is breathtaking!” said City of North Miami Vice-Mayor Alix Desulme, one of the endorsers of the letter, reacting to Mulrean’s comments. “The U.S. ambassador has no business dictating to Haitians how to manage their political affairs.”
Other individual endorsers include Florida State Representative Daphne D. Campbell, Florida Commissioner Mack Bernard, former Consul General of the Republic of Haiti in New York Harry Fouche, former City of North Miami Vice-Mayor Philippe Derose (the first Haitian-American elected to public office in the United States), Archdeacon J. Fritz Bazin of the Episcopal Diocese of South East Florida, Boston religious leader Pastor Dieufort Jean Fleurissaint, and Jocelyn McCalla, former Executive Director of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights.
The letter calls on the U.S. to support “the broad consensus of Haitian political and civil society” demanding a verification. The State Department’s priority “should be elections done well rather than simply quickly.” The U.S. government has contributed over $33 million to Haiti’s elections.
The letter also urges Kerry to “break the State Department’s silence” about the spectre of paramilitary violence threatening the transitional government as it deals with the electoral crisis. While acts of vandalism by street protestors have been publicly denounced by U.S. officials, ex-paramilitary leader Guy Philippe’s calls to ex-soldiers telling them to “prepare for war” against the interim government have received no such condemnation. Lamenting this “egregious double-standard,” the letter implored U.S. officials to “loudly and clearly denounce this electoral intimidation rather than ignoring it.”
The Haitian diaspora in the U.S. has spoken out repeatedly in favour of a fraud investigation. On January 19, 43 Haitian-American organizations, 34 political, religious, and community leaders, and 66 other individuals wrote to Secretary of State Kerry urging U.S. support for an independent, Haitian-led investigation into electoral fraud. This followed similar calls for a verification of the vote in a December 2 statement by a coalition of Haitian-American organizations and a Congressional call-in day organized by Haitian-Americans on December 23. The editors of the Miami Herald and the New York Times have likewise urged the United States to support an inquiry into the electoral fraud.
These demands have been backed by several members of Congress who have written urging the same course. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) wrote to Kerry on October 5 and again on January 21 warning of the dangers of trying to push ahead with deeply flawed elections. U.S. Representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA), Frederica Wilson (D-FL) and Alcee Hastings (D-FL) also wrote you urging free and fair elections in Haiti. “Many of my Haitian-American constituents and their families are deeply concerned about fraud in Haiti’s electoral process,” wrote Clark.