January 19, 2011

Haiti: More Troubles Ahead for 'Baby Doc'

Following his return to Haiti over the weekend, former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier has been charged by the courts:

"His fate is now in the hands of the investigating judge. We have brought charges against him," said Port-au-Prince's chief prosecutor, Aristidas Auguste.

He said his office had filed charges against Duvalier, 59, of corruption, theft, misappropriation of funds and other alleged crimes committed during his period in power.

The charges must now be investigated by the judge who will decide whether a criminal case should go ahead.

If the judge dismisses the charges, things are going to get really interesting.

The Wall Street Journal points out that, additionally:

Mr. Duvalier is also battling a Swiss effort to confiscate about $5 million that he holds in Swiss bank accounts, and return the funds to Haiti, according to Haitian and Swiss lawyers involved in the case.

A law allowing Swiss authorities to seize funds deemed of illicit origin and return them to foreign nations is set to come into force on Feb. 1. From that date, Swiss authorities will have the power to initiate a case against Mr. Duvalier, a spokesman for Swiss Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

Pending possible legal actions against Mr. Duvalier, Swiss authorities have frozen the funds. Mr. Duvalier has challenged that decision through Switzerland's Federal Administrative Court.

He entered Haiti with an expired Haitian passport - but why did he return in the first place?

August 6, 2010

On to November?

Is Wyclef Jean the answer in Haiti? Not everyone is convinced:

Jean, 39, might need to do more convincing among members of the intellectual and political class, many of whom are skeptical that he could legally qualify as a candidate, much less govern this country.

"First, he doesn't know how the state works," said Laennec Hurbon, a prominent Haitian sociologist. "He hasn't any knowledge of the political parties. This is not a good thing for democracy in Haiti."

The power in Haitian government resides with the prime minister, appointed by the president and ratified by both houses of Parliament. The prime minister can be fired by Parliament, which has been a persistent source of instability in the country. Preval, as shrewd a politician as any in Haiti, was stymied repeatedly in his choices for the position in his second term — two of his prime ministers were fired.

And it's probably a bad sign when a former bandmate endorses your opponent.

February 8, 2010

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished (Haiti Edition)


One would think that, whatever your views on various U.S. military interventions abroad, saving people from a major disaster would be fairly uncontroversial. You would be wrong:

It seems very clear that the US government is controlling Haiti to ensure that its own interests are paramount in the rebuilding process.

That's from Mike Gonzalez, writing in the Guardian. And what interests would those be? Apparently it's getting Haitians back to work:

The coup in Honduras, the recent agreement on extending military bases in Colombia and now Haiti recall Obama's concern, expressed during the election campaign, that "we are losing Latin America". It also interlocks very conveniently with US economic interests in the region and in Haiti in particular. Food and water may be scarce, but some of the factories in the so-called export processing zones, where Haitians labour in sweatshop conditions, have managed to get their machines working again. Yet there is still no electricity in the areas where people are surviving in makeshift camps or under plastic sheeting in the streets.

Much better for Haitians not to work, I suppose. Alex Massie finishes Gonzalez off.

(AP Photo)

January 31, 2010

Helping Haiti the Right Way


Martha Mendoza of AP writes:

Only 1 cent of each dollar the U.S. is spending on earthquake relief in Haiti is going in the form of cash to the Haitian government...Less than two weeks after President Obama announced an initial $100 million for Haiti earthquake relief, U.S. government spending on the disaster has tripled to $317 million at latest count. That's just over $1 each from everyone in the United States. Relief experts say it would be a mistake to send too much direct cash to the Haitian government, which is in disarray and has a history of failure and corruption.

I’m not sure how smart it is to completely subvert whatever remains of the Haitian state. Even in the cases of failed states like Haiti, landmark work by Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart proves rather definitively that the most effective, long-term foreign assistance policies are directed through a state apparatus.

Also, whatever “experts” are being referenced here, I doubt that their argument was that U.S. AID should subsume the entire role of aid distributor and implementer. Preeminent development economists Paul Collier and Jeffrey Sachs and former economic adviser to Haiti’s Prime Minister Jean-Louis Warnholz each argue that aid should be distributed through a transparent international bank.

Sachs provides the most specific plan:

I want the money to come from the US, but not to go through the US government. What I'd like is for US and other donor money to be put into a multi-donor trust fund (MDTF). My specific recommendation is that the MDTF should be located at the Inter-American Development bank. There are a lot of reasons for that. In essence the IADB is a development-finance institution that works well, has a long-term commitment to Haiti, has a lot of expertise, and is competent in handling money and organising projects with the proper monitoring, auditing and evaluation. And so I think that when you scan the institutional environment, the IADB seems the best place to do this. I think that relatively little of the aid should go through the bilateral development agencies of any of the major donor countries.

Either way, the U.S. maintaining a monopoly on nation-building initiatives in Haiti seems the far less sensible and sustainable policy choice.

(AP Photo)