As New Election Schedule Announced: The Post-Hurricane Interventions, Health Crisis, Gold Rush, and Campaigning Begin

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Homeless Hurricane Matthew victims in the town of Jérémie. Over 175,000 storm victims are living in temporary shelters. UN Photo: Logan Abassi

Two days after it said it would, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) finally announced on Oct. 14 Haiti’s new electoral timetable. The presidential and legislative elections that had been scheduled for Oct. 9, with run-offs on Jan. 8, will now be held on Nov. 20 and Jan. 29 respectively. The final results will be announced on Feb. 20, 2017.

Haiti had been hoping to inaugurate a newly elected president on Feb. 7, 2017, a year after one should have been inaugurated constitutionally in 2016. The new 2017 inauguration date, which will be set by President Jocelerme Privert’s interim government, has not yet been announced.

As Ban Ki-moon’s convoy traveled in Aux Cayes for his public relations tour on Oct. 16, angry Haitians shouted at the UN trucks, ‘Get out of here! And take your food and water with you!’

The Oct. 9 presidential election, which was to be a redo of a fraudulent polling in 2015, had to be rescheduled due to the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Matthew, which passed directly over the cities of Les Cayes and Jérémie on Haiti’s southern peninsula on Oct. 4.

According to an internal Organization of American States report dated Oct. 11, of 157 voting centers in Haiti’s southern department, 112 (71%) were damaged and 29 (18%) were inaccessible. In the Grande-Anse department, investigators were able to visit or verify only 26 of its 106 voting centers. Of those visited, 23 were damaged, and 31 of the total were inaccessible.

In the Nippes department, investigators visited or verified 41 of the 85 voting centers and found 22 of them damaged, while 46 of the total were inaccessible.

Furthermore, many Haitians in the south lost their homes and their voter identification cards in the storm. The three hard-hit departments are home to about 1.17 million of Haiti’s 6.19 million registered voters.

There was also storm damage to voting centers and homes in five of Haiti’s other seven departments, the report said.

The OAS report warned that repair and reconstruction of voting centers will be very difficult “in the medium and long term” because flooding washed away or damaged many roads and bridges.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a UN helicopter overflying the southern town of Camp Perrin, which was severely damaged by Hurricane Matthew. UN Photo: Eskinder Debebe

Meanwhile, food, clothes, relief supplies, and construction materials and machinery and have been streaming into Haiti from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, whose president, Danilo Medina, visited Haiti on Oct. 10. A convoy of over 500 vehicles from the DR crossed the border at Jimani/Malpasse on Oct. 12, but they were accompanied by 1,000 Dominican soldiers.

Haitians are already outraged by the Oct. 13 renewal for six months of a Security Council mandate for 5,000 United Nations troops and police officers (known as MINUSTAH) to remain in Haiti until Apr. 15, 2017. The force, originally proposed for six months in 2004, has now militarily occupied Haiti for over 12 years.

Therefore, the added deployment of Dominican troops on Haitian soil provoked a sharp nationalist backlash among Haitians, particularly after a 2013 Dominican law was used to strip citizenship from and expel thousands of Dominicans of Haitian ancestry over the past three years.

But Haitians also jeered a food and water delivery by UN troops. “As [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon’s convoy traveled in Aux Cayes for his public relations tour on Oct. 16, angry Haitians shouted at the UN trucks, ‘Get out of here! And take your food and water with you!’, reported Haitian journalist Dady Chery for News Junkie Post. “Things being as they are with the mainstream press, the AFP/France 24 translator reported instead that the irate Haitians, who were in return attacked with tear gas by UN troops, had demanded food.”

As expected, there has also been an upsurge in cholera in Haiti’s storm-ravaged south, as detailed in a poignant front-page article in the Oct. 16 New York Times. The deadly disease was brought to Haiti by UN Nepalese troops in October 2010, but the UN did not begin to admit its responsibility for the epidemic until this past August.

Unfortunately, the principal response of the UN and Washington to the post-storm cholera explosion is to push a supposed cholera vaccine called Sanchol.

“The current promotion of oral cholera vaccines is a deceitful campaign motivated by pure greed,” explains Dady Chery, who is also a U.S. university biology professor. “Vaccination against cholera in Haiti right now is worse than useless. First, even inefficacious vaccines are risky, because the vaccines used on people in the Third World usually contain 6 to 30-fold higher concentrations than the WHO upper limit of thiomersal, a mercury-based preservative that might be linked to autism. Secondly, no one knows which cholera bacteria are in Haiti! The cholera strain identified six years ago has now changed to the point where vaccines manufactured against it will not work at all. These vaccines will certainly be absolutely useless against the strains of cholera from Bangladesh. Finally, even under the best circumstances, when Shanchol is designed and used against a cholera with recently sequenced DNA, protection is poor to nonexistent.  A field trial in Bangladesh in 2011 found that the vaccine conferred only 45% protection in all age groups after one year, including only about 17% protection in children under five, who are those most likely to die from cholera. The results published in 2015 for a field trial in Haiti, passing as a vaccination and poorly monitored, claimed 57% protection after one year, but only people older than 12 were inoculated.”

Haitian authorities should be further advised that some of the supposed vaccinations might actually be drug trials for new vaccines…

Given that mass vaccine campaigns offer a huge money-making opportunity for pharmaceutical companies, “Haitian authorities should be further advised that some of the supposed vaccinations might actually be drug trials for new vaccines,” Dady Chery writes. “This would be nothing short of experimentation on Haitians as a large field laboratory.”

Although the electoral campaign season is only scheduled for 12 days from Nov. 7-18, many candidates have used the disaster as an opportunity to promote themselves or their parties.

“[P]residential candidates have fanned out over the country, delivering aid supplies throughout the impacted regions,” wrote Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch’s Jake Johnston on Oct. 13. “Many candidates have branded relief supplies with their political logos. ‘Absolutely, it is to contrast with the [Haitian] government’ that is seen as absent from many rural areas, [Roudy] Chute [of former President Michel Martelly’s Haitian Bald-Headed Party or PHTK] said. Political ploy or not, a barge with supplies from private sector actors supporting PHTK arrived in Jérémie earlier this week and was expected to continue along the coast, delivering goods to remote coastal towns that have yet to be reached by aid efforts. [The PHTK did similar disaster campaigning in 2014.] Many of the dump trucks removing debris in Jérémie bore the PHTK logo next to that of V&F, one of the largest Haitian construction companies. But PHTK is far from the only party to take such steps. Jude Célestin, another of the top candidates and a former head of the national construction company, has said he is willing to rebuild a crucial bridge that connects the south to the rest of the country, and that was destroyed. His LAPEH party logo was also seen on construction vehicles in Jérémie. Dr. Maryse Narcisse, the presidential candidate of the Fanmi Lavalas party, has led food distributions as well.”

In response to this de facto campaigning, the CEP put out a warning on Oct. 12 that “humanitarian aid to victims of Hurricane Matthew should be an act of non-partisan solidarity. This gesture cannot be used… as part of an election process.”

Meanwhile, the Haitian government’s official death toll from the storm has risen to 546 dead, with 128 missing and 439 wounded. The Civil Protection Directorate (DPC) says the government is housing 175,509 storm victims in temporary shelters.

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