Head of OAS Electoral Mission in Haiti: International Community Tried to Remove Préval on Election Day

by the Center
for Economic and Policy Research
Speaking in
early May at the “Who ‘Owns’ Haiti?” symposium at George
Washington’s Elliot School of International Affairs, Colin Granderson, the head
of the CARICOM-OAS Electoral Mission in Haiti in 2010-2011 confirmed previous
accounts that the international community tried to force then-president Réné
Préval from power on election day.
            That the international community had
“offered” President Préval a plane out of the country during Haiti’s chaotic
first-round election in November 2010 was first revealed by Ricardo Seitenfus, the former OAS
Special Representative to Haiti. Seitenfus subsequently lost his position with
the OAS, but Préval himself soon confirmed the story, telling author Amy Wilentz: “‘At around noon,
they called me,’ he said in an interview at the palace recently. ‘It’s no
longer an election,’ they told me. ‘It’s a political problem. Do you want a
plane to leave?’ I don’t know how they were going to explain my departure, but
I got rid of that problem for them by refusing to go. I want to serve out my
mandate and give the presidency over to an elected president.”
            Despite accounts of the story from
three different high-level sources who were there, the story has gained little
international traction in the media.
            In filmmaker Raoul Peck’s
documentary “Fatal Assistance,” Préval revealed that it was the head of the UN mission
in Haiti at the time, Edmond Mulet, who made the threat. (Seitenfus recently
offered his recollection of discussions with Mulet and other high-level officials
that day in an exclusive interview with CEPR and freelance
Georgianne Nienaber.) For his part, Mulet categorically denied the event, telling Catherine Porter of the Toronto Star: “I
never said that, he never answered that,” Mulet told the Star when asked about
Préval’s allegation. “I was worried if he didn’t stop the fraud and rioting, a
revolution would force him to leave. I didn’t have the capability, the power or
the interest of putting him on a plane.”
            The election, plagued by record-low
turnout, problems with voter registration and massive irregularities, was in doubt on election
day when, around noon, 12 of 18 presidential candidates held a press conference
calling for the election to be cancelled. Speaking at last month’s symposium,
Granderson discussed what happened next:
            “The international community
intervened, working with representatives of the private sector, and managed to
get two of the candidates to reverse themselves, to renege on their commitment,
and this rescued the electoral process. But what I think was most unsettling,
was that following this attempt to have these elections cancelled, was the
intervention of certain members of the international community basically
calling on President Préval to step down.”
            This wouldn’t be the end of the
international community’s intervention in the electoral process. After
first-round results were announced showing Mirlande Manigat and Préval’s
successor Jude Célestin moving on to the second round, a team from the OAS was
brought in to analyze the results. Despite having no statistical evidence, and instead of
cancelling the elections, the OAS team overturned the first round results,
replacing Célestin in the second round with Michel Martelly. Seitenfus has
described in detail how this intervention was carried out, in his recent interview with CEPR and in his forthcoming
book, International Crossroads and
Failures in Haiti