Haitian entertainer Michel Martelly appears to have won big in the country’s second-round presidential vote, held three weeks ago. According to preliminary results released by Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) Monday, Martelly took nearly 68% of the votes cast on March 20. His competitor, former first lady Mirlande Manigat, won less than half that number, at just 32%.
According to the New York Times, election officials have not yet released voter turnout figures. The results are scheduled to be finalized by April 16, allowing time for the results to be appealed. The Miami Herald suggests that process may have already begun. On Monday Madame Manigat’s campaign sent a letter to Haiti’s justice ministry accusing Electoral Council President Gaillot Dorsinvil of influencing the results during a late Sunday night visit to the vote tabulation center.
While original reports suggested there there were significantly fewer incidents of fraud in round-two balloting, the LA Times notes that as many as 15,000 tally sheets required “extra scrutiny” because of “irregularities.” Some 1,700 of those sheets were, in the end, thrown out. More on issues of second-round fraud from the Miami Herald.
Reactions to Mr. Martelly’s apparent victory have thus far been mixed. Groups of Martelly supporters took to the streets of Haiti’s capital in celebration after Monday’s announcement. Haiti expert Robert Fatton, professor of politics at the University of Virginia, says Martelly’s victory is a “rejection of the political class that has both governed and been in the opposition” in Haiti, but adds that the country’s on-going dependence on foreign assistance will place severe limits on whatever plans for change Martelly may have.
In a statement Monday, the US embassy called the announcement of the results “another important milestone as the people of Haiti move forward to rebuild their country.” Both the US and the Organization of American States played a significant role in Martelly’s presidential bid, successfully pressuring the Haitian government to move Mr. Martelly into the second-round after a much-criticized first round of vote that some argued should have been re-run completely.
Interestingly, the AP points out that Martelly’s campaign was run by the Madrid-based Ostos & Sola company, a consulting firm that had worked on the presidential campaign of John McCain and that of Mexican president Felipe Calderon.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, one of the few substantive issues Martelly campaigned on was the idea of bringing back the Haitian military – disbanded by Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1995 because of its notorious human rights record. While never implicated in rights abuses himself, Martelly was an outspoken opponent of former president Aristide and has longstanding ties to some of the less savory figures in Haiti’s old security forces, among them Lt. Col. Michel Francois, one of the figures involved in orchestrating the 1991 coup against Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Today’s bullet points:
· On another Lt. Col. in Mexico. The LA Times reports on former Tijuana police chief, Lt. Col. Julian Leyzaola, recently named the new head of security in Ciudad Juarez. On the job for less than a month, rights activists are accusing Leyzaola and the officers he now controls of the same sorts of abuses he was accused of sanctioning in Tijuana – namely forced disappearances. The LA Times, on a March 26 incident in Juarez:
“Witnesses told human rights investigators that they saw police round up the men, all in their 20s, in front of a market. Some of the purported police wore camouflage uniforms belonging to an elite unit that supplies bodyguards for Leyzaola and whose commander reports to him, said Gustavo de la Rosa, veteran activist and member of the state human rights commission.”
In a statement Monday, Human Rights Watch criticized the investigation that Juarez mayor Hector Murguia promised to launch in response to the recent allegations. HRW recommends that federal investigators both take over the Juarez investigation and investigate abuses claims against Julian Leyzaola from his time in Tijuana. HRW’s Americas director, Jose Miguel Vivanco calls the hiring of Leyzaola in Juarez “reprehensible. “It sends precisely the wrong message to security forces: that violating human rights is the mark of a good officer.”
· Also on Mexico, Bill Conroy at Narco News explores the recruitment of US private security agents into Mexico’s drug wars. Journalist Ed Vulliamy for The Observer with a long investigative piece on how US banking giant Wachovia aided in the laundering of billions of dollars controlled by Mexican cartels – and why whistleblowers were ignored. Insight summarizes. And following up on Rep. Michael McCaul’s (R-TX) proposal last week that a handful of cartels be designated “foreign terrorist organizations,” Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) now says the US needs to help Mexico take on cartels in the same way it helps Pakistan deal with al-Qaeda. When asked by interviewer David Crowder if that would include using drone missile strikes in Mexico, Reyes’s says he’s not yet prepared to rule the option out.
· The Congressional Research Service has issued a new background report on CARSI.
· Just the Facts highlights last week’s “posture statements” by the US generals in charge of both Northern and Southern Commands. Some points of interest: the growing presence of Mexican students at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the School of the Americas and notably stronger statements re: the presence of China, Russia, and Iran in the region.
· On Colombia, the AP reported last week that the US Justice Department said Alvaro Uribe was not immune from having to testify about right-wing Colombia death squads that may have been supported by US mining company Drummond. But DOJ did request that a US court respect the request of the government of Colombia that Uribe not be forced to testify, “in the interest of comity.”
· In Brazil, Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo says it’s the government’s goal to have a truth commission up and running by the end of the year. Mercopress reports.
· And in Honduras, AP reports that approx. 40,000 teachers have decided to return to their classrooms over the last week. Lorenzo Sanchez of the Union of Professional Teachers says the remaining 32,000 teachers could be back in school by today. The Lobo government said Monday it had already suspended some 5,000 teachers for three months because of their participation in on-going protests against a new education law and claims of unpaid wages.