As campaigning for Haiti’s long overdue Aug. 9 legislative elections gets underway, at least one Republican presidential candidate wants to know what’s going on.
Marco Rubio, who chairs a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Western Hemisphere affairs, has invited the outgoing State Department Haiti special coordinator, Thomas Adams, to provide an overview at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.
A Rubio aide said the Florida senator wants to assess how U.S. funds are being spent in Haiti five years after it suffered a devastating earthquake. He also wants to know if the country will be able to pull off balloting to elect 130 parliamentarians as well as a scheduled Oct. 25 presidential election.
Last month, Rubio pushed through several Haiti election-related amendments in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The amendments condition U.S. assistance to Haiti on the State Department’s reporting on elections being free, fair, and responsive to the Haitian people and on “attempts to disqualify candidates” for “political reasons.”
The amendments and the hearing come as Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council continues to come under fire for disqualifying several candidates, including former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and Sen. Rudolph Boulos, and removing university president Jacky Lumarque from the final presidential list after qualifying him. Lumarque’s supporters, who have taken to the streets in protest, say the council’s decision was illegal and are demanding his reinstatement.
James Morrell, head of the Washington-based Haiti Democracy Project welcomes Rubio’s involvement. Morrell recently issued an open letter to Rubio asking that his amendments be applied immediately. Morrell said he was concerned about the inclusion of 35 “notorious criminals as candidates for president, senate and lower house in Haiti, in violation of Haiti’s electoral law,” and the exclusion of several high-profile candidates, including Boulos. Born in the United States, Boulos was barred from running for the Senate despite presenting documents showing he had renounced his U.S. citizenship as required under Haiti’s amended constitution.
“We have to look at how constructive U.S. policy has been there,” Morrell said. The U.S. and international community, “have a habit of wanting and needing that election so badly, they are willing to take almost any kind of elections, as long as they get it. I’ve seen it happen again and again,” he added.
Rubio, said the aide, believes that Haiti’s election process must ensure transparency, democratic rule, and private sector-led economic growth.
“A dysfunctional Haitian government or one that rules undemocratically will have negative repercussions for U.S. assistance and ultimately the future of Haiti,” the aide said. “This is a chance to highlight all these and other issues affecting Haiti today and its ability to build a more democratic, safe and prosperous future tomorrow.”