U.S.-Canadian Cooperation on Advancing Democracy in Haiti

Kenneth H. Merten
Special Coordinator for Haiti 
Radio-Canada "L'heure du monde" Interview With Dorothée Giroux
Washington, DC
February 25, 2016

Translated from the French

MS GIROUX: The elections have cost the United States, up until now, $33 million U.S. dollars, which is over fifty percent of the total cost of the elections. Canada has also contributed to that bill, almost 20 million Canadian dollars. That said, Jean-Sébastien, the meeting of today was not only about the electoral process there [Haiti]. It was a question of coordination between Canada and the United States, support for Haiti in certain domains, such as that of the [Haitian] National Police and perception of taxes and Customs tariffs.

MR BERNATCHEZ: The United States is financially a big player in Haiti. It is an important donor country.

MS GIROUX: Yes. After the earthquake of 2010, the American Congress approved a supplementary budget to come to the aid of that country, of Haiti, a budget of 4 billion U.S. dollars over a period of five years. Of that amount, about 900,000 million U.S. dollars remain to be spent this year. Jean-Sébastien, I conducted an interview with Kenneth Merten, Haiti Special Coordinator for the United States. He was the Ambassador there, U.S. Ambassador in Port-au-Prince, from 2009-2012. He was Deputy Executive Secretary to U.S. Secretary of State Clinton and to Condoleezza Rice previous to that. I asked him if he was confident that the elections would take place on April 24.

So, Mr. Merten, you have been in Ottawa. You have met with Canadian diplomats. What were the subjects of today’s discussions?

AMBASSADOR MERTEN: I do not have the right to speak on behalf of my Canadian friends but for the United States, the commitments made by all parties to the accord of February 5, we believe that the dates indicated, the timeframes indicated in this agreement, are important. And we will encourage all actors in Haiti, not only the President but the members of Parliament, and all other parties to respect the deadlines indicated in the accord. Frankly, I think that those people will have one sole task. The government that will be put in place will have one sole task. It is really to conclude this electoral process. And I think if everyone works effectively, if they work with the sense of willingness. I think it is possible.

MS GIROUX: It is very possible, but not guaranteed.

AMBASSADOR MERTEN: I cannot give guarantees. I have spent almost thirty years working in Haiti or with the Haiti portfolio. I would never say a guarantee, but it is possible. I have seen Haitians do spectacular things, when they want, and it is possible.

MR BERNATCHEZ: He is confident in this and maintains, among other things, that elections will be April 24. Why such doubt?

MS GIROUX: For several reasons, because there are already delays in the calendar. For example, the Provisional President had seventy-two hours to appoint a Prime Minister. This has not yet been done, and there is already a delay of about ten days. There is also the fact that many Haitians took to the streets at the time of – or, after – the first round and before the second round to, among other things, denounce, the role of other countries interference in their elections. So I asked Kenneth Merten if these criticisms were justifiable.

AMBASSADOR MERTEN: I do not think so. I do not see anything that the Core Group has done that merits reproach. We tried to be a partner to the people, above all, and I underscore, to the Haitian people. What we tried to do was to make these elections possible and to give the Haitian people – not the political class, necessarily – but the Haitian people by way of elections the possibility of voicing their opinion, of choosing their leaders at the polls.

MR BERNATCHEZ: That was the Haiti Special Coordinator for the United States, Kenneth Merten, who was on a visit to Ottawa and was interviewed by Dorothée Giroux.