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Cablegate: Haiti: Core Group Alarmed by Slow Pace Of

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PORT AU PRINCE 001459

SIPDIS

WHA/EX PLEASE PASS USOAS
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/25/2014
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM PHUM HA
SUBJECT: HAITI: CORE GROUP ALARMED BY SLOW PACE OF
ELECTIONS PREPARATIONS

REF: PAP 1088

Classified By: Ambassador James B. Foley, reasons 1.4 (B) and (D)

1. (C) Summary: UN and OAS elections advisors treated Core
Group members to an alarming appraisal of the pace of
elections preparations during a marathon meeting on May 20.
The appraisal suggested that the government, CEP, and
international community face an almost impossible task in
meeting the registration deadline defined by the electoral
calendar and highlighted again the apparent incapacity of the
CEP and the IGOH to succeed in their mandate to provide
successful elections. Valdes touted the accomplishments of
recent discussions hosted by the UN among political party
leaders, which have helped narrow the divisions on crucial
issues of justice and governability ahead of the elections.
Septel will report on other Core Group issues, including
operations in Cite Soleil and the Neptune situation. End
summary.

Elections Preparations Behind Schedule
--------------------------------------

2. (C) Core Group members greeted with skepticism UN Deputy
elections chief Denis Racicot's assessment that "there is
still enough space" in the electoral calendar to realize
election plans. Racicot reported that several deals are under
discussion to attempt to close the $22m deficit in the $60.7m
overall elections budget. He highlighted recent discussions
with the EU for $8m, Japan for $1.5-3m, and pledges by the
U.S. for $8m. He also said a recent evaluation of the budget
by Canadian expert Ron Gould strongly recommended further,
permanent assistance from budget experts to fine tune and
administer the plan.

3. (C) Racicot's matter-of-fact update on the registration
program, however, was nothing short of alarming. As of May
19, less than 20 of the planned 424 registration centers were
open (almost 2 months since registration was supposed to
begin and one month since the first center actually opened),
and as of May 20 only 55,000 people had registered. Core
Group members (in particular the Canadian and Mexican
Ambassadors) were quick to point out that there were only 142
days left until the election and only 82 days left until
voter rolls were due, suggesting a "mathematical
impossibility" that registration could be completed in time.
Racicot said that UNOPS (which is responsible for
refurbishing and preparing registration centers) expected to
have a total of 148 sites open by June 17, but gave no date
for the completion of the entire network of 424 centers.
(Note: If registration closes as originally planned on July
31 in order to have voter lists prepared by August 9, two
months before the first election, the program would have to
register over 40,000 people per day every day, simply to get
to a modest goal of 3 million Haitians. End note).

4. (C) Valdes said it was clear that something had to be done
quickly to address the situation. OAS Elections Chief
Elizabeth Spehar responded that there were three possible
options: A) a massive effort to open new centers, B) change
the electoral calendar, or C) change the registration
methodology to make it more simple. Spehar said the OAS was
focusing for the moment on option A and had developed an
urgent strategy to increase registration. First, the OAS was
moving quickly to open 30 "priority sites" that would serve
the largest density of potential voters. She said that these
sites could potentially register up to 60% of the entire
electorate. Secondly, the OAS was attempting to add more
computers and people to the registration centers that were
already open in order to serve more people. Third, OAS
organizers were launching 30 mobile registration centers on
June 1 (with a total of 75 on the road by July 1) in order to
begin serving areas where permanent stations were still
unavailable.

5. (C) Spehar proclaimed the OAS strategies "have a chance"
at working, but admitted that some existing centers were
underutilized and that the plan did not address the meager
efforts undertaken to date to motivate people to register.
While UNOPS claims radio announcements, banners and T-shirts
are already available, Spehar said it was clear more needed
to be done. Valdes suggested he would raise the issue also
with the political parties in order to ask their assistance
in motivating the population to register.

OAS Blames CEP and government
--------------------------

6. (C) OAS Ambassador Denneth Modeste put most of the blame
for the slow pace of registration upon the CEP, telling Core
Group members May 20 "no matter what options the
international community discusses, the elections will not
succeed until the CEP is willing to take on its task." He
said the CEP "cannot deliver" and called for the Core Group
to "ring the alarm bells" collectively with the CEP and the
IGOH. Racicot concurred that many of the problems were
traceable back to CEP/IGOH foot-dragging on everything from
selecting registration sites to training staff. Valdes said
he was worried about the CEP and said it was imperative for
the Core Group to assist them. In particular, he decried the
CEP's recent refusal to accept assistance from CARICOM,
despite support from both the PM and political parties to
welcome it. Valdes asked Core Group members to persuade the
CEP to accept CARICOM elections aid.

Parties Weigh in on Neptune, Gousse
-----------------------------------

7. (C) During the same Core Group meeting, SRSG Valdes
provided a more positive report on discussions among
political party leaders hosted by the UN in the wake of the
UNSC visit (ref A). Valdes said that a May 11 meeting,
organized by MINUSTAH in response to a request from several
party leaders, had generated a welcome sense of cooperation
and civic activity among participants, including several from
Lavalas. Most notably, the politicians had come together on
the subject of certain sensitive detainees. While the
majority was unwilling to join Lavalas leaders' call for the
liberation of all "political prisoners," they had created a
commission to try to resolve the issue of "prolonged arrest."
Valdes explained that those political parties with a
realistic chance of winning in fall elections wanted to get
rid of potential human rights problems and therefore leaned
towards releasing certain sensitive prisoners, Neptune in
particular. Lesly Voltaire told Valdes that if Neptune and a
few others were released, he could envision a "political
accord" with Lavalas on elections.

8. (C) The political party meeting had spawned other
commissions and activities, including a committee on
"Governability" to devise common principles and a working
group on "Transition" charged with planning for the handover
of power in 2006. The political parties also agreed to hold
a joint meeting with the PM and the CEP, and expressed
interest in taking on other subjects as a group, including
the Cite Soleil situation and reform of the Haitian National
Police (HNP). Valdes admitted that the problems between the
parties had not disappeared, but he said the meeting, which
would be followed by another on May 25, had achieved
noticeable progress.

9. (C) Valdes said that practically all participants agreed
that the Prime Minister and President should complete their
terms, but many suggested the IGOH should replace some
members of the cabinet, especially Justice Minister Gousse.
(The PM later reported to Valdes that the "Transition" group
told him they supported the IGOH but "suggested" certain
ministers be changed.) Valdes claimed that the President
favored replacing Gousse, but was concerned about creating a
"martyr for Haitian sovereignty" if it were perceived that
Gousse was ditched in order to free Neptune. The French
Ambassador cautioned that the President and PM had not made
up their minds on Gousse. Valdes said replacing Gousse would
be a good thing for both justice and security in Haiti, but
that the timing was certainly delicate. He alluded to recent
allegations against HNP Director General (DG) Leon Charles
(accused of using his post in the HNP to privately benefit
from a commission set up to compensate victims from the
former government's cooperative financial debacle) and said
that the weak position of Gousse, Charles, and State
Secretary for Public Security David Basile, was frustrating
any coherent IGOH response to security challenges.

Comment
-------

10. (C) It is indeed time for alarm bells regarding elections
preparations. Blame for the sluggish registration process
can be shared all around. UNOPS and UN are responsible for
identifying the registration sites, refurbishing them and
making them available to the OAS, which is responsible for
furnishing the necessary equipment, and hiring, training, and
overseeing the registration workers. MINUSTAH's cash flow
problem meant UNOPS did not get funded to move quickly enough
back in early spring, so UNOPS was slow to open sites.
Communication and fingerpointing still hamper OAS-UN
interaction, though that has improved. The IGOH has dithered
in providing public building sites (many of which are
available and more easily refurbished), and in other matters
including formally publishing the electoral calendar and
issuing the decree that legalizes the digital voter
registration card as an ID. For its part the CEP has been
distracted by relatively minor issues (for example, CEP
member Francois Benoit's continuing insistence on buying a
satellite system to deliver voter results) and hampered by
its continuing lack of operational staff and continued bad
blood among some members. We are calling on Core Group
members to put the CEP and the IGOH on the spot and press
them to focus on what is needed now; namely, a significant
effort to ensure a successful registration process. The
underlying message is that the election is first and foremost
a Haitian responsibility. That said, the reality is that
successful elections according to the current timetable will
require far more effort and engagement from the international
community than was originally thought. End comment.
FOLEY

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