IRI Election Manipulation in Haiti

[International Republican Institute / National Endowment for Democracy]

Dennis Bernsein interviews Jeb Sprague

Flashpoints, February 7, 2006


Dennis Bernstein: Joining us is also regarding the situation in Haiti is Jeb Sprague, an investigative journalist and graduate student from Long Beach, California. He has a research blog at where you can see the FOIA documents requests detailing USAID and the International Republican Institute activities in Haiti. Jeb thanks for joining us.

Jeb Sprague: Thanks Denis.

Dennis Bernstein: Well its very good to have you. First of all remind people what the NED is the National Endowment for Democracy, just incase people have been living under the planet. and their relationship to the IRI - International Republican Institute

Jeb Sprague: Ok well first of all, tying in with what Kevin said about this media creation, what we also see is a political creation. and this has been going on for many years now. The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was founded in the early 1980's under the influence of Ronald Reagan for "supporting democracy abroad". So we've had that going on for years. The NED basically does overtly what the CIA used to do covertly. It funds civil society groups and organizations that fit within U.S. strategic interests in various countries. For 2006 the NED budget is approximately 80 million dollars.. and in Haiti its $541,000 for 2005 and approximately the same for 2006.

Dennis Bernstein: And its skyrocketing over the last 5 years. It sort of went from nothing to what it is now.. So *now* the NED through the IRI is infiltrating, they have a very special kind of infiltration. We here on flashpoints, along with Anthony Fenton broke the story on the NED infiltrating the press, but now they are focusing on infiltrating the left.

Jeb Sprague: Exactly, and where this money is coming from is USAID.. The united states agency for international development... and the nice thing about it coming from USAID is that you cannot FOIA the NED, or IRI, or NDI because these are all quasi private organizations but USAID is part of the government so we can get FOIA requests from them. With recent FOIA requests that I've made we know have the documentation to show that the IRI is working to facilitate these left groups. I'll just read real briefly:

"Since 2002, IRI has formulated seminars, targeted at women and youth from political parties and civil society, on campaign management, political party structure, fundraising, polling, political communication, platform development and the uses of Internet Technology to strengthen political parties . . .From July 31 to August 1, 2004, leaders of left of center parties, Ayiti Kapab, KONAKOM, OPL, and PANPRA met to discuss ways to accelerate a merge and the various techniques needed to advance the goal at the municipal level. At the end of the session, they put in place a work plan for the departments and municipalities to implement the merger of the four parties, now called the Groupe Socialiste."
So basically what we have is the IRI working primarily on the municipal level in Haiti, not [as much] on the presidential level, but on the municipal level in Haiti to create these socialist coalitions, leftist coalitions, to oppose the popular party of the poor in Haiti, Fanmi Lavalas.

Dennis Bernstein: So you wouldn't say that they are actually working to support the left and the right. But what they are working to create a left that is not really the left.

Jeb Sprague: Exactly, well they are also working with Right parties. Like Anthony Fenton has said in Haiti," the left is the right" when we are discussing these parties, the OPL, FUSION. And then other important research has shown that Marc Bazin, who heads up the union pour Haiti, which has been called the "moderate part of Lavalas", has also been facilitated by the International Republican Institute. And in multiple mainstream press articles on Haiti they always point out marc bazin's "moderate Lavalas" group to show that Lavalas has splintered. So basically that shows that the IRI has worked to create this perception of a splintered Lavalas movement.

Dennis Bernstein: Well, saying that Marc Bazin is the moderate Lavalas is like saying President Fox in Mexico is the moderate Zapatistas. I mean everybody in the streets in Haiti and in Cite Soleil must have a really good laugh on that. Because Marc Bazin was obviously the candidate of the World Bank, the U.S. tried to prop him up back in the day. No body accepted him but yet this sort of collective amnesia on the part of the media makes it possible for him to start over.

Jeb Sprague: Yeah, its part of this media creation, media campaign. And then we also have the presidential candidate of OPL, Paul Dennis, who also worked with the IRI and now he's working already before the election has been run he's already working to discredit the election. In a recent interview with journalist and Group 184 supporter Nancy Roc he talks about how, he says he already has doubts about the legitimacy of the election and sees a confrontation in Haiti. and also we have other groups that called for the resignation of the elected government in 2004, we have groups such as Batay Ouvriye and PAPDA. These are left labor and NGO affiliated groups that are becoming dependent on US and Canadian government funding, while attacking Lavalas and Rene Preval's party Lespwa, from the left. So we have this sort of broad encirclement where these democracy promotion programs are not only supporting right organizations and right parties but also "left" parties and "left" organizations.

Dennis Bernstein: And thus infiltrating in a very deep way. Ok so here's the crucial question.. Help us understand how USAID, IRI, the NED, whatever initials you want to put on the state department here, their covert actions have directly impacted or plan to impact the elections for tomorrow?

Jeb Sprague: Well as far as the elections, ok, so lets say Rene Preval wins. What if these far right or "left" parties, facilitated by the IRI, dominate the Haitian parliament, the municipal elections? So what they can do then from their is they can force Rene Preval to appoint a right wing prime minister or a compliant prime minister. So these planners at the IRI, in Washington DC, they know they can't win the presidential election in Haiti but they can still influence the process by propping up all of these smalls factions. Haiti has dozens of political parties like this and they are being propped up by these USAID "democratization" programs.

Dennis Bernstein: All right, so in terms of the documents what do you find the most interesting, the most damning. Because I certainly want to urge people to check out

Jeb Sprague: Well just the language the IRI uses is very revealing. And also another FOIA that you will see on there is a $3 million grant from USAID to UNOPS, which is the UN's civil program in Haiti. And there is a quote in their where UNOPS' first goal with this $3 million grant is to "even the playing field". And what's also interesting is that reportedly Rene Preval's party is not taking any of this money from UNOPS, this $3million grant, this money [and support] that is distributed. So what's happening is that UNOPS is receiving this money from USAID to complete this election cycle, working with these groups that took part and supported the coup.

Denis Bernstein: Well "even the playing field".. another phrase that could be used their "exterminate the pro-democracy movement Lavalas movement". That's what they consider "even the playing field", undermining the movement that they don't happen to like, although it does represent the will of the Haitian people. Jeb Sprague, we thank you so much for your great work, again the website , check out your FOIA requests what you got, and we thank you for the good investigation.

Jeb Sprague: Thank you so much Dennis.

Dennis Bernstein: You're listening to Flashpoint radio. You can also go check out

Haiti page

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