[from Gene Summerlin, Dec. 18th]
Writing this email makes me sad. I should be in Mirebalais, Haiti, right now making sure our team is packed up and ready to head home after running seven days of medical clinics. Instead, I'm in Lincoln. Last week's rioting in Port au Prince caused American Airlines to cancel all flights into and out of Haiti and left us freezing in Nebraska instead of sweating in Mirebalais. This is our third medical team in a row that got derailed (October team cancellation, November Hurricane and December riots). We’ve had a great run over the past few years in avoiding cancellations, so I guess the odds finally caught up with us. The medical supplies that you generously made donations for are packed and ready to go. (Here's a picture of my date night with Terri last week sorting and packing meds. You can tell it’s a date night because Terri has a glass of wine in her hand and a big smile on her face.)
We are working on scheduling another medical trip, but Haiti's current political situation remains a bit unstable. Here’s a quick rundown on Haiti politics. Haiti’s Conseil Electoral Provisoire (CEP) is a committee selected by the sitting Haitian President. The CEP runs elections in Haiti (e.g., determines who is a qualified candidate, counts votes, announces the winners, etc.) The three primary candidates for President were Celestin (the current administration’s preferred candidate and current President Preval's future son-in-law), Manigat (a former first-lady and law professor) and Martelly (a popular Haitian singer). Celestin has almost no support outside of Haiti’s elite. Manigat and Martelly both have a large popular following with older voters leaning towards Manigat and younger voters supporting Martelly. In Haiti, all qualified presidential candidates run in the general election (there were 18 candidates in the Nov. 28 election), but a candidate has to obtain 50% of the vote to take office (insert your own Bush v. Gore joke here). Since there are usually so many candidates in the general election, no single candidate gets the required 50% of the vote and the top two candidates participate in a January run-off election. Following the November 28th vote, the more than 5,000 NOP international election monitors announced that Manigat and Martelly were the top two candidates with Celestin a distant third. No big surprise there. However, a few days later, the CEP announced its stunning preliminary results which dropped Martelly to third and put Celestin and Manigat in the run-off. That started the riots.
No question exists that the Nov. 28 election was rife with significant problems. International election observers and journalists presented credible evidence of intimidation, ballot box stuffing and voters being turned away at the polls. That is, however, the norm for Haiti. But Celestin's 2nd place finish goes far beyond a hanging chad or two. It is the equivalent of George W. Bush sweeping an election in Berkeley, California, or Nancy Pelosi trouncing an incumbent Republican in Plano, Texas. It just wouldn't happen. It couldn't happen and if someone claimed that it did happen, we wouldn't believe them. That is what caused the riots. The CEP's placement of Celestin in the runoff caused the people of Haiti to lose all confidence that the election process was fair or reflected the will of the voters.
Our problem is that the CEP is now struggling with how to deal with their current situation. The official announcement of the Nov. 28th election result is due on December 20th. Unless the CEP completely reverses course, we think that additional civil unrest is likely to occur following the Dec. 20th announcement. The run-off election is scheduled for January 16. The result of that election could result in additional rioting. We greatly appreciate the time and sacrifice that our medical partners and their families make when physicians and nurses come with us to Haiti and we do not want to do anything that will jeopardize their safety. So, we have to wait. We have put together tentative schedules for January, February and March trips, but our plans are subject to the reality of the situation on the ground. Ultimately, we know that this is in God's hands and we trust and pray that we will be able to get our people and our supplies to Haiti as quickly as possible.
Thanks again for the support you have provided to us in the past and please pray that we will be able to get back into Mirebalais as quickly as possible.