|Rene Preval ©2010 HIP|
By now most have heard of the extraordinary US Embassy cables released by Wikileaks over the Internet. Due to frequent attacks on their servers many people have asked HIP to post the US Embassy cables written by then Ambassador Janet A. Sanderson pertaining to Haiti with assessments of Haitian president Rene Garcia Preval.
If your looking for another Haiti connection with Wikileaks: On December 7, MSNBC News quoted Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan who called WikiLeaks' disclosure "dangerous" and said it gives valuable information to the nation's enemies.
Col. David Lapan was the mouthpiece for the Pentagon in Haiti when US marines were involved in backing the Haitian police in deadly assaults against poor communities following the ouster of Aristide in February 2004. The US marines also conducted deadly raids on the homes of Lavalas sympathizers to execute extrajudicial and arbitrary arrests including folksinger Annette Auguste (So An). Lapan is featured justifying the brutal US military assault on the home of Annette Auguste in the final version of the documentary Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits
Comprehensive assessment of President Preval's decision-making process and leadership style.
US Embassy cable dated March 7, 2007
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 07 PORT AU PRINCE 000408 SIPDIS SIPDIS STATE FOR WHA/CAR DRL S/CRS SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD STATE PASS AID FOR LAC/CAR INR/IAA (BEN-YEHUDA) TREASURY FOR JEFFREY LEVINE E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/26/2017 TAGS: PGOV PREL SNAR KCRM HA SUBJECT: RESPONSE TO INR/B REQUIREMENTS ON PRESIDENT PREVAL REF: STATE 5107 Classified By: Classified by Ambassador Janet A. Sanderson for reasons 1.4(b) and (d). ¶1. (C) Introduction: Reftel asks for a comprehensive assessment of President Preval's decision-making process and leadership style. As noted in reftel, post has reported on many of the specific topics inquired about over the course of Preval's re-election campaign and the first year of his second term. We welcome the opportunity to reiterate key judgments that we believe will become increasingly important as the Preval administration approaches completion of its first year in office. In sum, we believe Preval's commitment to building democratic institutions, promoting political stability, and developing the economy corresponds with our own interests. However, Preval's weaknesses as an executive, his reflexive nationalism, and his disinterest in managing bilateral relations in a broad diplomatic sense, will lead to periodic frictions as we move forward our bilateral agenda. Case in point, we believe that in terms of foreign policy, Preval is most interested in gaining increased assistance from any available resource. He is likely to be tempted to frame his relationship with Venezuela and Chavez-allies in the hemisphere in a way that he hopes will create a competitive atmosphere as far as who can provide the most to Haiti. Additionally, Preval has displayed a tendency to fixate on a particular issue at the exclusion of all others and then to move on to other issues without leaving much to show for his efforts. Since taking office in May 2006, Preval has been the education president, the roads president, and now the anti-narcotics president. All of these issues are worthy of his time and attention, but require a coherent approach to policy implementation in addition to rhetoric. End Introduction. ¶2. (U) The answers below are keyed to the questions in reftel: Question A ---------- ¶3. (C) How Does Preval make policy decisions? What sources of information does Preval draw from when making decisions and how does he process that information, e.g. is he receptive new information, does he seek advice or rely on his own intuition? Does Preval tend to see policy issues in black and white or in shades of grey? ¶4. (C) We judge that Preval largely relies on his own intuition and experience in formulating policy. We see that experiences from his first presidential term are nearly always a touchstone on key bilateral issues, even when circumstances have significantly changed or the conclusion he is drawing is not directly applicable to the issue at hand. Preval's recent insistence that the U.S. does not do enough to combat narcotics traffic through Haiti is a clear example of an attitude carried over from his first term. Likewise, Preval's current resistance to making a placating gesture to China after the GoH voiced support for Taiwan at the UN is based in part on Preval's belief that China behaved unreasonably when renewing UN mission mandates during his first term. ¶5. (C) On balance, we see that issues where Preval has a fixed view, for example relations with China, he is remarkably resistant to policy advice. On other issues, where Preval is not so engaged either because of lack of personal interest or lack of experience, Preval seems readily open to new information and flexible in his approach. This seems most apparent in issues relating to economic policy. Rather than separating Preval's thinking into black and white or shades of gray, we believe it is more useful to bear in mind that Preval often appears not to fully think through the implications or consequences of a particular issue. He neglects to carry out the kind of study or put in place the administrative structure required to turn an idea into workable policy. This was most obvious in his approach to negotiations with gang leaders, his focus throughout the PORT AU PR 00000408 002 OF 007 summer of 2006. Due to a lack of results however, he abandoned the effort. Preval's entire policy seemed to be encapsulated in the formulation, ''disarm or die.'' He never appears to have coherently addressed the issue central to the negotiations -- the future of the most violent gang-leaders. Question B ---------- ¶6. (C) Does Preval seek advice from a wide array of sources or only look to certain people, if so, whom and on what issues? Does he trust any of his advisers or ministers to make key decisions in his stead? How does he deal with dissension or criticism from his advisors? What tone does he set when he meets with his advisers - e.g., does he encourage them to work collegially, competitively, or within the formal bureaucratic structure? Has Bob Manuel's influence with Preval diminished, and if so, why? Does Manuel continue to informally oversee the security portfolio? If not, who does, is there another adviser poised to succeed Manuel as Preval's ''right-hand man.''? ¶7. (C) Preval seems open to a wide array of sources -- he reportedly reads and pays attention to the media on a wide variety of subjects and maintains a broad circle of friends -- but appears to limit the number of people from whom he actively seeks advice. Some, most notably Robert Manuel, have complained that the number is growing smaller and that his fiancee, Elizabeth Delatour, is the only advisor with whom he has meaningful discussions. Fritz Longchamp, Secretary General of the Presidency, appears to have gained SIPDIS access and influence to Preval regarding the dispute with China. As a former foreign minister, Longchamp may also be advising on broader foreign policy issues. Gabriel Verret remains Preval's closest advisor on economic issues. Lionel Delatour, Elizabeth Delatour's brother-in-law, maintains somewhat regular access due to his family ties and his direct involvement with the effort to promote HOPE legislation, however Delatour himself has complained that Preval often ignores his advice. With a few exceptions, Preval appears not to trust his advisers or ministers to make key decisions, or even to implement key decisions. The most recent account of the council of ministers meetings provided by Gabriel Verret to the Ambassador describes Preval going through the action items of each ministry and demanding status reports. ¶8. (C) With the Embassy and USG representatives, ministers as a group are deferential and mostly subdued in Preval's presence. There is little air of give-and-take or willingness among ministers to extemporize. In meetings with USG officials Preval has abruptly cut off Prime Minister Alexis on two occasions, disagreeing with his views. On another occasion he cut off Minister of Public Works Frantz Varella, who had offered an observation regarding security, telling him that security was not his responsibility. We hear of very little, if any, substantive criticism or dissension among the cabinet in private. The most visible intra-cabinet dissension, so far, has been between the judiciary and security officials; most recently, a rift between the justice minister and chief prosecutor Claudy Gassant. Preval has pointedly refused to intervene. Many among Haiti's chattering classes attribute this to a strategy on Preval's part to keep members of his government divided and weak. We judge rather that his attitude is more in line with his overall passivity as an executive. ¶9. (C) Having observed the Preval-Manuel relationship over the past two years since Manuel's return to Haiti to join the Preval campaign, we judge that Manuel's role is most accurately described as Best Friend. Manuel remains Preval's closest confidante, and Preval still uses him as his personal emissary, but the influence of Manuel's own views on any given subject appear limited. For example, against Manuel's advice and own wishes, Preval involved Manuel in his first negotiations with gang leaders in the summer of 2006. With Manuel's displeasure with this policy unabated, Preval simply cut him out of the process. Manuel appears still to be charged with the management of Preval's personal security, PORT AU PR 00000408 003 OF 007 overseeing the Presidential Protection Unit (USPN) in the palace, but Preval himself appears to have taken complete charge of security policy. Manuel, along with the justice minister, is charged with preparing President Preval for the upcoming drug trafficking summit in the Dominican Republic on March 16, but our contacts with Manuel on narcotics issues so far indicate that he does no more than to restate Preval's own views, often with more passion. Manuel confided to the Ambassador that he is frustrated with Preval's unwillingness to listen to him and heed advice and that he wants to leave Haiti, preferably as Ambassador to Mexico, but that Preval has been non-committal about the timing of his appointment. Whatever the state of their relationship on policy issues, Preval clearly values Manuel's friendship and may be reluctant to let him go. Question C ---------- ¶10. (C) What is the nature of Preval's relationship with Director General of the Haitian National Police Mario Andresol, Foreign Minister Jean Reynald Clerisme, Secretary of State for Public Security Luc Eucher Joseph, Secretary General of the Presidency Fritz Longchamp, and economic advisor Gabriel Verret. ¶11. (C) Preval's relationship with Andresol does not appear to extend beyond their formal association as president and the chief of police. Preval and Andresol had no personal connection to speak of before Preval inherited and then re-appointed Andresol director general of the HNP. For his part, Andresol has, on several occasions, expressed frustration that he has not been able to gain more trust from Preval. Likewise, Preval's relationship with Eucher seems limited to their formal roles: Eucher is not otherwise a close of advisor from whom Preval seeks counsel. Preval and Clerisme have a large number of mutual acquaintances from the rural/populist movements, however they do not have a close personal bond. Preval has reportedly taken personal charge of all important foreign policy issues, leaving Clerisme with little influence. Longchamp is both a trusted advisor and personal friend. With Preval limiting PM Alexis' direction of the cabinet, and not having named a chief of staff, the importance of Longchamp's position has steadily increased. Finally, Gabriel Verret, perhaps even more than either Robert Manuel or Longchamp, is the other advisor in the palace who can claim to be both a trusted confidante and influential policy advisor, as Preval remains open to advice on economic matters. In the same way, Elizabeth Delatour, who is also formally charged with providing economic advice, might be the single most important influence on Preval. Question D ---------- ¶12. (C) What are Alexis and Foreign Minister Clerisme's perceptions of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide? ¶13. (C) Based on Alexis' long-standing personal association with Preval from his previous administration through his active role in the most recent presidential campaign, we surmise that Alexis' views on Aristide hew closely to Preval's own (i.e. that Aristide betrayed the Haitian people). If Alexis believes otherwise, he gives no hint of disagreement with Preval. We are less familiar with Clerisme, but note that Clerisme's political engagement began with his involvement as a liberation theology priest working in the rural, peasant movement in Haiti's northeast. Most of this movement's leaders became disillusioned with Aristide during the mid-1990's. Whatever Clerisme's views, as with Alexis, to the extent they do not correspond to Preval's, he keeps them to himself. Question E ---------- ¶14. (C) Is Preval influenced by ideology, and if so, what are the major influences? What motivated him to return to politics? What role do Catholicism, voodoo, and PORT AU PR 00000408 004 OF 007 liberation-theology play in his worldview? What is his full educational history and experience working in private industry? ¶15. (C) Preval seems profoundly uninfluenced and uninterested in ideology at this stage in his life. Despite his involvement in radical/communist circles as a student in Belgium and his entrance into Haitian politics through a populist movement deeply influenced by liberation theology, Preval's public and private discourse is practically devoid of any notions reflecting that background. In the context of the developing world, we would most accurately describe him as a neo-liberal, particularly in that he has embraced free markets and foreign investment. ¶16. (C) At the same time, Preval's discourse regarding Haitian politics remains framed in the context of his past. He still refers broadly to ''the people'' and ''the bourgeois'' in referring to Haitian society. His leftist views reportedly caused a deep rift between himself and his family, particularly his father, who although opposed to Duvalier held traditional Haitian upper-class views. This is as close to an insight as we may venture into his motivation to return to politics, which is something of a puzzle. While a canny politician and an effective campaigner Preval evinces little of the ambition or overt drive typical of most politicians. It may be simply that he rightly recognized that he was the only leader in Haiti who legitimately represented the broad-based popular movement that toppled Duvalier and first brought Aristide to power. ¶17. (C) Like most Haitians, Preval was raised Catholic with an exposure to voodoo practices. He is a non-observant Catholic but maintains a cordial and respectful relationship with Haiti's Catholic hierarchy. He is particularly close to Haiti's Archbishop, who was a life-long friend of his parents. Likewise, he maintains a respectful and cordial relationship with Voodoo leaders. There are unconfirmed reports that Robert Manuel, who is a born-again Christian, influences Preval's religious views and that the two regularly pray together. However, Preval has been jocular and once dismissive of Manuel's praying in conversations with ambassadors. ¶18. (C) Preval's educational and professional experiences listed in open sources are mostly accurate. He studied agronomy at the University of Louvain in Belgium but did not receive a degree reportedly because he spent too much time participating in political activities. Though he obtained a position with the National Institute for Mineral Resources, apparently as part of Jean-Claude Duvalier's conciliatory gestures to his father's opponents, Embassy sources do not believe he actually worked at his job. He went into the bakery business with several friends in the mid-1970, including Michele Pierre Louis, a renowned patron of Haitian arts, and through her met Aristide. Preval's bakery was successful, but destroyed by associates of the military after the 1991 coup d'etat. Among the many incidents of conflict between the right-wing and Aristide supporters, Preval apparently holds a special grudge against those who destroyed his business. Question F ---------- ¶19. (C) What is Preval's relationship to Geri Benoit? Does his sister, Marie-Claude Calvin, play an influential role in his administration? Does Elizabeth Delatour yield influence over Preval's political decision-making? What is the status of their impending nuptials? One of Preval's daughters lives with him in Port-au-Prince. Where is the other and what does she do? ¶20. (C) Though Preval and his second wife, Geri Benoit, appeared together at times during the campaign, they have apparently lived entirely separate lives since his inauguration. Mrs. Calvin and Preval are very close. She was among the family members on the payroll at his agricultural foundation in Marmalade, which was funded by PORT AU PR 00000408 005 OF 007 Taiwan. Calvin acts as his scheduler, keeps an office in the palace, and one ambassador reports that Calvin kept him at bay for several days when he had an urgent request to see Preval. Calvin and her husband also accompanied Preval on his second trip to Cuba for medical attention. Mrs. Calvin does not appear to play any role in influencing government policy. ¶21. (C) It is difficult to assess Elizabeth Delatour's influence on policy. She is extremely private and reserved and does not generally engage foreign officials in substantive conversation. She politely resisted the Ambassador's attempts to establish a more social relationship. Numerous people close to Preval complain that Preval has neglected both his work and limited the input of other advisors in favor of Delatour. During the critical juncture over the dispute with China regarding the renewal of MINUSTAH's mandate, Delatour appeared to play a central role. SRSG Mulet chose Delatour as his contact when he argued that the GoH must provide China some kind of written apology: Preval ultimately grudgingly signed a letter. Delatour called the Ambassador in Washington when she was in the Department for consultations asking for an update on the Chinese delegation's position in New York. Preval's wedding plans remain perhaps the best kept secret in Haiti. We have confirmed from multiple reliable sources that they are formally engaged, but no further reliable news regarding wedding plans has emerged. Factors that might be complicating their plans include Preval's health and living arrangements for Delatour's 11-year old son. ¶22. (C) Preval's older daughter, Dominique, lives with her mother in Port-au-Prince and runs a stationery store above her mother's book store. She is close to both her parents. Preval's younger daughter, Patricia, is currently in Sri Lanka studying Asian art. Question G ---------- ¶23. (C) How much importance does Preval place on maintaining close bilateral relations with the United States? Are there aspects of the relationship he values more than others? Does he view it as a mutually beneficial relationship? Does he see Haiti as having obligations or responsibilities to the U.S.? How does he view the U.S.' previous involvement in Haiti? What is Preval's relationship with the Haitian Diaspora? ¶24. (C) Preval recognizes that the U.S. is Haiti's most important bilateral partner and that Haiti's closest societal links internationally are with the U.S. His priority on the bilateral agenda is to leverage and extract the most assistance for Haiti on his own terms and to tap into the wealth and resources of the Haitian-American community in the U.S. As the president of a small, poor nation in the shadow of the American behemoth, he clearly believes that the U.S. has far greater obligations to Haiti than the other way around, if, in fact, Haiti has any obligations at all. Preval numbers a few close friends in the diaspora of whom we know. He established a friendship with Dumarsais Simeus during the presidential campaign, and they stay in contact by email. For the most part, however, Preval does not seem closely connected to or interested in Haitian communities abroad. He has indicated on a number of occasions that he fears that pro-Aristide extremists exert excessive influence in diaspora communities. Question H ---------- ¶25. (C) Are cabinet officials involved in any illicit activities? How does Preval handle corruption within his administration? ¶26. (C) There has been little indication that cabinet members have been involved in illicit activities so far. At the time of the cabinet's formation, observers noted that the ministers had been mostly free of suspicion over the course PORT AU PR 00000408 006 OF 007 of their careers. Indications regarding Preval's own attitude toward corruption are mixed. During his first term, Preval either tolerated or was forced to accept gross abuses on the part of close associates of Aristide. In either case, Preval has exhibited a non-confrontational approach with passivity toward difficult issues as the hallmark of his political career. Preval maintains a reputation for personal honesty. Question I ---------- ¶27. (C) How has Preval handled domestic criticism thus far? Does he have a public communications or publicity strategy or manager? How does he perform under significant stress? How does he respond to confrontation, either personally or indirectly, e.g. mass unrest? ¶28. (C) Preval has been remarkably impervious and unresponsive to domestic criticism thus far, which mostly centers on his approach to security and the gang activity during the fall of 2006, when kidnapping and crime spiked upward. There have been no significant incidents of mass unrest since his inauguration on which to judge his reaction. Based on his intense involvement in the daily review of security policy, we surmise that he pays close attention to public opinion, even if remaining uncommunicative himself. He has a palace spokesman in name, Assad Volce but hardly uses him. Nor does he use the minister for communication, who is traditionally the government's chief spokesperson. Regarding his public relations strategy, he has said on several occasions, that he wants to change the tradition of Haiti's presidents being the center of attention who make promises that they are unable to deliver. ''I will talk when I have some accomplishments to talk about.'' Question J ---------- ¶29. (C) What is the status of Preval's Lespwa coalition? Is it a cohesive coalition or is it fractured? Do its members regard Preval as their leader? What is Preval's relationship to Fanmi Lavalas (FL)? ¶30. (C) Preval has removed himself from involvement in Lespwa and undertakes little visible role in managing relations with the parliament. Lespwa is directionless as a party. Though, in the general, Lespwa's drift does not particularly stand out in the incohesive atmosphere of Haiti's parliament. Senate President Joseph Lambert, has emerged as a leader among Lespwa parliamentarians, but devotes more of his energy to cultivating his image as parliament's chief, rather than simply a party leader. No other Lespwa parliamentarian has demonstrated a capacity to take direction of the party. Lespwa parliamentarians no longer regard Preval as their party leader, but recognizing he remains the country's most popular politician and still associated with Lespwa in the public's mind, they do not generally criticize him in public or in private. Preval has virtually no contact with any of the various FL factions. Question K ---------- ¶31. (C) How long are Preval's workdays? How many breaks does he take during his workday, what does he do during them and how long do they last? Under what circumstances? ¶32. (C) Preval appears to be keeping an increasingly busy schedule, working longer hours and seeing more visitors. The Ambassador has taken phone calls from him as early as 6:30 am and has had meetings as late as 6:30 pm. Preval told the Ambassador recently that he has for many years taken a full, in-pajamas 2-3 hour nap every afternoon, allowing him to maintain his energy. Question L ---------- PORT AU PR 00000408 007 OF 007 ¶33. (S/NF) What family history of alcohol or substance use does Preval have? What alcohol or drugs has he been observed using, how much, and under what circumstances? Any related problems? Has Preval ever been observed to be high or drunk, disoriented, trembling or physically jittery, or had memory lapses? How many drinks can Preval consume before he shows signs of inebriation? Does Preval take any medications? ¶34. (S/NF) Preval's parents both lived well into their eighties. His father, in particular, reportedly enjoyed robust health. No one in his immediate family has or had a reputation for alcohol abuse. Preval drinks whiskey and smokes in public, including at Embassy functions, but we have not observed him inebriated nor seen him take more than one or two drinks. Rumors abound about his deteriorating physical condition -- intense physical pain, high dosages of medication, however; we have no credible first-hand reports to confirm this. In our meetings Preval has always been completely lucid and has never appeared to be in any great pain. Special intelligence indicates that he began taking medication after the most recent round of medical examinations in Cuba that indicated a possibility of the return of prostate cancer.
Three Year Assessment of Preval's government
US Embassy cable dated June 7, 2008
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C O N F I D E N T I A L PORT AU PRINCE 000575 DEPARTMENT FOR WHA SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD DEPARTMENT PASS USAID FOR LAC E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/01/2019 TAGS: PGOV HA KBIO SUBJECT: DECONSTRUCTING PREVAL Classified By: Ambassador Janet A. Sanderson, reason 1.4(b) and (d). Summary and Introduction ------------------------- ¶1. (C) Haitian President Rene Preval has now completed three years of his five year presidential mandate. Widely touted as the "transitional president" poised to lead Haiti into a new era of democracy and economic prosperity, he has had only modest success thus far. Haiti's problems are indeed daunting, and redressing them will take much more than a five-year term. However, Preval's particular world view, his personality and often indecisive and uncommunicative leadership style, coupled with Haiti's deeply divided political class and the devastating events of 2008, have conspired to defer, if not derail, forward movement here. ¶2. (C) That being said, Preval remains Haiti's indispensable man. Legitimately elected, still moderately popular, and likely the only politician capable of imposing his will on Haiti - if so inclined - Preval's role over the next 18 months is critical. Dealing with Preval is a challenge, occasionally frustrating and sometimes rewarding. He is wary of change and suspicious of outsiders, even those who seek his success. Managing Preval will remain challenging during the remainder of his term yet doing so is key to our success and that of Haiti. We must continue to find creative ways to work with him, influence him, and encourage him to recapture the activism of his first year in office. Until he does, political change and economic progress, so necessary to Haiti's future, is likely to be incremental at best. The Politics of Personality ---------------------------- ¶3. (C) Preval's attitude towards his presidency has been shaped by both experience and personality. As Aristide's Prime Minister and successor, he was overshadowed by the more charismatic ex-priest. At our first meeting, Preval recounted that he was "the last stop after Tabarre (where Aristide lived) when visitors came", bitterly reminding me that many USG visitors barely had time to see him when he was president. Those slights still rankle. A retiring, complex personality, the president shares little. His inner circle has greatly constricted during the past two years, with key advisors including Bob Manuel, all but dropping out. His involvement with his fiancee, financial advisor Babette Delatour has colored many of his other relationships, according to friends, and caused an estrangement of sorts with his sister and one of his daughters. ¶4. (C) Even those close to Preval concede that his chameleon-like character makes dealing with the president difficult. One close advisor calls it "the roller coaster that is Rene Preval." Personally engaging - even seductive - when he so wishes, Preval can be equally harsh with colleagues and others. Ministers, close advisors and others have felt the sting of his tongue, both in public and in private. Stubbornly holding to ideas long past their shelf life, he rarely welcomes dissenting opinions. His courting of Taiwan in 2006, which almost led to the Chinese blocking renewal of the MINUSTAH mandate in 2006, is a case in point. Preval is highly disinclined to delegate power or authority and even the smallest detail comes to his office for decision, a situation which has caused stress in his relationships with both his current and former prime ministers. Planning Minister Bellerive described to me a recent Cabinet meeting where the Prime Minister and the Cabinet presented a development plan for the long-suffering northern tier of the country. Preval ridiculed the idea and when confronted by a united ministerial front, walked out of the cabinet meeting and told his advisors to strike the proposal from the agenda. ¶5. (C) Uncomfortable in formal settings such as summits and international conferences, Preval seeks personal "relationships of trust" with his interlocutors. Often unable to articulate exactly what he wants - except in the broadest of terms - Preval tends to view issues in black and white. Nonetheless, he expects a positive - and prompt response. That is particularly true of his dealings with the international community. He remains skeptical about the international community's commitment to his government's goals, for instance telling me that he is suspicious of how the Collier report will be used. He measures success with the international community - and the U.S.- in terms of positive response to his priorities, rather than according to some broader international benchmarks of success. ¶6. (C) Nevertheless, Preval's stubborn and cautious nature has sometimes borne fruit. In his first year in office, he was widely praised for reaching out to Haitians of all political stripes and for attempting to bridge Haiti's massive political divides. He has shrewdly coopted major political rivals into his personal cabinet over the past two years and has, through patient diplomacy managed to get fractious parliamentary groupings to sit around the table working on issues ranging from the budget to privatization to the current minimum wage crisis. He believes strongly that without his intercession, the international community would have ignored the impact of the 2008 hurricanes on Haiti, and that his early efforts at negotiation and discussion with the gangs of Cite Soleil (which he often reminds me that I criticized at the time) set the stage for the successful MINUSTAH operation to clear the area. A Narrowing Circle? ------------------ ¶7. (C) Preval's seeming isolation in the palace during the past year is striking. Close friends report that they have little contact - and even less influence - with him. A businessman who was key to Preval's election said the last time that he talked to Preval, the president brushed him off. Shunning newspapers and radio, he has a friend in New York do a daily press summary for him; otherwise he freely admits that he neither reads nor listens to the news, either local or international. He uses one or two cell phones but rarely shares the numbers with his colleagues. He uses his email to communicate with family and close friends, but prefers to talk on the telephone. He seldom leaves the palace except to travel to his residence each evening and to the retreat he has bought for his fiancee in the mountains above Port au Prince. The Health Issue ---------------- ¶8. (C) Preval's occasionally erratic behavior over the past year has again sparked widespread rumors that he is suffering from the effects of his past prostate cancer or that he has resumed drinking. There is no indication that he is taking medicine that affects his judgment or temperament, but he has ignored suggestions from his inner circle, including that of Delatour, that he do complete medical check-up in the U.S. He has not been to Cuba for follow-up tests in more than a year. Preval has increased his alcoholic consumption and often attends a Petionville night club with friends, but during our social interaction I have never seen him drink to excess. Nonetheless, reports of heavy drinking are circulating widely. An Agenda deferred: Elections, Constitutional Reform, and Drugs --------------------------------------------- --------------- ¶9. (C) Preval has said that his agenda for his remaining years in office focuses on three interconnected issues: elections, constitutional reform, and drugs. He came late to the election issue, originally suggesting that the partial Senatorial elections be combined with the lower house polls scheduled for fall. He backed down in the face of international pressure, but also as he came to realize that he would have little success - or support - if he moved on constitutional reform without a fully functioning senate. Given the delays in moving this election forward, he no longer believes that he will see an overhaul of the constitution. He now expects to focus on two critical constitutional issues, dual nationality and government decentralization. He has angrily denied charges that he manipulated the electoral process through the CEP and its decision to exclude Lavalas to undermine an already weak legislature. ¶10. (C) Preval's focus on comprehensive constitutional reform over the past year raised concerns about his ulterior motives. Many in Haiti's political class drew the conclusion that Preval was seeking a third term. The President's refusal to explicitly reject that possibility created confusion and uncertainty, but I view this development as highly unlikely. Nonetheless, concerns about Preval's intentions, coupled with deteriorating relations with parliament, and his cavalier treatment of major political parties has undermined consensus on constitutional reform and he seems now resigned to more limited changes. ¶11. (C) Preval's fixation on drug trafficking reflects both a growing frustration with the inflow of drugs into the country's political process and irritation that his government is unable to address something that could indeed pose a personal threat to his future after the presidency. Shunning all GOH responsibility for the problem, he looks to hand it over to us. He has yet to believe that we take his concerns seriously, and that has colored much of his dealings with us beyond the counternarcotics agenda. A not-always-helpful world view ------------------------------- ¶12. (C) Although Preval's presidency started off well, with the new president reaching out across the political spectrum in an effort to create a new political culture in the country, those efforts have now essentially stalled. The President, whether by inclination or design, has not fully developed a vision of Haiti's future. By turns determined or distracted, Preval is often reluctant to use the levers of power given to him by the office of the presidency. In one telling instance, he held off going public in the April riots until the presidency appeared to hang in the balance. Skeptical of friends from abroad, and cynical about his own political class's ability to effect change, Preval believes that it is best only to speak out after the deals are done. Pressing him to be more expansive and communicative has been, in my experience, counterproductive. At the same time, he is reluctant to let anyone else pick up the slack, and as a result, the political vacuum in Haiti is often filled by those who do not necessarily have the nation's best interests at heart. ¶13. (C) There are those who argue that the April, 2008 riots so badly shook Preval's world view that he has become reluctant to act. We believe this is too simplistic an explanation. Preval was indeed unprepared for the riots in the street, but he used them to press some key objectives, including the removal of then-Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis. More to the point, I believe that the President's own style and outlook, his often unilateral decision-making style, his propensity to micromanage, and his essentially cynical (and often justified) view of the Haitian political process were, I believe, reinforced by what he saw in April, and he is looking for ways to ensure he is not caught unawares again. ¶14. (C) Preval's old friends suggest that in many ways he remains the radical student who broke with his conservative father and spent his university days in the political maelstrom of 1960s Europe. While this may overstate the case, Preval remains essentially a nationalist politician in the Haitian sense of the word - suspicious of outsiders intentions and convinced that no one understands Haiti like he does. He often takes actions, such as publicly dismissing the results of the Washington Donors Conference or stalling elections, which could be construed as working at cross purposes with the U.S. Preval clearly believes that he can walk a fine line without losing U.S. or international community support. Here, however, he runs a risk. Although he briefly lived in the U.S., Preval does not truly understand Americans or the Washington policy environment - and he often ignores advisors who do. The After-Life -------------- ¶15. (C) Close friends speculate that many of Preval's actions during the past year - his rapprochement with Alexis and the Neptune faction of Lavalas, his obsession with constitutional reform, his anger over drug trafficker Guy Philippe, even his reactions to the April riots - stem from his very real fear that politics will prohibit him from returning to private life in Haiti after his presidency. Thus, they argue, his overriding goal is to orchestrate the 2011 presidential transition in such a way as to ensure that whoever is elected will allow him to go home unimpeded. Based on our conversations, this is indeed a matter that looms large for Preval. He has said to me on various occasions that he is worried about his life after the presidency, that he would not survive in exile. His concerns seem real, given Haiti's history, albeit somewhat overblown at this point in time. What It Means for Us --------------------- ¶16. (C) Preval and I entered on duty in our respective positions at pretty much the same time and we have enjoyed an interesting, if not always harmonious, relationship during the past three and a half years. During that period, I have found him somewhat isolated, less open to ideas and advice, and more reluctant to use the tools of his office to advance his agenda than in his first year in office. Some say that he is reverting to the do-nothing persona of his first term as president. Like much about Preval, the reality is somewhat more complicated. What is clear to me, however, is that Preval has yet to truly provide the strong, consistent leadership that Haiti's current circumstances demand. In other places, we could find ways to circumvent or overcome these weaknesses. Not so in Haiti. Given Haiti's strong tradition of presidential rule, the blurred constitutional lines of authority, and his own reluctance to delegate authority, I believe that Preval - and only Preval - will continue to set the rhythm and scope of change in Haiti. And while we may argue with him about pace and priorities, we will have to adapt to his rhythm. Dealing with Preval has never been easy. Yet he remains Haiti's indispensable man and he must succeed in passing this country to a new leadership in 2011. We therefore must continue to find creative, consistent ways to reinforce and maintain our engagement - at all levels of the USG - with Preval and to press him to move forward the important agenda of change that remains as yet unrealized here. TIGHE
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