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HTI | Sep 14, 2021

US Embassy auction in Haiti triggers ‘scaling down’ questions as jokes fly on social media

Gavin Riley

Gavin Riley / Our Today

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External view of the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Photo: KCCT.com)

Haitians are today (September 14) taunting the United States Embassy in Port-au-Prince, while others questioned if the American Government was ‘scaling down’, after it announced a five-day flash sale of surplus furniture and other pre-owned assets. 

The US Embassy in Port-au-Prince, in a statement yesterday, disclosed that the online auction starts next Monday, September 20 and will last until Saturday, September 25. 

However, seemingly tickled Haitians who learned of the auction via the embassy’s Facebook page questioned amongst themselves if the US had ‘given up’ on the country.

“What’s going on?? Are we giving up? Too many insecurities,” commented Map Boule. 

“When will we sell the apartment so I can buy it?” another man asked. 

“Are we selling Daniel Foote too?” Bendory Samson questioned, in reference to the American diplomat and US Special Envoy for Haiti.

Sansan Remar minced little when she wrote, “Is it true what we write… because following other US ambassadors in other countries [you] don’t see them doing such banality….. why do you want to do all Tintin in my country… you are very ugly…”

The light-hearted controversy likely stems from political turmoil after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July and the impact of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck southern Haiti on August 14.

US military and diplomatic presence in Haiti has drastically increased since the double-whammy of crises.

In coordination with USAID, a Joint Task Force (JFT) Haiti Landing Craft Unit from the USS Arlington delivered 113,200 pounds of Mission of Hope relief supplies to Jérémie on August 31—some two weeks after a 7.2M earthquake struck. (Photo: Facebook @USEmbassyHaiti)

While not directly addressing this, the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince continued that its auction will be open to embassy personnel and the general Haitian public.

“The embassy will sell surplus movable property (SMP) via a web-based electronic auction. Each auction will be activated for a specific period of time, clearly stating the start and end dates. This information is available on the information panel of the web application. During this period, participants can submit bids for the surplus property,” the US Embassy stated.

Items for sale include sofas, chairs, mattresses, dining room sets, stoves, refrigerators, washing machines and dryers as well as motor vehicles and engines. 

The embassy further explained that winners will receive an email and telephone notification and will have two days “to pay and pick up their belongings”. 

All items from the online auction will be sold “as-is and where they are” and in local currency, the Haitian gourde.

Interested parties are encouraged to visit the embassy’s auction website, register and propose how much one would like to pay for the items.

The General Services Administration (GSA) defines surplus property as “property the government does not need”.

“Personal property includes assets ranging from office equipment and furniture to scientific equipment, heavy machinery, airplanes, vessels, and vehicles,” the GSA noted.

According to the GSA, if this property cannot be donated to a state or public agency, or nonprofit organisation, then the general public can buy it.

The embassy’s statement did not indicate, however, if attempts were made to donate the surplus property before resorting to an online auction.

Our Today, which followed the US Embassy’s Online Auction portal, found that the Port-au-Prince sale was just one of a slew of events either already underway or in the preparation stages.

A screengrab from the US Embassy’s Online Auction Portal. Image captured on Tuesday, September 14. (Photo: online-auction.state.gov/en-US)

Online auctions are listed as ‘active’ in 12 jurisdictions, with another eight in ‘preparation’ mode.

Additionally, auctions by the embassy are not alien to Jamaica as it hosted a public event for the sale of motor vehicles back in May 2019. 

According to the US Embassy in Kingston, in-person viewing and bidding were conducted on the grounds of Powell Plaza (formerly Crowne Plaza) on 211a Constant Spring Road in St Andrew. 

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