Nearly a year after President Joseph Michel Martelly's inauguration, Haiti appears to be descending into anarchy. Rebellion among policemen and former soldiers is growing, and several high profile killings have contributed to the atmosphere of crisis permeating the country.
Meanwhile, rumors and doubts about President Martelly's health continue to swirl as he reportedly recuperates out of the country from a post-surgery pulmonary embolism which caused him to fly hastily to Miami on April 16. He had been in Florida from April 4 to 12 to undergo shoulder surgery.
On April 17, a few dozen former soldiers, many of them armed, barged into a session of Haiti's deputies to demand that they ratify Martelly's Prime Minister nominee, acting Foreign Minister Laurent Lamothe. Intimidated, the deputies adjourned, although they had been meeting to review Lamothe's ratification.
Acting Prime Minister Garry Conille, who resigned under pressure from Martelly on Feb. 24, called the paramilitaries' action an "assault on the public order" and called an emergency meeting of all the acting ministers for April 18. Not one of them showed up, presumably in solidarity with Martelly. Senator Kély Bastien described the ministers' boycott of the meeting "rebellious," but it was not the first time they had refused to be summoned by Conille.
On April 19, Conille convened a meeting of the Supreme Council of National Police (CSPN), including Justice Minister Michel Pierre Brunache and Haitian National Police (PNH) chief Mario Andrésol. The meeting, which failed to produce any plan of action, was also attended by representatives of the international community. "If the presence of armed men does not bother the Executive, it is because it feels comfortable" with them, said Senator Kély C. Bastien.
Senator Andrice Riché was more direct. "No paramilitary force could exist in the [national] territory without the complicity, tolerance and the blessing of those in power," he said. "Democracy is in danger."
- Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté
Follow the money, says the old adage of investigative journalism. A crusading Dominican journalist did just that with dozens of financial documents from some Dominican construction firms and uncovered shocking results.
Over the course of 2011, Michel Joseph Martelly, as a candidate, president-elect, and president of Haiti, received close to $2.6 million in over a dozen payments from a Dominican Senator named Félix Bautista, according to an explosive Mar. 31 television report by star Dominican journalist Nuria Piera. The alleged bribes were likely connected to securing three post-earthquake multi-million public works contracts dubiously won by Bautista-controlled Dominican construction companies, according to Nuria’s report and to Haitian government documents obtained by Haïti Liberté.
The allegations come when President Martelly is already besieged by a Haitian Senate investigation into whether he and his Prime Minister nominee, Laurent Lamothe, may hold or have held dual citizenship, which is prohibited by Haitian law.
If Nuria’s charges prove true, wholly or even partially, they may deal a mortal blow to Martelly’s presidency. Already, Deputy Arnel Belizaire, who was illegally arrested last November on Martelly’s orders, says he is close to calling for the convening of Parliament’s High Court of Justice to impeach the President. Another deputy, Tholbert Alexis, told Scoop FM that he would push for a special commission to look into Nuria Piera’s allegations.
- Haiti Liberté
I feel like I've been neglecting my blogging about political events in Haiti. Certainly, there's been a lot of very worrying stuff going on. The resignation of the Prime Minister. President Martelly's strategy of dating global south countries like Venezuela to make Washington jealous. The limitations on the prosecution of Baby Doc. And Washington's renewed propaganda campaign against Aristide.
This was the latest thing to cross my inbox -- an editorial by Kim Ives:
Martelly’s sector, which came to power in March 2011 through an illegal election, is not considered trustworthy. The new president borrows inspiration, officials, and tactics from the dictatorships of ‘Presidents for Life’ François and Jean-Claude Duvalier (1957-1986).
Martelly’s principal gambit today is to reconstitute a repressive force similar to the Duvalier’s Volunteers for National Security (VSN), better known as the Tontons Macoutes. Toward this end, he has tolerated (and some reports say organized) the re-arming of former and would-be soldiers and paramilitaries now occupying several former Haitian Army bases around Haiti. Remobilization of the Haitian Army, disbanded by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1995, was one of Martelly’s campaign promises.
On street corners and radio shows, Haitians now express their apprehension about Martelly’s embryonic but still unofficial ‘Pink Army’ (lame wòz), a reference to the color of Martelly’s campaign posters.
– "Police chief standoff reflects fierce class struggle in Haiti", Haiti Liberté
Martelly looks to be trying to create his own Tonton Makout. Jeezuz.
Lots of interesting stuff coming out about Haiti at the moment.
First, Jeb Sprague's piece in Haiti Liberté, which talks about how the so-called interim government (installed by the U.S.) sought to populate the Haitian National Police with former members of the disbanded Haitian army:
Throughout 2004 and 2005, Haiti’s unelected de facto authorities, working alongside foreign officials, integrated at least 400 ex-army paramilitaries into the country’s police force, secret U.S. Embassy cables reveal.
For a year and a half following the ouster of Haiti’s elected government on Feb. 29, 2004, UN, OAS, and U.S. officials, in conjunction with post-coup Haitian authorities, vetted the country’s police force – officer by officer – integrating former soldiers with the goal of both strengthening the force and providing an alternative “career path” for paramilitaries. Hundreds of police considered loyal to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's deposed government were purged. Some were jailed and a few killed, according to numerous sources interviewed.
At the same time, former soldiers from the disbanded Haitian Armed Forces (FAdH), who were assembled in a paramilitary “rebel” force which worked with the country’s elite opposition to bring down Aristide, were stationed – officially and unofficially – in many towns across the country.
When Aristide disbanded the army, it was the single most popular thing that he'd done. At that time, the army had a long history of suppressing the citizens, overthrowing the government and "disappearing dissidents". One can only conclude that the U.S. felt that there was a vaccuum in the suppressing citizen/overthrowing the government/disappearing dissident role.
Next, there are some Wikileaks documents showing just how obsessed the U.S. was with keeping Aristide out of Haiti and undermining the Lavalas movement:
The Nation magazine and the Haitian weekly Haïti Liberté that draw from almost 2,000 U.S. diplomatic cables on Haiti released by WikiLeaks. The cables show that high-level U.S. and U.N. officials coordinated a politically motivated prosecution of Aristide to prevent him from "gaining more traction with the Haitian population and returning to Haiti." The United States and its allies allegedly poured tens of millions of dollars into unsuccessful efforts to slander Aristide as a drug trafficker, human rights violator, and heretical practitioner of voodoo. Another recent exposé based on the cables details how Haiti’s unelected de facto authorities worked alongside foreign officials to integrate at least 400 ex-army paramilitaries into the country’s police force throughout 2004 and 2005. The WikiLeaks cables reveal just how closely Washington and the United Nations oversaw the formation of Haiti’s new police force and signed off on the integration of paramilitaries who had previously targeted Haiti’s poor majority and democratically elected governments.
Especially noteworthy is that Canada is completely on board:
AMY GOODMAN: ... "Canada had a clear position in opposition to the return of Aristide." Two Canadian diplomatic officials met with U.S. embassy personnel, saying, "We are on the same sheet [with U.S.]" with regards to Aristide.
KIM IVES: Canada played a support role to the U.S., just as France did trying to block Aristide’s return through third countries, blocking commercial lines so he couldn’t get back. So they all played it.
Ives' article in The Nation is probably an important link, too
An interesting Democracy Now blurb about WikiLeaks and Haiti. Apparently, a 2005 leaked U.S. Embassy cable shows that the embassy was angry that Democracy Now accurately reported on a deadly raid on Site Soley. Apparently, the embassy was concerned that there wasn't PR coverage for Democracy Now.
The video includes a brief bit of Kim Ives, whose pieces in Haiti Liberté I've read, but this is the first time I've seen video of him. Ives' point is about Secretary Clinton's actions (discussed in another memo) after the 2010 earthquake: apparently she got a bunch of embassies to penalize journalists who don't "get the narrative right."
More comprehensive video is over here.