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.
Haiti’s President-elect Michel Martelly has called for Haiti to build a new army, a move that has been criticized by some human rights groups. Haiti disbanded its military in 1995. The Haitian military had long been known for its brutality and support for coups. Martelly made the announcement on Thursday during a trip to Washington, D.C.
Michel Martelly: "I think it’s a must that we create a Haitian force. Whether you call it the military, the gendarmerie, it’s irrelevant to me. It needs to be a modern army. It will have a medical corps, an engineering corps, and we’ll be ready to intervene whether it’s chaos, whether it’s catastrophe, the earthquake or hurricanes, to get involved in reforestation, preserve our forests. A modern army. We don’t foresee Haiti going to war with any other county, so it won’t be an army with heavy equipment like war ships or fighter jets."
The new Haitian President, Michel Martelly, will not make hasty decisions in the cases of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Jean-Claude Duvalier, but he says he is thinking of granting them both an amnesty in order to encourage the process of reconciliation in his deeply troubled country.*
What to do with former presidents Jean-Claude Duvalier and Jean-Bertrand Aristide, recently returned to Haiti and awakening painful memories in the population as well as raising crucial legal questions? Should they be arrested and judged for the violence and fraud committed during their presidencies?
"Their cases are not so unique as you might think. The Haitian Constitution does not sanction exile. They belong here and I welcome them. If they've had problems or acted badly in the past, it's a matter for the justice system.
"I say to them welcome and we favor reconciliation and inclusion. We must not promote the use of ideology. My government has a plan for the future. I've always avoided planning based on the past. I would simply say that we could eventually think of that (an amnesty) to the extent that those who were hurt in the past understand the need for reconciliation. Before thinking about this, we must work on awareness and compassion to understand the victims and respect their feelings.
"So, we won't take hasty decisions, but I'm leaning toward the side of amnesty and forgiveness so that we can think about tomorrow and not yesterday. We must however always keep in mind the past so as not to repeat the errors of the past.
— La Presse, translated from French
Because, um, Aristide and Duvalier are totally the same! I mean, one of them had a personal death squad, and the other... um... opened schools.