The imposition of Martelly, the reconstitution of the army, and the restoration of Duvalier
by Charlie Hinton, Haiti Action Committee
Early in the process, Haiti’s electoral council had refused to allow Haiti’s largest party, Fanmi Lavalas, led by widely popular former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to run candidates, somewhat akin to not allowing Democrats or Republicans to run in this country, only more so, since Fanmi Lavalas wins every honest election with overwhelming majorities. Most Fanmi Lavalas members boycotted these “elections.”
First round voting took place on Nov. 28, 2010. Voter rolls contained the names of many of the 310,000 people who had died in the earthquake, and people had no idea where to vote. The number of polling places was reduced from around 12,000 in the last genuinely democratic election in 2000 to fewer than a thousand this time, helping to create the appearance of a large turnout while keeping turnout low. Official results claim that 23 percent of the electorate voted, but on-the-ground observers claim turnout was much lower.
By noon, 12 of the candidates, including Michel Martelly and Mirlande Manigat, had joined together to denounce the massive fraud and demand the “elections” be cancelled. That evening, however, Edmond Mulet, head of the U.N. occupation force in Haiti, called them both to say they were in the “run-off,” and they withdrew their opposition. Then the results were announced: Manigat first, Jude Celestin, the favorite of then-current President Preval, second, with Martelly a close third.
Protests broke out all over Haiti. The media credited the outrage to Martelly supporters, but people from many political tendencies protested the phony elections, the exclusion of Fanmi Lavalas, the U.N. occupation and the introduction of cholera into Haiti by U.N. troops.
The “international community” sent an electoral commission from the Organization of American States to “recount the votes.” A report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research states: “The amount of votes not counted or counted wrong in this election is huge … Based on the numbers of irregularities, it is impossible to determine who should advance to a second round.” Nevertheless, the OAS decided the “run-off” should be between Manigat and Martelly, in spite of several violations of Haitian law, and Hillary Clinton personally went to Haiti to enforce the message.
Significantly, on Jan. 16, former dictator Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier returned to Haiti from France, made only more relevant by links of both candidates to Haiti’s Duvalierist past connections, which have been unreported in the international press.
Martelly quickly became a bitter Lavalas opponent, attacking the popular movement in his songs played widely on Haitian radio. Martelly “was closely identified with sympathizers of the 1991 military coup that ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide,” the Miami Herald observed in 1996, and ran with members of the vicious FRAPH death squad from that period, infamous for gang rapes and killing with impunity. On the day of Aristide’s return to Haiti, two days before the “run-off,” Martelly was caught in a video on YouTube insulting Aristide and Lavalas: “The Lavalas are so ugly. They smell like s**t. F**k you, Lavalas. F**k you, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.”
Martelly’s candidacy had significant backing from an anonymous Florida supporter who hired the Spanish public relations firm Ostos & Sola to manage his campaign. This same company secured Felipe Calderón the presidency in Mexico and worked on John McCain’s campaign, so there are powerful forces behind Michel Martelly.
In his first visit to the United States, Martelly met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, officials from the IMF, the World Bank and the InterAmerican Development Bank, indications of where his allegiances lie. Clinton stated the U.S. is behind him “all the way.” Since his return, Haitian police have violently obliterated three camps of internally displaced persons living on public land in the Delmas neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, destroying belongings and violently beating people with batons.
In his visit to Washington, Martelly announced his intention to reconstitute the Haitian army, disbanded by President Aristide when he left office in 1995, one of Aristide’s most popular decisions. The Haitian army grew out of the Garde d’Haiti, created by the United States Marines after an almost two decade-long U.S. occupation that ended in 1934. It was developed from the model of the Nicaraguan National Guard, which was established the year before to secure the dictatorship of Somoza after the Marine occupation of that country.
The Garde d’Haiti operated with impunity, was widely hated by most Haitians, and became an important mechanism through which the U.S. controlled events in Haiti. Since Haiti has no external enemies, the purpose of this new army, like the old one, will be to repress the popular grassroots movement led by President Aristide, who was finally able to return to his homeland on March 18 to a massive outpouring of love from his supporters after seven years of exile in South Africa. (See “School of the Americas: The Haitian Case” by Adrianne Aron.)
Haiti now finds itself at a crossroads. On one side is the Lavalas movement, which has won every honest election in which it has participated. Aristide put the needs of poor Haitians ahead of the demands of international and national elites, though by doing so he created powerful enemies. (See Haiti Action Committee’s “We Will Not Forget.”) The Haitian majority has tasted real freedom and democracy and will not willingly return to the bad old days of Duvalier, which makes the army restoration all the more ominous.
On the other side is Haiti’s tiny elite, supported by the “international community” and a 12,318 member U.N. occupation force. They rigged these “elections” in a desperate effort to present an illusion of democracy to the world and to insure that transnational corporations will not find their power and privileges in any way limited in Haiti. They have selected Martelly as the new face of this repression, paid for by an anonymous millionaire in Florida. Baby Doc lurks in the background while he dines in fine homes, unable to leave the country, as a court decides whether or not to charge him with corruption and embezzlement, while ignoring his far more significant crimes against humanity.
The choice could not the more clear: The twice elected Aristide vs. the never elected dictator Duvalier. The impoverished majority vs. an entrenched elite backed by international bankers. A nation born of rebellion against African enslavement vs. the countries of the former slave masters. An economy for all vs. an economy for a few. One person, one vote vs. might makes right. Unarmed demonstrators vs. tanks and death squads.
Haiti needs to be part of the larger global conversation about democracy and repression, so present in world consciousness with the Arab Spring. As in Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Honduras, Uganda and other countries, Haitians have been shot dead in the streets protesting, ever since a military occupation overthrew the overwhelmingly popular, twice democratically elected President Aristide in 2004.
The obstacles remain challenging, with the imposition of Martelly and the restoration of the army and Duvalier only the latest ones, but to quote Dr. King, “The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.”