Michel Martelly, Chile and Haiti solidarity action

Michel Martelly and Chilean Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno in Chile, August 2011.jpg

Michel Martelly and Chilean Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno in Chile, August 2011

September 9, 2011
On August 26, Montreal's main English-language daily, The Gazette published an article (below) telling some basic truths about the political paralysis of the presidency of Michel Martelly of Haiti. The article was originally published ten days earlier in the Miami Herald. The Gazette is, to date, the only Canadian newspaper to give its readers some hint of the deepening political crisis in Haiti.
The story of Martelly's presidency is more troubled even than the article suggests. Below is aneditorial from Haiti Liberte several weeks ago that explains some deeper meaning to Martelly's visit to Chilein August. It is likely that Martelly and MINUSTAH are anticipating rebellion in Haitias the misery in the displacement camps and cholera zones drags on and worsens.
The U.S. pressed Martelly to visit Chile, in part over concerns about Brazil's musings to withdraw from MINUSTAH. Brazil will not act on this anytime soon--it is talking the language of "gradual withdrawal--but the danger signals for the U.S., Canada and Europe are there. Brazil has been an effective police agent for the occupation of Haiti. Chile is probably the only country that could step into the breachto replace Brazil in the lead, MINUSTAH role. But that option is laden with periland best avoided. Chile's military, after all, was forged in the years of the Pinochet dictatorship.
The events in Honduras and Chile and the big public rethink over MINUSTAH now going on in Brazil and Uruguay, if not in other UNASUR countries, will hopefully propel a more active front of solidarity with Haiti(and Honduras!), including in the Latin Americandiaspora in the U.S. and Canada. We are possibly on the verge of seeing a more significant solidarity movement with Haiti develop in Latin America as a result of the latest outrage perpetrated by Uruguyan soldiers of MINUSTAH against Haitians. Those countries that persist in participating in MINUSTAH should be challenged to withdraw.
All this can serve as an important guide to action for Haiti solidarity and advocacy in the coming months. Latin American and Haiti solidarity need to come together for some common work and purpose. We have an opportunity to do this in Canada with the upcoming speaking tours of Rights Action on Honduras and the Canada Cuba Network on Cuba's medical mission in Haiti, featuring a Cuban director of that mission.
Website editors

The Assassins' Plot

By Berthony Dupont, Editorial, Haïti Liberté, August 17, 2011, Vol 5, #5 (translated from the original French)

There can no longer be any doubt. It was under pressure from the United States, the leader of imperialism and colonialism, that the sorcerer’s apprentice Michel Martelly made his way recently to South America, more precisely to Chile, to confer with his counterpart, the wealthy reactionary President Sebastián Piñera. The latter, defending the neoliberal model in place since the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, has unleashed a ferocious repression against the Chilean people — oblivious to any criticism. Martelly went to Chile to learn from this school of civilian dictatorship where, at present, the Chilean police are violently repressing the demonstrations of high school and university students in several cities.

From this perspective it is easy to understand how and why the United States is attempting, by all means, to preserve the enormous strategic and economic interests that it has in Haiti. It got Martelly to go and learn from a key player in its repressive, pro-imperialist and ferociously pro-neoliberal politics in South America, the said Piñera.

The dictatorial potential of Martelly is now more immediate, for the overridingobjective of his visit to Chile was, above all, to counter Brazil’s threat to withdraw its armed forces from MINUSTAH. Such a move would bode very badly for a government that can and must anticipate mass mobilizations in the days to come, especially with the impending commencement of the school year in conditions of mass discontent with this president’s inability to meet his electoral promises of free education for a half million of the returning students — let alone his continued interest in doing so.

Potentially destabilizing factors in Haiti also include the atrocious poverty, the rampant unemployment, the hell-on-earth living conditions of the earthquake survivors, the inexorable progression of cholera, and even renewed dumping by UN forces of raw sewage into the rivers in the South and Central Plateau regions of the country. Martelly is evidently taking the necessary action to ensure that the Chilean soldiers, well known for their repressive past, can if needed take over the leading role of the Brazilians in bloodily suppressing any popular revolt.

These are the circumstances in which Martelly met with Piñera and discussed the possibility that Chile take over the lead military role in MINUSTAH should Brazil decide to step back. The goal is to ensure a continuity of the occupation force and to create the conditions to not only guarantee the interests of the big powers in Haiti but also to uphold Martelly’s electoral mandate, even at the cost of the blood of a people refusing to accept defeat so easily.

In passing, let us note that the Haitian people, whether living abroad or in Haiti, have repeatedly said no to the occupation of the country and demanded that the mandate of MINUSTAH not be renewed this coming October.

Of this we are sure: the oligarchs in power, whether in Haiti or in Chile, have only one response when it comes to the defense of their interests, and that is violence and repression. Not coincidentally, 40 Haitian police are presently training in Chile.

To mask the true objective of his visit to Chile, Martelly voiced at a press conference the same tired refrain of his predecessor, René Préval, calling for transformation of the role of MINUSTAH into a development mission. But the events of his South American tour reveal more clearly what was really involved. The Chilean leader signaled agreement with Martelly, who was careful tonote that “with the agreement of President Piñera, we are going to look initially at how a part of the Chilean mission can be transformed into a mission for development.” A way to divert, to calm the waters and to sabotage the mobilizations against the occupation. It is frankly naïve to believe in such talk from a sorcerer’s apprentice.

It must be said forthrightly, we understand clearly the scale of the plot that the assassins of the people are preparing. Under no circumstances will we tolerate a repressive state presence in our country and we are preparing for any eventuality.

Martelly, along with [Porfirio] Lobo of Honduras, is the only president in Latin America who has not travelled to either Cuba or Venezuela within the first three months of his term in office, to get some idea of the relation of these fellow countries to our own. Whereas our champion has made a series of visits to the Dominican Republic, the United States, and to Spain, he hasn’t once visited Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba or Venezuela.

A large number of our fellow citizens are already studying in Cuba free of charge, not to mention Venezuela. Cuban and Venezuelan co-operants have shown their dedication to Haiti in healthcare and other fields. For the president, evidently, all this counts for little.

All this must be borne in mind in order to understand why the United States maneuvered so desperately to place Martelly in power. It was to assure its continued presence in Haiti. The national spirit of Haitians must be finished off, once and for all. To facilitate the acceptance of mercenaries and lackeys as leaders, the morale of the fighters must be broken and the popular masses must be demoralized.

Let us remind the occupation forces and Martelly of some history, that the time of colonial humiliation is past. The winds of freedom stirred up at the congress of Bois Caïman 220 years ago, followed quickly by the revolt of the slaves, will stir once again, this time to end the aggression, oppression, exploitation and despoiling to which the Haitian people are subject. We will fight against the plot of the international assassins until such time as the last foreign soldier has left the country and Haiti has retaken its place among the dignified, free and sovereign countries of the world.


Haitians look for hope, find despair

Haitian President Michel Martelly promised much when he swept to victory, but his intransigence and a bitter opposition have led to a deadlock in his efforts to form a government, which is delaying progress and much needed foreign aid.

By Jacqueline Charles, published in The Gazette (Montreal), August 26, 2011

PORT-AU-PRINCE – Tucked inside Guerda Anier’s purse is a creased invitation to President Michel Martelly’s inauguration. In the 100 days since, the sidewalk vendor has spent much of her time sitting across from the collapsed National Palace waiting for Martelly to deliver on campaign pledges.

But the former musician who sold himself as a no-nonsense, decisive leader has been unable to make good on most of his promises. He has not got his choice of prime minister approved in parliament and increasing tensions between Martelly and lawmakers have even his most ardent supporters wondering if any of the major policies he proposed will become law.

“I understand there is no government, but President Martelly stood right there,” said Anier, 43, pointing to a spot in front the Champ de Mars public plaza-turned-tent city near the palace, “and said ‘I have 30,000 houses but your president won’t give me the land to build them.’ Well, now he’s president. So where are the 30,000 houses? We’re still waiting.”

Anier sold perfume and jewellery before the devastating earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, forced her to seek shelter on the downtown public square. The cheap rum, cigarettes and plastic water bags she sells barely cover school fees and uniforms for her four girls. And while the pieces of worn aluminum offer cover from the sun, they don’t protect from the rain.

“I am trying to give them hope,” she said of her children, including a 13-year-old boy orphaned after the quake. “But how am I supposed to give them hope when I don’t have any? Today, there is more discouragement than hope.”

Martelly’s first months have been spent inaugurating a housing loan program and schools. He launched a fund to support his free education initiative and last week announced a housing plan to relocate more than 5,000 families from six camps. He appointed advisers to a panel charged with Haiti’s post-quake recovery and has called for its renewal by parliament. He has also promoted reconstruction, tourism, governance and technology projects.But foreign diplomats say Haiti needs a government to turn the rhetoric into reality.

Free education and housing for the 600,000-plus in camps are just some of the promises Martelly, 50, made while campaigning. He assumed the Haitian presidency as global economic uncertainties threatened to reduce donor support and the legacy of the quake – increased poverty, decades of inept governance and slow reconstruction – led to budding frustrations at home.

“We need a government in a hurry,” said former U.S. president Bill Clinton, who co-chairs the panel charged with rebuilding the country. “The negative things that might have otherwise happened, have been so far severely limited because of the aggressive public posture that the president and his team have taken about getting more investments here … and doing things that look like little things, like these cleaning crews in the streets.”

Still, infighting in Martelly’s camp, coupled with his antagonistic attitude toward parliament and penchant for foreign travel – he’s taken seven trips abroad amid the crisis – is creating uncertainty and concern. Also worrisome to lawmakers and foreign diplomats is the lack of transparency and policy over an education initiative he launched that tax phone calls and money from abroad.

Months after Martelly’s historic swearing-in on May 14, Haiti remains in limbo.Constitutional changes are on hold; millions in international aid remain blocked by frustrated donors; investments and consumption are down, and inflation, which was at six per cent when Martelly took power, is now at 9.3 per cent. Even the budget for the Oct. 1 fiscal year is delayed.

“The president says Haiti is open for business, but nobody will come to Haiti if you don’t have a prime minister and functioning government,” said Kesner Pharel, a Haitian economist and political observer, who blames Martelly and parliament for the stalemate. “The inability of these people to get a prime minister is having a high cost in the economy.”

Martelly declined through a spokesperson to be interviewed for this article.

Lawmakers loyal to former president René Préval have twice rejected Martelly’s pick for prime minister, triggering renewed polarization and speculation that both sides are using the confirmation process to their own political benefit.Critics say that by refusing to negotiate, Martelly is either trying to dismiss parliament or blame it for being unable to meet his promises, including free schooling to 500,000 students in September. Others say all sides are waiting each other out until the end of the year when one-third of the 30-member Senate will be up for grabs, allowing Martelly a chance to build his own majority by adding to his support.

“One has to wonder, in view of Haiti’s current impasse, just how much patience will Haiti’s downtrodden masses have before (a social) explosion will occur,” said Robert Maguire, a Haiti expert and professor at the George Washington University Elliot School of International Affairs. “Haiti’s political elites seem to be fiddling while Haiti burns.”

Last week, the private sector, Martelly and a majority of legislators each circulated their versions of a governance pact. At the same time, Martelly and his cousin, the caretaker prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, floated the idea of temporarily reinstating Bellerive’s governing powers to get the country moving. The U.S. and United Nations all oppose any interim government solution, insisting that Haiti needs a permanent government.

“The only person who can get the ball going is the president because he is the only one who can choose, but he cannot choose by himself,” said Sen. Steven Benoit, who has unsuccessfully tried to advise Martelly, a friend.

During a recent two-day visit, Clinton announced that the recovery panel was providing $30 million to help Haiti revitalize 16 quake-ravaged neighbourhoods, emptying six camps where 5,239 families live. The $78- million project will help five per cent of the people living in tents, but will take 30 months to complete.

It’s the day after the housing announcement and Anier and her neighbours are convinced they will soon find relief. They do not know it but the downtown square is not among the six camps.Lately, there have been protests around the Champ de Mars, and some politicians are complaining about “growing insecurity” in the tent city.Rumours have circulated that bulldozers will soon appear because the mayor recently announced plans to rebuild the capital and relocate camp dwellers to a barren mountain to the north.

The solidarity that erupted in the days after the quake has turned to discord and impatience. Few are outraged over a spate of recent evictions and there is a sweeping sense that most camp residents aren’t homeless quake victims but individuals waiting for a handout.On any given day, passing motorists in their oversized SUVs hurl insults at Anier, asking if she is not tired of living like an animal.

“They’ve put all of us in the same boat,” Anier said. “All I dream about is getting out of here. Do they really think we like fighting the rats, the rain?”

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