Will Martelly Really "Change the System"?

By Yves Pierre-Louis. * THIS WEEK IN HAITI * May 4 - 10, 2011, HAITI LIBERTE, Vol. 4, No. 42   http://www.haitiliberte.com

Upon returning from his three day trip to the U.S. last week, President-elect Joseph Michel Martelly summarized the different meetings he had during a press conference last Tuesday, Apr. 26. In his presentation, Martelly contradicted statements he had made only shortly ago about such things as the Haitian Army’s restoration. “On the matter of the country’s security, when journalists asked us, we said that we were going to establish a force which will be called the Nation of Haiti’s Territorial Defense Force,” Martelly said. “It could cost between $10 to $15 million as opposed to the MINUSTAH [U.N. Mission to Stabilize Haiti] which costs $864 million. We all know that MINUSTAH is supposed to be something provisional, isn’t it?”

However, just a week earlier, Martelly had said that he wanted to create a “modern army.”  “We need a modern army, with a solid corps of military engineers, ready to respond to natural disasters,” he said. “MINUSTAH’s presence on Haitian soil means there is a need to create a force to keep peace, unless we want to propose that MINUSTAH remains forever.”

U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten said on Radio Métropole on Apr. 27, that the question of re-mobilizing the Haitian army was not raised at Martelly’s meeting in Washington, DC with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In any case, Haiti’s new president, who will take office on May 14, has made it clear that he aims to restore the Haitian Army, which repressed and committed many atrocities against the Haitian people during the 29-year Duvalier dictatorship.

The idea of reconstituting the Army has been met with protest in different parts of the country. Around the capital and its surrounding regions, one sees graffiti which reads “Down with the Ninja Army!”, a reference to the paramilitary corps of bourgeois who theatrically dressed as black-masked Ninjas to terrorize the Haitian people during the 1991-1994 coup, which Martelly supported. Other graffiti reads: “Down with the bone-breaking (kraze zo) Army! Down with the subservient (restavek) Army! Down with the suck-butt (sousou) Army! Down with the bourgeois Army!”

These slogans indicate that the population would not be hostile to a revolutionary army which would protect the country against foreign invaders like the U.S., which has intervened and militarily occupied Haiti three times in the past century. Instead, the Army which Martelly proposes would be an extension of the foreign occupation troops, like the Haitian National Guard set up by U.S. Marines as a proxy force to guard U.S. interests after their withdrawal from Haiti in 1934 after 19 years of occupation.

Progressive popular organizations which have opposed both MINUSTAH’s occupation and the Haitian Army’s restoration say they are preparing to sponsor debates and teach-ins to educate the public about the true purpose of the project to bolster the repressive state apparatus which will only be used to enforce the ruling class’ exploitation and repression of the masses.

Meanwhile, during his meetings in Washington with heads of international financial institutions, Martelly said he asked for loans for economic recovery to remove the Haitian people from poverty. He stated naively that Haiti falls in the category of “insolvent” countries receiving far more donations than loans.

“At the InterAmerican Development Bank and the World Bank, we spoke of the need to restructure how the aid comes into the country,” Martelly said. “We also spoke about the need for Haiti to be able to borrow more than the $200 million that they give us each year. That little bit of money is good, but it’s not enough to get us out of where we are. There is no country on earth which can construct an infrastructure that will allow the economy to take off if it doesn’t have the possibility of borrowing money. We insisted on this a lot.”

The Haitian economist Camille Chalmers does not share Martelly’s fantasies about Haiti’s debt and economic recovery. For PAPDA’s Executive Director, Haiti is not insolvent. Haiti continues to service its debts despite its disastrous situation after the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake. Most loans are tied to requirements by financial institutions as part of an economic policy of domination. “International financial institutions are more interested in lending money than the country requesting a loan,” Chalmers explained. “The logic is to use loans to put pressure on political leaders to force them to take actions that enhance the penetration of multinationals, the country's dependence, control of its strategic resources, and privatization of public enterprises. One must not get it in their head that the loans are given to create development to combat poverty. They are given according imperialism’s and its transnational corporations’ agenda for global domination.”

At the press conference, Martelly also spoke of “changing the system.” What “system” is he talking about? “I campaigned to change the system and I guarantee that we will do everything to change this system which, for over three decades, has impeded progress,” he said.

He talks about some sort of systemic change, but his words are completely empty of content, especially when he, at the same time, advocates restoring the Haitian army which perpetuated the established “system” for decades.

Some say the “change of system” of which Martelly speaks is simply the transfer of political power from below upwards.

Martelly also met with the UN Secretary General’s representative in Haiti and head of the MINUSTAH, Edmond Mulet, on Apr. 27 at MINUSTAH’s headquarters in Pacot. The objective of this meeting, supposedly, was for Martelly to have a better understanding of the UN mission. Martelly said he used this meeting to share his incoming government’s road-maps for strengthening the rule of law and security, particularly strengthening the capacity of the Haitian National Police (PNH) and re-establishing the Haitian armed forces.

Other important issues reportedly raised by Martelly included reviving the economy, the current political situation, including the issue of disputed elected officials in the second round, the next parliamentary elections, local elections of 2011, the constitutional amendments in progress, and the relocation of the earthquake victims, who are still living in tents.

For his part, Edmond Mulet claimed that MINUSTAH’s main mission is to help guarantee a certain level of stability and security in the country, which was important to attract international investment, to establish the rule of law, and to “correct the institutional weaknesses.” But over the seven years that MINUSTAH has been in Haiti, the Haitian people’s political, economic, and social security has never improved. It tends to get worse every day.

Clearly, Martelly’s statements about “changing the system” appear to be simple demagogy, especially when he is proposing to reinstate the Army. Systemic change would require a complete break with a mode of production and relations of production that have existed in Haiti since its independence in 1804. It would mean addressing the on-going struggle between large landowners (Grandon) and small farmers, between bourgeois bosses and their workers, between exploiters and exploited, between the dominant and the dominated.

The illegal, U.S.-orchestrated way Martelly came to power and his background of supporting anti-democratic coups both strongly suggest that the “change” he might bring will not benefit the masses. It will more surely be an attempt to roll-back the people’s gains since 1986. After all, Martelly has declared that Haiti “has been on the wrong path for the past 25 years,” which was when the Duvalier dictatorship fell. Is it a coincidence that Martelly looks forward to having recently returned dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier as one of his advisers? What kind of “change to the system” will Duvalier suggest to his protégé?