Haiti: Time for Clinton and Co to Pack and Go
Once more, we have tasted salt. We have mourned our dead from the earthquake and the cholera epidemic. The collective depression, the temporary zombification has lifted. It is time to evict the occupier and pursue the traitors and enemies of our independence. No exception.
This is not the first time the United States has occupied Haiti and been evicted from it. The first occupation began during the administration of the questionable Nobel Peace Prize laureate President Woodrow Wilson in 1915. It was countered by an armed insurrection that grew to include over 40,000 Haitian fighters who regularly engaged the US marines. Although this insurrection was ultimately crushed, it was followed by numerous popular strikes in Haiti as well as calls in the US by women’s groups and Black Americans to end the occupation. The return to sovereignty was relatively simple: a committee was assembled to organize legislative and presidential elections. The occupation formally ended in 1934, near the start of the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who personally came for a flag-raising ceremony in Haiti to recognize its independence.
Back in 1915, the Monroe Doctrine needed no cover of legitimacy or humanitarianism. The cowardly Sudre Dartiguenave was picked as Haiti’s President while US marines waited with bayonets at the ready for the correct choice to be made by the legislature. Two years later, the legislature was dissolved outright by Major General Smedley Butler when the Haitian parliament refused to ratify a US-drafted constitution.
A treaty was forced on Haiti that created the post of US High Commissioner, to run the country alongside its hand-picked “Haitian” president. General John H. Russell was appointed to that post. The US flag was raised in Haiti. Control of the country’s finances, public works, and public health services were transferred to southern US Democrats who had supported Wilson’s campaign, in much the same way that these are transferred today to USAID and non-governmental organizations (NGO). The idea then was the same as now: all Haiti’s economy should serve the US, and nearly all US dollars paid as wages in Haiti should return to the US. For more than three decades, the occupier also collected taxes from Haitians that amounted to 40 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
Clinton saw in the earthquake of 2010 his opportunity to become the new US High Commissioner of Haiti. Hardly anything in his approach was novel, except for his recruitment of Latin Americans to support his project. Argentina, Brazil and Chile were offered the chance to get prestige on the world scene and assemble a repressive force away from the prying eyes of their nationals by training and modernizing their armies on Haitians as their unsuspecting victims. Thus these countries became the ABC core of the United Nations (de)Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH): the only so-called UN peacekeeping force in a country that is not at war. MINUSTAH began its career by killing thousands of Lavalas partisans so as to suppress the popular rebellion against the coup that removed Haiti’s elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide. Currently Bolivia, Canada, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Jordan, Nepal, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, the United States and Uruguay also participate in an expanded MINUSTAH.
Once Clinton’s repressive army was in place, he set out to wrest economic control of Haiti. Within four months of the earthquake, he formed the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, IHRC: a strictly pay-to-play group of officials/rich businessmen from the MINUSTAH countries and others who agreed to contribute armed personnel from their countries or money (at least $100 million in a two-year period, or erasure of over $200 million in debt) in return for a piece of the action in Haiti. After some arm twisting and alleged bribery, the Haitian parliament was forced to declare a state of emergency for 18 months during which Clinton and his IHRC gang could do as they pleased with regard to reconstruction, without risk of liability. One year and a half came and went, and when the Haitian Senate observed that nothing much had been accomplished, the state of emergency was not renewed, and the IHRC was alleged to be fraudulent.
By then, Clinton and his cronies had begun to search for another way to continue their economic stranglehold on the country, and this would include a suitable Haitian President: specifically, one who would be popular with the young but lack patriotism. They found their man in the vulgar musician Michel Martelly. His election became a mere formality after an electoral commission excluded from participation the Fanmi Lavalas party, which commanded 80 percent of the electorate. Observers from Caricom and the Organization of American States (OAS) legitimized the results despite countless irregularities and ballots from only about 20 percent of the electorate. Such are the conditions under which Michel Martelly was (s)elected President of Haiti.
Simultaneously with the assembly of the new parliament in Spring 2011, Clinton tried to push on Haiti a series of constitutional amendments, nearly all of which aimed to centralize the government so that the country would be more easily controlled via its executive branch. In particular, the Haitian Supreme Court, normally appointed with the input of communal assemblies, would be replaced by a Constitutional Council of Martelly appointees. All local judges, mayors, and departmental governors would also be replaced by Martelly appointees. Finally, the president would be allowed to serve consecutive terms instead of being limited to non-consecutive ones of five years. After the parliament refused to ratify those changes, it was not dissolved. Such things are no longer done in this era of humanitarian imperialism. The constitutional amendments were simply imposed on the country by presidential decree, and the parliament was allowed to atrophy from a neglect to hold legislative elections.
Clinton picked Laurent Lamothe as Haiti’s Prime Minister. He did not have to look far: Lamothe was a rich businessman and IHRC member. Haiti is not exceptional in having men like Martelly or Lamothe who would eagerly serve as the Vichy administration to an occupier. It is hardly surprising that the first allegiance of such individuals is to money. Soon after the installment of the Martelly-Lamothe regime, the electrical grid and running water services began to be dismantled in Haiti’s major cities. This had the effect of depressing land prices in areas coveted by government officials as well as creating a reason to solicit aid funds. Worse, Martelly appointees – some with criminal records – began to ransack and even destroy Haiti’s city halls and local courts. Peaceful protests against these insults met with violent attacks, initially from MINUSTAH and later, from a rapidly growing and increasingly militarized Haitian police force.
Yet more egregious recent actions by the Martelly-Lamothe regime have included: the appropriation of Haiti’s offshore islands by the tourism ministry by decree, followed by the imprisonment and suspicious death of activists who had opposed the land grabs; an agreement to grant the collection of Haiti’s customs taxes to a private Swiss company for 10 years, without discussion with the parliament; the acceptance of reparation funds from Uruguay by the executive branch, also without consultation with the parliament; the suspicious death of a judge who had been investigating a case of usurpation and money laundering brought against the president’s wife and son. There was never an inquest; the plaintiffs in the case, Enold and Josue Florestal, have been incarcerated since August 2013 in what are generally regarded as being politically motivated imprisonments.
Protests throughout Haiti have reached fever pitch. Some municipalities, like Petit Goave and Port-au-Prince have held over 20 days of actions to express their disgust with the incompetent and corrupt occupation regime. Despite public support from Bill Clinton, his protégé Laurent Lamothe was forced to resign his post as Prime Minister on December 13, 2014. Michel Martelly, who is also supported by Bill and Hillary Clinton, will probably go the same way. The international community, which had been content to parasitize Haiti in its worst moment, recently began to cry that the country is entering a crisis, because the failure to hold elections will cause the dissolution of the parliament on the second Monday of January 2015. Coincidentally, Monday, January 12, 2015 will also be the fifth anniversary of the earthquake: a day for stocktaking, for sure. Clinton’s paltry achievements in reconstruction will not fare well.
Haiti is not entering a crisis, it is emerging from one. If the international community wishes to conduct legitimate business with Haiti, then Clinton’s damages must first be mended. Elections must be held at the earliest possible date for all local officials (mayors, judges), the legislature, and a new president. A prime minister must be appointed, and a supreme court must be seated. With regard to Haiti, the expressions constitutional crisis and political chaos from the international community have usually been threats to declare a failed state and propose governance by the UN or receivership by the US. Such threats are hardly worth anyone’s notice. It is quite unwise for the UN and US to presume that they would fare better than Napoleon in an attempt to take Haiti by force.
There is no other choice for the Clintons but to leave Haiti, together with their international cohort of parasites, including MINUSTAH, the NGOs and USAID. If Bill Clinton has peddled to his rich friends parts of Haiti that never belonged to him, then let this be his personal quandary. A series of legal actions relating to embezzlement, corruption and money laundering are already being taken against Martelly’s family and Lamothe; Clinton might well get caught in the same net. Contracts entered into during the period of runaway larceny by the Clinton-appointed Martelly-Lamothe regime deserve no more respect than the purchase of one’s stolen watch on a street corner. Haiti is not for sale: not in bulk, not in retail.
Editor’s Notes: Dady Chery is the author of We Have Dared to be Free. This article is also available in French and German. Photographs one, eight, nine, eleven, twelve, and thirteen from UN Photo archive; photographs three, five, seven and ten from the archive of Ansel; photograph six from the archive of UN Development Program.
UPDATE 1. After more than a year in prison, the political prisoners Enold and Josue Florestal, were released to the Haitian human rights group Réseau National pour la Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH), and to their families, during the afternoon of Friday, December 19, 2014.