Midnight of Haiti’s Parliament on the Earthquake’s Anniversary
Just as the earthquake had rattled the ground under the feet of Haitians, the dissolution of the Haitian Parliament at midnight, 00:00 on January 12, 2015, exactly five years later, has shaken to the core Haiti’s republican institutions. Right at the day’s start, the terms expired for all 99 members of the House of Representatives and 10 Senators. With only 10 members left, the Senate lacks a quorum and cannot function. This loss of the legislature, plus the replacement in 2012 of every elected judge, mayor and other local executive by presidentially-appointed “interim executives,” have concentrated all the country’s power in Michel Martelly, who is now a full-blown dictator. The current state of affairs resulted from Martelly’s deliberate neglect to organize elections for almost four years. Year after year, he demanded a rewrite of the Constitution as a precondition for elections, and year after year, the Senate refused to yield to his demands. One of the amendments would have allowed consecutive terms for Haitian presidents and made it possible for him to extend his tenure to 10 years.
As Haiti’s government was systematically dismantled according to a plan laid out by Bill Clinton in 2011, the international community wholeheartedly supported Martelly. Every year, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) justified its $500 million budget and the renewal of its mandate by promises that it would organize elections and render the horrific situation in Haiti yet more stable. After 10 years of such “stabilization,” the crime rate has climbed, the parliament is dysfunctional, and the Haitian government counts less than one percent of its normal number of elected officials.
The absence of legislators from Haiti did not deter United States Ambassador Pamela White from organizing a meeting at 10 a.m. between Martelly and Haiti’s phantom lawmakers and then trumpeting, in a press release, that they had reached an agreement. The pact was signed by the following motley crew of insignificant parties and non-governmental organizations (NGO):
- Jean Henry Ceant, Renmen Ayiti
- Jose Ulysse, Ansanm Nou Fo
- Pasteur Chavannes Jeune, Alliance Chretienne et Citoyenne pour la Reconstruction d’Haiti (ACCRHA)
- Marc Guillaume, Union des Patriotes pour l”Avancement National (UPAN)
- Harry Precius Dessieu, Konfyans
- Fils-Aime Ignace Saint-Fleur, Patriyot Natif Natal (PNN)
- Kettly Adam Surin, Union Patriotique des Democrates Chretiens (UPDC)
- Masconne Polyte, Parti de la Diaspora Haitienne pour Haiti (MUDHAH)
- Eddy Mesidor, Union des Democrates Haitiens (UNDH)
- Sene Debre Juslair, Rassemblement des Militants Progressistes d’Haiti (RAMPHA)
- Pierre Melisca Romestil, Parti Resistance Nationale Contre la Pauvrete (PRENACOP)
- Asnel Alexandre, Mobilisation Democratique pour le Relevement d’Haiti (MDRH)
Notice the absence of Fanmi Lavalas, Platfom Pitit Desalin, Mouvement Patriotique de l’Opposition Démocratique (MOPOD) and other parties and popular organizations that, together, command more than 90 percent of the electoral support.
The reason for such contortions by the US to display a semblance of a democratic process in Haiti is because the Latin American participants in MINUSTAH have announced that they would not serve as the praetorian guard for a US client in repressing Haitians. Of course, they already do so, but they do it in a pseudo-democracy rather than an outright dictatorship. Form is everything.
Crowds of angry Haitian citizens took to the streets to continue the protests they began more than three months ago, despite having suffered several deaths and countless injuries from police attacks. Having successfully forced the release of political prisoners and ejection of the previous prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, the protesters continue to call for:
1. Martelly’s departure.
2. Formation of an Electoral Council that is credible and in accord with the spirit of the 1987 Constitution.
3. Formation of a transitional government to organize general elections in 2015.
At Haiti’s official earthquake commemoration, Martelly took a break from his orders of police attacks on protesters, lewd insults to journalists, physical assaults against congressmen, and release of hardened criminals from prison, to discuss how much the country needs reconciliation. He should know: he needs forgiveness more than anyone. During his rule, charges of usurpation and money laundering against his wife and son resulted in the suspicious death of the investigating judge. Numerous political activists have died under questionable circumstances or have been killed in drive-by shootings that were essentially assassinations. In early November 2014, in a television interview, Martelly casually announced that he would rule by decree, come January 12. If his American puppeteers have toned down his rhetoric, they have not dampened his ambition.
With a little help from Rafael Correa, Martelly might soon be able to do as he pleases. A large force of tontons macoutes loyal only to him is being quietly assembled and will be put at his disposal by Summer 2015. At 7:45 a.m. on Monday, January 12, 2015, for example, the third installment of 40 soldiers (tontons macoutes) graduated from Ecuador’s Escuela de Formación de Soldados del Ejército.
Former United States President Bill Clinton missed Haiti’s official earthquake commemoration this year: a good sign for Haitians. He is no longer welcome in Haiti, and legal action has been taken against him with regard to the disposal of earthquake reconstruction funds by his Interim Haiti Recovery Committee (IHRC). Clinton attended a different event: the fourth annual “Help Haiti Home” gala fundraiser held by Sean Penn on the evening of Saturday January 10. This party has become a major place in which to be seen and photographed on a red carpet in designer clothes. In previous years, it was held in Haiti, in complete disregard for the poverty around it and the mourning related to the earthquake anniversary. In 2015, the opulent affair was held in Los Angeles: another good sign. Clinton’s protégé, disgraced Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, who is also under investigation for fraud, was in attendance. The event raised another $6 million of reconstruction funds.
Martelly’s handlers failed to catch his gaffe, of also declaring January 12 — the day to mourn the 300,000 victims of the earthquake — to be the official start of the 2015 pre-carnival activities. This was bound to happen. After all, carnivals are what Martelly does best. The carnival king evidently plans to dance over yet more graves while he sings about reconciliation. He might well do so, unless the Haitian people cut short his incipient career as the konpa dictator.
This article is also available in French.
Photographs one and three by Eric Goldhagen; five and six from Ansel‘s archive; four, eight, nine and ten from Presidencia de la Republica del Ecuador‘s archive; and seven and eleven from United Nations Photo archive.
For more from Dady Chery on the dismantlement of Haiti’s government, read We Have Dared to be Free: Haiti’s Struggle Against Occupation, available as a paperback from Amazon and e-book from Kindle and other vendors.