MABE Orphanage -- Port au Prince, Haiti

MABE Orphanage -- Port au Prince, Haiti

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Haiti: Just When You Think It Can't Get Any Worse

Funeral of Samuel Georges, an 18-year-old who died eight hours
after contracting cholera. Cholera is on the rise in Haiti. 
Credit:Ben Depp, www.bendepp.com

Beverly Bell


BERKELEY, California, May 5 (IPS) - We may soon look back on this period in Haiti with greater appreciation.

Amidst the world-historic levels of death and suffering from last January's earthquake, citizens have at least been spared the scale of government violence that has marked much of their nation's past (notwithstanding attacks against internally displaced persons during forced evictions, and occasionally against street protesters.)

This may change under Michel Martelly, the incoming president. For starters, he wants to bring back the army that former president Jean- Bertrand Aristide dismantled in 1995. Since Haiti already has a police force to maintain public order and the country is not expected to go to war, Martelly can have only one aim for reintroducing armed forces: to reclaim the tool that past presidents have used to shore up their power by means of violent repression of dissent and competition.

Forces are already readying for violence, which will likely be exerted both through the army and through gangs.

Journalist Isabeau Doucet filed this eyewitness report last month: "For over a year, on a hillside south of Port-au-Prince, around 100 former soldiers and young recruits train three times a week. They claim to have a network of camps all over the country where Haitian men meet and exercise, learn military protocol and martial arts and receive basic training... The black-and-red flag of Jean-Claude Duvalier's party hangs in their tarpaulin dressing room… Somebody is paying for this, even though they claim that it's all-volunteer, and the current government is turning a blind eye, if not giving tacit support."

Friday, May 6, 2011

Martelly: Haiti's second great disaster

Many of Haiti's poorest citizens were not dissuaded by former singer Michel 'Sweet Micky' Martelly's near-total lack of political experience. [Gallo/Getty]

Haiti's new president is a friend of coup-plotters, fascists, and armed right-wing groups in his country and abroad.

Greg Gandlin, aljazeera.net

No sooner had Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly been confirmed the winner in Haiti's deeply flawed presidential election than he jumped on a plane and headed to Washington, where he met with his country's real power brokers: officials from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the US Chamber of Commerce and the State Department.

There, he committed his desperately poor country - where some 700,000 people are still homeless as a result of last year's earthquake - to fiscal discipline, promising to "give new life to the business sector". In exchange, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave him a strong endorsement. "We are behind him; we have a great deal of enthusiasm," she said. "The people of Haiti may have a long road ahead of them, but as they walk it, the United States will be with you all the way," she added.

Martelly, a well-known kompa singer, is an unusual choice to lead Haiti. With no political experience, he represents a clear break with the country's other democratically elected presidents since the island nation ousted the dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and ushered in an unprecedented era of democracy.

The US press billed his victory as "overwhelming". But with Haiti's most popular political party, Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas, banned from participating in the election, a vast majority of Haitians didn't vote. Martelly took the presidency with just 16.7 per cent of the electorate.

Compare this dismal turnout with the election of Haiti's last two presidents. Aristide, a popular liberation theologian priest, won the presidency twice in landslides where a majority of the electorate voted, first in 1990 and again in 2000. Aristide's first prime minister, Rene Preval likewise was elected twice by large margins with high turnouts, in 1995 and 2006. In this election, Martelly got two-thirds of the vote - but three-quarters of registered voters didn't turn up.