Saturday, April 16, 2011

Haiti's foreign-orchestrated election hands power to neo-Duvalierist Michel Martelly

Haiti's foreign-orchestrated election hands power to neo-Duvalierist Michel Martelly

April 14, 2011
Michel Martelly, Haiti's new leader.

Michel Martelly is closely associated with the extreme right in Haiti that twice overthrew elected government (in 1991 and 2004). He has vowed to reconstitute the notorious Armed Forces of Haiti, disbanded in 1995 due to its record of massive human rights violations (elements of which are in training and waiting for the call). He says that Haiti's economic and social development depends on convincing more foreign investors to set up shop.

He told CBC Radio's The Current on April 7 that Haiti has been "going in the wrong direction for the last 25 years," a reference to the long and difficult struggle by the Haitian people to move beyond the terrible legacy of the Duvalier tyranny.

The two-round electoral exercise that landed him in power was foreign-funded and inspired. The United States, Canada and Europe paid at least $29 million to finance it. The victor acknowledges his campaign costs -- $1 million in the first round and $6 million in the second round -- were largely covered by "friends" in the United States. He refuses to say who they are.

His campaign was run by the same Spanish public relations firm that managed the successful and highly controversial election to the presidency of Mexico by Felipe Calderon in 2006.

It was an exclusionary political process. Haiti's largest political party, Fanmi Lavalas, was ruled off the ballot by Haiti's unconstitutional electoral commission. The election was also a vast disenfranchisement of much of the Haitian electorate. Voter registration was partial for the first round of voting on Nov. 28, 2010. No additional registration was permitted for the second round vote on March 20. Polling stations were inaccessible to many on both dates. Balloting was marked by fraud and irregularities.

Much of Canada's media has done an astonishing about-turn in its coverage of these events. On Nov. 30, the Toronto Star published an editorial condemning the first round vote as a "fraud" and said the whole exercise should be rescheduled for a later date. CBC reporters on the ground in Haiti variously called the vote a "sham" or a "complete fraud."

A Star editorial on April 9 now welcomes Martelly's selection, saying, "The election of political outsider Michel Martelly as Haiti's president is the first sign in many months that the impoverished nation still has a chance to rebuild itself..."

In the Current interview with Martelly, program host Anna Maria Tremonti pitched one soft question after another. Martelly comfortably replied with vague generalities of what he will do for Haiti.

The pop culture CBC program Q interviewed a correspondent for Time magazine on April 7. "He (Martelly) did seem to run with people who had supported Duvalier...", admitted guest Rich Benjamin. He then hastened to add that this did not mean that Martelly's politics were "right wing."

"Sweet Mickey is the candidate of change in the sense he stands outside the political establishment... Depending on the issue, one might call him a progressive and not a conservative."

CBC's Dispatches interviewed CBC Radio's reporter in Haiti, Connie Watson, on the same date. Sounding like a public relations spokesperson for the new president, Watson said Martelly had received "overwhelming support" from the Haitian people and has a solid plan to move Haiti forward.

Meanwhile, the return from exile of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his family on March 18 was met with near-silence in Canada's print and broadcast media. Perhaps it believes the words of Canada's ambassador in Haiti last year, that the former president is 'yesterday's story.' But the thousands of Haitians who filled the streets to welcome the Aristides home would beg to differ.

The UN secretary general's deputy special envoy to Haiti, Nigel Fisher, voiced the Security Council's satisfaction with the election outcome when he spoke to CBC Vancouver on April 5. While acknowledging "quite a bit of fraud" in the November 28 balloting, he said that all is forgiven in the second round.

Mr. Fisher, his colleagues at the UN Security Council and so many journalists would have us believe that a first-round election that exhibited "quite a bit of fraud" or was a "sham" could magically produce a fair result in a second round. But the rules of the electoral game were unchanged in the second round, so how could this be?

The most damning evidence of all for the absence of legitimacy of this exercise is its exceptionally low participation. Initial reports show another, record low voter turnout on March 20, perhaps lower than the 23 percent recorded on November 28. According to the Center for Economic Policy Research in Washington DC, these re the lowest voter turnouts in a national election in the western hemisphere since at least 1945.

Martelly's accession constitutes an electoral coup d'etat. It continues the aims of the paramilitary coup of 2004, namely, to exclude the Haitian people from their own political institutions and to further weaken their aspirations for social justice (voiced so eloquently by Jean Bertrand Aristide upon his return to Haitian soil).

All of this bodes poorly for the massive rebuilding effort that still lies ahead. Aid and reconstruction remain a largely unfulfilled promise. As the hype surrounding the electoral exercise fades, popular discontent will come more and more to the fore. This latest coup will no more extinguish their aspirations than previous ones have failed to do.

Roger Annis is a coordinator of the Canada Haiti Action Network and resides in Vancouver BC. Kevin Edmonds is a freelance journalist and graduate student at McMaster University's Globalization Institute in Hamilton, Ontario.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Rejection of Dependency: Popular Mobilization in Haiti

The Rejection of Dependency: Popular Mobilization in Haiti

original link:

April 4, 2011

By: Kevin Edmonds

The people of Haiti continue to struggle against rigged elections, systemic human rights abuses, foreign occupation and an NGO led development model which has fallen flat in regards to reconstruction and relief efforts.

At the same time there has been many signs of popular mobilization articulating that the Haitian people are fed up and will not stand idly by with the international community’s attempt to install a puppet government and continue a deeply flawed and self serving reconstruction program.

The March 20th presidential elections were an attempt by the international community to give some legitimacy to an electoral process that had been widely discredited and tarnished by massive fraud and the exclusion of 15 political parties. The election, popularly referred to as a selection, had been between two right wing candidates attempting to portray themselves as “the people’s choice”. The voter turnout proved that they are anything but. Haiti Liberté has reported that the voter turnout for the March 20th elections was at a paltry 17.7%, evidence of a popular boycott. Similarly, the first round of elections held on November 28th only managed to draw out 23% of the population – a record low for both Haiti, and all of Latin America, since record keeping began 60 years ago.

Much to the dismay of the two presidential candidates, the electoral masquerade was largely overshadowed by the return of former president, Jean Bertrand Aristide – who had spent the past seven years in exile due to a coup d’etat orchestrated by the United States, Canada, France and the Haitian elite. Recently released cables via Wikileaks revealed that the United States and Brazilian governments feared that the return of Aristide to Haiti would threaten the emergence of popular democracy, stating that “all efforts must be made to keep Aristide from returning to Haiti or influencing the political process”.

Upon his return, Aristide condemned the exclusion of the country’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas. Maryse Narcisse, the spokesperson for Fanmi Lavalas called for a general boycott of the elections – and from all appearances the Haitian people listened. The reason for the continuing popularity of Fanmi Lavalas and Aristide is that they refused to bow to the pressure of the Haitian elite and the international community. Aristide and Lavalas did the unthinkable; they called upon the Haitian elite to pay their taxes, refused further privatization of the Haitian state, invested in public health and education and called for a $5 daily minimum wage.

Aristide’s return is widely seen as a victory for popular grassroots movements. Yves Pierre Louis of Haiti Liberté stated that “Aristide’s presence alone will be like a serum. It will revitalize the popular movement and the struggle against occupation and neo-liberalism.” In response to the horrific conditions in the tent camps and failed relief efforts, the vast number of problems has led to a revitalized popular mobilization against human rights abuses, foreign occupation and a reconstruction process which has marginalized both the voices and rights of the Haitian people.

On March 24th, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti released a damning report which highlighted the role of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) in committing human rights abuses. The “peacekeeping” force has been routinely accused of engaging in sexual abuse and exploitation, introducing cholera into Haiti, and engaging in extrajudicial killings. Grassroots organizations such as the popular community media collective Bri Kouri Nouvel Gaye have been instrumental in spreading the news to the Haitian people and mobilizing them to become educated about their rights.

On April 1st, 40 popular Haitian organizations called for the dissolution of the Haiti Interim Reconstruction Committee (HIRC), the organization in charge of “building Haiti back better”. The reason for their statement is that after more than a year of promised reconstruction and billions of dollars pledged, “nothing significant has really been undertaken”. The organizations go on to state that “Our analysis and evidence leads us to conclude that Haitian society continues to be locked into the same traps of exclusion, dependency, and ignorance of our strengths, our resources, our identity… The structures of domination and dependence have been reproduced and reinforced by the constellation of agencies including MINUSTAH, the HRIC and large international NGOs”.

Despite the mainstream portrayal of the Haitian people waiting to be helped by handouts, the reality is that the Haitian people have never stopped organizing their communities. Despite the mounting obstacles they face, they are in competition with foreign NGO’s which siphon away funding which could potentially support their projects. However, the sad truth is that the popular Haitian organizations are advocating against the deepening dependency, putting them at odds with the goals of the major donor countries, multinational corporations and Haitian elite who stand to profit handsomely from the status quo.