By G. Dunkel
Published May 19, 2011 9:53 PM
Michel Martelly, a former singer whose stage name was “Sweet Mickey,” was sworn in as Haiti’s president May 14. His inaugural speech promised major changes to rebuild a Haiti still devastated by the earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010.
Preparations for his inauguration cost “only” $4.5 million, and each of the three private banquets celebrating his inauguration charged “only” $500 a seat. (Miami Herald, May 13) The International Monetary Fund estimates that 80 percent of the Haitian people live on less than $2 a day.
That Haiti is devastated is undeniable. More than 700,000 people whose homes were destroyed in the earthquake are still living under tents and tarps in camps located helter-skelter throughout Port-au-Prince and its surroundings. Conditions in these camps are deplorable. Basics like sanitation and water are at best inadequate and at worst nonexistent. Jobs are few. Hunger and physical violence, mainly directed at women, run rampant.
Some 300,000 to 500,000 people, according to the U.N.’s International Office on Migration, have moved to rickety housing in damaged shantytowns, set up tents on rubble-strewn family property, or gone to live with relatives in the provinces.
While estimates vary, the IOM says that just 31,656 transitional homes — temporary shelters — had been built by the end of 2010. (Greenwire, Jan. 12)
As for Martelly’s promise of free education, sources in his campaign indicate it will go into effect at the end of his five-year term and probably only go up to grade four. (Haïtí-Liberté, April 20)
Most Haitians support Fanmi Lavalas, the party of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Because it was excluded from the ballot, less than 25 percent of Haitian voters went to the polls in both rounds of the election. Martelly got about 16 percent of the possible votes in a country where voter turnouts have frequently been in the 80 percent to 90 percent range.
Martelly’s platform: repression
Martelly does not have an electoral mandate, even by the elastic standards the U.S. big-business press uses for right-wing Haitian politicians.
Two of Martelly’s platform planks show his real orientation toward smashing the Haitian people’s resistance to the abominable poverty in which they are mired.
Martelly has made it clear that he wants to reestablish the Haitian army, which Aristide disbanded in 1995. It was the U.S. that originally set up the army in 1928 to replace the one it had disbanded in 1916 when the U.S. invaded Haiti for the first time. Its only function is to repress domestic dissent and carry out coups when the U.S. decides a president has gone too far.
During his campaign, Martelly also promoted the Base Michel Martelly, modeled after François Duvalier’s Tonton Macoutes. According to journalist Kim Ives, “For $30, … potential voters could join the Base Michel Joseph Martelly and invest in a pink plastic membership card, with photo, which promises many advantages (such as a job, say) when the Martelly administration comes to power. The move ensures prepaid voter participation and an esprit de corps among the loyal.” (Guardian, March 22)
As Ives noted, during the Duvalier period, “Every Macoute received a card that afforded him many privileges, like free merchandise from any store he entered, entitlement to coerced sex, and fear and respect from people in general.” The Macoutes became one of the world’s most notorious death squads.
During the years before the first coup against Aristide in 1991, Martelly ran a nightclub that was a hangout for leaders of the death squads that the army unleashed against Aristide’s movement.
Martelly, U.S. pawn
The first round of presidential elections in November 2010 was so marked by fraud, incompetence and a nearly total lack of concern for procedures that 12 of the candidates, including Martelly, asked for a do-over. The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) dilly-dallied, admitting that Mirlande Manigat came in first but asserting that Jude Celestin was second and Martelly a close third.
The CEP didn’t come to a firm decision until after the Organization of American States did a cursory examination of the voting tallies and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton went to Haiti and told the Electoral Council to put Martelly on the ballot for the second round.
Immediately after being declared the winner, Martelly got on a plane to Washington and met with the State Department, the World Bank, the IMF and all the heavy-hitters. He made a point of getting a photo-op with both Hillary and Bill Clinton. The latter is co-chair of the Interim Reconstruction Commission, which controls any aid Haiti gets.
Ever since 1990, when the Haitian people decisively defeated Marc Bazin, the candidate favored by U.S. imperialism, in an election that was really a mass movement, Washington has been scheming to regain total political control of Latin America and the Caribbean and secure its hold over Haiti’s strategic location and all its resources. As long as Martelly suits their needs, they will back him. When he doesn’t, they’ll dump him.
Haitian workers held a protest outside the still-ruined presidential palace while the inauguration was taking place. For the Platform of Public Enterprise Employees, who were laid off when state companies like Teleco were privatized in 2010, it was their 99th demonstration to demand 36 months of layoff pay. They also want ex-president René Préval put in jail for not giving them what the law requires. (Miami Herald, May 14)
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