The old saying “when it rains; it pours” could be applied to the situation in Haiti where the resignation of prime minister Garry Conille at the end of last month has apparently unleashed a number of political issues that was simmering just below the surface. Besides the need to form a new government, Michel Martelly must now face a resurgent Lavalas (Haiti’s largest political party) and a restive populace that no longer believes in the promises made by the international community in the aftermath of the January 12, 2010 earthquake. As if these weren’t enough for the president to handle, a ragtag band of misfits that wants to become the core of a new army (the Haitian army was disbanded in 1995) is putting his government on a collision course with the international community by occupying an old military base and vowing to resist their inevitable expulsion by the superior-armed UN forces.
The sooner Martelly deals with the band of wannabe soldiers, whose cause he politically supports, the more likely a peaceful solution to this unnecessary provocation could be achieved. As per the generic Security Council resolutions, only two armed forces are presently considered legitimate in Haiti: MINUSTAH and the Haitian National Police. Michel Martelly can defuse the situation by ordering this ragtag band of misfits to lay down their arms and go home or let the country suffer another humiliation at the hands of the foreigners, which is guaranteed given the MINUSTAH’s military superiority.
How the Haitian president intends to solve these issues remains everyone’s guess. But, in the conspiracy-prone world of Haitian politics, Michel Martelly is likely to cast himself as a victim of obscure forces while omitting his responsibility for the deteriorating situation. If only I had a military at my disposition, the president must be saying to himself, my enemies would not be so fearless in challenging my authority. Well, Mr. President: you have reintroduced ideology as an essential component in Haitian politics; the current situation, it must be said, comes with the territory. Surprisingly, many influential people outside the president’s inner circle also espouse his twisted view of sinister forces trying to destabilize the new order. One of them, Frank Etienne, the renowned Haitian educator and author, in an unsolicited advice to Martelly, remarked: “You have entered a swamp where there are crocodiles, alligators, all kinds of evil beasts, there are even invisible critters that could tear up your…”
The invisible critters, which Frank Etienne alluded to, may be Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former president, and his “unreconstructed Lavalas hordes” whose truncated tenure at the helm propelled Haiti into a period of state-sponsored criminality and on the threshold of anarchy (a widely propagated but discredited theory). It should be noted that the president’s closest advisers belong to an anti-populist sector, which sees Jean-Bertrand Aristide as the personification of evil and stands ready to hold him responsible for the current situation in Haiti. Such reasoning will automatically be accepted by the international community which embraced this nonsense as far back as 1991 when it supported the bloody removal of Aristide, then the first democratically elected president of Haiti, by the military. The rumors of a possible indictment of the former president on drug trafficking charges, which even the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) could not prove, are consistent with the intimidation tactics of Michel Martelly and his minions.
In politics as in wars, the best laid plans never worked accordingly. Prosecuting Aristide, who still commands considerable popular support in Haiti, is a political minefield that may come back to haunt the team in power, which may have already jolted the lethargic the Lavalas hordes out of their stupor. Rumors do not exist in politics; they are merely controversial issues that need public review before implementation. The threat of prosecuting the former president was a trial balloon meant to gauge the sentiment of the public which, the team in power believes, may have shifted after nearly a decade of relentless propaganda and Aristide’s seven years in exile during which he was prevented to set foot in the Western Hemisphere.
Overcoming the entrenched power of particular groups that control the political system in any country requires a formidable personality. Martelly may be genuine in his desire to lift impoverished Haitians out of their unenviable situation, but has to contend with these powerful groups that act as keepers of the nation’s destiny. For many obvious reasons, I doubt very much that the Haitian president, despite his celebrated successes as a musician and businessman, can overcome the challenge of reforming Haiti’s rotten political system. His nomination of Bernard Gousse for the post of prime minister at the beginning in his presidency was the clearest indication of his deferential disposition toward these interest groups whose core philosophy remains: the end justifies the means.
Unbeknownst to Michel Joseph Martelly, whose improbable ascent to Haiti’s presidency continues to befuddle many Haitians, he is as expendable to these groups as their nemesis Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The Haitian president’s non-conformist personality, which propelled him to stardom in the music world, is, at this juncture, his biggest liability. Once a person enters the political arena, he or she implicitly agrees to play by the rules. Martelly’s imperial governing style and personal behavior are unbecoming of a politician and president of a country. At this juncture, no one can accurately determine whether Haiti is moving forward or backward.
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