by Jemima Pierre
The U.S. corporate media, echoing President Obama, would have us believe that Washington has brought “democracy” to Haiti – when, in fact, the U.S. stole democracy from that country through coup and invasion, in 2004. The fundamental question: “How can a non-sovereign country, under military occupation, claim to independently call and run free and fair elections?” The winner, Michel “Sweet Mickey” Martelly, is clearly a foe of deposed president Jean Bertrand Aristide – “a position that must have played a role in the U.S. decision to choose him as president.”
Of Fools and Sycophants: Haiti’s Presidential Selection
by Jemima Pierre
“Only fools and sycophants would continue to believe that elections in Haiti represent the popular will of the people.”
With the recent election of Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, Haiti briefly returned to U.S. mainstream media. Before the country is quickly forgotten – again – we would do well to consider the context in which Martelly came to power. There is much to say about these “elections” – what many of us are calling the "selection"—but by examining the background and clarifying key issues surrounding it, it becomes clear that what is at stake is the continuing undermining of Haiti’s national sovereignty by outside forces.
We must not forget that Haiti is under military occupation. Haiti is effectively administered by a 14,000-strong United Nations force (known as MINUSTAH) led by Brazil. MINUSTAHi was established in April 2004 by a UN Security Council resolution initiated by the U.S., Canada, and France.ii According to those in charge, MINUSTAH’s mandate at the time of its organization was purportedly to serve as a security and “stabilizing” force after the removal of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s only popular and democratically elected president. Yet MINUSTAH has remained long after its mandate should have expired. Its role in post-earthquake reconstruction has been negligible. And its administration of the country has been marked by absence, incompetence and, in causing the cholera outbreak,iii deadly bungling. It appears that MINUSTAH is clearly there to do the bidding of the U.S., France, and Canada.iv If elections are an act of sovereignty, how can a non-sovereign country, under military occupation, claim to independently call and run free and fair elections?v
“MINUSTAH is clearly there to do the bidding of the U.S., France, and Canada.”
In short, it can’t. Haiti’s elections are being called an “electoral coup d’etat” for good reason. In the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake, many counseled against holding national elections. Yet, such election was imposed on Haiti by the U.S., France, and Canada, who in turn paid a reportedly $29 million in logistical support for both elections. The first round was held on November 28, 2010, but there were problems even in the run-up to that date, most egregiously in the banning of the Fanmi Lavalas party, founded by the exiled Aristide, a move that effectively denied the majority of Haitians representation. On the date of the election, there was such a low voter turn out and rampant irregularities the election’s provisional council (CEP) argued that it would be impossible to determine who would advance to the second round.vi In fact, a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research demonstrated that, out of all registered voters, 71% did not vote, and the ultimate run-off candidates received less than 11% of the votes combined—with the now president-elect, Martelly receiving only 4.5%.vii
The U.S. then not only forced the ever-complicit Organization of American States ( OAS)viii and CARICOMix to make the recommendation that the Haitian electoral council follow through on the fraudulent elections; it handpicked who would make it to the second round. While Jude Celestin, the favorite of incumbent President Rene Preval, arguably came in second place, he was not the U.S. choice and Michel Martelly was chosen to be in the second round. As Mark Weisbort reported then, “The OAS's attempt to rehabilitate a fatally flawed process would be laughable if it were not a tragic injustice for Haitians.”x
“How can a non-sovereign country, under military occupation, claim to independently call and run free and fair elections?”
Despite protests from the Haitian government, members of the electoral council, and Haitian activists, Obama’s administration forced the release of the fraudulent results. It did this mob-style—threatening Preval with exile,xi freezing the U.S. visas of elected officials, and withholding much needed disaster aid. To stress its position, the Obama administration pulled Hillary Clinton away from dealing with the revolutions in Africa and sent her on a quick bullying trip to Haiti to stress the importance of accepting a second round of elections and Michel Martelly onto the ballot.
By the time the run-off elections were held on March 20, 2011, they were deemed illegitimate from many quarters—except, of course, by the U.S. and the vaguely-defined “international community.” What is clear is that half of the members of the provisional electoral council refused to ratify the results of the first round while the second round was marred by the same fraud and low voter turn out as the first. Martelly reportedly received less than 20% of the vote from the registered 4.5 million registered voters. This is hardly a clear or popular electoral mandate. As @HaitiInfoProj recently argued on twitter, “only fools and sycophants would continue to believe that elections in Haiti represent the popular will of the people.” Obama’s administration clearly recognized this when they sent the U.S. marines to Haiti’s shores—under the guise of humanitarianism, of course—on the very morning that the preliminary results of the fraudulent elections were to be rendered. A month later, we are still waiting for the final results of the election.
“The OAS's attempt to rehabilitate a fatally flawed process would be laughable if it were not a tragic injustice for Haitians.”
Finally, who is Michel Martelly? We have to wait to see how bad he will be for Haiti. But what we know already should keep us on edge. Besides the fact that Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly was a lewd singer and musician known for wearing skirts and bikinis and cursing his rivals before entering Haiti’s presidential race, he is also a known neo-Duvalierist who reportedly kept company with rightwing paramilitary groups.xii He is open about restoring the dreaded Haitian military and, most recently, extending amnesty to Jean Claude Duvalier, one of the most brutal dictators in history. Martelly is also clearly anti-Aristide—a position that must have played a role in the U.S. decision to choose him as president. Most worrisome, is what Kim Ives of “Haiti Liberte” has argued: that “Martelly has seduced parts of Aristide's urban poor base with intermittent populist and nationalist posturing, an irreverent stage persona and a well-financed, professionally-run campaign.”xiii It remains to be seen how much effect that new persona will have for the disenfranchised masses.
In the months to come, we will not hear of any of these facts on the history of Haiti’s recent “selection.” Martelly is already receiving positive media coverage – he is said to have won by a “landslide” – and is now in Washington meeting with Hillary Clinton. While it remains to be seen what a Martelly presidency will be for Haiti in the near future, we can be sure that what will be consistent is the United States’ imperial relationship with Haiti. Haiti has a new president, but what is a presidency without sovereignty?
Jemima Pierre can be reached at [email protected]