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June 21, 2011

Haiti's Martelly: The Return of Reaction

by Roger Annis

Martelly's Coup d'Etat

Haiti finds itself today with a neo-Duvalierist as President-elect, thanks to a concerted effort by foreign powers to continue thwarting the social justice aspirations of the Haitian people.

Michel Martelly is closely associated with Haiti’s extreme right that twice overthrew elected governments in 1991 and 20041. He told Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Radio’s The Current on April 7 that Haiti has been “going in the wrong direction for the last 25 years,” which corresponds to the time during which the Haitian people have been trying to overcome the legacies of impunity, dependence, and underdevelopment left to them by the Duvalier tyranny.

Martelly has vowed to reconstitute the notorious Armed Forces of Haiti (FAdH), which former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide disbanded in 1995 due to its penchant for making coup d’états and committing massive human rights violations. Former and would-be soldiers are already training in camps around Haiti and waiting for their call to service2.

Martelly also says that Haiti’s economic and social development depends on convincing more foreign investors to set up shop in Haiti, sweat-shops in particular.

The two-round election 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 are3.

His campaign was run by the same Spanish public relations firm – Osto & Sola – that managed the successful but fraudulent election of Felipe Calderón as Mexico’s president in 2006.

This was an exclusionary political process. Haiti’s largest political party, Fanmi Lavalas, was arbitrarily ruled off the ballot by Haiti’s unconstitutionally-formed Provisional Electoral Council (CEP). It was also a vast disenfranchisement of much of the Haitian electorate. Voter registration was partial for the first round of voting on November 28, 2010. No additional registration was permitted for the second round vote on March 20. Balloting was marked by fraud and irregularities not just in the first round, but also in the second.

The deputy special envoy to Haiti of the UN secretary general, 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.

The most damning evidence of all for the election’s absence of legitimacy is its exceptionally low participation rate. The CEP’s preliminary results, released on April 4, show another record low voter turnout on March 20, about equal to the 23% recorded on November 28. According to the Center for Economic Policy Research in Washington, DC, these are the lowest voter turnouts for a presidential election in the Western Hemisphere since 1945.

Media Hypocrisy

Much of the world’s media has done an astonishing about-face in its coverage of these events. Whereas the first round of voting was presented, rightly, as deeply and irredeemably fraudulent, the second round has, magically, become acceptable to North American and European media and governments. It was not acceptable, however, to the CEP, which is legally “the final arbiter” of all Haitian elections. Only four of its members, not the required majority of five, voted to approve holding a second round.

Most importantly, Michel Martelly, the runner-up candidate to first-round front-runner Mirlande Manigat, was forced onto the CEP to be in the run-off by the OAS and Washington. The CEP’s calculations showed that Jude Célestin, the candidate of President René Préval’s Unity party, place second in the first round.

In Canada, the country’s largest circulation daily, the Toronto Star, published an editorial on November 30, 2010 condemning the first round vote as a “fraud” and said the whole exercise should be rescheduled for a later date4. CBC reporters on the ground in Haiti variously called the vote a "sham" or a "complete fraud."

Martelly himself called the first round a “fraud” and, with 13 other candidates, called on November 28 for the election’s annulment... only to backtrack the next day when Edmond Mulet, the head of the Security Council military occupation force in Haiti, told him in a phone call that he might win it.

A Star editorial on April 9 now welcomed 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… And, in the aforementioned interview by CBC with Martelly5, program host Anna Maria Tremonti pitched one puffball 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,” he added.

CBC’s Dispatches interviewed CBC Radio’s reporter in Haiti, Connie Watson, on the same date. Sounding like a public relations spokesperson for the president-elect, Watson said Martelly had received “overwhelming support” from the Haitian people and has a solid plan to move Haiti forward. In fact, only 17% of the estimated 4.5 million registered voters cast a ballot for him.

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 tens of thousands of Haitians who flooded into the streets around the Port-au-Prince airport to welcome the Aristides home belie this claim.

An Electoral Coup D’Etat

Martelly’s accession constitutes an electoral coup d’etat. It continues the aims of the 2004 paramilitary coup, namely, to exclude the Haitian people from their own political institutions and to further weaken their aspirations for social justice, so eloquently voiced by Aristide on his return to Haiti6.

All of this bodes poorly for the massive rebuilding effort that still lies ahead. Aid and reconstruction remain a largely unfulfilled promise. Reconstruction efforts in Haiti have barely begun, a full 15 months after the disaster. More than 95% of the rubble remains to been removed, and less than 10% of the $9 billion pledged by foreign donors last March 31 has been delivered. More than a million people remain homeless, still living in makeshift tent camps, because only 15% of the needed temporary housing has been constructed.

As the manufactured hype surrounding Martelly’s election-engineered “victory” fades, popular discontent and struggle will come more and more to the fore.

Find this article at Canadian Haiti Action Network. Roger Annis is a coordinator of the Canada Haiti Action Network and resides in Vancouver BC. He can be reached at A shorter version of this article was co-authored by Kevin Edmonds and published in on April 14.