Haiti finds itself with a president-elect with ties to the extreme right — thanks to a concerted effort by foreign powers to continue thwarting the social justice aspirations of the Haitian people.
President-elect Michel Martelly is closely associated with the forces that overthrew elected governments in 1991 and 2004.
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”.
This 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 tyranny of the Duvalier dictatorships.
Martelly has vowed to reconstitute the notorious Armed Forces of Haiti (FAdH), which former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide disbanded in 1995 due to its role in coups and human rights abuses.
Former and would-be soldiers are already training in camps around Haiti and waiting for their call to service, a March 27 CanadaHaitiAction.ca article said.
Martelly also says Haiti’s economic and social development depends on convincing more foreign investors to set up shop in Haiti, sweatshops 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 US$29 million to finance it.
The victor acknowledged that 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, the March 18 >em>New York Times said.
His campaign was run by the same Spanish public relations firm — Osto & Sola — that managed the fraudulent election of Felipe Calderon as Mexico’s president in 2006.
Haiti’s largest political party, Fanmi Lavalas, was excluded from the elections. It was arbitrarily ruled off the ballot by Haiti’s unconstitutionally-formed Provisional Electoral Council (CEP).
There was also a vast disenfranchisement of much of the Haitian electorate. Voter registration was only partial for the first round of voting last November.
No additional registration was permitted for the second round vote on March 20.
Balloting was marked by fraud and irregularities in both rounds.
The deputy special envoy to Haiti of the United Nations secretary general, Nigel Fisher, voiced the UN Security Council’s satisfaction with the election outcome to CBC Vancouver on April 5.
Fisher acknowledged “quite a bit of fraud” in the November 28 balloting, but he said all was 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, showed another record low voter turnout on March 20, about equal to the 23% recorded in November.
The Washington-based Center for Economic Policy Research said these were the lowest voter turnouts for a presidential election in the western hemisphere since at least 1945.
Much of the world’s media have done an astonishing about-face in their coverage of these events.
The first round of voting was presented, rightly, as deeply and irredeemably fraudulent. But 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, the OAS and Washington forced the CEP to accept Michel Martelly as the runner-up candidate to front-runner Mirlande Manigat — and therefore a candidate in the run-off election.
The CEP’s calculations showed that Jude Celestin, the candidate of President Rene Preval’s Unity party, came second in the first round.
In Canada, the country’s largest circulation daily, the Toronto Star, published an editorial on November 30 condemning the first round vote as a “fraud”.
It said the whole exercise should be rescheduled for a later date.
CBC reporters on the ground in Haiti called the vote a “sham” and a “complete fraud”.
Martelly himself called the first round a “fraud” and, with 13 other candidates, called for the vote to be annulled — 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.
The April 9 Star 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.”
In the CBC’s interview with Martelly, 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 [the dictator] 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,” he added. “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 day. Sounding like a public relations spokesperson for the president-elect, Watson said Martelly had received “overwhelming support” from the Haitian people and hads 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.
Martelly’s accession constitutes an electoral coup d’etat. It continues the aims of the 2004 paramilitary coup that overthrew Aristide. That is, 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 Haiti.
All of this bodes poorly for the huge rebuilding effort that still lies ahead after the earthquake in January last year.
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 is yet to be removed. Less than 10% of the $9 billion pledged by foreign donors on March 31, 2010 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.
[Roger Annis is a coordinator of the Canada Haiti Action Network and resides in Vancouver BC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. A shorter version of this article was co-authored by Kevin Edmonds and published in www.rabble.ca .]