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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Michel Martelly: the new Messiah?

CSMS Magazine Staff Writers

Haiti has a new president-elect, and his election brings nothing but incertitude. Haiti may be set for some rocky moments, furthering exacerbate the ever-precarious situation. While there was jubilation on the streets of Haiti after Michel Martelly was declared the winner of the last presidential election, it was consternation in the progressive sector of the Haitian society. At home and abroad, the news was absorbed with a grain of salt. For weeks they knew it was forthcoming, but there was hope it could have been otherwise. However, it was clear that, since the uproar over René Préval’s maneuverings to forcefully parachute Célestin—his hand-picked man—to the presidency, Martelly was unstoppable.

Too deep was the hatred for Préval, his cronies and, by extension, the traditional politicians. So it was obvious. Martelly, being the next in line, emerged as a circumstantial hero, a Daniel Boone of the tropic who had been coaxed to deliver the fatal and humiliating blow to René Préval.

Is he really the Messiah?

Politic is a science, not a gimmick. It transcends ideology, and it can be productive and profitable—in its relative term—to one group or another only and only if those at the driver seat succeed at successfully educating their targeted population and ultimately push it to sway their way. That is why politic is usually referred to as the art of persuasion.

But what has been for centuries the unspoken norm has also some exceptions in its baggage. One hundred years ago, in a dramatic twist, decision makers in Haiti chose Nord Alexis, an uneducated military warlord, over Anténor Firmin, a philosopher and skillful statesman well known for his profound patriotism.

It is true that the former Konpa star is no Nord Alexis, and Martelly has been ushered to power through a somewhat fair election. It is also true that Michel Martelly, his political association, his policy makers, his financial backers represent the classic antithesis of popular aspirations. The popular sentiment behind Martelly did not stem from good deeds, political deeds, he had done in the past on behalf of the Haitian masses. Nor can it be described as the sweet harvest after a stormy political season. It is rather the perfect manifestation of a people left to fend for itself, completely forsaken by those who were responsible to lead it to prosperity and grace.

It is true that Martelly received 68 percent of the votes, but only 23 percent of the electorate went to the polls on March 16th, which calls into question the popular mandate that Martelly supporters are claiming that he has gotten. Even if everyone out of that 23 percent were to vote for Martelly, he still would not have gotten a popular mandate. Twenty percent is far from representing a popular force. Six hundred thousand (600, 000) eligible voters are quite insignificant for an electorate of more than 3 million.

Most people stayed away because they did not want to be scooped into a political charade, a Machiavellian stage play where the actors are all called “The crazies.” When one wallows in abject poverty, there is no room for festive moments.

Fairly, he has won outright, but is he really the gifted tactician or the one enshrined by Providence as some Haitian radio commentators are saying? He is probably neither, for in electoral politic, momentum is the key. Circumstantially, the momentum was on Martelly side.

Can he really deliver? It’s hard to imagine that a man who has spent the major part of his life opposing popular aspirations can morph into an overnight San Salvador. Martelly’s contrition on the campaign trail, his populist speeches on the stump, were all part of a script designed to gain vote.

But Judging Martelly, his eligibility or his political clout and might to bring democratic governance to Haiti cannot be done through the judging of his “Sweet Micky” past, a vulgar individual who had become a household name through the preaching of insanity in his lyrics and through the awkwardness of his demeanor. This would have been too simplistic.

However ugly Michel Martelly’s musical past may have been, one cannot use this as the quintessential factor for his disqualification. His political affiliations must be what need to be put forward to justify such claim. But wanting to be president is an entirely new ballgame. Politic is new terrain, although music genres are often used in revolutionary politic as stimuli to strengthen conviction and usher to bear revolutionary agendas.

Michel Martelly is no revolutionary. So, his music does not apply here.

Any attempt to use Martelly’s past vulgarism to disprove his qualification would be logically and intellectually misjudged and emphatically hollow. To bring probity to this political assertion, Martelly’s political past MUST be displayed, for it is only by which one can fairly assert such claim. It is through the judging of Martelly’s open support for the Duvalierism, his bewildered but emotional feeling toward the mulatto elite in which he claimed to have belonged, his open support for the coup plotters against Aristide (version 1) in 1990, his flattered move toward Raoul Cedars and Michel Francois, his stand-alone politico nature with no political platform, no political structure and no political vision that anyone can justly say the coming of this man is a dangerous precedent for the Haitian struggle which by in large has always been a progressive struggle.

Martelly claims to be a political outsider, a stand-alone outlier, but his long trajectory of association with the reactionary layers in Haiti sharply rebuke this claim. Martelly has been in the corridors of Haitian politic for years, for all the wrong reasons, and it won’t be long before the same people who are now claiming him realize they have been duped.

Preempting a political backlash

It was wishful thinking to hope that somehow the Obama administration, too preoccupied with other world issues, was going to influence the outcome of the election by favoring Mirlande Manigat over Martelly perceived as a controversial figure. It is even more disgraceful to think this way. This kind of thought solidifies a feeling of political impotence. Just like they can’t initiate projects perceived to be too lenient toward the masses, they hide gross disdain or their lack of will behind an old cliché that Haiti is brook and “we are nothing but a basket case.”

We predict that it won’t be long before the streets are hot again, and Sweet Micky will be ready to meet them.

News out of Haiti have mentioned the name of former colonel Himlert Rebu, former coup plotter, to head the Interior Ministry and Jean Robert Estimé, notorious Duvalierist and affluent member of the Baby Doc quartet in the early 1980s to head the Prime Minister’s office.

Rebu would be given the task to rehabilitate the defunct Haitian army, one of Martelly’s top priorities. When asked where he would get the fund to do it, he would simple say, “You’ll see.” Last month, Yahoo News published an article about this issue. They interviewed former coup plotters against Aristide in 2003 as those currently in training to revamp the Haitian army. There is no surprise here, for Louis Jodel Chamblain, the former head of FRAP—a death squad—operating freely under the Cedras regime that Martelly openly supported. Chamblain was later arrested and served time in prison for crimes against innocent people.

If those rumors were to be true, this would make it the first time in 25 years the ultra right will have to occupy highly visible positions in the government. This also could explain why Martelly’s aloofness was quite apparent during the campaign. “I would like to say first that I have always had the desire to change my country,” he said to an Associated Press reporter. “I have a passion to change my country,” he continued. Is it with these people he intends to change the country?

Asked about his priorities for his first three months in office, Martelly, who has never held office, dodged the question: “Our common sense tells us that in the 100-day period, we will barely have the time to build a small house.” Pressed for more, he did it again: “We are not going into specifics at this time,” he said, citing a need to “surprise” people. Did he have the specifics? Even if he did, could he articulate them?

Paul Laraque was right in 1990 when he was adamant on the need to oppose Aristide. Then, many thought he was out of step with reality. Now, we can only say we wished we knew. This populist demagoguery, this extreme droite militancy can only be stopped by a well coordinated movement led by genuine and patriotic Haitians determined NOT to let a new form of Creole fascism take root in their Mother Land.

The only gain left after 25 years of democratic struggle is the right of free speech. That is seriously threatened, and if we let the Creole fascists consolidate their hold, a dark era may be dawning upon the already deprived masses. The forces of darkness are poised to take their seat, oozing their grip, their greed, their ferocity to hastily cash in on their investment. They are betting on the promised recovery money to begin setting in motion their hidden agenda.

Don’t be surprised if Jean Max Bellerive, current Preval’s PM and Clinton’s point man in the recovery process, to play the role as the go-between between them and Bill Clinton. There are also rumors that he might retained in his post to facilitate the release of the recovery money.

Bellerive as Prime Minister oversaw the charring of corpses to be dumped in shallow mass graves near downtown Port-au-Prince in the aftermath of the earthquake. One should have no illusion that it might be possible for Martelly to ask him to stay in his post. For Martelly, electoral legitimacy is a means to an end. It is not the end of his golden mean. Securing the blessing of Washington, Paris and Ottawa is the “end.” The investors behind Micky will not lose their money.

Too much at play, there will be nothing left for the people they claim to represent. Opposing Martelly is now, not tomorrow. Staying idle, the alternative is FRAP. One can’t imagine going for another 25 years of systematical repression.

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