As Police Fatally Shoot Demonstrators at Massive March:
Ruling Class Rivalry Bursts into View
by Kim Ives
As a national
uprising grows with the approach of one-man rule, fissures
within Haiti’s ruling clique began to appear this week,
auguring tumult in the days ahead.
On Nov. 18, police fired
on a massive march of anti-government protesters in
Port-au-Prince, killing two and wounding four.
Thousands of demonstrators also marched
in other Haitian cities including Aux Cayes, Jérémie, Petit-Goâve,
Cap-Haïtien, and Jacmel, calling for the government of
President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe
to step down.
In Port-au-Prince, the demonstration
stepped off at 10 a.m. and traveled through La Saline, along
Rue Saint Martin to the Péan intersection in Belair, and
then to the Delmas Road. But at Delmas 32, uniformed
government forces – some say policemen, others say National
Palace security agents, still others say pro-government
thugs dressed as policemen – fired on the demonstrators,
killing two men and wounding four others: Jocelyn Virgil,
Réginald Sinace, Pétion Reynel, and Hérard Adner. The names
of the two killed were not confirmed at press time.
The men who fired the fatal shots were
in a jeep with government plates marked SE 02570 and a
Toyota Land Cruiser.
The demonstration, which had been
turning to go to the National Palace, dispersed after the
Significantly, and to the surprise of
many, Kiko St. Rémy, Martelly’s brother-in-law, joined the
marchers in the capital to demand the resignation of Lamothe,
whom he accuses of corruption and ordering policies which
led to the
arrest of about 20 demonstrators
in the past month.
St. Rémy’s presence among the
protestors reveals the power struggle now occurring between
two cliques in the Martelly regime. The schism corresponds
to the traditional rivalry between Haiti’s bourgeoisie and
big landowners or grandon (often called, in reference
to their armed expression, the Macoute sector), the two feuding
heads of Haiti’s ruling class over the past two centuries.
Dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc”
Duvalier, who died on Oct. 4, was the first modern Haitian
ruler to fuse the rival ruling groups into a
“Macouto-bourgeoisie” during his reign from 1971 to 1986. He
married a bourgeois princess, Michèle Bennett, and gave her
family and sector lots of favors, primarily through
promoting the growth of Haiti’s assembly industry.
But Baby Doc also kept a foot in the
camp of his mother, Simone Ovide Duvalier, and the
Duvalierist “dinosaurs,” who were partisans of his father
François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, a true representative of
grandon rule. Jean-Claude tolerated and took part in
many of their feudal ways, like dipping into the millions of
dollars in international development aid then being funneled to
Haiti by the U.S. government and its agencies like the World
Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. This corruption is
partly why Washington ditched Baby Doc in 1986.
Today, Martelly straddles the same
divide, with a new but equally fragile version of Baby Doc’s
“Macouto-bourgeois” alliance. Lamothe, his long-time
business partner, is a pure bourgeois, trained in U.S.
schools and management techniques. Lamothe, who built a
telecommunications empire in Africa and Latin America, is a
darling of the U.S. Embassy, and of U.S. Ambassador to Haiti
Pamela White in particular.
On the other hand, Martelly’s wife,
Sophia, is from the St. Rémy family, who are Gonaïves-based
grandons. According to reliable sources close to the
family, who wish to remain anonymous, Charles “Bébé” St.
Rémy, Sophia’s father, used to be a lieutenant of famed
Haitian drug trafficker Jean Eliobert Jasmé, known as
ED-One. According to the sources, Kiko St. Rémy has taken
over his father’s role as king-pin trafficker.
Brothers Gregory and Thierry Mayard-Paul
are also part of the Martelly regime's Macoute pole.
When Lamothe became Martelly’s Prime Minister after the
resignation of Garry Conille, Thierry was quickly pushed out
of his post as Interior Minister in August 2012, having to
settle for a more back-seat role, albeit with about the same
salary, as one of Martelly’s legion of “advisors.”
Lawyer Gervais Charles, now an attorney
for former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide after previously
serving as one for Martelly, says that his former boss
“wants to establish a political dynasty.” The idea is to
have Martelly pave the way for a Lamothe presidency in 2016,
Lamothe a second Martelly presidency in 2021, and then
Martelly a second Lamothe presidency from 2026 to 2031.
The principal obstacle to this scenario
has been six senators in the Parliament – Moïse Jean-Charles
(North), Wesner Polycarpe (North), Jean-Baptiste Bien-Aimé
(Northeast), Francky Exius (South), John Joël Joseph (West)
et Jean William Jeanty (Nippes) – who have withheld their
vote on a rigged electoral law and electoral council that
would ensure an election victory for Martelly’s candidates
(what Haitians call a “selection”). Martelly has refused any
compromise on the electoral law and council with opposition
legislators during his three and a half years in power,
leading to the current stand-off.
But the game of chicken comes to an end
on Jan. 12, 2015, when the terms of another third of the
Senate and all of the Deputies expire, thereby dissolving
Parliament by default. From then on, Martelly has indicated,
he will rule by decree, an outcome many say he has sought
since the beginning of his term.
However, as the Kreyòl saying goes, “Ayiti
se tè glise,” Haiti is slippery ground. Just as Martelly
sees one-man rule within his reach, a long-simmering and
sputtering popular uprising of disgust at his regime’s
corruption and repression is erupting.
Meanwhile, Lamothe has openly begun his
presidential campaign on social media and in tours around
Haiti, thereby alarming his Macoute sector rivals that they
will soon become even more marginalized.
“For a revolution to take place, it is
not enough for the exploited and oppressed masses to realize
the impossibility of living in the old way and demand
changes,” wrote Vladimir Lenin, the leader of Russia’s 1917
revolution. “For a revolution to take place, it is essential
that the exploiters should not be able to live and rule in
the old way.”
A conflict within the ruling class, like that which Lenin
foretold and which is emerging in Haiti today, provides
precisely the kind of historic opportunity for the masses to
bring political change. Although popular and opposition
forces have been kept down and off-balance until now by
Martelly’s money, guns, and propaganda, the days and weeks
ahead will tell whether the masses’ superior numbers can
perhaps win the day.