As Martelly Prepares to Jettison Lamothe:
Nationwide Uprising Gains Strength in Haiti
by Kim Ives
A nationwide uprising against the
regime of business partners President Michel Martelly and
Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe continued to gain steam this
week with massive demonstrations in several major cities,
including Port-au-Prince, Léogane, Petit Goâve, Cap-Haïtien,
Fort-Liberté, Ouanaminthe, and Aux Cayes.
Feeling the protests’ heat,
Martelly made a short televised national address on Nov. 28
to announce his formation of an “advisory commission” made
up of 11 people whom he called “credible, honest, and
trusted by society” to provide him “in eight days” with “a
recommendation” on what path to take out of Haiti’s
political imbroglio, saying that “the nation is divided, the
problems are many, the problems are complicated.”
Martelly outlined five
categories of recommendation which he had gleaned from “two
months” of “consultations” with Haiti’s political actors: 1)
remove Lamothe as Prime Minister; 2) dissolve Parliament on
Jan. 12, 2015 when the terms of most senators and deputies
expire; 3) change the composition of the Electoral Council; 4) form a
Constituent Assembly to overhaul Haiti’s 1987 Constitution;
and 5) extend Parliament’s life or put in place a council to
function in place of Parliament.
Tellingly, Martelly did not
include, or even mention in his address, the principal
demand of the nationwide protests: that he and his prime
minister immediately resign, ceding power to a State Council
and Supreme Court judge, as happened when
demonstration-beset-dictator Gen. Prosper Avril
resigned in March 1990. The ensuing Dec. 16, 1990 election,
carried out without the supervision of any occupying force
like the current UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH),
was among the fairest in Haitian history.
Many demonstrators are also
calling for the remaining 6,600 soldiers of MINUSTAH to
immediately leave Haiti.
Ironically, the “trusted”
commission is made up of disgraced and discredited political
figures, including Gérard Gourgue, the former “president” of
a “parallel government” the opposition to President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide concocted in 2001; Evans Paul, the
archetypal scheming Haitian politician who was a leader in
the 2004 coup; and Réginald Boulos, a leading political
strongman championing the interests of Haiti’s tiny
With typical humor, the
Haitian people immediately dubbed Martelly’s proposal the
“Baygon Commission,” referring to a popular insecticide in
Haiti for killing cockroaches. In early November, Martelly’s
Communications Minister, Rudy Hériveaux, a former leader in
Aristide’s Lavalas Family party (FL), issued an editorial in
which he wrote: “Carried away in a kind of destructive
frenzy, these cockroaches are agitated into a disgusting
folkloric display in the streets to try to attack the
government.” He was referring to the tens of thousands now
demonstrating and to the Haitian opposition generally.
Such venomous comments and meaningless
maneuvers by government officials have only stoked the
flames of “Operation Burkina Faso," as the movement is
called, inspired by the October uprising that
unseated President Blaise Compaoré in Ouagadougou. “Here are
the cockroaches,” thousands of demonstrators now chant.
giant demonstration on Nov. 25,
equally large demonstrations swept the capital on Nov. 28
and Nov. 29, two dates with historic symbolism.
On Nov. 28, 1980, the
Duvalier dictatorship brutally cracked down on its political
opponents and the press following the election in the U.S.
of right-wing President Ronald Reagan. In the reign of
terror that followed, many anti-Duvalierist journalists,
politicians, and activists were murdered, imprisoned,
tortured, or exiled. Then on Nov. 28,1985 in Gonaïves,
Duvalier’s soldiers and Tonton Macoutes gunned down three
students: Mackenson Michel, Daniel Israel, and Jean Robert
Cius. Outrage at these killings sparked the nationwide
uprising that led to the fall of dictator Jean-Claude
Duvalier on Feb. 7, 1986.
On Nov. 29, 1987, a
neo-Duvalierist military junta, composed of Gens. Henry
Namphy, and Williams Régala, backed by paramilitary
chieftains like Claude Raymond, carried out an election day
massacre, killing dozens of would-be voters, most bloodily
and infamously at the Argentine School on Ruelle Vaillant in
Nov. 29, 1803 is also the
day at Fort Dauphin in Haiti’s North that Haiti’s
founding fathers first proclaimed independence,
declaring at the time that “we have secured our rights, and
we swear to yield to no power on earth."
Inspired by their
ancestors, on Nov. 29, 2013, thousands of demonstrators had
tried to march on the U.S. Embassy in Tabarre, an action
which was characterized as “Dessalines visits Uncle Sam.”
But Haitian police brutally dispersed the protest with
tear-gas before it reached the embassy.
The same thing happened
this year. Haitian police met the chanting multitude with
tear-gas, batons, and gunfire at the Fleuriot intersection,
just a stone’s throw from the home were
under virtual house arrest.
Nonetheless, a few hundred
protestors managed to break through police lines and get to
the embassy where Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles, the principal
leader of the anti-Martelly and anti-occupation
demonstrations, delivered a scathing speech.
"We were determined to
demonstrate outside the embassy, and here we are,” he said.
“We must fight, and through our determination, we have shown
our ability to save our country from its current terrible
situation." Sen. Moïse was joined by other uprising leaders
such as outspoken lawyer André Michel.
Meanwhile, in the
northeastern cities of Fort Liberté and Ouanaminthe near the
border with the Dominican Republic, police wounded about 15
people with tear-gas and gunfire during a week of
demonstrations. There were four deaths reported, including a
three-month old infant and a 16-year-old boy. The people of
the Northeast department are protesting against blackouts,
while they claim that more than 12 megawatts of electricity
remains unused at the Caracol Industrial Park, home to
assembly factories. The residents of Fort-Liberté and
Ouanaminthe want their electrical grids connected to
Caracol’s power plant.
demonstrations are demanding the dismissal of customs
officials who harass with overcharges and blockages small
merchants crossing over the border’s Massacre River into
Dajabon. The demonstrations prevented 10 containers from
getting to the Caracol Industrial Park. A contingent of 30
heavily armed policemen from the Brigade of Motorized
Intervention (BIM) was dispatched to shepherd the containers
Beginning at 9 a.m. on Dec.
1, the townspeople of Cabaret, about 20 miles north of
Port-au-Prince, blocked National Highway # 1 to demand
electricity, drinking water, and a police outpost. Schools,
banks, and markets were closed by the protest.
An official vehicle,
determined to pass through the blockade, apparently fired on
the crowd, reportedly killing two: a man known only as
“Macintosh” and a woman who sold soda known as “Mabi.
As mayhem ensued, the
police anti-riot unit, the Company for Intervention and
Maintenance of Order (CIMO) arrived to suppress the crowd
with tear-gas and water cannons.
"Water is life, electricity
is development,” the crowd chanted. “We don’t want to
continue to drink dirty water. If the police fire on us, the
situation will deteriorate. Down with Martelly!”
spokesman for the local organization MADIBA, condemned the
government’s repression of peaceful demonstrations for basic
"We do not want street
lights, we want electricity in our homes so that our
children can study their lessons,” he said. “We will not
yield to the pressures of the police. Our demands are fair
and justified. Martelly and Lamothe steal funds intended for
development of the country, while we have no electricity, we
have no drinking water. MINUSTAH’s cholera is killing us.
This is our third demonstration, yet the authorities have
never come to talk with the people.”
demanding electricity, drinking water, and Martelly’s
resignation blocked National Highway #2 in Léogâne and Petit
Opposition leaders have
called for “Operation Burkina Faso” to continue with mass
mobilizations on Dec. 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 16, and 18.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary
of State John Kerry is slated to visit Haiti on Dec. 12. In
preparation for that meeting, U.S. Embassy officials invited
six opposition leaders to a meeting on Dec. 2 at the
headquarters of Fusion, Haiti’s principal social-democratic
According to highly placed
sources in the opposition, the plan of the U.S. Embassy and
the Martelly regime is to have Prime Minister Laurent
Lamothe resign. This would kill two birds with one stone.
First, it would make Martelly appear to have bowed to one of
the opposition’s demands (although it is only the Lavalas
Family which officially limits its demand to Lamothe’s
resignation). Secondly, it would distance Lamothe, the U.S.
Embassy’s darling, from Martelly, who is the focus of
popular ire and has skeletons possibly about to spill out of
his closet, including corruption, drug-trafficking, passport
fraud, and maybe even murder.
Lamothe would then be free
to concentrate on his presidential campaign for the end of
2015. According to the sources, former Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive, or possibly
his predecessor Michèle Pierre-Louis, would be
brought in to “sell” a political deal to some opposition
parties and most of the six senators resisting ratification
of Martelly’s electoral law and electoral council, thereby
isolating Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles.
However, Haiti is slippery
ground, as the Kreyòl proverb says, and already things have
not gone as planned. The Lavalas Family, perhaps the most
important opposition party that needs to be part of any U.S.
Embassy solution, did not attend the Dec. 2 meeting, outside
of which several dozen demonstrators protested with signs
like “USA=Bluff, Long live a Haiti without bluff!” (Kontra
Pèp La also shunned sitting down with U.S. Ambassador Pamela
In the days ahead, the U.S. and Haitian governments will
keep trying to co-opt, divide, undermine, and threaten the
Haitian opposition, as well as the larger social movement
behind it, in an effort to keep Martelly and MINUSTAH in
place. The challenge is for Martelly’s opposition to
remain united and for the mass movement to sustain its
mobilization until it has the same momentum as those which
drove dictators from power in 1986 and 1990.