By MARTY GOODMAN
Weeks of massive protests against election fraud in Haiti and calling for the ouster of the pro-U.S. Haitian President Michel Martelly forced the dictator to finally step down on Feb. 7. The Haitian constitution prohibits a succeeding five-year term, and Feb. 7 was the date for his term to end.
Feb. 7, 2016, marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the U.S.-backed dictator, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, who was toppled by a nationwide rebellion. Popular anger fueled the anti-Martelly rallies, which at times reached 100,000 or more. Many were protesting on behalf of a particular losing candidate. “Martelly believes the country is for himself and his family. We want him to go!” said Dorval, 40, an unemployed protester. Nationwide, unemployment is about 70%.
As president, Martelly ignored mandated parliamentary elections and ruled by decree for four years. Facing the end of his term, Martelly called for new elections for parliament and a president in October. A joint report by the National Lawyers Guild and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, declared on Nov. 24, “Haiti’s Oct. 25, 2015 presidential and legislative elections fell far short of minimum standards for a fair election.”
Although they admitted election violence, Washington and the U.S.-dominated Organization of American States (OAS) nevertheless deemed the election acceptable. A run-off election scheduled for Dec. 27 was rescheduled for Jan. 24, and finally cancelled following weeks of massive protests.
The demonstrations included a demand to end the hated U.S.-led United Nations military occupation of Haiti. U.S. imperialism militarily occupied Haiti 1915-1934, and was later joined by the United Nations, as its puppet, in the occupations of 1994, 2004, and 2010, after a massive earthquake. A cholera epidemic was introduced to Haiti by the disregard of health standards by UN forces, scientific studies showed. So far, some 9000 Haitians have died from this curable disease. The UN has denied all responsibility.
Fraud and coup threat
Martelly’s chosen successor, banana exporter Jovenel Moise, placed first in the initial round of October voting. There were 54 presidential candidates! Running in Martelly’s PHTK Party, official results gave him 32.8%. His nearest challenger, Jude Celestin, a friend of former Aristide protégé and president, Rene Preval, received 25.3%. Facing a scheduled Dec. 27 presidential runoff, Celestin opted out, declaring, “The election was a fraud” and added, “I want to go to an election, not a selection.”
Since many expected wholesale fraud, October’s voter participation was a mere 23%. Some 916,000 election observers for political parties were given ballots and voted multiple times, many engaging in a black-market in observer ballots. One legislative candidate, Gerald Jean, actually produced receipts for bribes he paid election officials. With only one candidate running, Jouvenel Moise, and massive protests, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) cancelled the runoff election of Jan. 24.
Guy Philippe, a leader of a CIA-backed mercenary group that deposed Haiti’s elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, called for counter-protests and would not recognize any transitional government, unless it was representative of the provinces. Denouncing protesters as “anarchists,” Philippe declared, “We are ready for war. We will divide the country.”
On Feb. 5, anti-Martelly protesters were attacked by uniformed goons from the disbanded Haitian army, formally dissolved by Aristide in 1995. Encouraged by Martelly’s vow to reinstate the bloodthirsty killers, some 100 menacingly paraded in Port au Prince. Even so, a former army captain, Neroce R. Ciceron, was beaten to death by anti-government protesters in Port-au-Prince.
The Feb. 7 exit of Martelly was part of a deal cut with the U.S.-dominated Organization of American States (OAS), under the watchful eye of the United States, Canada, France, Brazil, Spain, and the European Union.
On Feb. 11, parliament chose Jocelerme Privet, the former head of Haiti’s Senate and National Assembly, to serve as provisional president. Privet will oversee the selection of a consensus prime minister, whose job will be to organize a legislative and presidential runoff vote on April 24. A new president will be sworn in on May 14.
Elections no solution for Haiti’s misery
Martelly, a popular rap-singer and a friend of Duvalier-era thugs, became synonymous with corruption, cronyism, and repression. Martelly once declared, with a beaming Bill and Hillary Clinton at his side during a ribbon cutting ceremony at a sweatshop park in the North, “Haiti is open for business!” Some 2000 pages of Wikileaks documents partially revealed the role of U.S. imperialism in Haiti, particularly by the Clintons, in keeping down the $5-a-day minimum wage and strong-arming the CEP to bump up Martelly’s position in the 2010 election, leading to his eventual victory.
Some candidates, as well as protesters, denounced the U.S./OAS-brokered deal. They pointed to decisions to be carried out by parliament members who are, as one veteran Haitian activist in New York called them, “drug dealers and rapists.” What will truly change Haiti is a revolutionary struggle waged by the working class and peasants, not sham elections under capitalism and occupation. It is up to us to give solidarity to the Haitian struggle right here in the belly of the beast!
Photo: Marty Goodman / Socialist Action