It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light

Mwen se echantiyon yon ras kap boujonnen men ki poko donnen

Si vous voulez vous faire des ennemis essayer de changer les choses

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Economist: Rush to Judgment in Haiti with Only Half the Facts by Stanley Lucas

On August 6, The Economist printed a harsh commentary on Michel Martelly’s tenure as President over the past three months, see: .  Whether a result of sloppy reporting or perhaps intentional omission of facts, the article, entitled “A bitter baptism for ‘Sweet Mickey’”, seems highly biased toward Martelly’s opposition, and furthermore seems to be an effort to undermine Haiti’s fragile political transition. 

The article notes that the flawed elections are the reason for Haiti’s political deadlock over the Prime Minister and formation of the new government.  This is only half the story.  The deadlock is rooted in a fight between those Parliament who are desperate to maintain the current state of corrupt politics as usual in Haiti and those who promised and are working toward real change.

The Economist article states that Martelly only got onto the run off ballot after the OAS and “other actors stepped in and forced a recount” due to widespread fraud, but he only won with 23% of the vote.  A few facts were omitted in this analysis.  The OAS “stepped in” at the request of President Preval who realized that the Haitian people would not swallow a fraudulent election, and he needed the political cover of the regional organization.  Further, he could control the OAS result to some extent because he would have final approval as per OAS rules.  While OAS involvement contributed to addressing the fraudulent Presidential elections, the OAS left the job half undone by failing to address the fraudulent legislative elections. Hence, Parliament is gridlocked because Preval loyalists are committed to preserving the current system that benefits them.

Additionally, while Martelly won with only 23% of the vote, his current approval rating among the Haitian people stands at 73%.  Why was that fact omitted?  Rather, The Economist reports that Martelly was “pelted with plastic bottles and stones on a visit to Cap Haitian” in July in his first protest.  The Haitian police investigated the incident and found that the opposition had paid these “protestors”, a common tactic among Haiti’s opposition.  Why didn’t The Economist report that fact?

Then the article turns to questioning Martelly’s links to a former Aristide thug, and reporting negative rumors about Martelly’s two picks for Prime Minister, who have both been shot down by the Parliament.  The article notes that one of the candidates, Bernard Gousse, a former justice minister, “used the job to persecute political opponents, including some current legislators.”  This statement is based only in rumors, and has no grounding in fact.  The fact is that Bernard Gousse was investigated thoroughly by Haiti’s anti-corruption unit and found unequivocally clear of all charges.  This week the National Human Rights Defense Network which aggressively monitored human rights violations in Haiti for the past 30 years stated that Gousse never use his office inappropriately to persecute political opponents or violate human rights or the rule of law, see: And perhaps it also bears mention that the Haitian police were actually investigating those particular legislators for drug trafficking – with international support in several cases.  When the investigation got too close, they were “elected” to Congress – with Preval’s assistance – so they could not be prosecuted, se: In Haiti, legislators are free from judicial prosecution.  Why weren’t those facts reported?

Then the article attacks Martelly for not being a “builder of consensus” in the Preval-controlled Parliament while noting that he was actually elected for promising to break with the corrupt past.  They quote a notoriously corrupt Senator Desras as saying that Martelly “doesn’t understand cohabitation and he should realise that we were elected, too”.  The article does not note that Senator Desras’s election results had been manipulated. 

Again, Martelly’s support is 70%.  The Parliament’s support stands at 2% because Haitians see them as being illegitimately elected (several civil society groups are still challenging the results) and representative of the past Administration that failed them so miserably.  They are called Preval’s “leftovers”.  The people would revolt if Martelly went back on his promise to change the system and bowed to Parliament’s demands to retain control over key ministries and the Prime Minister.  President Martelly was elected to serve the people, and there is absolutely no appetite for consensus in these circumstances.  However, all Parliamentarians are invited to join efforts to rebuild the system and bring change to Haiti.  So far, the Parliamentarians have proven to be more devoted to preserving their power and the corrupt politics of the past, including launching massive smear campaigns against political opponents, rather than displaying any interest in joining the effort to bring real results and progress to Haiti.  Click on picture to enlarge

Martelly’s election breaks a 40-year cycle of corruption and violence in Haiti begun by the Duvaliers and continued by Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Rene Preval.  Breaking that cycle and consolidating and a new government takes time, which is something this article does not explore either. 

Frustration and impatience are running high to be sure, but most Haitians seem quite willing to give President Martelly a chance.  And few see him as the problem.  Articles such as these do little to build confidence in our fragile country, and do much to undermine the nascent beginnings of change.  Let’s hope that potential investors and the generous international community do not put too much stock in this half analysis of the Martelly Administration.  More than one million people are still sleeping in makeshift tents with the hurricane season upon us.  We can ill afford to lose any of the international community’s faith and commitment to building back better.