Anti-Martelly Uprisings Sweep Haiti

By: Yves Pierre-Louis & Kim
Ives – Haiti Liberte

Demonstrations erupted across
Haiti this past week as deep-seated anger against the government of President
Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe is now surging into the
streets on a daily basis. Marches, picket lines, a mock tribunal, and a general
strike were among the different actions which took place in six out of Haiti’s
10 geographic departments, a new high-water mark for anti-government protests.
small merchants, store owners, slum dwellers, teachers, unions, laid off state
enterprise employees, and the unemployed were among the different sectors
protesting against government indifference, corruption, insecurity, the high
cost of living, environmental degradation, and, above all, Martelly’s broken
Sep. 12, in the northern city of Cap-Haïtien, thousands took to the streets,
called out by 20 popular organizations and outspoken opposition Senator Moïse
Jean-Charles. The demonstrators marched through the city, stopping in front of
different government offices along the way. They accused Martelly of
implementing a policy of “mètdam,
pike devan
” (bluff and headlong programs) based on lies, concocting
illegal taxes and shell-game programs to benefit his friends and family, the
Haitian oligarchy, and imperialist powers. Marchers accused the president of
being in cahoots with several big landowners, called “grandon” in
Haiti. Particularly around the northern town of Milot, where Sen. Jean-Charles
hails from and was once mayor, the government and “grandon” are
trying to evict peasants from land they have occupied for decades.

with Martelly!” cried the marchers. “Down with corruption! Down with
expulsions! Down with the high cost of living!”
people of the north are “especially angry about Martelly’s appointment of
Gaby Silencieux as Deputy Commissioner for the Limbé District in the Northern
Department,” reported Dady Chéry on her blog Haiti Chéry. “Mr.
Silencieux is wanted by police for murder and arson.”
day after Cap’s massive march against Martelly, a huge rally was held in the
large square in front of Cap Haïtien’s Cathedral. It was organized by
grassroots organizations such as Siklòn (Hurricane),
Louvri jè (Open Your Eyes), Van an vante (The Blowing Wind), and Bare yo (Stop Them). The demonstrators
held a popular tribunal, with Limbé activist Eluscar Charles as the chief
judge, to try Martelly for corruption and nepotism. After hearing the testimony
of many, the tribunal found President Martelly, his wife Sophia, his son
Olivier, Prime Minister Lamothe, and Minister for Relations with Parliament
Ralph Théano guilty of corruption.
same day, Sep. 13, in the southern city of Les Cayes, local businesspeople and
former Martelly supporters including ex-senator Gabriel Fortuné, called a
general strike which organizers say was up to 90% respected despite the
government’s attempt to buy off key sectors. Small business people spearheaded
the strike to denounce soaring insecurity in Les Cayes, and the Justice
Ministry’s transfer or dismissal of several judges. But other sectors joined in
to protest the high cost of living, corruption, and Martelly’s broken promises.
Throughout the day, the doors of shops, private banks, and gas stations
remained closed. Public markets and public transportation, always the key
indicators of a strike’s success, operated at a very low level. Only government
offices remained open, but very few government employees went to work that day.
The strike was noteworthy for the support it received from Martelly’s
frustrated ex-supporters. Some expressed regret at having burned down almost
all local government offices in Les Cayes in December 2010 in protests that
helped bring Martelly to power.
day before the strike, the State Secretary for Communications, Joseph Guyler C.
Delva, was sent to Les Cayes with 400,000 gourdes ($10,000 US) to bribe certain
local leaders in an effort to undermine the strike, according to former
Martelly government departmental delegate to the South, Gabriel Fortuné. The
ex-senator strongly denounced the government’s clumsy attempt to break the
strike with Delva’s mission.
the South’s current senator, Pierre Francky Exius, said the Delva had come with
500,000 gourdes ($12,5000 US) in his briefcase to sabotage the general strike.
the night before the strike, Delva debated Fortuné over the airwaves of Les
Cayes’ Radio-Tele Caramel. Raucous demonstrators, many of them former Martelly
supporters, gathered outside the station and accused Delva of being a “defender
of the devil,” and the Martelly government’s “ propaganda chief.” The station’s
director called the police, who had to escort Delva out of the station for his
Port-au-Prince, demonstrations began early last week. On Sep. 10, 2012, the
National Union of Haiti’s University Teachers (UNNOH), led by Professor Josué
Mérilien, marched through the streets of the capital to demand change in
Haiti’s education system, as well as improvement in working conditions and a
decent salary for teachers.
Sep. 11, as they do every Tuesday, the Movement for Liberty, Equality and
Fraternity for Haitians (MOLEGHAF) demonstrated outside the Ministry of Social
Affairs and Labor (MAST) to demand job creation, a change in the living
conditions of marginalized populations, and a lower cost of living. (MOLEGHAF
leaders Oxygène David and Charles Dukens were finally freed on Aug. 30 after
being arrested on Jun. 19 at their weekly demonstration in front of the MAST.
They were held for over two months in the fetid National Penitentiary without
Sep. 12, two demonstrations were held simultaneously in Port-au-Prince and
Léogâne. In the capital, the Platform of Victimized Employees of Public
Enterprises (PEVEP) brought out hundreds of fathers and mothers with their
children to a march through the capital’s streets to demand better living
conditions, a lower cost of living,  and
36 months of paid compensation for damages caused by their illegal and
arbitrary dismissal from public enterprises such as the state
telecommunications company (Teleco), Retirement Insurance Administration (ONA),
the National Port Authority (APN) and Metropolitan Service for Collection of
Solid Waste (SMCRS). More than 10,000 workers from these state companies were
laid off between 2004 and 2006 following the coup d’état / kidnapping against
President Jean Bertrand Aristide. The dismissals were the result of neoliberal
policies forced on Haiti by the United States and international financial
institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and
the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
police dispersed PEVEP’s rally in front of the National Palace with tear-gas,
despite the presence of children. Haiti’s national police director Godson
Orélus told Haïti Liberté that the
organization had not informed the police of the action as required by law. “If
I hear that there is an unannounced demonstration in front of the Palace,
automatically I will break it up because it is illegal,” Orélus said. “It is
not a political matter. It is a matter of order and public security.”
Léogâne, hundreds of residents of the communities of Bino and L’Esthère
demonstrated to demand that local and national authorities act to solve the
problem of the Rouyonne River regularly flooding that town and surrounding
areas. The protesters criticized the slow pace and poor quality of dredging
currently being done by the National Center for Equipment (CNE). For hours,
demonstrators blocked National Route # 2 until police intervened. They arrested
six protestors, who were released a few hours later.
in Port-au-Prince, on Sep. 13, hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the
Prime Minister’s office to protest the high cost of living and unemployment.
They denounced the government’s bogus programs – “Aba grangou” (Down with Hunger), “Ti manman cheri” (Dear Little Mother), and “Katye pam poze” (My Neighborhood Is Peaceful) among others – as
having had no effect in poor neighborhoods. The demonstrators, armed with
pots and spoons, have launched an “operation against hunger,” said the
movement’s national coordinator Lesly Charles. The demonstrators came from
different neighborhoods and slums of the capital and were mostly unemployed
same day, Sep. 13, several hundred people demonstrated to demand government
intervention to stop the degradation of the environment on the Plaine de
Cul-de-Sac, which becomes very dangerous in the rainy season. Residents of the
Port-au-Prince suburb call their neighborhood the “Submarine.”
Rallied by several local organizations and individuals in the area, the
protesters went to the Agriculture Ministry in Damien. There they called on
Agriculture Minister Jacques Thomas to undertake the work of dredging and
cleaning debris from the Grey River (Rivière
), which causes devastation when it overflows.
demonstrators also chided President Martelly for not fulfilling his campaign
pledges to improve local living conditions and restore health to the area’s
ecosystem. Henry Coupet, the protester’s spokesman, read a petition to the
minister for reporters. He said that the mobilization would continue until
their demands were acknowledged and translated into concrete actions. Last
month, Tropical Storm Isaac caused serious flood damage in the Plaine de
other municipalities around Haiti have sounded the alarm about their
environment, agriculture, or roads. In response, President Martelly is now
trying to insert a piddling 10 million gourdes ($250,000 US) in the national
budget for community work projects.
the weekend, demonstrations against the Martelly government continued both in
the capital and in the provinces. On Sep. 14, PEVEP’s supporters were again in
the Port-au-Prince’s streets again to demand their compensation and better
living conditions for the Haitian people generally.
Sep. 16 in Gonaïves, dozens of protesters took part in a demonstration
organized by the Movement of Revolutionary Youth in the Upper Artibonite
against the politics of exclusion and discrimination which are resulting in
ever-growing corruption, nepotism, inflation, insecurity, hunger, and
environmental degradation.
other events have helped heighten popular anger. On Sep. 8, close Martelly ally
Sen. Edwin 
“Edo” Zenny confronted judge Bob Simonis in a Jacmel radio station
and spit in his face. “You must respect a mulatto,” Simonis and other witnesses
claim Zenny said. “I am white, and you, you are black.” This bitter and widely
publicized confrontation has not bred trust for the Martelly/Lamothe
government, which draws its cadre heavily from Haiti’s elite, many of whom are
is also widespread consternation that a foreign NGO, Hollywood actor Sean
Penn’s J/P HRO, is in charge of finally tearing down the crumbled ruins of
Haiti’s emblematic National Palace, which was destroyed in the Jan. 12, 2010
Penn tearing down the National Palace is a reflection of Haiti’s vanishing
sovereignty,” complained Daly Valet, editor of Haiti’s Le Matin newspaper, to
the Miami Herald. “The Haitian people have lost control over their destiny. If
the international community and their NGOs have succeeded in one thing in
Haiti, it is making Haiti anything but a real country with a respectable
Thousands marched through the streets of Cap Haïtien on Sep. 12 to
protest Haitian government corruption and rallied in front of the Cathedral the
next day.
Photo: Wedlyne Jacques/Alterpresse