10 Steps to Dictatorship

10 steps to dictatorship: Why the grassroots movement in Haiti is
taking to the streets against President Michel Martelly – SF BayView

September 25, 2013

By: Charlie Hinton, Haiti Action Committee

1. Who is Michel Martelly? Martelly grew up during the 27-year
dictatorship of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son, Jean Claude
“Baby Doc.” He joined the Duvalierist death squad, the Tonton
Macoutes, at the age of 15 and later attended Haiti´s military
academy. Under Baby Doc, Martelly, a popular musician, ran the Garage,
a nightclub patronized by army officers and members of Haiti´s tiny
ruling class.

After Baby Doc´s fall in February 1986, a mass democratic movement,
long repressed by the Duvaliers, burst forth and became known as
Lavalas (“flood”), from which emerged Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a
popular liberation theology Catholic priest, who was elected president
in 1990 with 67 percent of the vote in the first free and fair
election in Haiti´s history.

Martelly quickly became a bitter opponent of Lavalas, attacking the
popular movement in his songs played widely on Haitian radio.
Martelly “was closely identified with sympathizers of the 1991
military coup that ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide,”
the Miami Herald observed in 1996, and ran with members of the vicious
FRAPH death squad from that period, infamous for gang rapes and
killing with impunity.

On the day of Aristide´s return to Haiti in 2011, after eight years of
forced exile in South Africa and two days before the “run-off”
election, Martelly was caught in a video on YouTube insulting Aristide
and Lavalas: “The Lavalas are so ugly. They smell like s**t. F**k you,
Lavalas. F**k you, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.”

2. The fraudulent presidential election of 2010-2011: In the
presidential election cycle of 2010-2011, the Electoral Council ruled
that Aristide´s Fanmi Lavalas Party could not participate, which
de-legitimized the whole corrupt process. Voter turnout was less than
25 percent in the primaries and less than 20 percent in the “run-off.”

The top two candidates announced after the primaries were the wife of
a former pro-Duvalier president and the son-in-law of Rene Preval, the
president at the time. Martelly was declared third, but his supporters
demonstrated violently, and an OAS “investigation” of the elections
ruled that, in fact, Martelly had finished second.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton flew to Port-au-Prince in January
2011, at the height of the Egyptian revolution, to reinforce this
decision. Martelly received $6 million from an anonymous donor in
Florida to hire a PR firm that had worked on the campaigns of Felipe
Calderón in Mexico and John McCain in the U.S.

3. Corruption: Corruption scandals have followed Martelly since he
refused to divulge who funded his campaign for president.

o       Bribes – Award-winning Dominican Republic journalist Nuria Piera
broke the story in April 2012 (later reported in Time) that Martelly
was alleged to have accepted $2.6 million in bribes during and after
the 2010 election to ensure that a Dominican construction company
would receive contracts under his presidency. In addition, the vote to
make Laurent Lamothe the prime minister is known in Haiti as the “tout
moun jwenn vote” (“everyone got their cut” vote).

o       Surcharge on international calls and money transfers for “education”
– Questionable new taxes have also fed controversy. A $1.50 tax on
money transfers and a 5 cent per minute tax on phone calls to Haiti
are alleged by Martelly to support education, but the poor majority
continue to face unaffordable school fees, and critics say no money
from this tax has gone to schools. Moreover, Haitian teachers have
been marching to demand back pay. Martelly´s new taxes were not
ratified by or presented to Haiti´s Parliament, making them illegal.

o       Travel expenses – When traveling, which he does often, Martelly´s
entourage receives an outrageous per diem from the Haitian government.
According to Sen. Moise Jean-Charles, Martelly gets $20,000 a day, his
wife $10,000 a day, his children $7,500, and others in his inner
circle get $4,000 daily.

o       A plan to establish an illegal parallel customs system to circumvent
legislative control – This allegedly involved the selling of a
membership card and gun to anyone who wanted to be part of the
Martelly gang. The membership privileges included tax-exempt status at
customs. The program had to be scratched when the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration complained about members facilitating drug
transport on the strength of their membership.

4. Rewriting and undermining Haiti´s Constitution: The overthrow of
Baby Doc in 1986 led to the creation of a new democratic Constitution
in 1987, ratified in a referendum by an overwhelming majority of
Haitians. It recognized Haitian Kreyol as an official language, along
with French, and legalized Vodun, the spiritual practice of the
majority of Haitians. It provided for grassroots participation in
national decision-making, decentralized the nation´s finances and
political structure, and provided for protection of human rights.

On June 12, 2012, Martelly announced new amendments, which concentrate
executive power and herald the return of Duvalier-style dictatorship.
The new illegally amended Constitution, written by non-legislators and
never seen nor voted on by the Parliament prior to its publication,
creates a top down method of choosing a Permanent Electoral Council to
run elections, undermining grassroots participation and centralizing
control from above.

It allows the president to appoint the prime minister after merely
“consulting” the heads of the two chambers of Parliament instead of
requiring Parliamentary ratification. In cases of “presidential
vacancy,” the new amendments make the prime minister the provisional
president, so presidents can resign, appoint the prime minister to
succeed them, and thereby maintain perpetual control.

New amendments provide that a “general budget” and a “general
expenditures report” can replace line item annual budgets, thus
limiting parliamentary oversight of the budget.

New amendments return Duvalier era and other retrograde laws, including:
o       A 1935 law on “superstitious beliefs,” which would ban Vodun once again.
o       A 1977 law establishing the Court of State Security to increase
state surveillance and repression.
o       A 1969 law that condemns all “imported doctrines,” thereby attacking
freedom of thought and freedom of association. Violation of this new
law can result in the DEATH PENALTY. The 1987 Haitian Constitution had
eliminated the death penalty.

5. Restoring the army: In one of the most popular moves of his
administration, President Aristide disbanded the hated Haitian army in
2005. Since the coup that overthrew Aristide for the second time in
2004, U.N. troops and police, currently numbering 8,754 uniformed
personnel, have occupied Haiti. One of Martelly´s campaign promises
was to restore the Haitian Army, and now new Haitian troops are being
trained by Ecuador and Brazil. In addition, well-armed former military
and paramilitary personnel have occupied militia camps since early
2012, supported by Martelly.

6. Return of the death squads: Martelly has issued pink identity cards
with a photo for $30 to selected supporters, promising many benefits
to those who hold them, like jobs and impunity from prosecution.
During the Duvalier period, every Tonton Macoute received a card that
provided many privileges, like free merchandise from any store
entered, entitlement to coerced sex, and fear and respect from people
in general.

Sen. John Joel Joseph has identified senators that he claims are
marked for assassination. He identified the people who have been
paying the “hit squads” on behalf of Martelly. He denounced one of the
men as an escaped criminal who had been caught red handed with a “near
death” victim behind his vehicle. Said victim sent the police to a
house where two more victims could be found.

Sen. Joseph identified the leader of the death squad and his vehicle,
denouncing the group as the one which recently assassinated a
grassroots militant. He accused the president and his wife of
pressuring the chief of police to remove the senators´ security
detail, in order to facilitate their assassinations. He denounced a
previous instance when Martelly tried to pressure former police chief
Mario Andresol to integrate a hit-man into the police to assassinate
Sen. Moise Jean Charles.

7. Death of a judge: Martelly set up his wife and son as head of
governmental projects, but with no parliamentary oversight. A Haitian
citizen, Enold Florestal, filed suit with attorney Andre Michel before
Judge Jean Serge Joseph, maintaining that the Martellys were siphoning
off large amounts of state monies, which the Haitian Senate has no
jurisdiction over.

Judge Joseph moved the case to the next judicial level, which required
depositions from the Martellys and various governmental ministers.
Enraged, Martelly and Prime Minister Lamothe called two meetings with
the judge – which they deny took place – to demand he kill the case,
the second on July 11. The judge drank a beverage offered him at that

On July 12 Judge Joseph became violently ill and died on July 13.
Haitian police arrested Florestal on Aug. 16 after viciously beating
him, and Haitian authorities have issued a warrant for the arrest of
attorney Michel, who has gone into hiding. A commission of the Haitian
Parliament is now calling for the impeachment of Martelly based on
illegal meetings with the judge, interference in legal matters and
threats to those involved in the case.

8. Corrupting the judiciary and Parliament: The Martelly regime is
working to establish executive control over the judicial system
through the use of “controlled” prosecutors and judges. In violation
of the Constitution, he appointed as Supreme Court chief justice, Anel
Alexis Joseph, who is 72. Haitian law says a judge must be 65 or under
to be named to this position.

The chief justice also leads the commission that regulates the entire
judicial system, so Judge Anel Alexis Joseph is using his power to
block an investigation into the death of Judge Jean Serge Joseph and
to protect Martelly and his henchmen from all legal challenges,
thereby granting impunity.

Martelly has also corrupted the legislative branch that could bring
charges against members of the executive. He ordered the arrest of
Deputy Arnel Belizaire in spite of parliamentary immunity and his
legal counsel´s advice.

He has so far failed to call elections for 10 senate seats in January
and is trying to force the 10 senators whose terms he says are up –
they say in 2015, not 2014 – to leave office. Since elections have
still not been held for 10 additional seats, if these new 10 seats are
vacated, it would leave the 30 member Senate without a quorum,
allowing Martelly to dissolve the Parliament and rule by decree.

9. Reactionary economic policy: Martelly enforces the Clinton-Bush
plan for economic “development” of Haiti through sweatshops, tourism,
and the selling of oil and mining rights to transnational
corporations. Under this plan, money donated for earthquake relief has
been used to build a duty free export manufacturing zone in the north
of Haiti, which was not affected by the earthquake, and several luxury
hotels in Port-au-Prince. The Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund made a $2
million equity investment in a hotel called the Royal Oasis to give
foreign tourists and investors an “oasis” to escape the miserable
conditions under which the majority of Haitians live.

At the same time, the Martelly regime viciously represses the economic
activities of the poor super majority. The phone and money transfer
taxes cut into their incomes. Taxes have been arbitrarily increased on
imports, affecting small merchants. Thugs wearing masks have burnt
markets in different cities, causing merchants to lose capital they
had been accumulating for years, forcing them to raise new capital
through usury loans. Street vendors are harassed and removed
forcefully, then, after hours, their stands are looted.

10. Duvalierism returns to Haiti: Martelly warmly welcomed the January
2011 return to Haiti of Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, one of the
most brutal dictators of the 20th century, after his decades of
luxurious exile in France. Duvalier still has many supporters in
Haiti, some of whom are armed and have a history of killing political

Martelly´s government is filled with Duvalierists: Hardline former
Haitian army officer David Bazile is now interior minister. Magalie
Racine, daughter of notorious former Tonton Macoute militia chief
Madame Max Adolphe, is Martelly´s youth and sports minister. Public
Works Secretary of State Philippe Cinéas is the son of longtime
Duvalierist figure Alix Cinéas, who was a member of the original
neo-Duvalierist National Council of Government (CNG), which succeeded
Duvalier after his fall in 1986. In addition, Duvalier´s son, Francois
Nicolas Jean Claude Duvalier, is a close advisor to Martelly.

Conclusion: A major objective of the Duvalier dynasty was to
institutionalize dictatorship through death squad brutality, supported
by the United States and other powers. Martelly is an example of their
policies having come to fruition. He´s restoring a government of
impunity per the Duvalier era, building an administration of right
wing ideologues who believe in dictatorship and who collaborate to
sidestep all legislative and judicial controls.
His goal is to implement extreme neo-liberal economic policies on
behalf of Haiti´s less than 1 percent with control over all natural
resources. The people will be at their mercy for factory work and
other “subservient” positions, under the boot of a U.N. occupation
force of 8,754 army and police personnel, the beginnings of a restored
army, paramilitary training camps, death squads, gangs and mafias that
use the cover of the corrupted executive and judicial systems to

The Haitian majority does not accept this return to the bad old days,
however, and has been actively and massively protesting this
repression for the past year. They deserve the support and solidarity
of freedom loving people everywhere.

The Haiti Action Committee is online at www.haitisolidarity.net, email
action.haiti@gmail.com. Charlie Hinton may be reached at