Lil Wayne and Chris Brown in Haiti: Another Expensive Martelly Spectacle Sparks Outrage

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)
Around 100
A.D., the Roman poet Juvenal remarked that Rome, its empire rapidly declining,
was suppressing revolt through “bread and circuses.” President Michel Martelly,
during his four years in office, has borrowed the Roman tactic, except without
the bread.
            Martelly, who as the musician “Sweet
Micky” often dubbed himself the “President of Konpa” in Haiti’s famous Lenten
Carnival, has organized three carnivals a year during his time in office. But
with Haiti now in a full-blown electoral crisis and bracing to receive
thousands of deportees from the Dominican Republic, this year, his son Olivier
has taken over, or at least that’s how it appears.
            Working with the promoter Swizz
Beatz (Kasseem Dean), the husband of singer Alicia Keys, Olivier Martelly’s
production company BigO is bringing rap superstars Lil Wayne and Chris Brown to
Haiti for a free concert on Port-au-Prince’s central square, the Champ de Mars,
on Fri., Jun. 26.
            The event has been in the planning
for several weeks but was only officially announced in a Jun. 21 BigO tweet.
            Having learned about the planned
concert early last week, Haïti Liberté
spoke to many of the agents who work with Lil Wayne and Chris Brown. We
discovered that, as a rule, the performers ask $1 million each for their
performances outside of the U.S., although nobody knew what they would be paid
for the Haiti performance. The artists will be flown to Haiti on a private jet,
and, in an interview with Le Nouvelliste, Olivier Martelly said that there are “partners and
other celebrities” traveling to the concert, which, along with special security
measures, may put the event’s price tag close to $3 million.
            The pair of rap superstars will
arrive in Haiti on Jun. 25 for a dinner and reception at the Martelly family’s
“Pink and White Foundation” and will get a sight-seeing photo-op tour. Money
will be raised, according to Olivier Martelly, from “the sponsors [who] are
going to put up a stand for the media and a limited number of guests. A part of
the revenues will be given to a non-profit organization,” undoubtedly, his
family’s foundation.
            While millions are being spent on
this concert, Haiti has a myriad of costly under-funded problems. Only $36
million has been raised of the $60 million budgeted to hold long-overdue municipal,
parliamentary, and presidential elections in August, October, and December.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent are
now being deported from the neighboring Dominican Republic. The first waves of
deportees have found absolutely no logistical support when dumped across the
border, as started this week.
            Olivier Martelly has been named in lawsuits and at least one aborted judicial investigation as one of the
Martelly family members most benefitting from regime corruption, along with his
mother Sophia. The lawsuit alleges he skimmed off money from some $6.2 million
drawn from Haiti’s PetroCaribe account to go to a government sports agency he
headed. Among other things, he bought a $115,000 sports car with the ill-gotten
funds, the lawsuit charges.
            Olivier Martelly defended the BigO
concert, telling Le Nouvelliste:
“Haiti has returned to the world tourist map of late. To receive these
superstars is a huge publicity coup for us. Look at the comments on the
Internet since the announcement, everybody is talking about it. I hope that
everything goes well, that the public is entertained, and that together we can
send a clear message saying that despite everything, we are a strong, united,
and solidarity-minded people.”
            But much of the reaction on social
media sites like Twitter and Facebook was critical:
#Elections + #Deportations + #LilWayne + #ChrisBrown = #Problem” tweeted “IG
Toggy97″ in Kreyòl from St. Marc, Haiti.
            The six hour concert is scheduled to
start at 4 p.m. and will include several other Haitian groups including T-Micky
(another one of Martelly’s sons), Boukman Eksperyans, Barikad Crew, DRZ, Le
Français, Baky, Roody Roodboy, Roodyman and Manno Beats, TPO, DJ Tony Mix,
Valmix, K9 and DJ Nal.
            Olivier said that “Chris Brown and
Lil Wayne will each have a 60 minute set. Lil Wayne will be accompanied by his
DJ, while Chris Brown will come with musicians and dancers. Other members of
their team like make-up artists, sound engineers, and security agents will
arrive a day in advance to prepare the ground.”
            After their visit to Haiti, the two
superstars will fly to Los Angeles, California for the BET (Black Entertainment
Television) Awards on Jun. 28.
            Despite the hype and anticipation,
outraged social media posts appear to outnumber those favorable to the event.
“It doesn’t matter how many people are suffering in Haiti or how bad the
situation is, you can count on the [Martelly] government to spend [a] HUGE
amount of money to provide entertainment BIG enough to distract everyone from
the real problems,” wrote Marlon Lindor on Facebook.

            “After this Lil Wayne/Chris Brown
[event] and Carifiesta [a CARICOM supported festival from Aug. 21-30), I bet
tourists will fight to go visit Haiti and everything will be alright,” he added
sarcastically. “These [Martelly] government people act worse than the slave
masters in my opinion, wasting money while the masses can’t even eat.”