Friday, May 4, 2012

After Two Weeks Away President Martelly Returns to Haiti

by Thomas Peralte (Haiti Liberte)

On Mon., Apr. 30, 2012, President Joseph Michel Martelly returned to Haiti after spending two weeks in the U.S. to receive medical treatment.

Arriving at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport accompanied by his wife Sophia, Martelly was met by his political team and dozens of supporters in an atmosphere described by Prime Minister nominee Laurent Lamothe as "warm." Martelly thanked his well-wishers for their support during his recent medical ordeal, reportedly a pulmonary embolism.

In his remarks at the airport’s diplomatic arrival lounge, like many Haitian leaders before him, Martelly took the occasion to speak out against what doesn’t work in the country, saying that he would fix things, which one would expect considering that "change" was his campaign slogan. While his predecessor, Rene Preval, used to blame the Haitian Constitution of 1987 as the nation’s "source of instability," Martelly focused more on Haiti’s "weak institutions."

"As you can see, I'm standing and in shape," Martelly said in his remarks. "I’ve returned to continue the work and to meet all the challenges of the moment. I know all the problems that you have just undergone, problems that arise from weaknesses in our institutions. That's why I've always said that this work, I could not do it alone. We need the people to be with us. You must help me in this fight. I need the assistance of each Haitian, your involvement, your help, because we have to win this fight. I take this opportunity to call on the international community as well, so that it continues to help us in strengthening our institutions. All the problems we face today arise, again I regret to say, from the weakness of our institutions. They lack the resources and money needed to strengthen them."

That was the president’s declaration: weak institutions are responsible for all the country’s misfortunes. While this can be acknowledged as a half-truth, it must be noted that President Martelly has helped to weaken, not strengthen, Haiti’s institutions, thereby jeopardizing democratic achievements and efforts to build a rule of law. Some examples illustrate this: the arbitrary and illegal arrest on Nov. 27, 2011 of Deputy Arnel Belizaire; Martelly’s intimidating and aggressive comportment towards journalists doing their jobs; his tolerance of groups of heavily armed former soldiers throughout Haiti; the murder of a merchant at the Haitian/Dominican border by one of his closest associates; illegal taxation of international money transfers and phone calls, bypassing Parliament; the signing of international treaties by interim ministers; scandals concerning corruption and drug trafficking, just to name a few. All of this weakens and destabilizes Haiti’s republican institutions.

On Wed., Apr. 25, in his first public appearance since he arrived in Miami on Apr. 16, Martelly said at a local radio station: "My health situation was very complicated. I was very near death, and I was
preparing to accept it because the pain was so sharp. I'm not dead, because God is by my side. I could not breathe, I could not speak, I could not eat, I could not stand... I could not do anything. My chest felt compressed, as if three people were standing on me."

Despite this declaration, there remain doubts about what illness he may have had or whether he was really ill at all. Three senators – Kely C. Bastien, Joel John Joseph and Edwin Zenny – traveled from Haiti to visit Martelly on his sickbed in the United States.

Despite his illness, Martelly remains dogged by a corruption scandal in which Dominican Senator Felix Bautista is reported to have given him about $2.6 million in bribes. Guillermo Moreno, the presidential candidate of the Dominican Republic’s "Alianza Pais" party has asked that Martelly return a medal which Dominican President Leonel Fernandez gave him on Apr. 2.

In a letter addressed to President Martelly via the Dominican Foreign Ministry, candidate Moreno, who ranks third in the Dominican presidential race, argued that Martelly is not of the stature required to be a recipient of the Dominican Republic’s most prestigious honor because of the corruption scandal in which he is reportedly involved.

"Someone who receives an award created in memory of [Dominican Republic founder] Juan Duarte – the Order of Duarte Sanchez y Mella – must deserve it, yet we believe that because of corruption scandals in whose center is the Haitian president, Joseph Michel Martelly, he does not deserve such an honor," Moreno wrote. The leader of the Alianza Pais also questions the fact that President Martelly has not presented any evidence to prove that he was not involved in receiving kickbacks from Senator Bautista for providing his companies with lucrative construction contracts.

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