by Thomas Péralte (Haiti Liberte)
President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe reshuffled their cabinet last week for the third time in nine months. The new cabinet comprises 23 ministers and 10 secretaries of state. The previous government of President René Préval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive was less bloated but more effective with only 18 ministers and just a few secretaries of state.
In a Jan. 12, 2013 decree, approved by Martelly, Lamothe changed seven ministers: David Bazile replaced Ronsard Saint-Cyr as Minister of the Interior and Territorial Communities; Charles Jean-Jacques replaced Josépha Raymond Gauthier as Minister of Social Affairs and Labor; Josette Darguste replaced Jean Mario Dupuy as Culture Minister; Régine Godefroy replaced Ady Jean Gardy as Communications Minister; Magalie Racine replaced Jean Roosevelt René as Minister of Youth, Sports and Civic Action; Jean François Thomas replaced Jean Vilmond Hilaire as Environment Minister; and Bernice Fidelia replaced Daniel Supplice as Minister of Haitians Living Abroad.
The remaining ministers stayed in their posts: Laurent Lamothe as Minister of Planning and External Cooperation; Pierre Richard Casimir as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Religious Affairs; Jean Renel Sanon as Minister of Justice and Public Security; Marie Carmelle Jean-Marie as Minister of Economy and Finance; Thomas Jacques as Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Rural Development; Jacques Rousseau as Minister of Public Works, Transport, Energy, and Communications; Wilson Laleau as Minister of Trade and Industry; Stéphanie Balmir Villedrouin as Tourism Minister; Vanneur Pierre as Minister of National Education and Vocational Training; Florence Duperval Guillaume as Minister of Public Health and Population; Yanick Mézile as Minister for the Status of Women and Women's Rights; Jean Rodolphe Joazile as Defense Minister; Ralph Théano as Minister delegated by the Prime Minister for Relations with Parliament; Marie Carmelle Rose Anne Auguste as Minister delegated by the Prime Minister for Human Rights and the Fight Against Extreme Poverty;
Marie Mimose Félix as Minister delegated by the Prime Minister to Promote the Peasantry; and René Jean-Jumeau as Minister delegated by the Prime Minister for Energy Security.
Meanwhile, other appointments were Reginald Delva as Secretary of State for Public Security; Philippe Cinéas as Secretary of State for Public Works and Transport; Fresnel Dorcin as Secretary of State for Plant Production; Michel Chancy as Secretary of State for Animal Production; Vernet Joseph as Secretary of State for Agricultural Renewal; Ronald Décembre as Secretary of State for Tax Reform; Oswald Thimoléon as Secretary of State for Literacy; Marina Gourgues as Secretary of State for Vocational Training; Gérald Oriol as Secretary of State for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities; and Robert Labrousse as Secretary of State for External Cooperation.
In addition, the infamous Duvalierist Emmanuel Ménard was appointed as the Director General of the National Radio and Television of Haiti (RTNH). Ménard was once a leading propagandist for the Duvalier dictatorship on Radio Nationale; he was also formerly a director of the Delmas mayor’s office, director of the National Library of Haiti, and an advisor to President Martelly.
This cabinet reshuffling promoted many other notorious and zealous Duvalierists and neo-Duvalierists of yesteryear, or their children. For example, Interior Minister David Bazile was a former officer in the Armed Forces of Haiti (FAD'H), and a former Secretary of State for Public Security under the coup government of President Alexandre Boniface and Prime Minister Gérard Latortue (2004-2006). A leader of the Duvalierist Party of National Unity (PUN), Bazile was also an advisor to President Martelly and coordinator of the National Commission for the Fight Against Drugs (CONALD).
Meanwhile, Sports Minister Magalie Racine is the daughter of former Tonton Macoute militia chief Madame Max Adolphe. She is married to Georges Racine, a Martelly advisor and a strongman in the National Palace. Also Public Works Secretary of State Philippe Cinéas is the son of longtime Duvalierist figure Alix Cinéas, who was an advisor to Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier and a member of the original neo-Duvalierist National Council of Government (CNG) which succeeded Duvalier after his fall in 1986.
While former Lavalas official Mario Dupuy lost his job as Culture Minister, right-wing hardliners like Justice Minister Jean Renel Sanon, a former soldier, kept his. Sanon has come under particular outcry for firing Port-au-Prince’s prosecutor Jean Renel Sénatus, who refused to arrest three human-rights lawyers. Sanon also appointed a controversial lawyer, Fermo-Jude Paul, as an investigating judge of the court in Croix-des-Bouquets, just north of the capital; Paul then went on to release to release Calixte Valentin, a close Martelly advisor, who shot to death in cold blood Octanol Dérissaint, a Haitian vendor, in front of many eye-witnesses in the town of Fond Parisien, near the Dominican border, last April. Sanon also stands accused of encouraging corruption in an already corruption-riddled judicial system.
Public Works Minister Jacques Rousseau has been on the hot seat before Parliament for agreeing to sign contracts, which the lawmakers consider illegal and unconstitutional, granting gold mining permits.
Finally, the Minister delegated to deal with Parliament, Ralph Théano, has taken to insulting lawmakers. He described members of the opposition’s minority bloc, the PRI, as "Kamikazes" and children raised in single-parent families. Some parliamentarians feel that Martelly and Lamothe are thumbing their noses at Parliament by keeping the unapologetic Théano in his post.
The cabinet shake-up is the fourth under Martelly, who came to power in May 2011. The first cabinet to change was that formed under former Prime Minister Garry Conille.
Parliamentarians are also up in arms after Martelly floated a threat to unilaterally (and illegally) shorten the terms of ten Senators who were elected to six year terms: John Joel Joseph (West), Wencesclass Lambert (South East), Francky Exius (South), Maxime Roumer (Grand'Anse), William Jeanty (Nippes), Jean Willy Jean-Baptiste (Artibonite), Desras Simon Dieuseul (Central Plateau); Moïse Jean-Charles (Nord); Méllius Hyppolite (Northwest) and Jean-Baptiste Bien-Aimé (North-East). All were sworn in on Sep. 4, 2009, and therefore their constitutional mandate will expire on the second Monday of January 2015. Several of the senators are outspoken critics of Martelly, and the President wants to silence them, particularly Moïse Jean-Charles.
Martelly’s threat to trim Senate terms has already triggered howls of protest in both the upper and lower houses of Parliament. Even senators considered aligned with Martelly expressed their opposition. "I spoke with the President, and I told him that it was a bad road to take," said Senate President Desras Simon Dieuseul. "If he has advisers who told him he can enforce this law, I challenge them to tell me that I am not right, because when we talk about a transitional provision, it is a something that is for a limited time and that time has elapsed. I told the President that I did not want him to insist on this path. If we question the terms of one category of elected officials, then we should also put into question the terms of all elected officials (including the President), and we could arrive at a general election."
Senator Wencesclass Lambert, a close Martelly ally in the Senate, also voiced his disagreement with Martelly’s proposal to shorten the ten mandates, saying they were constitutionally protected. He lamely suggested that Martelly’s remarks do not reflect the government’s official position. He warned that any attempt to reduce the senators’ mandates would precipitate “a new and serious political crisis.”
Meanwhile, Deputy Emmanuel Fritz-Gerald Bourjolly, also member of the pro-government parliamentary bloc, called Martelly’s proposal unconstitutional and undemocratic, saying the President has no authority to shorten senators’ terms. “That would be against the principles of democracy,” he said.
Deputy Patrick Joseph from Saint-Michel/Marmelade said that Martelly’s proposal “proves, once again, his dictatorial tendencies.” He said Martelly’s speeches on the development of the country are contradicted by his actions and called on the Haitian people to “remain vigilant to defeat anti-democratic plan of the President.”
Grande Saline’s Deputy, Wilbert Joseph Deshommes, said he hoped that Martelly had “already realized the illegality of the project” to shorten the senators’ terms. He invited Martelly to review “the evidence that the era of dictatorship in Haiti is over.”
Some have noted that Martelly appears clumsily willing to use the transitional provisions of the 2008 Electoral Act against parliamentarians, while he refuses to use the transitional provisions of the Constitution for the formation of a Provisional Electoral Council to organize elections.
In fact, the formation of an electoral council to organize elections is once again delayed. The coalition of clerics called Religions for Peace, which was seeking to broker a compromise between the Executive and the Legislature, has now withdrawn. The representatives of the Superior Council of the Judiciary (CSPJ) installed on Martelly’s patently illegal “Permanent” Electoral Council refuse to step down. Martelly continues to keep his protégé Josué Pierre-Louis at the head of any eventual electoral council, despite the credible charges that Pierre-Louis raped one of his staff members.
The evident hardening of the regime’s stance in the face of growing popular misery, anger, and outcry augur serious political confrontations in the coming weeks and months.
President Michel Martelly has threatened to shorten the terms of opposition senators while his Prime Minister has installed new hard-right ministers in a cabinet reshuffle.