A Better Class of Dictator? (HB73)

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Rebelling against the lies and illegalities. Three years after the earth- quake of January 12, 2010, Haiti paused last month to remember and reflect. It might seem unimaginable given a cholera epidemic with a death toll now nudging 8000, some 360,000 people still living under tarpaulins,

and a food crisis that has made Haiti the third hungriest country in the world, but there is a growing sense that the failed and flawed Michel Martelly government is now the country’s main problem.

It is not just the “usual suspects” – grassroots activists, public sector

workers, the marginalized majority – pointing the finger. It is individu- als in the commentariat, the business sector, the judiciary and the church. Codedly in public, but confessionally in private, it is even UN officials and some of Martelly’s paymasters, the donors. Just don’t tell anyone else we told you.

In an Op-Ed piece in Haiti’s lead- ing newspaper Le Nouvelliste on January 1, Leslie Péan listed nepotism, corruption, authoritarianism, kidnappings and murders as hastening what he termed, “the decomposition of the state”. What he did not say is that those traits are increasingly seen as that same state’s modus operandi; that the government is now openly associated with flagrant violations of the “good governance” and “rule of law” principles and practices that it’s donors fund it to implement and uphold.

Ordinary Haitians are, as ever, more direct than the chattering class- es. Several hecklers simply shouted: “Liar!” as President Martelly prom- ised to boost national food produc- tion to 70% of consumption during his Independence Day speech in Go- naïves. “It’s bread and circuses with- out the bread,” said one observer.

In mid-September, thousands marched through the country’s sec- ond largest city, Cap-Haïtien, de- nouncing corruption, broken prom- ises, the cost of living, authoritari- anism, and general insecurity. The following day, grassroots groups such as Bare yo! (Stop Them!), Louvri je! (Open Your Eyes), Van an Vante (The Blowing Wind) and Sik- lòn (Hurricane) staged a mock trial. Playing chief judge, activist Eluscar Charles heard endless testimony charging the President with nepotism and corruption. He was found guilty on both counts, along with his wife Sophia, son Olivier and Prime Min- ister, Laurent Lamothe.