Haiti’s CEP (Provisional Electoral Council) has postponed sine die the second round of the presidential and legislative elections that had been scheduled for 24 January. Having boycotted en masse the blatantly fraudulent elections of 9 August and 25 October, the Haitian people had concluded that mass protest was the only recourse that remained to them if they were to have any say whatsoever in who would replace the discredited Martelly regime. The “state of insecurity” provoked by the demonstrations was given by the CEP as the main reason for their decision. Four members of the CEP – representing the human rights, episcopal, journalism and Vodou sectors – have since resigned, leaving the body unconstitutional and inoperative.
The CEP’s decision was announced on 22 January and provoked a swift response from the group of imperialists and neo-colonists who call themselves variously the “friends of Haiti” or the “core group”. On 23 January, the secretary general of the United Nations, the High Representative of the European Union at the UN, the observer missions of the EU and the OAS all released statements; they were followed on 24th by the State Department and, on the 25th by the French Foreign Ministry.
Readers in a hurry need not worry: read one and you’ve read them all – presumably because they were all derived from a single model penned by some lowly intern in Washington or Paris.
All six agencies declared themselves “worried” or “concerned” by the turn of events in Haiti. They all expressed their commitment to seeing the rapid, if not immediate, conclusion of the “electoral process”. In so doing, they were asserting, by implication, that the electoral farce in two acts of August and October 2015 was, in the words of the State Department, “credible, transparent and secure”, and that it “reflected the will of the Haitian people”. One wonders, in that case, why so many Haitians are willing to risk life and limb on the streets to protest against a process that reflected their will…
All six press releases condemn in the strongest terms the “violence” surrounding the protests, but without, of course, mentioning that the violence has often been provoked by the Police Nationale d’Haïti or, in the Artibonite and Nord departments, by illegal militias trained by and loyal to the Martelly regime. The great fiction of the “international community’s” interference in the affairs of what is, nominally at least, sovereign state, is that their role is one of “assistance”, or “accompaniment”. After all, that is what “friends” are for. And the language employed by the press releases seeks at all costs to maintain that fiction: the “political actors” are “called upon”, “urged” or “exhorted” (albeit in the strongest possible terms) to do the right thing – that is, to just get on and select the core group’s designated successor to Martelly (Jovenel Moïse) as soon as possible.
But by what right do they “expect” these “political actors” to do as they say? Well, their right is, firstly, that of the paymaster. As the statement by the Head of the European Union delegation to the UN (closely echoing that of the French Foreign Ministry) is at pains to stress, Haiti faces “stark socio-economic challenges”, and “The European Union, as both partner and friend of Haiti, reaffirms its absolute determination to accompany Haiti on the path to durable and inclusive development for which political stability is the sine qua non.”
That is both a carrot and a stick: if you want the cash, do what we say!
But the stick is more forcefully alluded to in Ban’s statement. Haiti is a country under occupation and the occupying army is called MINUSTAH (United Nations stabilisation Mission in Haiti). And sure enough, Ban manages to mention the keyword twice in the space of three line: he exhorts all political actors to renounce any action that risks “further disrupting the democratic process (!) and stability of Haiti”, and reaffirms “the commitment of the United Nations to continue to support the consolidation of democracy and stabilisation in Haiti”.
The references in all six press releases to the unacceptability of “violence” in the current situation in fact function as a veiled threat of violence. This is no empty threat: between 2004 and 2006 MINUSTAH forces were complicit in the slaughter of between four and five thousand Haitians, most particularly in the shantytowns of Cité Soleil and Bel-Air.
Martelly’s term in office expires on 7 February 2016. There is no provision in the constitution for its extension. The press release of the State Department expressed a determination that any solution should be “in conformity with the law and with the constitution”. It just so happens that article 149 of the Haitian constitution foresees precisely the situation that will arise after 7 February:
“Should the office of the President of the Republic become vacant for any reason, the President of the Supreme Court of the Republic, or in his absence, the Vice President of that Court, or in his absence, the judge with the highest seniority and so on by order of seniority, shall be invested temporarily with the duties of the President of the Republic by the National Assembly duly convened by the Prime Minister- The election of a new President for a new five (5) year term shall be held at least forty-five (45) and no more than ninety (90) days after the vacancy occurs, pursuant to the Constitution and the Electoral Law.”
It will be interesting to see if the State Department’s commitment to the respect of the Haitian constitution remains quite as firm in that eventuality. They want their man in the presidential palace and the very last way that will happen is through genuinely free and fair election. We await developments.