In another week or so, Haiti could explode, and the disastrous American policy of supporting the country’s violent and corrupt president will be a big part of the reason. Michel Martelly, prevented from continuing in office by term limits, is trying to impose a successor, and the United States has not spoken out against his ruthless, undemocratic strategy. On or after November 3, Haiti will announce the top two finishers in the first election round, held on October 25, and if Martelly’s man is one of them, thousands of enraged citizens will surge into the streets.
The United States is already widely blamed here for supporting Martelly, and the ambassador until recently, Pamela White, is singled out bitterly and publicly for her alleged closeness to him.
The mainstream US press, which was here en masse after the January 2010 earthquake, is ignoring this latest acute crisis. With few exceptions, the American media have also not reported on the nearly complete failure of the international rebuilding effort, a shameful record for which Bill and Hillary Clinton have considerable responsibility.
The Martelly regime’s combination of increasing violence and mega-corruption is clear here in Arcahaie, a simple fishing and farming area some 25 miles up the west coast from Port-au-Prince, the capital. President Martelly is using a dubious legal maneuver to try to grab stretches of the coastline. Local people fear he intends to expel them and build tourist resorts or private estates. They point out that he already owns a home farther up the coast that has been valued at $9 million (and they wonder how he bought it on his $60,000 presidential salary).
Over a day of interviews, fishermen and others here described a patient protest campaign, which started out with a petition, peaceful marches, and respectful requests to meet government officials. “We didn’t hear a word back in response,” said Jean-Max Vincent, the owner of a small shop. “That’s when people decided to block the national highway.”
The government sent in a recently formed paramilitary unit called BOID (Departmental Brigade of Operations and Interventions), which in a few months has already become notorious in Haiti. The special unit, which dresses in black, hit hard, killing several people, destroying property, and robbing small businesses. “We have never seen these BOID people before,” said Francois Bijoux, a fisherman who goes out daily with his neighbors in their wooden boats to catch red snapper. “We heard they are ex-prisoners that Martelly released to form the unit.”
The US embassy has said nothing about Martelly’s increasing violence, other than issuing vague general appeals for calm. The American refusal to speak out against human rights violations and undemocratic practice has become an established pattern. Elections for the national legislature are years late, and the president has been ruling by decree since January 2014, also without American protest.
Haitians also continue to be angry about the failure of the international rebuilding effort after the earthquake. Nearly six years have passed, and the only major changes in Port-au-Prince are the removal of most of the rubble and the disappearance of the tent cities that filled parks and plazas (many of their residents have been moved to a treeless camp north of the city, where opportunities for work are scarce).