[News] Haiti’s Constitutional Horror Show

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Oct 5 11:55:30 EDT 2012

Weekend Edition October 5-7, 2012
On The Ground in Haiti


  Haiti’s Constitutional Horror Show


/For the past two weeks massive demonstrations have rocked Haiti, 
protesting the constitutional changes, the corruption of the Martelly 
government, and the outrageous cost of living – a general strike in Les 
Cayes and demonsrations in Cap Haitien 9/21 and 9/27, in Gonaives 9/24, 
and on Sunday 9/30, to commemorate the anniversary of the 1991 coup that 
overthrew the first Aristide administration, in Port-au-Prince and in 
cities large and small throughout Haiti./

The overthrow of Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier in 1986 led to the 
creation of a new democratic and liberal constitution in 1987, ratified 
in a referendum by an overwhelming majority of Haitians. It recognized 
Haitian Kreyol as an official language, along with French, and legalized 
Vodun, the religion of the majority of Haitians. It provided for 
grassroots participation in national decision-making, decentralized the 
nation’s finances and political structure, and provided for protection 
of human rights.

Its goal was to protect the democratic gains of the movement that rose 
up against Duvalier, to prevent a powerful executive from ever gaining 
dictatorial control again, and to overturn some of the most repressive 
Duvalier era laws. Now, however, the democratic and participatory spirit 
of the 1987 constitution has been subverted by the illegitimate 
president Michel Martelly, who announced new amendments on June 12, 2012 
which concentrate executive power and herald the return of death squad 
Duvalierism to Haiti.

Martelly took office on May 14, 2011 in a flagrantly undemocratic 
(s)election process, in which Haiti’s largest and most popular party, 
former President Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas, was not allowed to 
participate. The Provisional Electoral Council announced after the first 
round of voting that Martelly had finished third, thus not eligible for 
the run-off, but the OAS, in a much criticized move, sent a commission 
to rule that he really finished second.

Hilary Clinton reinforced this decision when she flew to Haiti at the 
height of the Egyptian revolution to demand that Martelly be in the 
run-off. An anonymous supporter in Miami paid the Spanish public 
relations firm Sola and Associates (who ran the Calderón campaign in 
Mexico and worked on John McCain’s) $6 million to manage the Martelly 
campaign, an enormous amount of money in Haiti. Martelly won this 
fraudulent “runoff” with a voter turnout even lower than the first 
round’s 22.8%. The 716,989 votes cast for Martelly constitute only 15% 
of Haiti’s 4.7 million registered voters 

Martelly was a member of the Duvalier family’s death squad, the tonton 
when he was 15 and a cadet in the former Haitian military academy as a 
youth. He supported both coups against President Aristide in 1991 and 
2004, and was rumored to accompany the FRAPH death squads on their 
nightly raids after the first coup. A former musician, Martelly 
constantly demeaned and insulted Aristide in his stage performances.

Martelly welcomed the return of Duvalier to Haiti in January, 2011. He 
socializes with him, and has been openly photographed in his presence. 
He has not pursued any of the legal charges against Duvalier, and now 
his administration is beginning to look more and more like the despised 
Duvalier dictatorship. Martelly has brought many Duvalierists and 
members of Duvalierist families into his government in a variety of 
roles, including departmental Délégates (representatives of the 
President to the Departments.) Duvalier’s son is a close advisor.

The new amendments published by Martelly ignore the amendment procedures 
mandated in 1987. They centralize power in the executive, and revive 
several repressive and undemocratic Duvalierist period laws. 
Procedurally, to change the 1987 constitution the president sends 
proposals to Haiti’s parliament. After approval, they are published in 
the government’s official newspaper, /Le Moniteur/, but they don’t take 
effect until the next president takes office, to assure none of the 
amendments can benefit the departing president. When previous president 
Preval left office, he and the parliament rushed through amendments, 
which were published the day before Preval’s term ended. However, both 
Chambers of Parliament immediately protested that the published changes 
did not correspond to what the language they had actually approved, and 
the distribution of /Le Moniteur/ was suspended.

Martelly took office facing this crisis, and after a few weeks published 
a decree suspending the Amendments. He then established a commission to 
ascertain what had happened and make recommendations. All original 
written and audio-visual transcripts from the 2-day debates in the 
National Assembly had disappeared (with no investigation and no one held 
accountable.) The commission submitted its report to Martelly at the 
same time various sectors of Haitian society tried to mobilize against 
this whole process, warning Martelly of the anti-constitutionality of 
such a “revised” amendment process.

Secretary of State Clinton, the UN, and the US, French, and Canadian 
ambassadors demanded Martelly publish the Amendments, as they revise the 
process for establishing a permanent Electoral Council, which these 
governments want before funding future elections or providing any more 
financial aid.. When Martelly published the new Amendments, for so 
called “material errors” made during the original publication a year 
ago, the President of the Senate once again claimed they are not what 
was voted in 2011.

Following are some of the changes the Martelly amendments make to the 
1987 Constitution:

*The method of choosing a Permanent Electoral Council:*

    The 1987 constitution allowed for the selection of the Electoral
    Council at a grassroots level, with nominations coming from
    equivalents of US county and state level representatives. This
    grassroots participation has never been put into practice, however,
    and the selection has come from above, with limited diversity, to
    create Provisional Electoral Councils. The new constitution changes
    this process so that the president (Martelly,) the Supreme Court
    (many members chosen by Martelly) and the legislature (mostly bought
    off) select 3 members each for a Permanent Electoral Council,
    completely undermining grassroots participation and centralizing
    control from above.

    This top down selection helps guarantee “demonstration elections,”
    which are a public relations instrument to create the illusion of
    democracy and provide a civilian face to the UN occupation that has
    been in place since 2004
    They act as a camouflage for the ongoing quest of the US, France,
    and Canada to undermine and defeat Haiti’s grassroots movement.

*The method of choosing the Prime Minister/presidential succession/budget:*

    The 1987 constitution requires Parliament to ratify the President’s
    choice for Prime Minister. The new amendments allow the President to
    appoint the Prime Minister after merely “consulting” the heads of
    the two Chambers of Parliament.

    The 1987 constitution provides for the President of the Haitian
    Supreme Court to assume the presidency and organize new elections in
    all cases of “presidential vacancy.” The new amendments make the
    Prime Minister the provisional President, without any need for
    Parliamentary ratification, and require the provisional President to
    organize new elections within 4 months.

    The 1987 constitution requires that a retiring president skip 4
    years before running for president again, so there is no immediate
    succession. The new amendments stipulate that the 4 months the Prime
    Minister serves as interim president count as a full term, thus a
    president/Martelly could resign during the fourth year in office,
    transfer the presidency to the Prime Minister he/she has appointed,
    then run again when the term ends without waiting 4 years,
    increasing the threat of a tyrant gaining dictatorial power.

    The 1987 constitution requires the president to submit a detailed
    (line item) annual budget and the previous year’s expenditures
    report for Parliamentary ratification, and gives Parliament the
    power to refuse to legislate on any matter until these financial
    requirements are adequately filed by the Executive. The new
    amendments provide that a “ general budget” and a “general
    expenditures report” will suffice, thus limiting Parliamentary
    oversight of the budget.

*The return of Duvalier era laws:*

The new amendments abrogate Article 297 from the 1987 constitution, 
which specifically addressed the most egregious violations of human 
rights under Duvalier.

    1987 Constitution, ARTICLE 297:

    All laws, all decree laws, all decrees arbitrarily limiting the
    basic rights and liberties of citizens, in particular:

    a. The decree law of September 5, 1935 on superstitious beliefs;
    (thereby banning Vodun once again)

    b. The law of August 2, 1977 establishing the Court of State
    Security (Tribunal de la Sureté de l’État).

    c. The law of July 28, 1975 placing the lands of the Artibonite
    Valley in a special status; (thereby negating the fledging national
    efforts at agrarian reform)

    d. The law of April 29, 1969 condemning all imported doctrines;
    (thereby attacking freedom of thought and expression, political
    association of freedom of association)

    Are and shall remain repealed. Violation of these new laws can
    result in even the DEATH PENALTY. The 1987 Haitian constitution had
    eliminated the death penalty.

    These provisions punish the mere expression of certain political
    beliefs, even in private, by the death penalty. It is not necessary
    for one to act on their beliefs to make it a crime. There is also no
    specific legal definition of the ideologies condemned by this law.
    This article can only serve to restrict free expression and the
    dissemination of ideas in general.

To confuse matters further, Congress voted and the Martelly government 
published these amendments only in French. The 1987 constitution 
recognized Haitian Kreyol as an official language, and Parliament 
approved both French and Kreyol versions of the 1987 constitution. Many 
Haitians now feel there exist two contradictory constitutions, if these 
Amendments were to stand.

There is huge opposition in Haiti to these new amendments, and they are 
much discussed in the media, although little information has reached the 
US public. Mr. Roy says that those who oppose the amendments are asking 
Martelly again make a decree to suspend the June 12 amendments. If this 
is not done during the next 12-18 months they will call for a new 
constitutional process to amend the 1987 constitution and reconcile the 
two different versions. He says leaders of grassroots organizations 
throughout Haiti are beginning to network on this issue.

The danger of these amendments becomes more clear when understood in the 
context of Martelly’s campaign promise to restore the hated Haitian 
army, disbanded by Aristide before he left office in 1995 in one of the 
most popular actions of his administration. Since Martelly became 
president, former army personnel have occupied their former bases and 
are seen wearing new uniforms and armed with new weapons. Under the 
command of a president who can control the electoral process, name their 
successor and administer the death penalty to those who protest, the 
restoration of the army strikes terror in most Haitians and brings back 
memories of a past they thought they had buried 26 years ago.

/The author would like to thank Jean-Sébastien Roy, a Haitian whose 
father helped write the 1987 constitution, for much of the following 
information. He was interviewed on KPFA’s Flashpoint 

/Charlie Hinton is a member of the Haiti Action Committee and works at 
Inkworks Press, a worker-owned and collectively managed printing company 
in Berkeley, Calif. He is the author of “From Jackboots to Wingtips: The 
evolution of Nazi Economics from World War II to the Present,” available 
upon request. You may reach him at ch_lifewish at yahoo.com 
<mailto:ch_lifewish at yahoo.com>./

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