by Yves Pierre-Louis
A string of corruption scandals are
erupting at Haiti’s Presidential Palace, directly involving
President Michel Martelly and his wife Sophia Saint-Rémy Martelly, and
his son, Olivier Martelly. The president is evidently trying to
legalize a culture of bribery that takes several forms:
nepotism, embezzlement, bribery and offers of all kinds, either
involving his family or to get favors from established
authorities in return for performing criminal acts.
Following a legal suit filed by
lawyer Newton Saint-Juste against wife Sophia Martelly and son
Olivier Martelly, two presidential decrees were published in
Le Moniteur, the official government journal.
The first, dated Jan. 24, 2012,
Supplement No. 10, established the National Commission for the
Fight against Hunger and Malnutrition (COLFAM) and the program "Aba
grangou" (Down with Hunger!). Both projects, directed by
Sophia Saint-Rémy Martelly, are valued at hundreds of millions
of U.S. dollars and are included in a resolution adopted by the
Council of Ministers. The second decree, dated Jun. 15, 2012 in
Le Moniteur No. 94, creates the Commission to Support
the Coordination of Infrastructures for Sports and the
Accompaniment of Haitian Youth (CACISAJH) run by Olivier
Martelly. In both cases, these are projects with which the
Social Affairs Ministry and the Youth and Sports Ministry
respectively should deal.
A legal brief filed by lawyer
Newton Saint-Juste seeks an injunction to immediately stop
President Martelly’s decrees because they are "contrary to the
Constitution, laws and general principles of law, and constitute
attempts to undermine the stability of republican institutions
and are a duplication which serves as an excuse to squander the
scarce funds in the public treasury belonging to all Haitians,"
he wrote. The summons was served on President Martelly. Saint-Juste
also denounced the nepotism of these acts.
In addition to this scandal
rocking the Martelly family, the special advisor to President
Martelly at the National Palace, the former senator from the South
East Joseph Lambert, revealed all the shenanigans going on
behind-the-scenes in statements over the airwaves of radio
stations around the capital. He layed out a bribery scheme
between President Martelly and President of the Chamber of
Deputies, Levaillant Louis Jeune. According to Lambert, Levaillant, the Vice
President of the National Assembly, received $15,000
and an armored car from President Martelly in exchange for
appointing, outside the rules and with the connivance of the
President of the National Assembly Desras Simon Dieuseul, the
legislature’s three representatives to the so-called “Permanent”
"Levaillant received $15,000
U.S. dollars and armored vehicle at the National Palace, and he
signed for it," Lambert said. "Levaillant came to the national
palace to 7 a.m. to get the money. We wanted to give it in [the
Haitian currency] gourdes, but he said no, he wants it in [U.S.] dollars. This is not a grant, because there is a form to
fill out to get a grant. He took the U.S. $15,000."
If this is not a grant, then it
is corruption, where President Martelly is the briber and
Levaillant the bribee. Corruption is a criminal offense which
has serious consequence on the economic and social life of the
Haitian people. It is "criminal conduct when one solicits,
approves or receives offers, promises, gifts or presents for the
accomplishment of or obtaining favor for personal gain,"
according to the Dalloz Law Dictionary.
In response, Levaillant Louis
Jeune confirmed that he received $10,000 from the National
Palace, but claimed it was to prepare for the visit of President
Martelly to the Artibonite Valley town of Desdunes for its
annual patron saint’s festival, saying President Martelly kept
$5,000 for his son T. Micky, on the pretext that he and his
musical band would play well.
"Joseph Lambert wants to
destroy Parliament," Levaillant said.
Senator Moïse Jean Charles
already denounced this latest corruption scandal, predicting
that the presidents of the two houses of Parliament, Simon
Desras Dieuseul and Levaillant Louis Jeune, would each receive a
large amount of money and an armored car to persuade them to
name legislative representatives to the highly contested
“Permanent” Electoral Council in defiance of the National
Assembly. The National Assembly successfully turned back – for
now – the completely illegal maneuver by Martelly, Louis Jeune,
and Dieuseul to end-run the Parliament.
During a Sep. 5, 2012
radio broadcast in the capital, the Senator of Nippes, Jean
William Jeanty said: "Every parliamentarian has his price."
Whether you are president, secretary, quaestor, or chairperson,
each has their price in Parliament, he said.
According to the former
president of the lower house, Saurel Jacinthe, the legislative
and judicial branches are just following the example set by the
President of the Republic by asking that the other presidents of
the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies and the Supreme Court
also have armored vehicles.
Lambert rejected this
statement: "The car belongs to the National Palace,” he said.
“Levaillant Louis Jeune has 24 hours to return the car,
otherwise I will give my resignation, and I nobody will be able
to convince me to come back."
These are just the latest corruption scandals to
shake the highest echelons of the state. Recently, the Supreme
Court President Anel Alexis Joseph basically appointed himself
president of the Higher Council of the Judiciary (Supreme
Council) in a brazen and complete violation of the law. Now the
two presidents of Parliament have been revealed engaging in all
kinds of maneuvers to try to appoint parliamentary
representatives to Martelly’s illegal and unilaterally formed
“Permanent” Electoral Council. And we’re just seeing the
beginning of how Martelly family members are embroiled in a
nasty case of corruption under the pretext of carrying out
social work with state funds. Corruption has become the hallmark
of the Tèt Kale (headlong) government of President Michel
Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.
Haitian activist tours
U.S. demanding housing rights for the country’s 400,000
by Alexis Erkert
(September 11, 2012) Housing activist
Reyneld Sanon is beginning a tour to key cities in the United
States. The tour will raise awareness about Under Tents, the
international campaign for housing rights in Haiti. The
campaign is a joint initiative of Haitian grassroots groups and
more than 30 international organizations that are demanding a
solution for Haiti’s homeless.
The January 2010 earthquake
killed an estimated 300,000 people and left 1.5 million
homeless. In its wake, survivors spontaneously created more
than a thousand temporary encampments throughout
Port-au-Prince. There has been no long-term planning for a
solution to the country’s housing crisis, and the Government of
Haiti has no comprehensive plan to relocate the majority of
people into safe, permanent homes. Indeed, fewer than 6,000
houses have been constructed since the earthquake. Nearly
400,000 Haitians are still living in displacement camps, where
they face high rates of gender-based and other violence, forced
evictions, lack of clean water and toilets, and cholera.
“People simply want a space
where they can live like human beings,” said Sanon.
Last month, tropical storm
Isaac hit Haiti, underscoring the crisis affecting those still
living in temporary shelters, which are often not much more than
a tarp. Thousands of shelters were destroyed in the storm’s 60
mph winds and heavy rain resulted in the flooding of camps. In
all, 24 people were killed.
Beverly Bell, coordinator of
Other Worlds, said, “It is past time to resolve the crisis of
the hundreds of thousands of homeless people who’ve been
forgotten. The billion-plus in U.S. government aid to Haiti has
not resulted in the completion of one single house in
earthquake-impacted area. We in the U.S. need to step up and ask
our government to make funds available to resettle those
suffering inhumane conditions.”
As part of the Under Tents
campaign, Haitians are calling on their government to quickly
designate land for housing and to implement a social housing
plan. They also call on the Haitian government and international
community to allocate funding to realize this plan. The campaign
website is undertentshaiti.com and a petition is open for
signatures at www.change.org/undertents.
Sanon will visit New Orleans
(Sept 14 -15), Houston (Sept 16 -17), Washington D.C. (Sept
18-20), New York City (Sept 21-24) and Miami (Sept 25-26). For
more information about public events organized by Amnesty
International USA, the Quixote Center, Haiti Liberte, the New
Orleans Worker’s Center for Racial Justice, and others, see
undertentshaiti.com/schedule or contact Deepa Panchang (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Reyneld Sanon is a leader
within the current social movement in Haiti for the rights of
Haiti’s homeless, or IDPs (internally displaced people). He was
a founding member of FRAKKA (Force for Reflection and Action on
Housing), a coalition of 40 grassroots groups founded in March
2010, two months after the earthquake; and currently serves as
the director of FRAKKA's executive committee. Sanon has been a
founding member of a range of civil society groups and has three
decades of experience as a community animator, coordinator, and
consultant for a range of local and international organizations.
Sanon is available for interviews while in the U.S.
and will be accompanied by Professor Mark Schuller, a Haiti
scholar at Northern Illinois University’s Anthropology