By Kim Ives
If Martelly is “a Uribe” or “a Santos,” it could spell trouble for various cooperation agreements Haiti has with Venezuela and Cuba, that were initiated by the governments of current President René Préval and former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Michel “Sweet Mickey” Martelly with Hillary Clinton
On a continent which has been moving away from U.S. imperial dominance, Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe was an exception.
In stark opposition to defiant leaders like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, Uribe emerged as Washington’s closest ally in Latin America, making Colombia the main U.S. beach-head on the continent. Washington still plans to build seven new military bases there.
During his eight-year term, Uribe became an iconic U.S. confederate. Latin American popular slang began to call a pro-U.S. leader “a Uribe.” That is what some are now calling Haiti’s new likely President-elect, Michel Martelly.
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Martelly’s Apr. 5 press conference, his first since preliminary results showed him to be the Mar. 20 second-round winner, seemed to justify this moniker. “We have the development plan of Colombia,” Martelly said. “A week ago, I met with the Colombian Foreign Minister. I would say that this meeting was friendly.”
Uribe stepped down in August 2010, but only to pass power to a man who has been described as his “shadow”: Juan Manuel Santos. The Santos government’s development plan is “committed to deepening the reforms—many of which were put in place by Mr Uribe—that have made Colombia one of the most business-friendly countries in Latin America,” reports The Economist. In short, Colombia’s new Development Plan is familiar, old neo-liberalism.
Judging from his campaign remarks, Martelly’s regime will look a lot like Santos’. The Plaid Avenger blogger sums up Santos as “conservative right, pro-military, pro-police, pro-security,” as “essentially continuing all of the policies of … Alvaro Uribe,” as “pro-US, and trade/aid ties will likely expand in his tenure,” while concluding that “Santos does not get along well with the leftist leaders of his neighborhood; Venezuela and Ecuador.”
If Martelly is “a Uribe” or “a Santos,” it could spell trouble for various cooperation agreements Haiti has with Venezuela and Cuba, that were initiated by the governments of current President René Préval and former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. These agreements include the deployment throughout Haiti of hundreds of Cuban and Cuban-trained doctors and other medical personnel, training of Haitian medical students at Cuban schools, Cuba’s modernization and support for a major sugar mill, and Venezuela’s building and modernization of power stations and the Cap Haitien airport.
As if on cue, Haitians began noticing U.S. soldiers around Haiti in the days leading up to Apr. 4, when the results of the U.S.-sponsored and directed elections were announced. Then, after the deployment, the U.S. Embassy announced “the recent arrival of the first soldiers of Task Force Bon Voizen, deployed as part of the humanitarian mission New Horizons 2011.” (Fittingly, the Embassy misspelled the Kreyòl term, Bon Vwazen, meaning “good neighbor.”)
The Embassy said that “these humanitarian soldiers… will be in the area of Cité Soleil and Saint Marc to make the logistical preparations before going to their base in Mandrin, in the Artibonite Department.”
Meanwhile, in his press conference, Martelly asserted that the UN military occupation known as MINUSTAH “will continue to accompany us in providing security.”
Martelly claimed that “it was us, the Haitian people, who made this victory by voting 67.57%” for him. In reality, no more than 16.7% of Haiti’s electorate voted for Martelly because of a grassroots boycott of the election, combined with generalized voter disgust and alienation about the flawed and non-inclusive polling. Over 75% of Haitian voters abstained.
Thus, his words rang hollow when Martelly asserted that “we have been mandated by the population to do a job.” And what is that job?
“To change our political practices, our political choices, and our social organization,” Martelly said.
Given his record, such pronouncements are ominous. As Time’s Tim Padgett noted, “many of Martelly’s supporters are (…) too young to remember the early 1990s, when he was an avid supporter of a brutal military coup that overthrew a democratically elected President. It was also a period when Martelly seemed to have formed the almost megalomaniacal self-image that has many wondering if Haiti has picked a reliable democrat or a reckless demagogue to oversee the reconstruction of the western hemisphere’s poorest country.”
Many Haitians would respond that they did not “pick” Martelly. He is being installed, they would argue, through an illegal U.S.-sponsored “selection.” This is why many expect him not to be a courageous leader of the Haitian people, but rather Washington’s lackey, “a Uribe.”
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