By Dady Chery
When news of Haiti died down in the mainstream media two months after the earthquake, things had not cooled down: quite the contrary, they had just started to simmer. A highly controversial State of Emergency Law had already been drafted and presented to Haiti’s Lower House for a vote. This was a law to allow an Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), led by former United States President William J. Clinton, to run the country for an 18-month State of Emergency. Haiti’s Lower House, a large majority of which belonged to President René Préval’s party, INITE, met for a vote on March 8, 2010. That meeting of the Members of Parliament (MP) was extremely contentious. Outside, a small group of protestors urged the legislators to vote no. At least 20 legislators walked out, hoping to break the quorum, and they declared the law to be unconstitutional. Others stayed and voted against the law at the start of the meeting, hoping to stall the proceedings. One legislator proposed an amendment that would have allowed a senatorial commission to oversee the IHRC. All their efforts failed. The deal had been made from the start. Forty-three MPs voted yes, 6 voted no, and 8 abstained.
How did all this come to pass? First, the Préval-led government had come from elections that had excluded Fanmi Lavalas and 14 other political parties. So this government was highly unrepresentative. Second, the most vocal opposition to the IHRC and the State of Emergency Law had come from those who had supported previous dictatorships. The great majority of the population categorically rejected this group, which demanded that the Haitian Armed Forces (Forces Armées d’Haiti, FAd’H) be re-established, the United Nations occupation force MINUSTAH departs, and the Haitian Constitution and UN Charter be respected. Their calls of protest fell on the deaf ears of a population well acquainted with their brutality. Finally, Préval’s government was considered to be a great embarrassment. Among other things, it had failed to account for its expenses during the first three months of 2010. Préval himself had campaigned for the State of Emergency Law, although the stated reason for this law was a need to circumvent the State’s corruption. In typical style, he had insisted that everyone dirties their hands along with him and the law be voted on by the entire Parliament. When criticized about dragging the country into the depths of dependency and handicapping the next administration, he shrugged and lapsed into absurdities like Haiti is “a weak state” but still “possesses its sovereignty.”
With the Lower House in the bag, the next obstacle was the Senate. During an April 8, 2010 meeting, the senators voted no to the State of Emergency Law and the IHRC. In advance of another vote on April 13, Préval held a press conference at which he pleaded with the senators not to “miss this chance.” Several demanded to know why he needed the Parliament to ratify a commission with a majority of foreigners. They pointed out that he could take full responsibility for his miserable commission and establish it by presidential decree. Others, like Acluche Louis Jeune declared: “the president wants to dissolve the Parliament to give the occupier a free hand.” The April 13 vote was successfully blocked by the lack of a quorum. The Haitian Senate then numbered 25 because of two earthquake deaths. It needed a quorum of 16, but only 15 senators participated; two of those senators had showed up merely to snub the meeting.
Enter Michelle Obama on April 14, 2010. What did she do during her surprise visit to Haiti, besides draw fishes and compare them to the more advanced art of the Haitian elementary-school children? What inducements or threats did she bring to the Senate on behalf of the US? Might her statement of the innocent-sounding proverb “Little by little, the bird makes its nest” have been a sign that a deal was made for the occupation?
A late-night parliamentary session the next day did the trick. With barely a quorum of 16 senators, 13 voted for the State of Emergency Law, with all but one of the yes votes coming from INITE. One senator voted against the law, 2 abstained, and 9 stayed away from the meeting altogether. It was extraordinary that even this highly unrepresentative government had put up such a fight for sovereignty. Haiti would not be an easy conquest.
In the IHRC, which was Bill Clinton’s wet dream of a government and was to be led by him, a majority of foreigners had hoped to administer Haiti.
FOURTEEN INDIVIDUALS WOULD REPRESENT FOREIGN INTERESTS
Nine representatives who are major donors. They would be chosen by an IHRC administrative council. This was a strictly pay-to-play affair. To get a seat, a country or institution had to donate at least $100 million over a two-year period or erase debts worth at least $200 million. The original list of these donors included the US, European Union, France, Canada, Brazil, Venezuela, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), UN, and World Bank.
One representative of Caricom.
One representative of the Organization of American States (OAS).
One representative for all the other donors without a seat.
One representative of the non-governmental organizations (NGO) in Haiti.
One representative of the Haitian diaspora.
SEVEN UNELECTED INDIVIDUALS WOULD REPRESENT HAITI
Three representatives of the Haitian government, nominated respectively by the executive, judiciary, and local authorities. Jean-Max Bellerive, who was chosen by Clinton for this group, got a laughable equal billing with him. In October 2009, Bellerive had been foisted by the US on Préval as Prime Minister. President Préval himself would not actually be a member but would have symbolic veto rights.
One MP, to be chosen from a list submitted by the political parties in the Lower House.
One senator, to be chosen from a list submitted by the political parties in the Senate.
One union representative, designated by the union syndicates.
One business representative, nominated by the business community.
There is much to be learned from this affair about the leaders of supposed democratic countries. This is how they would run everything if they could. Consider the World Trade Organization (WTO). Watch closely and pray against natural disasters. The next pay-for-play commission might well be for your state or country.
Though the IHRC boasted of its plans to restore urban centers and build homes throughout Haiti, its real mission, also stated quite explicitly, was to proceed with privatizations, in particular the privatization of the sea and air ports of Port-au-Prince. The plans for sweatshops were there too, though not as explicit. Indeed, even as homeless Haitians were being bused one hour away to a desert to live, presumably because there was no room for them in the city, ground was being broken in town for new factories. The IHRC would additionally grant opportunities to foreign companies to invest in agriculture and tourism, which were euphemisms for land grab. After much controversy in April 2010 about the 11 articles under which Bill Clinton’s IHRC would operate in the country, three new articles were appended to the organization’s charter without oversight. In Article 12, the IHRC gave itself the “full power to deliver proprietary titles and licenses for the construction of hospitals, power companies, ports, and other projects of economic development.” In a clear sign of power reversal, the Article called on Haiti’s ministries to work with the IHRC to accelerate its high-priority projects.
At the conclusion of its 18-month term, the IHRC would become an “Agency for the Development of Haiti,” with an indefinite mandate. So any democratically elected government in the future would find itself at the helm of an island nation, but without control of its ports, and therefore without the means to tax its imports and exports. Much of the country’s lands would be in foreign hands. The only way to raise revenue would be to go begging for aid funds. This had gone on for some time, but it would become institutionalized.
Sources: Haiti Chery | News Junkie Post | For more from Dady Chery, read We Have Dared to be Free: Haiti’s Struggle Against Occupation. Photograph one from PBS News Hour archive; two from the US Embassy Canada archive; photographs three, four and eight from United Nations Photo archive; five from the US Department of Defense archive and six from the US Air Force archive.