The Martelly-Lamothe government, in crisis, sinks into dark silence
The arrest of businessman and industrialist Clifford Brandt, on charges of kidnapping two children of another rich family of Haiti, plunges the Martelly-Lamothe government into a new crisis. But this one goes far beyond those in which the current government team found itself into since Michel Martelly moved into the National Palace. For the investigation undertaken on this spectacular event, taken over by the secret services of the United States, is moving ever closer to the government. Persons whose names are mentioned as belonging to the same network as Brandt, or whose names are linked to previous abductions against ransoms, revolve around the presidency, either as members of the first family, political allies or close friends of the tenant of the National Palace. Instead of seizing the opportunity to enlighten the nation about a phenomenon that has traumatized the citizens and continues to torment numerous families, the people in power find themselves hiding behind a wall of silence.
A country plagued by rising crime, especially since 2004 and whose citizens no longer trust their government’s ability to tackle the scourge, expects a public intervention of the Head of State, in the wake of this great event. But the president wallows in a guilty silence, leaving the Prime Minister and other second and third category officials the latitude to speak in his place. This attitude may be explained two ways: either Michel Martelly refrains from making statements for fear that his words could be used against him; or he decided to keep quiet because being aware of the involvement of relatives as well as members of the first family at least in the kidnapping of the two Moscosso youths. Does he believe that his obstinate silence will play in his favor? Indeed, the Office of the President and the Prime Minister’s Secretariat usually never let pass a single opportunity to inform the
Haitian public and international opinion of the smallest acts of the Executive. It’s automatic: these two entities of the Martelly-Lamothe government, all day long, issue press releases about all activities of the President, the Prime Minister, ministers and other government officials. However, the arrest of Clifford Brandt, considered a great feat against organized crime by the National Police, is ignored. This omission has generated many comments in the Haitian public and among foreign observers questioning the silence of the Head of State in relation to such an outstanding performance by the HNP, obviously aiming to render harmless criminals of all categories. It was not until a week after Clifford Brandt’s arrest that the Prime Minister intervened to declare— but without much conviction —the initiative “a victory for the forces of good,” adding that it’s important “to combat impunity.” At the same time, he reaffirmed the commitment of the authorities to “track down all kidnappers no matter to what classes they belong.” Mr. Lamothe has also advocated the continuation of the investigation “to apprehend criminals on the run.” These remarks were made by the Prime Minister after a meeting of the Supreme Council of the National Police (CSPN.)
Also present at the meeting, Jean Renel Sanon, Minister of Justice and Public Security, promised “no protection shall be accorded to criminals wanted for crimes committed. It will be zero tolerance. ” Clearly, apart from the criminals themselves and men and women of the government, who may know their identities, no one else can predict who will be targeted by the investigation. Insofar as the U.S. federal agents deployed on the ground in Haiti have a long list of people to question about crimes, one must be fearful that the accused stand to be numerous.
According to sources close to the investigation, considering the long list of people scheduled to be interviewed, in the end investigators will be able to create the “Criminal who’s who directory of Haiti.” Observers emit all kinds of theories to explain President Martelly’s silence regarding the Brandt affair.
However, the one being most accredited points to a criminal pact between high-level government officials and rich elements of the bourgeois class. For the initial facts brought to light by the investigation lead to the conclusion that, contrary to what was believed in the past, “the powerful Haitian mafia is not the monopoly of armed gangs based in Cité Soleil and other slums in the country.” In addition, the same informants explained that “the infrastructure of crime in Haiti can’t be supported by the country’s disadvantaged” because they lack the resources to commit so many crimes with impunity. Investigators put forward the theory that only an alliance between elements of the rich class of the country and political decision-makers made it possible for kidnappings and assassinations to be committed without their perpetrators being identified and punished.
In light of all these facts, President Martelly has every reason in the world to be unassuming in respect to the Brandt case. Similarly, the Prime Minister and other members of the government, for the sake of avoiding negative consequences, the bursting of the scandal may carry, are locking themselves in a conspiracy of silence, going out of their way to find tricks to confuse the investigators or to resort to delaying tactics. It’s in this context that should be placed the game of musical chairs to which the authorities have led government prosecutors.
For in less than two years, the Martelly-Lamothe administration has shown the door to seven government prosecutors from Port-au-Prince. Deep in crisis, the Haitian president seem to have few options in finding a way out, since it’s likely to cause the worst consequences for him, his family and his close associates. But the silence which he hopes will bring a “happy ending”could be fatal. For whatever may do Michel Martelly and his aides, the Brandt affair inevitably leads to an unhappy fate.