Haitian hope: Sweet Micky may revive the nation

By Stan Schrager:

An old friend of mine may be the best chance — if not the obvious one — to relieve the agony that continues to grip Haiti.

I left Haiti for good in 1995, a year after Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a democratically elected president who had been overthrown early in a military coup, returned to the country.

Aristide left in disgrace after a second term in 2004, a departure choreographed and abetted by the United States after years of corruption and mendacity; nothing new there. He recently was issued a diplomatic passport to return.

For the last months of my time in Haiti, I had a neighbor, a phenomenally popular singer known as Sweet Micky. Sweet Micky and I were an unusual pair: a diplomat who supported Aristide and arguably Haiti’s most famous pop singer and entertainer who opposed Aristide and what he stood for.

Micky’s concerts would usually begin around 11 p.m. and conclude around 4 or 5 in the morning. He would never leave the stage, sipping whisky all the time, and weaving his potent spell on an audience ever more rapturous.

We spent many nights together, in the hills above Port-au-Prince; me, the midlevel diplomat, and Micky — Michel Martelly — who would always bring the bottle, and set it on a table between us. We would talk late into the night about a Haiti he envisioned, but one that seemed so elusive then, and perhaps now as well.

He and I would discuss politics, and he told me he had political ambitions, which, of course, I dismissed as delusional.

Delusional, that is, until I got a call several months ago from his wife, who told me that Micky had decided to “do it.”

“Do what?” I asked.

“Run for president!” she said.

Micky left a message for me on my answering machine several days later saying he was going to run. My first thought was he had about enough qualifications to be president of Haiti as I did. But his energy and his vaguely populist ideology clearly touched the masses of Haitians, and as I write this, he has now been declared to be one of the two candidates who will meet in the important run-off election March 20 to choose Haiti’s next president.

Initially thinking he would make a terrible president, I think differently now. It is a difference borne out of 200 years of Haiti the underdog, Haiti the ignored, Haiti the despairing. Fifteen years ago, he and I sipped Scotch well into the late hours of the night, talked about Haiti, his dreams, his ambitions. And I — naively, I now realize — dismissed them as both fantasy and the opinions of a right-wing ideologue. I did not agree with them then and most likely do not now — though I hope he perhaps may have mellowed a bit in the intervening years.

But no more. I hope he becomes the next president of Haiti. He of the “tet kale,” the “bald head,” in Haitian Creole.

Sweet Micky — or Michel Martelly as he is in “real life” — shares in Haiti’s separate and shared agony, which, for hundreds of years, has been conducted in silence and often in whispers. Now I hope it will be characterized by the political equivalent of his ear-splitting boom box, and his indefatigable energy, and so what if he knows nothing about governing? There is time for him to learn, even on the job if necessary.

Michel Martelly may be Haiti’s last best hope.

Stan Schrager is a retired foreign service officer who served at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He lives in Tampa.


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3 thoughts on “Haitian hope: Sweet Micky may revive the nation

  1. I remember Stanley Shrager and Ambassador William Lacy Swing.

    Shrager was such a jerk that a Haitian punched him in the nose, one night, in the Sunshine Market in Canape Verte, near Prosper Avril’s house. This was a final desperate move on the part of a guy who was sick and tired of Shrager’s hypocrisy.

    He was definitely not pro-Haiti as he prompted the return of Aristide by telling lies about our military, the FAdH.

    Because of Shrager, and Swing, and their kissing of Aristide’s ass, we lost the army and lost law-and-order. Now Shrager sees Aristide for what he was/is but that does not help Haiti today

  2. Regardless of Stanley Shrager’s obvious misjudgments relative to the precarious “balance” that was provided by the FADH and his misunderstanding of former President Aristide’s ambitions, his point on Mr. Michel Martelly carries some level of finally acquired sagesse. (I wonder upon Mr. Shrager’s job function being that he professes to sharing a bottle until the wee hours – while my wife and I, and our neighbors in P-V suffered many nights without sleep due to Mr. Martelly’s vocalizing.)
    Mr. Martelly is not of the experienced gray-cloth political cult however in my opinion, this is just what Haiti and Haitians are in need of; a non-aligned energetic pragmatic leader that can and does motivate for positive long-term effect.
    Neither Mr. Martelly, nor Mrs. Manigat will be capable of erasing the decades of damage caused to Haitian society.
    A major obstacle to overcome is ingrained selfish unpatriotic mentality that is set in place today.
    The final choice of the President of Haiti is at hand.
    Haitians are hopefully going to vote on March 20th using their analytical brains and not emotions tied to the past.
    Haitians must point their country in the direction that they want it to move; and be emphatically strong that this movement remains sincere to the cause.
    In either case of the run-off election’s result, the responsibility is there waiting to grab a hold of the successful candidate much as does the Lion Fish lay in waiting on the reef! The monsters are there: greed, lack of justice, a restrictive banking system, the environmental “H” bomb, a moribund system of national communication and overtness, a lack for industrial development and the related controls that if not in place will poison the land, education for all levels, the need for a “national” conscription for service to country, the lack of energy and other resources, the mining of Haiti’s gold reserves by foreign entities without control and accountability, a lack of government’s fiscal reporting and accountability, the endemic and complete lack of “Zoning” for residential, tourism, national park development, industrial sites and waste disposal, land-fills, financial support for the development and rehabilitation of tourism facilities and learning centers, the lack of regional polytechnical colleges and support thereof, and so on down a list of endless screaming needs that is so demanding that any new administration will be overwhelmed in their address.
    Haitians need an energetic almost brash leader to break the mold! In this vein of thought it appears that Mr. Martelly has these qualifications. Hopefully the recent years of his career have taught him the value compromise and consideration for community and all residents of the Land of Haiti. Anacaona will have to be pleased.
    Mrs. Manigat’s wisdom and experience would be well enfolded into Haiti’s new regime also. Once this pending election is realized and the new government is subsequently seated, there will not be any time to waste!
    The state of emergency is there! And thank goodness, the very loud “GARAGE” is closed!

  3. Martelly and Manigat are neo-Duvalierists that never had and never will have the mandate of the Haitian people, at least the majority . Martelly has the intelligence of Sarah Palin and the patience of a small child. Just google his interview on a Canadian radio station.

    Martelly might have the real mandate that really counts: the corrupt, feudal Haitian elite and the US but his stay in power will be thanks to brute military force and the re-creation of the old, useless Haitian army. Not the Haitian Army of the tradition that fought back the various foreign invaders in the early 19th century but of the craven, cowardly Haitian Army set up by the departing US Army after the 1915-1934 Occupation and used to keep the black masses in check .

    However, if the Haitian elite does not want a South African solution, they could go the way of the Chinese Communist Party, I.e., provide a much better economic life in exchange for the masses to be quiet. Are the Haitian elite capable of this? Their lack if sophistication tells us probably not. Will Martelly prove to be an Inacio Lula da Silva who will bridge the class divide and bring about a better deal for the seething wretched poor? From what I have seen and read, not bloody likely. If Martelly ever makes it, he most likely will not make it to the next term, a very Haitian tradition it would seem.

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