Protests in Haiti The discontented-Added COMMENTARY By Haitian-Truth

IN HAITI the year is ending with squalls of street protest. Shows of public anger have been going on for weeks in Port-au-Prince, the capital, and other major cities. The protests are amorphous. Gatherings of differing sizes and intensities have been called by various entities, ranging from opposition parties to the trade unions.

If there is a thread running through them, it is a general discontent with President Michel Martelly’s 27-month-old administration. The country is still traumatised by 2010’s devastating earthquake and years of what Mr Martelly calls “bad governance”. (He means the period before he came into office; his critics say the maladministration continues.) This despite a slew of populist programmes to build things like stadiums and the attempts of Mr Martelly, a former entertainer, to win people over: he has even broadcast his own commentary of a big football match from Miami.

Even his supporters admit Mr Martelly himself is partly to blame for the trouble. He has been dilatory in pushing through a new electoral law, which has meant a two-year delay to elections for the Senate and in local municipalities. That gave the opposition a potent reason to mobilise protesters. One of the biggest and most violent demonstrations so far—on November 18th, the 210th anniversary of the battle that secured Haiti’s independence from France—focused on the overdue elections. That protest left one person dead as a few thousand Martelly supporters clashed with thousands of opposition marchers.

Under pressure—from the unquiet streets at home and from foreign diplomats—Mr Martelly has belatedly pushed through a new election law, which was published last week in Haiti’s official gazette. That earned him congratulations from the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Haiti, Sandra Honore, and from seven ambassadors of the international donors’ “core group” (America, France, Brazil, Spain, Canada, the European Union and the Organisation of American States).

How quickly the delayed elections will be held is unclear: despite talk of early polls, August or September 2014 are considered more realistic dates. The new law may ease the pressure on Mr Martelly, at least in the short term. But popular discontent has deeper roots than the electoral calendar. The high cost of living, lavi che in Haitian Creole, is a constant source of dissatisfaction. In a report last month the International Monetary Fund report said inflation was under control. “It’s quite wrong to say that prices are rising, they’re the lowest in ten years,” says Wilson Laleau, the finance minister. Yet even Mr Laleau admits that sounds unconvincing when 76% of the population lives on less than $2 a day and 1.5 million people are classified as “food insecure”.

As the misery builds, “Haitians start to ask ‘what is democracy all about?’” says Marcus Garcia, who edits Haiti en Marche, a weekly newspaper for the Haitian diaspora. “They start to say that democracy has not given us any real benefits, life is more expensive and there are fewer jobs.”


Always interesting to hear from someone like Marcus Garcia – an Aristide/Preval apologist who said nothing, when they did nothing.

The Martelly/Lamothe team might not be 100% of what people would like, but what government is?

Demonstrations have been much smaller than the international media suggests. This week saw a couple of very weak, disorganized groups of a few dozen paid demonstrators making noise.

President Martelly will finich his term.

Elections will be held in November/December 2014.


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