Creole Crisis

Preventing Civil War in Haiti

The immediate aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. Zoriah / Flickr

Haiti is once again in crisis. Its parliament dissolved on January 12 after the terms of all but ten of its lawmakers expired. National and municipal elections would have prevented the disaster. But they had been postponed for the last three years as the parliament and President Michel Martelly battled over an electoral bill—one that required a rewrite of the constitution before elections could take place and included an amendment that would allow Martelly to extend his rule by another decade. Not surprisingly, parliament rejected the bill and Martelly continued to delay elections.

Martelly, a duvalierist, or an heir to the François (Papa Doc) and Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) dictatorships, is now ruling by decree, an unconstitutional situation that harks back to Haiti’s long tradition of violent, authoritarian rule. In mid-December, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe resigned, and on Christmas day, in an attempt to salvage his presidency, Martelly appointed Evans Paul, a well-respected and moderate senior statesman, to be the next prime minister. Evans has since formed a new government, but he cannot be confirmed in the absence of parliament.

Meanwhile, the more radical among the opposition parties took to the streets with almost daily demonstrations in Port-au-Prince and provincial cities. They recently vowed to resume their protests. A number of human rights organizations have alleged that several political factions, such as Fanmi Lavalas and Martelly’s Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale have re-grouped and re-armed the militias that were dismantled in previous years. Further, some politicians—for example, a few senior advisers to the president, some members of parliament who support the president, and leaders of the opposition—continue to use and recruit criminal gangs to intimidate and sometimes violently attack their adversaries. In fact, Oriel Jean, the former security chief under president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was shot to death by gang members only three days ago. Some hardline opposition politicians, inspired by Jean Jacques Dessalines, the country’s first ruler after independence, are calling for the violent overthrow

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