Haitian Leader’s Power Grows as Scandals Swirl

Frances Robles, New York Times, March 17, 2015

With a brisk clap of his hands, Michel Martelly summed up the first steps he would take if he ever left the music business and became the president of Haiti.

“First thing, after I establish my power, which would be very strong and necessary, I would close that congress thing,” Mr. Martelly was quoted as saying in 1997, when he was still a hugely popular singer. “Out of my way.”

His words have proved prophetic. A political crisis almost four years into Mr. Martelly’s presidency gave life to the fantasy he once described: He is now running the country without the checks and balances of a parliament.

After Mr. Martelly and his opponents in Parliament could not agree on elections, most legislative terms expired, and the seats remain empty. Only 11 elected officials remain in the entire country, and the president is one of them.

For two months, Mr. Martelly has governed Haiti by executive order, concentrating power in the hands of a man who, his critics say, is a prisoner of his past, surrounded by a network of friends and aides who have been arrested on charges including rape, murder, drug trafficking and kidnapping.

As Mr. Martelly strengthens his hold on power, scandals involving those close to him have continued to mount, raising questions about the president’s ability to lead.

One of Mr. Martelly’s senior advisers was jailed for six months during the president’s tenure after being accused of killing a man in a gunfight at the Dominican border. Another friend of the president vanished last year, shortly after being released from jail in a marijuana trafficking case.


Yet another of the president’s associates is in jail, accused of running a kidnapping ring. The authorities are trying to determine whether the man, Woodley Ethéart, who said he worked at the Ministry of Interior, laundered ransom money through a lucrative catering contract at the presidential palace, an investigator familiar with the case said.

One longtime law enforcement official said he stopped going to events at the palace because he kept running into people who had been arrested on charges as serious as murder but were now working at the presidential offices as security guards.


The Martelly administration’s influence has been criticized most for its effect on the judiciary, where the criminal cases of some people close to the president have stalled or disappeared.

Prosecutors who objected to the administration’s interference were fired or fled, and one judge who complained that the president had meddled in a civil corruption case against Sophia Martelly, the first lady, died two days later.

“I would be very concerned of this interconnected web of nefarious characters,” said Robert Maguire, a Haiti scholar at George Washington University. “Martelly has empowered them to do what they do. He has established an environment of corruption, abuse of power and impunity.”


Mr. Martelly was elected in 2011 after being placed in a runoff despite coming in third in a disputed election. International organizations, with an assist from Washington, helped Mr. Martelly by documenting his opponents’ widespread voter fraud.

Washington’s role in the election and the American ambassador’s warm relationship with him since has hurt Mr. Martelly’s credibility at home, where the president is considered a member of the conservative elite, disconnected from the poor majority.


Now that Mr. Martelly can organize elections without consulting opponents in Parliament, it will soon be voting time again. A movement to oust the president appears to be losing steam. A general strike organized by opposition parties in recent days mostly flopped.


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  • Funny, if you took out “Martelly” and inserted “Obama” in its place, this article would still be mostly true.

    • Rhialto

      I agree. My first response to this article was TNB, and it is. But there is another consideration; an effective democracy has been the exception in political history. So the question is how much longer will the US and other Western nations be able to survive as democracies.

      • archer

        When you consider all the things we’ve had rammed down our throats like immigration, NAFTA, Patriot act, NDAA, Obama care, useless wars, huge debt etc. I no longer consider America a democracy, I don’t recall we voted for any of this, besides we are supposed to be a republic with a constitution.

        • Sick of it

          If one war can get rid of a working republic, why bother?

  • Sloppo

    Haiti appears to be a normal african country ruled by a normal african despot.

    • Weisheit77

      Yeah and as far as they go this guy seems rather benign.

      I’m not sure they are capable of running a parliamentary system (I’m starting to question ours) and I think it might be cruel to expect them to. If it happens fine, but if not who cares?

    • TruthBeTold

      I wonder what rock bottom will be.

      I wonder how bad it’s going to get before the people who pushed to aid Haiti confront the nightmare they enabled.

      • WhiteVeinKratom

        Some how it will be found that WT is responsible.

    • bilderbuster

      I’ve never understood how come the Dominicans have never just chased the Haitians into the sea and made the whole island a bearable place to live.

  • superlloyd

    The usual incompetence, corruption and criminality from a black dictator that has eschewed democracy for his own megalomania and self aggrandisement.

  • james AZ

    I really glad that I did not send any money for Haiti earthquake in 2009……… Thank you to most of you ( AMREN ) …… For warn NOT send any $$$$……to Haiti …… I will never send any $$$ to black and brown nations at all..”….

    • John Smith

      250K negroes dead wasn’t enough to help the place.

  • Jason Lewis

    I had to go there in the Army in the 90s. Such a jewel of the Carribean.

  • The only time in its history as an independent nation that Haiti has been responsibly run is when the US marines were there from 1915 to 1934 and the place was directly ruled by the US Secretary of the Navy.

  • Weisheit77

    It’s as good of a time as any but if you haven’t gotten it yet download or buy (it’s in the public domain) “The French Revolution in San Domingo” by T. Lothrop Stoddard.
    It’s the story of what happened in Haiti during the French revolution. I had scanned parts of it before but I put it on my kindle on my phone and read when I’m in line or waiting and it is just an eye opener. What is really amazing is how the story resembles what has happened in America. The miscegenation, the black liberation movement, the putting mulattoes on pedestals to be praised, and heavy handed government action in race relations has all happened long before Selma bridge.

  • John Smith

    Typical negro-run govt. behavior.

    • TruthBeTold

      No wonder at all.

      I can’t wait to hear the excuses liberals will make for the failure to turn Haiti around.

      Somehow I suspect it’s Americas’ fault.

  • TruthBeTold

    He is now running the country without the checks and balances of a parliament.

    Another black dictator. We all know how this is going to end.

    Funny how those who rushed to aid Haiti haven’t spoken about this in their on going effort to help the people of Haiti.

    • Blackfish

      Yes, UN Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton’s views were conspicuously absent from the article!

  • JohnEngelman

    This is the result of over two centuries of black majority rule.

  • Unperson

    “I would be very concerned of this interconnected web of nefarious
    characters,” said Robert Maguire, a Haiti scholar at George Washington

    Unsurprisingly, our Haiti scholar at GWU — who uses big words like “nefarious” and “impunity” — doesn’t look very Haitian.

    • De’Ontavious Jizzaiah Jones

      Interestingly, when I worked in FL the 2 Haitian Creole interpreters we used at court were white of French ancestry – their families had fled Haiti long ago. I had 12 years of insight into their culture. They were brutal toward their children and showed no remorse – even when their rights were being terminated to their own child, they remained angry at the child for causing them to have to be in a court case. They continually argued they were being discriminated against bc its their culture to discipline children severely — whipping with electrical cords was a favorite. In one case a Haitian mother dropped her young daughter off at school with a broken arm, a black eye, a split lip, gashes on the top of her head that were oozing blood, and the rest of her body covered in bruises. The school called in police and DCF and the girl was removed from mother’s custody. That afternoon, the mother’s boyfriend went to the school and screamed at the teacher for reporting it. The mother had previously abandoned this child to various relatives in Haiti who beat her and burnt her with cigarettes while the mother transited illegally thru the Bahamas and then into the US where she was granted political asylum. She then had the little girl sent from Haiti. In most of the cases I dealt with the Haitian men all had girlfriends they had kids by on the side and the men would go back and forth amongst their “families.” This generated a lot of jealousy with the women and big domestic violence blowouts would occur. The American blacks I worked with did not like them either.