Anti-Martelly demonstrations (HCNN photo)
By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti -- The party of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and its followers called this weekend for the early departure of Haiti’s president, Michel Martelly, who they accused of mismanagement and lack of political will and knowhow to solve the Caribbean country’s endemic problems.
The Lavalas Family party and supporters said the country is going in the wrong direction with the current administration which, they say, is involved in administrative and criminal wrongdoing, such as corruption and misappropriation of public funds, among other allegations, which government authorities have repeatedly denied.
Scores of government opponents took to the streets on Friday to demand Martelly's resignation and to mark the 10th anniversary of the ouster, in February 2004, of then-president Aristide who was sent into exile as a result of an armed rebellion and the uprising of a significant portion of the population in a country that had then reached the peak of political polarization.
“We want Martelly to give up power in order to facilitate the holding of general election in 2014 and stop the chaos this administration has been imposing on the country and the Haitian people,” Ansyto Felix, a spokesman for Aristide's party's grassroots movement, told HCNN.
"We will continue to mobilize until Martelly comes to the conclusion that he can no longer sit in the presidential palace," Felix insisted.
The Haitian leader is serving a five-year constitutional presidential term that will end in 2016, but several opposition parties have organized, last year and this year, several street demonstrations in an attempt to force Martelly from power or to pressure him to voluntarily step down.
Haiti is scheduled to hold crucial legislative and local elections later this year, while a ballot to elect a new president is due for the end of 2015. However, the most radical opponents have been calling for the organization, in 2014, of general election which would include a vote to elect a new president to replace Martelly before the end of his term.
"We cannot have two more years of Martelly and of his political mess," said Mirlande Manigat, the leader of the Progressive Nationalist Democratic Gathering party, known by its French acronym RDNP.
Manigat lost the election to Martelly in a runoff ballot in 2011, but never admitted that Martelly was a legitimate winner, even though she did not officially challenge the results before relevant appeal authorities.
A spokesman for Martelly, Lucien Jura, said the accusations brought by opponents were part of the usual political games that have for too long caused the country to stall and to be mired in extreme poverty, political and economic gridlock, and lack of institutional development.
"Unfortunately, in Haiti, there are people who don't believe in democracy and who, as bad losers, are incapable of admitting defeat after losing an election," Jura told HCNN.
"They can't even recognize the obvious progress and improvements that have been achieved, even though a lot of other tough challenges remain," he said.
Regarding the accusations of embezzlement, mismanagement and corruption brought by government opponents, Jura explained that the Martelly's administration and the government of Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe have made unprecedented efforts to ensure transparency and fight corruption in Haiti.
"When you have donors and other partner countries praising efforts being made by this administration to ensure transparency and to fight corrupt practices, I do not think it is because they like the colour of our eyes," he said.
"It is because this is a verifiable fact," Jura added.
He was referring to statements made last year by US State Department senior diplomats -- including the special coordinator for Haiti, Thomas C. Adams -- acknowledging that the current Haitian leadership "has done more efforts to fight corruption than any of its predecessors."
Martelly met last month with French President Francois Hollande, European Union leaders and US President Barack Obama, who saluted the Haitian president's leadership and progress achieved in Haiti four years after a devastating and deadly earthquake in 2010 that left up to 300,000 people killed and about 1.5 million others homeless.
The number of homeless still living under makeshift tents in Haiti is now down to fewer than 150,000, as a result of a process that has helped to successfully relocate the great majority of the displaced, according to figures released by the United Nations.