Above: Michel Martelly
A Caribbean Journal Editorial
Haiti has always been surrounded by volatility, a frequent, unfortunate victim in the Caribbean sea – all too often abused, both by its own leaders, and those from abroad. Its former dictator, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, told Time Magazine in 1966 that “Haitians have a destiny to suffer.” (Duvalier did not do much in support of free will – in fact, his bloody rule seemed intent on ensuring the proposition’s truth.)
The catastrophic earthquake in the country marked a turning point – a chance for Haiti to rebuild. But as bodies piled up and disease spread, when Haitians were hoping for unity, even the country’s presidential election could not evade controversy.
Singer Wyclef Jean, perhaps the country’s greatest global ambassador, was disqualified from running after Haiti’s Electoral Commission ruled him not to have sufficiently “resided” in the country according to the constitution.
Then, after a series of riots over the candidacy of the ruling party’s candidate, Jude Celestin, November’s presidential elections were thrown out.
And on the eve of the election, five months later, deposed leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a polarizing figure in the country, returned to Haiti, stirring up old passions and imposing an ominous specter on the next president.
But as the electoral storm finally seems to have passed, it is former singer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly who has emerged as the next leader of the country, and he is the right choice going forward.
The country’s government, led by Preval, survived the earthquake, but it was merely another link in a chain of ineffective leadership that had stretched back for decades – from Duvalier to Aristide.
What the country needs is a clean slate and a radical transformation. Haiti needs to improve security and re-focus its economy towards tourism, by capitalizing on the natural beauty that, as the New York Times’ Damien Cave told Caribbean Journal’s Alexander Britell earlier this week, is what makes people keep coming back.
While Martelly is reported to be friendly with Preval, along with several other high-profile (and controversial) Haitian officials, we hope that he will govern with the kind of humanitarian spirit that led him to his work fighting disease and poverty.
As Martelly sings in Totot: “Bagay yo chanje,” “things change.” Here’s hoping that the destiny of Haitians, so cruelly described long ago by Duvalier, changes, too.