Thousands in Haiti Say: ‘Martelly Must Go!’

On Nov. 18, thousands of protesters came out into the streets throughout Haiti to say, “Down with Martelly!” They were commemorating the 210th anniversary of the battle of Vertières, when Jean-Jacques Dessalines led his forces to decisive victory in Haiti’s revolutionary war against its French slave masters.

Demonstrators throughout Haiti marked the day by calling for the removal of the venal, corrupt and repressive President Michel Martelly. He was imposed by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Protesters also called out, “Down with Minustah!” referring to the U.N.’s so-called “peacekeeping” force, which has occupied Haiti since 2004, when it took over from U.S., French and Canadian forces.

Several contingents converged at the demonstration in the capital of Port-au-Prince, which the Nov. 22 issue of Haïti-­Liberté estimates was attended by between 10,000 and 50,000 people. The march began in a working-class community downtown and proceeded through Delmas up Rue Panaméricaine to Petion-ville, a suburb with wealthy sections that rival gated communities in the ­United States for their opulence; it’s home to some of the most fervent ­Martelly supporters.

Shots were fired at the march in Delmas, wounding at least three people. Rocks were thrown at anti-government protesters in Petion-ville. One of the organizers, Rony Timothée, told Haiti News on Nov. 18 that one person was killed and three were wounded.

Haïti-Liberté cites Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles, one of Martelly’s most outspoken critics, who remarked during the Port-au-Prince march: “It is clear that Martelly does not have the legitimacy or the credibility to lead the country. We are asking the Americans, French, and Canadians to come and collect their errand boy because he cannot lead the country any more.”

According to online photographs, there were numerous protesters in Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s second largest city, but the police vigorously and brutally repressed them. When demonstrators tried to march, police attacked them with tear gas and live fire.

Haiti Press Network reported on Nov. 18 that 31 people, presumed by the police to be organizers, were arrested in the poor neighborhoods of Cap-Haitien overnight on Nov. 17-18. The news agency also complained of police harassing journalists.

Protests also took place in Aux Cayes, Jacmel, Miragoâne and Petit Goâve. There were two demonstrations in Ouanminthe, on the Dominican border, when Martelly and his prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, visited on Nov. 19.

The next wave of protests is planned for Nov. 29.

The U.S. indicates that it is strongly backing Martelly. John Groarke, U.S. Agency for International Development mission director for Haiti, announced at a Nov. 14 press conference that the U.S. will give Haiti $200 million in aid.

Radio Metropole, a pro-Martelly station, ran an interview on Nov. 22 with Joël Danies, the U.S. State Department’s coordinator of Haitian affairs. He expressed strong support for Martelly completing his five-year term and said the departure of Martelly was not a “realistic goal.”

The U.S. should stop interfering in Haiti and should respect the sovereignty of its people, who are demanding ­Martelly’s ouster.