Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Aristide Warrant a Distraction from Delayed Elections?

This article explains the background to the Aristide case, as well as the speculation that the case is a tactic to distract from long-overdue elections being delayed again. Without elections in 2014, Parliament will become nonfunctional and President Martelly will rule by decree. There are also other serious repercussions of not having fair and democratic elections in Haiti. Learn more about elections in our FAQ.

Aristide Warrant and Brandt Prison Break Overshadow Election Derailment

Kim Ives, Haiti Liberte
August 20-26, 2014

Last week, Haitian demonstrators erected barricades of burning tires and car
frames in front of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s home in Tabarre
to prevent the government of President Michel Martelly from arresting him.
On Aug. 12, investigating judge Lamarre Bélizaire had issued a court summons
for Aristide to come to his offices for questioning the next day, Aug. 13.
Aristide never received the last-minute summons which was allegedly left at
his gate, according to his lawyer Mario Joseph. Having heard about the
summons on the radio, Joseph did show up at the 10 a.m. hearing with a
letter explaining that the summons had not been correctly served.
Ironically, Judge Bélizaire did not show up for his own hearing but
nonetheless later that afternoon issued an arrest warrant for Aristide
because of his absence.

Meanwhile, at about 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 10, two vehicles of armed men shot
automatic weapons at the outside of the new prison in Croix-des-Bouquets,
just north of the capital, precipitating the escape of 329 prisoners. Among
them was Clifford Brandt, 42, the scion of a prominent bourgeois family who
was jailed in October 2012 (but to date never tried) for heading a
kidnapping ring that held hostage the son and daughter of Haitian banker
Robert Moscoso. On Aug. 12, Dominican authorities recaptured Brandt and
three other fugitives across the border in the neighboring Dominican
Republic and turned them over to Haitian authorities, who tried to take
credit for the capture. (The Dominican Defense Minister had to issue a
statement setting the record straight.)

These two unfolding dramas, perhaps by design, have all but eclipsed a much
more ominous development last week: the cancellation of parliamentary and
municipal elections, already two years overdue, which had been promised for
Oct. 26. As a result, it is all but certain that another third of the
Haitian Senate and many in the House of Deputies will see their terms expire
on Jan. 12, 2015, rendering the Parliament nonfunctional and Martelly ruling
by decree.

This is exactly where the konpa-singer-turned-president wanted to arrive.
“First thing, after I establish my power, which would be very strong and
necessary, I would close that congress thing,” Martelly told the Miami New
Times in a 1997 feature article. “”La chambre des députés. Le sénat.” He
claps his hands. “Out of my way.””

These were not jokes. The article made clear that even back then Martelly
was planning a run for president and was “not afraid to reveal that he has
given serious thought to his philosophy of government,” which was
essentially a “Fujimori-style solution.” Former Peruvian dictatorial
president Alberto Fujimori is presently in prison, having been convicted of
committing major human rights and corruption crimes during his
administration in the 1990s.

Martelly’s looming one-man rule marks a sharp political reversal. Last
autumn, massive popular demonstrations, led largely by outspoken Sen.
Moïse Jean-Charles and radical Lavalas base organizations, were marching
almost weekly to demand the resignation of Martelly and his Prime Minister
and business partner Laurent Lamothe and the departure of the 6,600-soldier
United Nations force, acronymed MINUSTAH, which has militarily occupied
Haiti since Jun. 1, 2004.

But in December 2013, Aristide’s Lavalas Family party (FL) expelled Sen.
Jean-Charles for criticizing and outshining the party’s Executive Committee,
and from January to March 2014, Washington and the Catholic Church connived
with the Martelly government to carry out a charade conference of national
reconciliation, resulting in the “El Rancho Accord” supposedly putting the
country on the road to the Oct. 26 elections. As a result, despite a few
sizable marches on symbolic dates, last year’s mobilization began to weaken.

Now from being on the defensive, Martelly is back on the offensive.
“It is not without reason that the puppet judge Lamarre Bélizaire published
a list with the names of [31] people who can’t leave the country a few days
before the Martelly-Lamothe-MINUSTAH government allowed its associate
Clifford Brandt to escape from jail,” said the Dessalines Coordination party
(KOD) in an Aug. 19 declaration. “They knew what kind of scandal that would
provoke… That may be why they decided to hatch a plot to issue a warrant
for former President Aristide, as a way to distract the population… That
may be why they created the crisis of Aristide’s so-called arrest to cover
not only the illegal liberation of more than 300 bandits, but the CEP
[Provisional Electoral Council] now saying that elections are not possible
this year.”

“Instead of the people being mobilized 24/7 to demand the departure of
Martelly, Lamothe, and MINUSTAH, [the regime] is now giving us our work,
making us stand out in Tabarre day and night making sure they don’t arrest
Aristide,” KOD concluded. “They have now put us on the defensive so we don’t
attack them for the crimes they are carrying out in the country.”

On Aug. 18, Dr. Maryse Narcisse, the FL’s national coordinator and now
formal presidential candidate, held a press conference at the Aristide
Foundation where she called the attacks against Aristide “maneuvers and
diversions to distract Haitians from the real problems they face daily.”
Among these, she included the ever-escalating cost of living, the eviction
of hundreds of families in downtown Port-au-Prince, the uprooting of farmers
on Ile-à-Vache, the disaster in the state exam results this year, the
withholding of elections for 4 years, the failure of the El Rancho Accord,
and the spectacular release of Clifford Brandt. She said that the latest
charges of embezzlement and drug-trafficking against Aristide, which are
drawn from a long-discredited politically-motivated report by the
Washington-installed de facto government which took power on the heels of
the Feb. 29, 2004 coup against Aristide, were “fabricated in a laboratory
with the participation of a small group of enemies of democracy.”

“The Lavalas Family continues to demand free, fair, and democratic
elections,” Dr. Narcisse concluded, from which the party “will not allow
itself to be excluded,” as it has been in all elections over the past

“The Haitian people do not accept and will never accept a retrograde,
reactionary power, which has issued from the Macoute Duvalierist ideology,
to use the justice system to persecute an honest citizen who has faithfully
put himself at the service of his people,” said Lionel Etienne, an FL
Executive Committee member and former deputy. FL leaders also called for the
release of the Martelly regime’s political prisoners like Jean Robert
Vincent, Joshua and Enold Florestal, and Louima Louijuste.

Meanwhile, on Aug. 15, Aristide along with several of his lawyers sent a
long letter to the Organization of American States’ Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to lay out numerous reasons why the
legitimacy and “impartiality of Judge Lamarre Bélizaire is far from
established, and the credibility of the judicial system is quite flawed.”
The letter called on the IACHR to “urgently adopt precautionary measures to
safeguard the freedom and rights of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide whose
freedom is seriously threatened by the reckless and arbitrary actions of
Judge Lamarre Bélizaire.”

In Haiti, Aristide’s lawyers have formally asked that Judge Bélizaire be
recused from the case for which he has summoned the former president.

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