In the News: The legality or not of President Martelly’s proposed constitutional changes

Interview with lawyers Mario Joseph and Brian Concannon: How President Martelly’s proposed constitutional changes are illegal

Interview by Kim Ives and Roger Leduc, published in Haiti Liberte, June 14, 2012

Haitian President Joseph Michel Martelly recently announced his intention to publish amendments to Haiti’s 1987 Constitution during the month of June. Once published in the government’s official journal Le Moniteur, laws are supposed to go into effect. But according to Haiti’s existing 1987 Constitution, amendments made during one administration are not supposed to take effect until the following administration.

Martelly’s plan to publish the amendments, which were partially and faultily drafted under Haiti’s last president, René Préval (2006-2011), has provoked a storm of protest among constitutional scholars, lawyers, politicians, and activists who charge that it would be patently illegal. But the U.S. and its allies continue to push Martelly to publish the amendments despite widespread and vehement objections.

On June 7, Kim Ives and Roger Leduc interviewed Mario Joseph, the lead lawyer of the Office of International Lawyers (BAI) based in Port-au-Prince, and lawyer Brian Concannon of the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) on the radio program “Haiti: The Struggle Continues,” broadcast every Thursday from 9 to 10 p.m. on the Pacifica Network’s WBAI-FM in New York (streamed live and archived on What follows is an edited version of that interview. Mario Joseph’s responses in Kreyòl have been translated into English.

Kim Ives: Brian, can you briefly explain what are the key amendments to the Constitution that have been drafted, and what has gone wrong with their publication?

Brian Concannon: One overarching theme which is often lost in this discussion is the whole idea of why you have a constitution. Constitutions are by design hard to amend because they are supposed to set down your bedrock principles that can’t be changed quickly or easily. Constitutions are hard to change, you have to do it with a two-thirds vote, and, in almost all constitutions, you need to do it through some specialized procedure. The basic problem here is that the Haitian Constitution’s drafters made amendments a fairly easy procedure.

The way you’re supposed to do it is this. An outgoing legislature in its last session votes a law, and then the next legislature – which comes in with the next president – votes on the same law, up or down, just after an election, after the people have had an opportunity to have some say. The people get their input by having the elections.

What happened was this: in October 2009, the outgoing legislature voted a law, and then in 2011, a new legislature changed it, making a very different law. The hard part is that nobody really knows what that law is. The legislature claims that it has one version; former President Préval claims that he has another version. There’s lots of problems with both versions, and nobody really knows what’s in both.

A lot of people like some of the proposed changes, like those which allow double nationality and set a goal of 30% participation of women in government. But some of the changes might affect the fundamental democratic structure of the country. For example, the new law allows the president to name local officials instead of having them be elected; it changes the terms of senators and deputies in ways that might suggest the changes should not be made in the haphazard way they’ve been done.

Read the rest at the CHAN website.

In the News: Jean Bertrand Aristide’s Triumphant Return to Haiti

“Wall of humanity” greets former president and family upon their return

by Kim Ives
Published in Socialist Worker, March 23, 2011

Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has returned to the country he was kidnapped from in a U.S.-backed coup just over seven years ago. Despite massive pressure brought to bear by the U.S. government, Aristide boarded a small plane with his family in South Africa on March 17 and arrived in Haiti the next day.

The country he returned to has been ravaged by last year’s massive earthquake and the terrible aftermath, during which the U.S. and its allies broke their promises to provide desperately needed aid. Two months before, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the notorious former dictator who was driven into exile by a mass rebellion in 1986, also returned to Haiti.

Aristide arrived just ahead of a run-off election on March 20 for Haiti’s president that the U.S. hoped would ratify its plans for a country subjugated to Washington’s neoliberal agenda. Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas, was excluded from the election. Results of the run-off were still being calculated on March 22.

Kim Ives, a journalist and editor with Haiti Liberté, returned to Haiti ahead of Aristide’s arrival. He provided this live report from Port-au-Prince via phone to a panel discussion on March 19–the day before the election–at the Left Forum in New York City.

I am standing near a tent camp here in Port-au-Prince. About 1,500 internally displaced people have been living here since just after the earthquake.

This place is a poster child for Haitian poverty and misery. The people here find minimal shelter under scattered tarps and tents, beneath a blazing sun and near a cesspool which floods anytime it rains, sending waste and foul water into people’s tents. It’s a breeding ground for mosquitoes. It’s filled with garbage and stinks to high heaven. It is truly a miserable place.

The tent camp is sandwiched between an assembly factory where many of the residents of this camp work and a food relief operation. That relief operation doesn’t provide enough food for these people. The camp’s residents are practically starving. You see children with swollen bellies mixed with the miserable adults.
Continue reading In the News: Jean Bertrand Aristide’s Triumphant Return to Haiti

In the News: Michel Martelly’s Electoral Coup d’Etat

by Roger Annis, originally posted at Haiti Liberté

Haiti finds itself today with a neo-Duvalierist as President-elect, thanks to a concerted effort by foreign powers to continue thwarting the social justice aspirations of the Haitian people.

Michel Martelly is closely associated with Haiti’s extreme right that twice overthrew elected governments (in 1991 and 2004). He told Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Radio’s The Current on April 7 that Haiti has been “going in the wrong direction for the last 25 years,” which corresponds to the time during which the Haitian people have been trying to overcome the legacies of impunity, dependence, and underdevelopment left to them by the Duvalier tyranny.

Martelly has vowed to reconstitute the notorious Armed Forces of Haiti or FAdH, which former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide disbanded in 1995 due to its penchant for making coup d’états and committing massive human rights violations. Former and would-be soldiers are already training in camps around Haiti and waiting for their call to service.

Martelly also says that Haiti’s economic and social development depends on convincing more foreign investors to set up shop in Haiti, sweatshops in particular.

The two-round election that landed him in power was foreignfunded and inspired. The United States, Canada and Europe paid at least $29 million to finance it. The victor acknowledges his campaign costs – $1 million in the first round and $6 million in the second round – were largely covered by “friends” in the United States. He refuses to say who they are.

Continue reading In the News: Michel Martelly’s Electoral Coup d’Etat

Exagerated Claims: Assessing the Canadian Military’s Haiti Earthquake Response

by Roger Annis
Published in Haiti Liberte, Vol 3 #12, October 6, 2010

For the past several months, the Canadian armed forces have staged speaking events in cities across Canada to vaunt its role in Haiti in the month following the earthquake. Vancouver got its turn on Sept. 17 when one of the commanders of the two warships sent to Haiti shortly after the earthquake spoke at two events.

Commander Josée Kurtz of HMCS Halifax spoke before a small public forum hosted by the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia. For several weeks prior, the Institute featured a large photo display at its entrance of the military's presence in Haiti following the earthquake, a mission it calls Operation Hestia.

Continue reading Exagerated Claims: Assessing the Canadian Military’s Haiti Earthquake Response