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As foreigners ask where aid money went, Haitians turn inward, demanding answers from their own government.
party. “Well we are the peasants, so help us.”
In commemoration of the second anniversary of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake, businesses closed Thursday and Haitians around the country attended church ceremonies. Late in the day, relatives of the deceased attended a memorial at the mass grave site in Titanyen an hour outside the capital to honor the thousands of unidentified bodies that were buried there in the weeks after the earthquake.
Among the several hundred attendees was former president Bill Clinton and former dictator of Haiti Jean-Claude Duvalier who looked on as a large clock was erected, frozen at just before 5 p.m., the time the earthquake struck on Jan. 12, 2010.
Martelly attended the ceremony also, laying a wreath at the site. A few people in the crowd held pink handmade signs bearing his name.
But many Haitians tuned their radios to news stations and pundits, attended university seminars, marched through the streets of the capital demanding housing, and debated their own government’s role in the successes and failures of Haiti’s slow reconstruction.
In an event put on by the grassroots Haitian advocacy group “Noise Travels, News Spreads,” organizers planned to screen a film and lead discussions in a large Port-au-Prince tent camp Thursday night on the subject of how reconstruction funds have been spent.
“The idea is having an activity with the real victims, so they can explain and share their stories with other [displaced persons] and what perspective they have for the future,” said Etant Dupain, director of the organization. “Today we’re going to see people talking about their anger at the way the government is going about the process — they feel excluded, ignored.”
On Wednesday, students and scholars convened at Haiti’s State University for the release of a new book about the political and social forces shaping the earthquake and its aftermath, which was written by over 50 authors and scholars both Haitian and foreign.
“We have all these social problems that endure,” said Blot, who contributed a chapter on last year’s flawed elections. “These are structural problems, housing problems, existed before the earthquake.”
Slow learning curve for Martelly
When Haitian critics blame Martelly for the slow pace of the reconstruction, they tend to focus on his initial refusal to compromise with Haiti’s parliament — a stance they attribute to the former stage performer’s political naiveté.
The president’s lack of familiarity with matters of political process and etiquette have hobbled him from his first days in office.
During the first five months of his tenure, Martelly failed to pass through parliament his nominees for prime minister — a powerful position without which the political body cannot vote on new measures and Haiti’s government essentially does not function. Last year the parliament rejected his first two picks, a business owner with no political experience and a former justice minister who resigned amid charges that he was an accomplice to murder and false imprisonment during his tenure.
Finally in October, the body approved Martelly’s third pick, former UN development official and member of the special envoy to Haiti, Garry Conille.
But the very next month, Martelly again angered legislators when national police arrested a parliamentarian from an opposition party whose name appeared on a list of prisoners who escaped from the national penitentiary on the day of the earthquake — despite immunity granted to lawmakers by Haiti’s constitution.
“The way he’s dealing with parliament, and the way he’s treating the people in this traditional populist way — that shows that politically, I don’t think he’s out to change much,” said Daly Valet, editor of the Haitian newspaper Le Matin.
Today, Martelly faces an uphill battle to convince the parliament to extend the mandate of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, the part government-, part foreign-directed body that governed Haiti for 18 months following the earthquake but has remained dormant since its term expired this October.
And just last week, the lower house of parliament appointed a new speaker who is a radical Martelly opponent and has even called for the president’s impeachment. That is a sign, says Valet, that Martelly’s relationship with Haiti’s legislature may get worse before it improves.
Big progress in education
One year ago Thursday, 31-year-old Islande Vilmeus sat in front of her tent on a hill overlooking the neighborhood where she used to