Haiti: Lavalas expels two populist politicians

Division and confusion marred Dec. 16 celebrations by Haiti's Lavalas Family (FL) party in Port-au-Prince to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the overwhelming 1990 electoral victory of the party's founder, former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). Hundreds of FL supporters marched from the site of the St. Jean Bosco church, where Aristide served as a priest in the 1980s, to the Jean Aristide Foundation in the northeastern suburb of Tabarre. But participants reported that when party coordinator Maryse Narcisse tried to speak, she was drowned out by supporters of Senator Moïse Jean-Charles and Deputy Arnel Bélizaire, two populist members of Haiti's Parliament. Following a dispute over planning for a November demonstration, the FL executive committee announced Dec. 2 that the party "protests with all its might against any public declaration" from Jean-Charles and Bélizaire, describing them as "some people who present themselves as Lavalas Family members."

Jean-Charles, a senator from the North department, ran on the line of the Unity party of former president René Préval (1996-2001, 2006-2011) in 2010 elections from which FL was excluded, but he says he was previously twice elected mayor of the town of Milot as an FL candidate. He has been a prominent speaker at FL-dominated demonstrations against current president Michel Martelly. Deputy Bélizaire was elected to Parliament as a candidate of the Veye Yo ("Watch Them") party, which ran FL politicians when the FL was excluded.

Charles reacted angrily to his de facto expulsion from the FL, charging on the radio that the party had been taken over by a "macouto-bourgeois group" (a reference to the Tontons Macoute, a paramilitary force used by the 1957-1986 Duvalier family dictatorship). He also claimed that FL coordinator Narcisse formerly worked for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) along with President Martelly’s wife, Sophia Martelly. The senator said he had asked Aristide himself to intervene. According to Jean-Charles, Aristide answered: "I am no longer involved in politics." (Haïti Liberté, Dec. 12, via Before It’s News; AlterPresse, Haiti, Dec. 16)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, January 12.