Haiti: Martelly harasses opponents, gets award

Haitian investigative judge Sonel Jean François ordered political activist Rony Timothée provisionally released on June 4 while an inquiry continued into charges that he had set fire to a vehicle and incited others to crime during a May 14 demonstration against the government of President Michel Martelly. Timothée—a spokesperson for the Patriotic Force for Respect for the Constitution (FOPARC), which backs the Family Lavalas (FL) party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004)—was arrested by armed civilians on May 17 with a misdated warrant and was held in prison in Arcahaie, a town some 30 km north of Port-au-Prince, starting on May 19. Judge François is also investigating two other defendants in the case, Assad Volcy and Buron Odigé.

"Everyone knows that Timothée's arrest was of a political nature," his attorney, André Michel, told the online news agency AlterPresse on June 4. "He had the good luck to appear before an independent judge," Michel added, contrasting Timothée's treatment to the situation of two other clients, Enold and Josué Florestal, who have been imprisoned since August 2013. Another opposition figure has also faced government harassment. Moïse Jean-Charles, a senator for North department, was attacked by national police agents on May 8 as he was returning to Port-au-Prince from a funeral for another activist, Fritz Gérald Civil, at Miragoâne in Nippes department. On May 30 the senator was barred from visiting Timothée at the Arcahaie prison, and several witnesses say he was attacked by guards at the prison. (AlterPresse, May 30, May 5, May 9)

On June 19 President Martelly attended a black-tie fundraiser in midtown New York to receive an award for work in education from the Happy Hearts Fund, a foundation that builds schools in areas hit by natural disasters. Former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001) was honored at the same event for his work as the top United Nations (UN) envoy for the Indian Ocean tsunami recovery effort. The event, which reportedly raised $2.5 million, featured business leaders, fashion models and entertainment figures. At one point Martelly, formerly a singer of Haitian konpa music under the stage name "Sweet Micky," joined with Haitian-born rapper Wyclef Jean to perform Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry." The Happy Hearts Fund's founder, the model Petra Nemcova, is romantically involved with Martelly's prime minister, Laurent Lamothe.

Some 40-50 New York-area Haitians and their supporters protested outside on 42nd Street for about three hours, chanting "Where is the money?" from behind barricades as celebrities like fashion designer Donna Karan entered the event. Billions of dollars were raised for relief efforts after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated much of southern Haiti in January 2010, but Haitians say very little seemed to reach them. Bill Clinton headed the now-defunct Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), an international group charged with monitoring the funds. (Wall Street Journal online, June 20; report from Update editor)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 22.