Tag Archives: haiti

Medina headed for easy reelection in Dominican Republic

Danilo Medina, one of Latin America's most popular leaders, is set for reelection as the president of the Dominican Republic. (Facebook)
Dominican president Danilo Medina, one of Latin America’s most popular leaders, is set for reelection after the May 15 general election. (Facebook)

No one should be surprised that Danilo Medina has easily coasted to reelection in the Dominican Republic’s general election on Sunday.Dominican Republic Flag Icon

As the incumbent president in a country that registered 7% GDP growth last year, Medina is one of the most popular leaders in Latin America or, indeed, even the world. Preliminary results gave Medina over 60% of the vote in Sunday’s general election, with just around 36% for center-right challenger Luis Abinader, a businessman who has never held elective office.

But the real victory for Medina came last year, in June 2015, when he successfully pushed to amend the constitution to allow Dominican presidents to run for reelection.

His predecessor, Leonel Fernández, won reelection in 2008 only after the Dominican Congreso Nacional (National Congress) passed a similar law. It later revoked that law in 2010, however, once again forbidding consecutive reelection.

Fernández, who was first elected to the presidency in 1996, had long been the driving force of the governing Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD, Dominican Liberation Party), which has now extended a period of rule that began with Fernández’s return to the presidency in 2004. When Medina narrowly won the 2012 election, he did so in large part because of Fernández’s enduring popularity. Medina’s running mate, Margarita Cedeño, is Fernández’s wife, and it was widely assumed that Fernández would try for a fourth term again in 2016. Fernández opposed last year’s constitutional changes, alternatively arguing that they should be subject to popular referendum.

* * * * *

RELATED: Race, politics looms behind
potential deportation of Haitian Dominicans

* * * * *

Medina’s push, coupled with a reform to harmonize legislative and presidential voting in the same general election, effectively sidelined the former president, cementing Medina as the central figure in Dominican politics and paving the way forward for his successful reelection bid this year. Continue reading Medina headed for easy reelection in Dominican Republic

Haiti reschedules presidential runoff for January 24

Supporters of Jude Célestin prior to the first-round vote in October. (Facebook)
Supporters of Jude Célestin prior to the first-round vote in October. (Facebook)

What if Haiti rescheduled a presidential election and no one showed up?Haiti

With outgoing president Michel Martelly due to leave office on February 7, the government last week rescheduled a delayed presidential runoff for January 24 — potentially the last possible date, according to government officials, to ensure a smooth transition from Martelly to a successor.

But the legitimacy of the new runoff isn’t assured. The first round’s runner-up has not yet committed to participating in the campaign, given doubts about fraud and unfairness from the prior round, leaving in question the January 24 vote’s integrity. The runoff was also set, after July and October voting, to finalize the composition of a new parliament after nearly a year of legislative vacancy.

The decision leaves banana exporter Jovenel Moïse, the winner of the first round, a political neophyte close to Martelly, as the only candidate running and, accordingly, even more likely to win the runoff. Under such dubious conditions, however, his presidential mandate will be virtually meaningless if the opposition’s supporters boycott the vote in a country where only about one-quarter of all voters even bothered to turn out in the first round in October.   Continue reading Haiti reschedules presidential runoff for January 24

Haiti’s postponed elections mar troubled Martelly administration


It wasn’t supposed to be this way.Haiti

Nearly five years ago, when Haitians elected political newcomer Michel Martelly, a well-known compas singer also known to Haitians as ‘Sweet Micky,’ there was every expectation that a new government, backed by massive amounts of international aid and a renewed commitment to transcend the devastating January 2010 earthquake’s destruction, might finally end Haiti’s cycle of poverty, corruption and dependence.

Instead, nearing the sixth anniversary of that earthquake, tens of thousands of Haitians are still displaced after Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, was leveled. A standoff with Haiti’s congress ultimately delayed 2012 legislative elections for years, forcing Martelly to spend the last year in office governing without a valid legislature in a state of quasi-permanent constitutional crisis.

Elections on August 9 and October 25 were supposed to fix that by electing both houses of the Parlement Haïtien (Haitian Parliament) and the October election was set to select Martelly’s successor. The October voting initially seemed to go well, and the first reports gave no signs of massive fraud or political violence,  both of which have marred elections in recent years.


But as it became clear that the December 27 runoff would feature Martelly’s preferred candidate, Jovenel Moïse, and 2010 contender Jude Célestin, a former minister with close ties to Martelly’s predecessor, René Préval, many of the remaining candidates cried fraud. With protests on the rise, the Haitian government announced last week that it was postponing the December 27 runoff indefinitely pending the report of a five-person electoral commission, hastily appointed by Haitian prime minister Evans Paul last week.

Jean-Charles Moïse, running as something of a newcomer and a fierce critic of the Martelly administration, placed third, and he and Célestin have railed against the government’s allegedly fraud, along with many of the other candidates (54 in total) who failed to make the runoff. Even the initially sanguine reports of international observers gave way to gloomier verdicts about the October vote’s integrity:

Not only were voting procedures inconsistently applied at poorly designed polling stations, the report notes, but the widespread use of observer and political party accreditation led to people voting multiple times and potentially accounts for as much as 60 percent of the 1.5 million votes cast.

Martelly’s administration, however, has little time to investigate and find any conclusions about fraud. Per the terms of the Haitian constitution, Martelly must hand over power to his elected successor on February 7, which means that, according to Paul, the last safe date to hold the runoff is on January 17. Continue reading Haiti’s postponed elections mar troubled Martelly administration

Race politics looms behind potential deportation of Haitian Dominicans


It’s not an exaggeration to say that relations between the two nation-states that occupy the island of Hispaniola have been strained for centuries.Dominican Republic Flag Icon

The Dominican Republic celebrates its national day on February 27, marking not its independence from Spain but the anniversary of the end of the Haitian occupation of 1822 to 1844. The country’s autocratic leader, Rafael Trujillo launched a 1937 military attack on Haitians living near the nebulous border that, even today, remains particularly porous. The attack left an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Haitians dead. Following the assault, known today as the Masacre del Perejil, Trujillo tried to install a puppet government in Haiti.

Joaquín Balaguer, Trujillo’s successor, won a narrow victory in the highly disputed 1994 election in part through attacks on the Haitian ancestry of his opponent José Francisco Peña Gómez. Leonel Fernández, the candidate of the country’s now-dominant Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD, Dominican Liberation Party), which has held power in 15 out of the past 20 years, deployed similar tactics against Peña in 1996.

So racism, both subtle and blatant, against darker-skinned Dominicans of Haitian descent has always been a feature of life in the Dominican Republic.

As Greg Grandin and others are reporting in recent days, the country is gearing up for what might become yet another difficult moment, with up to 500,000 Haitian Dominicans in danger of being deported after June 17 — even though many of them have lived most of their lives in the Dominican Republic, speak Spanish and not Haiti’s French creole and, indeed, have never even set foot on Haitian soil. The debacle has led to a rush of Haitian Dominicans attempting to register for citizenship before today’s deadline, fearing that failure to acquire the right paperwork could result in a massive disruption in their lives.

A decade of setbacks for Haitian Dominicans


The current crisis stems from a December 2011 decision by the Dominican supreme court that affirmed the government’s decision to reject a request from a Dominican-born man for his birth certificate. The ruling’s effect threw into doubt the citizenship of Dominicans born to Haitian immigrants after 1929. Under significant international pressure, Dominican president Danilo Medina (pictured above), a popular leader who now hopes to run for reelection in May 2016, tried to resolve the situation by allowing undocumented Dominicans to register. Continue reading Race politics looms behind potential deportation of Haitian Dominicans

15 in 2015: Fifteen world elections to watch in 2015

2015Photo credit to letyg84 / 123RF.

Over the past 12 months, the world witnessed a pivotal general election in India, presidential elections in Indonesia, congressional midterm elections in the United States, European parliamentary elections and elections (of varying competitiveness) in over a dozen of additional countries in the world, all pivotal in their own ways — Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, South Africa, Japan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, Serbia, Ukraine, Bosnia, Belgium, Sweden and independence referenda in Scotland and Catalunya.

After such a crowded 2014 calendar, it’s not surprising that 2015 will not bring the same volume of electoral activity. But there’s still plenty at stake, especially as volatile oil prices, Chinese economic slowdown and the return of recession in Europe and Japan could stifle global economic potential. The most important of those elections that will determine policy that affects the lives of billions of people worldwide.

Without further ado, here is Suffragio‘s guide to the top 15 elections to watch as 2015 unfolds — beginning in Greece, where the government fell earlier this week.  Continue reading 15 in 2015: Fifteen world elections to watch in 2015

Haiti’s tragic, disgraceful Duvalier era is now over



Many Haitians believed that bad spirits were behind the devastating January 2010 earthquake that leveled Port-au-Prince.Haiti

Those beliefs may  have been confirmed almost a year to the day later when, on January 16, 2011, Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier returned to Haiti after a quarter-century in exile in France, forced from office in 1986 after his family’s nearly three-decade rule of mismanagement, terror and oppression. His return came in the middle of two rounds of the most recent Haitian presidential election, which Michel Martelly, a Haitian singer, won, however improbably, against government favorite Jude Célestin and former first lady Mirlande Manigat.

The best thing that can be said about Duvalier’s death today, at age 63, is that he won’t be alive to interfere in Haiti’s upcoming 2015 presidential election, which can now be conducted without the shadow of perhaps the most pernicious of Haiti’s many unfortunate governments since its 1804 independence.

Unlike many deposed tyrants, Duvalier had the good fortune to die in his native Haiti.

Though he had his supporters, some of whom are too young to remember the brutality of the Duvalier era and some of whom look back with nostalgia on a time of greater security, Duvalier won’t die with much love from among the Haitian people, who are still living with the repercussions of his brutal rule.

His father, François Duvalier, was elected in 1957 on a populist platform and soon took the title of ‘president for life,’ with the support of an abusive and terrorsome rural militia known as the Tonton Macoute and the backing of a pliant US government more concerned about the anti-communist bona fides of its allies during the Cold War than the massive human rights abuses that ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier committed.

When Papa Doc died, suddenly, in 1971, Baby Doc took power at the age of 19. He held power for 15 more years before Haitians revolted, at long last, catalyzed by the brutal deaths of three student activists in Gonaïves in 1985 at the hands of Duvalier government forces. After three decades of exiles, murders and persecution, Haitians simply decided they’d had enough. Duvalier, for his part, lived a lush life in France off the proceeds of three decades of the family’s graft and outright theft.

Two days after he returned to Haiti, he appeared in court to face charges that he pilfered millions in funds. Rumors abounded that his rationale for returning to Haiti in the first place was to lay claim to $4 million in frozen Swiss bank account funds.

Though he was ultimately forced to stand before a court in 2013, the case against Duvalier atrophied under Martelly’s government. Though no autocratic, Martelly’s ministers were always  sympathetic to Duvalier — and less of his opponent, two-time president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who also returned to Haiti from South Africa shortly after Duvalier’s return in March 2011 and who may run once again for the presidency in 2015.

In the years between his return to Haiti and his death, Duvalier spent much of his time carousing in nice restaurants and living in a palatial home in the hills above the Haitian capital, far removed from the desperation and poverty that his 15-year rule helped create.

Though his crimes may have gone unpunished by a woefully inadequate justice system in Haiti, the country, which has faced its share of bad spirits since its 1804 slave-led revolution, will wake up tomorrow with at least one less malicious spirit haunting its future.