Archives For Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly

Two years after the disastrous earthquake that left large areas of Haiti in ruins, most stories focus on the homeless camps slowly clearing outpositive signs of new construction, and the sometimes-contentious presidency of Michel Martelly. In June, President Michel Martelly signed an amended version of the Haiti’s constitution. This new version of their constitution grants voting rights to Haitians with dual citizenship, something long desired by the large Haitian diaspora which provides Haiti with around 20% of its GDP. It also reforms how elections are run, though some say the changes are “unworkable from the start.” But does this amended constitution also eliminate constitutional protections to the religion of Vodou?

A 1935 Haitian law effectively outlawed the practice of Vodou as superstitious, noting that  ”ceremonies, rituals, dances and meetings during which it is practiced as an offering to the alleged deities, of sacrifices of livestock or poultry” could land a Haitian in prison, and fined (here’s an interesting article on the tensions from which that law arose). This law was explicitly abrogated in Haiti’s 1987 constitution, and in 2003 Vodou was recognized as an official religion in Haiti, meaning it enjoyed the same rights and legal protections as the politically dominant Catholic Church. Now, according to Euvonie Auguste, Head of the National Confederation of Haitian Vodou (KNVA), this newly amended constitution explicitly removes the 1987 abrogation of the 1935 anti-Vodou law, leaving Vodouisants open to possible legal persecution once more (also reported by Religion Clause).

“Voodoo would be no longer protected by the Constitution amended. The Priestess Euvonie Auguste, Head of the National Confederation of voodoo in Haiti, deplores the abrogation of Article 297 of the Constitution which, accrding to her protected the sector voodoo against all forms of discrimination. Recall that Article 297 abrogated amongst other things the Decree-Law of 5 September 1935 on superstitious beliefs that restricted arbitrarily the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens. Given this new constitutional situation, the priestess Euvonie Augustus, stated that now, the vodoo practitioners will have to use their own means to protect themselves from any attacks against them.

Any immediate government crack-down on Vodou seems unlikely. We know that Haitian President Michel Martelly wants to build a tourism industry around Vodou, with Martelly telling the United Nations:  “Do you know how many people would like to come to Haiti and try to understand what Voodoo is?” Haiti’s tourism minister, Stéphanie Balmir Villedrouin, is already utilizing the allure of Vodou to boost ambitious plans for a new tourism industry for the island nation. So arresting people for engaging in a faith you’re hoping curious tourists will come and investigate seems counterproductive. That said, Haiti can be a politically volatile place, and Vodou has often been an convenient scapegoat for the nation’s problems. This was in full evidence right after the earthquake, when a number of political commentators decided it was Vodou that mired Haiti in poverty.

“As Lawrence E. Harrison explained in his book “The Central Liberal Truth,” Haiti, like most of the world’s poorest nations, suffers from a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences. There is the influence of the voodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile. There are high levels of social mistrust. Responsibility is often not internalized. Child-rearing practices often involve neglect in the early years and harsh retribution when kids hit 9 or 10. We’re all supposed to politely respect each other’s cultures. But some cultures are more progress-resistant than others, and a horrible tragedy was just exacerbated by one of them.” – David Brooks, The New York Times

In addition, there is a long history of Christian missionaries working to eliminate the faith, using coercive conversion tactics, along with serious accusations that missionaries have stirred up anti-Vodou violence. So it is important that the nation have protections for Vodou, lest it fall victim to the capricious whims of any of the groups that would prefer to see it go extinct.

At this point there are several unanswered questions: does the amended 2011 constitution protect religious freedom for all Haitians? Does the 1935 anti-Vodou law now stand, or is it no longer applicable? Why was article 297 struck down in the new constitution? I have yet to find a copy of the amended constitution on the Internet, which might help answer some of these questions. Right now, some Haitian commentators do indeed see these changes as a repressive move by the current government. Once I have more information, I’ll post an update.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

The unofficial results are in from Haiti’s March 20th run-off presidential election and it looks like Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly has secured the necessary percentage of votes in order to become that country’s next leader. The president-elect has already sent out a conciliatory gesture of Haitian unity by inviting Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, both recently returned to Haiti from exile, to his inauguration. The former singer received support from musician (and would-be candidate) Wyclef Jean, and his Fugees bandmate Pras, during the election.

Martelly and former US president Bill Clinton

“For me, Mr. Martelly is a clear departure from the status quo … a man with a vision for the future of Haiti, who listens to young voices,” said Jean, whose own bid to run for the Haitian presidency was blocked on ineligibility grounds.

President-elect Martelly also seems very friendly to, and supportive of, the Vodou community in Haiti. Early on Pras noted that Martelly had the support of the “voodoo guys” in Haiti, and one of Martelly’s closest advisors and supporters in Haiti has been Richard Auguste Morse, a former musician and businessman who was initiated as a Vodou Houngan (priest) in 2002. In a recent interview with AllHipHop.com, Martelly made explicit Vodou’s important cultural and fiscal role in Haiti’s future.

“Even though the country is predominantly Christian, we need to accept voodoo as part of our culture, for example. It’s a very mysterious thing. People tend to want to learn more about it. And we need to utilize it within the tourism industry. There is a thing called “The Ceremony at Bois Caïmans,” which was the ceremony that started the slave revolt that lead to Haiti’s independence. We should have, like a Broadway show so people all over the world could come and see “La Ceremonie du Bois Caïmans.” We need to exploit these things, we need to exploit our history and our past because it’s a great past! It’s like we don’t know who we are. We need to restore pride, and for this, we can’t do it alone.”

However, the candidacy and election of Martelly hasn’t come without controversy, many have accused him of being a “stealth Duvalierist,” though supporters claim too much is being made of those connections.

“You have to take [the friendship with Michel Francois] out of the political context,” says Gesner Champagne, a childhood buddy who married Martelly’s wife’s sister. “You might like the conversation you have with that person. You might like the good time you have with that person. It doesn’t have to be political. You just like the guy.”

What is clear is that Martelly has had political ambitions for some time, and now they are realized. Whether he becomes a positive change-agent from outside the fractured political system, or has “the makings of an autocrat,” remains to be seen.