His Music Rules in Haiti

Sweet Micky's provocative music moves Haitians with an infectious beat and political overtones

More important, Martelly got his point across: "You guys are saying I am a Macoute. Well, if you want me to be a Macoute, I am a Macoute. Whoever is saying I am a Macoute, I don't care. If you see me as a Macoute, then I'm a Macoute. If you see me as gay, I'm gay. What you think of me is no problem, as far as I am concerned. You have the right to think what you want. I know who I am, and that's the main thing."

Martelly's parade float, piled high with speakers, approached the reviewing stand in front of the National Palace. In past years, under the military regime, Martelly had delighted the crowd by taunting Cedras. He was said to be the only person who could publicly ridicule the coup leaders and get away with it. The democratic government now headed by Pres. Rene Preval would get off no easier.

"Preval!" Martelly called out. "This is the president talking to another president. Don't forget, you're only there for five years. I'm here for life. Because I am in the streets!"

Martelly remembers the scene: "When I got on top of my float I told him, 'President, I want to see you dancing. I don't want to see you dancing with your girlfriend; this would be too easy. I want you to get somebody from the crowd.' And I said, 'Wait, wait, wait. I'm going to choose that bitch,' and I went on top of the float, and I said, 'Hey you, go to the president,' and I said [to Preval], 'Now wait for me. When I tell you to move to the right, you move to the right.'"

To the delight of the crowd, Preval obeyed Martelly's instructions, waggling his hips right and then left and thrusting his pelvis forward and back. "I don't know if it's because I'm a star that the response was always good," Martelly brags. "But Cedras was cool, and Preval was cool."

That particular Carnival would prove to be the high point of Martelly's relationship with the democratic government. This year, Martelly says, the government refused to pay him for his performance at the February Carnival, and he had to raise money from private investors to cover the costs of participating in the three-day street party. On the first day of the festivities, he claims, someone from the government confiscated the key to the truck that was pulling his float, so he couldn't join in the parade. The following day, when Martelly finally passed the reviewing stand, he screamed insults. The government officials were a bunch of thieves, he yelled. "I told the truck driver not to stay around here," he remembers. "I wouldn't play music for these people. They aren't doing anything for the country; they aren't doing anything for nobody."

Lounging on a platform bed that is the center of social activity in their airy split-level home, Martelly and his wife tick off their complaints, shared by many Haitians. There is no electricity. There is no water. Common crime has exploded.

Ensconced in the Port-au-Prince hills, miles above the slums that ring the harbor, the Martellys would appear to be sheltered from the chaos below. Their neighbors are Western diplomats. On one side is the Canadian ambassador. Down the road is Cedras's former home, which had been leased by the U.S. government. The Martellys buy water by the tankful. A private generator provides electricity. An armed security guard watches the gate.

But even in Petionville, they can't escape the ubiquitous poverty or the sense that the country is heading toward anarchy. Even in this hillside city the roads are unpaved. The streets that do have asphalt are in shabby condition. The poor live side by side with the wealthy, crammed into subdivided homes that have been converted into suburban shantytowns.

"A lot of people have kids that study under the light poles in the streets," Sophia notes. "If there's no power they can't study. It's a vicious circle."

"We are going down the drain, and I don't know how far we have to get before we start thinking straight," Martelly declares. "How far are we going to go? There's no more forest in Haiti. It doesn't rain in Haiti any more. Who is going to take care of that? Haiti doesn't produce anything. We produce rocks. The good land is eroding. There is nothing being done to keep it. So we only have rocks everywhere. No trees, nothing."

"People still believe in black magic here. They believe in Vodou and stuff like that. This is all bullshit. It has to do with our culture. We have to respect some stuff. There are vibes coming from these things, okay. But if that was [effective], why didn't people use Vodou to find water, food and stuff? You have to be real. You need to have power and telephones. We don't even have that -- I can buy a generator. But you need money for diesel to put in the generator. Which means the rich can survive, but nothing is being done to help the country itself. I won't say the poor, because everyone is going to die someday. It's not the people, it's the country [that needs to be saved]. We may not be able to save people who are sick and dying, but let's save their children. Let's save the next generation."

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