Haitian President Michel Martelly waves to supporters in Port-au-Prince.
Haitian President Michel Martelly waves to supporters in Port-au-Prince.
George Martinez

Local Activists Outraged That Former Haitian President Martelly Will Perform in Miami Today

Michel Martelly's career has been weird as hell. He went from performing as a misogynistic, rum-drinking singer wearing adult diapers onstage as the pop star "Sweet Micky" to somehow morphing into a repressive and allegedly corrupt Haitian president. In hindsight, his rise has been "proto-Trumpian." And now he's out of office and back performing as Sweet Micky.

Today is Haitian Flag Day, and Martelly plans to power through his Sweet Micky oeuvre at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex at 6 p.m. But given that he took a multiyear detour into being a world leader with a pretty awful human-rights record, a group of prominent Haitian-American activists has sent Miami Mayor Francis Suarez an open letter asking him to rescind Martelly's invitation to the Magic City. The group also plans to protest outside the performance venue tonight.

"The Haitian-American Community of Miami is outraged that city resources will be used to host former Haitian President Michel Martelly during the Haitian Heritage month celebrations this Friday," reads the letter, signed by dozens of leaders. "President Martelly’s actions during his five years in office (2010-2015) brought disrepute to the office of president and inflicted lasting harm to the dignity of Haitians in Haiti and in Miami. He is not an appropriate representative of Haitian culture and is a poor model for our youth."

Mutliple Haitian-American activists have endorsed the message, including Marleine Bastien, head of Fanm Ayisyen nan Miyami in Little Haiti.

The letter runs through a laundry list of awful things Martelly did while in office, from threatening to rape and/or beat up women to suspending elections to arresting political opponents. New Times interviewed Martelly in 2011 just after he won the election — even then, critics warned that Martelly was running as a "right-wing populist" with a history of hanging out with paramilitary thugs and supporting various political coups. In just one instance, Martelly was filmed on the campaign trail calling his opponents "faggots" and threatening to murder Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former leftist president, by "sticking a dick up his ass."

Those warnings proved prophetic. Martelly was elected after a chaotic round of voting marked by what Time magazine described as "chaos." He then promised to reinstate the Haitian military (frightening activists who had been abused by the former military under dictators such as François "Papa Doc" Duvalier); was accused of accepting millions in bribes; and canceled a round of parliamentary elections in 2014. (Martelly ruled by decree for a brief period because he no longer had a functioning parliament.) The next October, he was accused of massive voter fraud, suppression, intimidation, and outright political violence during the first round of elections the country had seen since he took office.

If all of that weren't enough, Martelly then canceled the election and refused to recognize it, plunging the nation into a brief period of chaos. For a short time, he refused to leave office before resigning after pressure from street protests became too great.

In the meantime, Martelly was accused of botching the country's recovery from the 2010 earthquake and subsequent cholera outbreak. He also repeatedly imprisoned his political opponents and said some truly awful stuff about women. In 2015, he stood onstage and told a female protester that he would have broken her jaw if he weren't president and also infamously told her to "go get a man and go into the bushes" to have sex instead of complaining about his tenure as president. (The sexism scandal pushed multiple government members to resign.)

In 2016, he released an offensive song called "Give Her the Banana" about Liliane Pierre-Paul, an award-winning journalist and frequent critic of Martelly's regime. The song depicted Martelly as a doctor sexually assaulting Pierre-Paul:

Take it out and put it in her behind!
Give her a banana!
Give her a banana with no skin!
Give her a banana with the skin on!

So, yeah. Lots of people are pissed Martelly will be in town tonight, especially at a city-owned property such as the Little Haiti Cultural Complex.

"It is unacceptable for Sounds of Little Haiti to take money from developers, at a time when Haitian families and businesses are being pushed out of Little Haiti, one of the fastest gentrified areas in the country today, to pay Sweet Micky to perform on May 18th," the letter reads. "It is a disgrace especially after Michel Martelly and his family emptied Haiti’s coffers shamelessly during his presidency, and violated the human rights of so many, including workers fighting for minimum wage."

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