Haiti: The Fanmi Lavalas political party, including its leaders, political platform, geographic reach and activities; its relationship with the government; whether the party has ties to criminal gangs [HTI105745.FE]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Leaders of Fanmi Lavalas

According to the Political Handbook of the World 2015 (PHW), the leaders of Fanmi Lavalas (FL) are “Jean-Bertrand Aristide (Former President of the Republic; under house arrest [in] 2014), Luis Gérard-Gilles (2006 presidential candidate), Maryse Narcisse (Head of Executive Council and 2015 presidential candidate) [and] Joel Vorbe” (2015). In correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, a lawyer at the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), a non-profit organization that supports “the Haitian people in their struggle to achieve universal human rights, access to a just legal system, social justice, a society without violence, and the right to participate fully in choosing their government” (IJDH n.d.), stated that the “leader for life” of the FL is Jean Bertrand Aristide, that the formal coordinator is Maryse Narcisse and that the executive committee “includes (or has recently included) Dr. Gérard Gilles, Yvon Feuillé, Joel Edouard “Pasha” Vorbe, Dr. Schiller Louidor and Claude Roumain” (ibid. 2 Feb. 2017). The same source wrote that Leslie Voltaire is also a close advisor to the party (ibid.). Similarly, in a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, the Director [1] of Défenseurs Plus, an organization for the promotion and defence of human rights in Haiti (HPN 7 Apr. 2016), stated that Jean-Bertrand Aristide is the national representative and founder of the FL political organization and that Maryse Narcisse is the national coordinator of the FL and ran as a candidate in the last presidential election (Director 27 Jan. 2017). In an article published by the Agence haïtienne de presse (AHP), a local news agency that publishes daily news releases in English and in French (AHP n.d.), Louis Gerald Gilles is described as one of the members of the executive committee of the FL (28 Oct. 2015).

2. Political Platform and Program of the FL

The Lawyer at IJDH wrote that the FL’s political platform is “basically Social Democrat” (2 Feb. 2017). With regard to the ideologies and programs of the presidential candidates, Roromme Chantal, professor at the School of Public Studies (École des hautes études publiques) of the University of Moncton, told Le Devoir that [translation] “Maryse Narcisse, more in line with the leftist traditions of her party Fanmi Lavalas, promised social projects such as the construction of public housing, schools and hospitals” (Le Devoir 23 Nov. 2016). Similarly, according to an article published by the AHP, Maryse Narcisse [translation] “indicated that building housing has always been a priority for Fanmi Lavalas” (21 Sept. 2016).

According to an article published by Le Nouvelliste, Maryse Narcisse spoke publically at an event in Jacmel on Sunday 25 September 2016 and pledged to provide 24hour electricity to the population in the communes of Jacmel, Cayes-Jacmel and Marigot, and to work on getting access for other communes in the South-East that are without electricity (Le Nouvelliste 26 Sept. 2016). The same source reports that Maryse Narcisse promised to continue the road construction projects [translation] “going from the South department to Anse-à-Pître in the South-East department,” initiated by the “former Lavalas administration” (ibid.).

An article posted on the blog of Maryse Narcisse’s official website indicates the following with respect to the education program of the FL:

[translation]

The Fanmi Lavalas government, through its program adapted to the needs of the community, will provide school children with the opportunity to learn a trade. […] The new Fanmi Lavalas government is also committed to reducing the rate of school dropouts and illiteracy, as it has done in the past. It will therefore give all our schools the chance to gradually take in out-of-school children. At the same time, literacy centres will open their doors again in all our communal sections. (Fanmi Lavalas 54 n.d.)

For more information on the political platform of the FL, as presented by Maryse Narcisse, consult the article attached to this Response, which was published in 2016 by AlterPresse, a Haitian alternative information network (AlterPresse n.d.).

3. Geographic Reach of the FL

According to the final results published by the Provisional Electoral Council (Conseil électoral provisoire, CEP) of Haiti, which is [translation] “responsible for organizing and independently monitoring the conduct of all elections in the country” (CEP n.d.a.), Maryse Narcisse won 95,765 votes in the first round of the presidential election of 20 November 2016, or 9.01 percent of the votes cast (ibid. 3 Jan. 2017). According to the same source, two members of the FL were elected in the second round of the legislative by-election in the electoral districts of Cabaret and Port-au-Prince (1st), in the West department, with 59.19 percent (ibid. 29 Dec. 2016) and 32.81 percent of the votes, respectively (ibid. 31 Dec. 2016). According to a document entitled [translation] “Breakdown of Votes” released by the CEP, Maryse Narcisse obtained the most votes in the presidential election in the West and South departments, with 61,111 votes (6.00 percent) and 13,124 votes (1.29 percent), respectively (ibid. n.d.b.).

The Director of Défenseurs Plus explained that the FL is a [translation] “working-class” organization in Haiti and that it is represented nationally (27 Jan. 2017). Similarly, the Lawyer at IJDH explained that the FL has members and supporters throughout the ten geographic departments but that its strongest base is in Port-au-Prince and its metropolitan area (2 Feb. 2017). An article published by Le Nouvelliste states the following with respect to the FL’s election campaign during the 2016 presidential election:

[translation]

Many neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince, such as La Saline, Delmas 2, St-Martin, Solino, Bel-Air, Fort-National and Cité Soleil, were visited by the convoy of Fanmi Lavalas officials. In these communities, the Lavalas leaders attracted, as usual, many people who applaud Titid [Aristide] and Maryse. (7 Oct. 2016)

4. Activities of the FL

The Lawyer at IJDH stated that the FL has a radio and television station (Radio et Télévision Timoun) and organizes regular meetings and rallies at the Aristide Foundation for Democracy in Tabarre, as well as “regular, large and spirited” demonstrations (IJDH 2 Feb. 2017). The same source explained that the University of the Aristide Foundation (Université de la Fondation Aristide, UNIFA), which is “closely associated with the party [FL],” includes a medical school, law school and computer sciences school (ibid.).

According to an article published in 2016 by Le Nouvelliste, in October 2016 the FL collected [translation] “big ‘adoquains,’ coins worth 5 gourdes, to facilitate [its] disaster relief mission […] for victims of the hurricane [Matthew]” (7 Oct. 2016). The AHP reports that the FL launched [translation] “a massive solidarity campaign” for the victims of Hurricane Matthew (AHP 5 Oct. 2016). The same source states that Maryse Narcisse encouraged citizens to make donations of clothing, medicine, building materials or drinking water to the Aristide Foundation headquarters in Tabarre (ibid.).

Sources report that the FL organized a summer school in July 2013 under the theme “For a Society without Exclusion,” to discuss the country’s socio-political and economic issues (HaïtiLibre 4 July 2013; Haitian Truth 5 July 2013; Le Nouvelliste 3 July 2013). Sources indicate that charitable activities were planned during that event to help people in need (ibid.; HaïtiLibre 4 July 2013).

An article published by the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), an independent, non-profit organization whose mission is to provide information and analysis on Latin America and the Caribbean (NACLA n.d.a.), states that Aristide, as president, worked closely with Lavalas to institute programs to promote literacy, improve health care and include the country’s poor in national politics (ibid. n.d.b.).

5. Relationship Between the FL and the Government

According to the Lawyer at IJDH, the FL had a “decent” relationship with the government, but it has deteriorated recently as the FL has organized demonstrations to protest the election every day since 21 November 2016 (2 Feb. 2017). Similarly, the Director of Défenseurs Plus stated that Maryse Narcisse is challenging the last presidential election (27 Jan. 2017). An article published by HaïtiLibre, an Internet site that focuses on news, issues and reactions among Haitians (HaïtiLibre n.d.), states as follows:

[translation]

Following, among other things, the demonstrations by Fanmi Lavalas activists, supporters and sympathizers that materialized on Monday and Tuesday to protest against a so-called electoral coup d’état and to demand respect for the ballots, convinced of the victory of their candidate Maryse Narcisse[,] Camille Junior Edouard, the Ministry of Justice and Public Security “strongly condemns all the threats and acts of intimidation that have taken place in the last 48 hours.” (ibid. 23 Nov. 2016)

Similarly, an article published by the BBC states that police clashed with supporters of presidential candidate Maryse Narcisse who were awaiting the election results (BBC 23 Nov. 2016). The same source states that FL supporters threw rocks and set tires alight in Port-au-Prince on 21 and 22 November 2016 (ibid.). Sources report that FL supporters held demonstrations in the streets of Port-au-Prince on 22 November 2016 and that police used tear gas (Le Monde 22 Nov. 2016; AlterPresse 22 Nov. 2016). According to AlterPresse, [translation] “there were reports of heavy fire in the working-class neighbourhood of Solino, as well as burning tires in Delmas 2” (ibid.). According to Le Monde, during that demonstration, a fire was started in the middle of the street in the neighbourhood of Saint Martin and residents threw rocks at passing cars (22 Nov. 2016). AlterPresse writes that the government urged police [translation] “to prosecute anyone who incites violence, particularly through false alarms, following the election of 20 November 2016” (22 Nov. 2016). The Lawyer at IJDH explained that FL demonstrators have reported that the police repeatedly used excessive force, resulting in several injuries and deaths during the demonstrations (2 Feb. 2017).

Sources report that an arrest warrant was issued against Aristide on allegations of corruption, drug trafficking and money laundering or embezzlement (PHW 2015; Le Figaro 13 Aug. 2014). Sources state that Jean-Bertrand Aristide was under house arrest in 2014 (VOA 29 Aug. 2016; Perspective Monde 23 Sept. 2014). According to the Lawyer at IJDH, there is fear of repression among opposition parties such as the FL (IJDH 2 Feb. 2017). The same source pointed out that Aristide has been summoned to testify in a criminal investigation from several years ago (ibid.). The Lawyer at IJDH stated that “[t]here is a fear of judicial persecution and threats to party leaders and human rights defenders by this incoming government based on practices under President Martelly’s administration” (ibid.). The same source noted that this fear extends to activists and leaders of the FL (ibid.). Further corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The Lawyer at IJDH wrote the following with regard to the relationship between the FL party and the government:

Presently the party rejects the legitimacy of the elected president Jovenel Moise, saying he came to power through voter fraud and an “electoral coup d’état.” Nonetheless, some Lavalas leaders in the provinces have recently supported candidates of Moise’s party, the PHTK [Haitian Tèt Kale Party], such as in the departments of the South and Center. Gerard Gilles in late December [2016] […] posed for pictures with PHTK founder and former president Michel Martelly. Officially, however, the party is politically opposed to the government. (ibid)

According to the Director of Défenseurs Plus, the interim president [Jocelerme Privert] was the Minister of the Interior from 2001 to 2004, when the FL was in power (Director 27 Jan. 2017). The same source stated that a number of ministers in the current government are former FL members and share its ideology (ibid.). According to the Director of Défenseurs Plus, [translation] “the FL is therefore very close to the government” (ibid.). Similarly, an article published by Le Nouvelliste states that Gervais Charles, formerly one of the closest legal advisors of the Martelly government, has become the lawyer for the FL party (15 Feb. 2016). An article published by the Centre for Research on Globalization (Centre de recherche sur la mondialisation, CRM), a website that provides information on major news themes (CRM n.d.), states that the executive committee of the FL has remained completely mute on the crimes, [of corruption in particular], of the Martelly government (ibid. 12 Dec. 2013). The same source reports that Maryse Narcisse released a statement in 2013 saying that the FL was opposed to Martelly stepping down before the end of his term (ibid.). The statement was released around the same time as masses took to the streets to demand Martelly’s resignation, following a scandal involving the death of a judge responsible for investigating Martelly’s wife and son for corruption (ibid.).

6. Ties Between the FL and Criminal Gangs

No information concerning a relationship between the FL and a criminal gang was found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Some sources mention armed gangs called chimè, supporters of Aristide who are responsible for [translation] “acts of terror” (Relations Mar. 2003) or young gangsters who supported Aristide when he returned to power in the early 2000s (Géopolis 21 Oct. 2015). An article published in 2006 by the National Human Rights Defense Network (Réseau national de défense des droits humains, RNDDH), an NGO involved in human rights education and the monitoring of human rights violations in Haiti (RNDDH n.d.), states that the authorities resulting from the presidential and senatorial elections in November 2000, the election in which Aristide was elected president, [translation] “used armed groups to intimidate their opponents” in order to stay in power (ibid. 5 Feb. 2006). Similarly, sources report that in 2014 when the former ambassador of France in Haiti, Thierry Bukard, testified during the trial of Amaral Duclona, the head of a Haitian gang, he stated that the chimères, [translation] “armed by the [former] regime [of Aristide], had their connections at the presidential palace, from which they took their directions and were paid” (HaïtiLibre 21 May 2014; Le Huffington Post 20 May 2014).

However, according to the Director of Défenseurs Plus, the term chimères is not [translation] “appropriate” because it is considered “discriminatory or pejorative” (Director 27 Jan. 2017). The same source explained that the term refers to people who are excluded or frustrated; whose socio-economic rights are very precarious; who have an upbringing marked by brutality; who, for example, throw rocks and participate in violent demonstrations (ibid.). According to the Director of Défenseurs Plus, these individuals declare themselves to be FL supporters and identify with this political organization (ibid.). The same source stated that the FL is aware of this and accepts it (ibid.). Similarly, according to an article published by NACLA, the term chimes [chimères], used to describe young slum dwellers, some of them members of street gangs, who came to the defence of the beleaguered government, is frequently used as a slur by elites to demonize and disparage Aristide supporters (n.d.b.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Note

[1] The Director of Défenseur Plus identifies himself as a lawyer and human rights advocate. The information he provided is his personal view.

References

Agence haïtienne de presse (AHP). 5 October 2016. “Fanmi Lavalas lance une vaste campagne de solidarité avec les victimes de l’ouragan Matthew.” [Accessed 31 Jan. 2017]

Agence haïtienne de presse (AHP). 21 September 2016. “Une caravane de milliers de partisans de Fanmi Lavalas avec à bord la candidate à la présidence et l’ancien président Aristide a parcouru plusieurs quartiers de la capitale ce mercredi : promesses entre autres de reconstruction de milliers de maisons détruites dans le centre-ville sous Martelly.” [Accessed 31 Jan. 2017]

Agence haïtienne de presse (AHP). 28 October 2015. “Fraudes après la fermeture des bureaux de vote : les partis politiques se mobilisent et annoncent des manifestations jusqu'au 3 novembre pour empêcher le détournement du vote de la population en faveur du candidat du pouvoir.” [Accessed 31 Jan. 2017]

Agence haïtienne de presse (AHP). N.d. “Présentation de l’AHP.” [Accessed 7 Feb. 2017]

AlterPresse. 22 November 2016. “Haïti-Élections : Poursuite des manifestations de Fanmi Lavalas, malgré une mise en garde légale et institutionnelle.” [Accessed 30 Jan. 2017]

AlterPresse. N.d. “Qui sommes-nous?” [Accessed 1 Feb. 2017]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 23 November 2016. “Haiti police clash with protesters awaiting poll results.” [Accessed 30 Jan. 2017]

Centre de recherche sur la mondialisation (CRM). 12 December 2013. “Haiti: Aristide’s Party Fanmi Lavalas Taken Over by ‘Macouto-Bourgeois Group’.” [Accessed 1 Feb. 2017]

Centre de recherche sur la mondialisation (CRM). N.d. “À propos.” [Accessed 1 Feb. 2017]

Conseil électoral provisoire (CEP). 3 January 2017. “Premier tour de l’élection présidentielles résultats définitifs.” [Accessed 27 Jan. 2017]

Conseil électoral provisoire (CEP). 31 December 2016. “Deuxième tour élections législatives complémentaire député rsultats définitifs.” [Accessed 27 Jan. 2017]

Conseil électoral provisoire (CEP). 29 December 2016. “Deuxième tour élections législatives complémentaire député résultats définitifs.” [Accessed 27 Jan. 2017]

Conseil électoral provisoire (CEP). N.d.a. “Mission.” [Accessed 1 Feb. 2017]

Conseil électoral provisoire (CEP). N.d.b. “Ventilation des votes par départements.” [Accessed 2 Feb. 2017]

Director, Défenseurs Plus, Haiti. 27 January 2017. Telephone interview with the Research Directorate.

Le Devoir. 23 November 2016. “Dans la présidentielle, la ‘bataille des ex’.” [Accessed 23 Jan. 2017]

Le Figaro. 13 August 2014. “Haïti : mandat d’arrêt contre l’ex-président.” With Agence France-Presse. [Accessed 23 Jan. 2017]

Fanmi Lavalas 54. N.d. “Fanmi Lavalas vers un système éducatif efficace.” [Accessed 23 Jan. 2017]

Géopolis. 21 October 2015. “Haïti : Cité Soleil, le bidonville dont se jouent gangs et politiciens.” [Accessed 24 Jan. 2017]

Haitian Truth. 5 July 2013. “Fanmi Lavalas Organizes Summer School to Orient Party for Elections.” [Accessed 25 Jan. 2017]

HaïtiLibre. 23 November 2016. “Haïti - Élections : manifestations, le Ministre de la Justice condamne avec force.” [Accessed 31 Jan. 2017]

HaïtiLibre. 21 May 2014. “Haïti - Justice : deuxième jour du procès d’Amaral Duclona.” [Accessed 1 Feb. 2017]

HaïtiLibre. 4 July 2013. “Haïti - Politique : Fanmi Lavalas se prépare dans la perspective des prochaines élections.” [Accessed 25 Jan. 2017]

HaïtiLibre n.d. “Pourquoi HaïtiLibre?” [Accessed 20 Jan. 2017]

Haiti Press Network (HPN). 7 April 2016. “Haïti - Journée mondiale de la Santé : ‘Défenseurs Plus’ en appelle à la 50e législature.” [Accessed 1 Feb. 2017]

Le Huffington Post. 20 May 2014. “Procès d’un chef de gang haïtien : le régime d’Aristide en accusation à Paris.” [Accessed 1 Feb. 2017]

Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). 2 February 2017. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate by a lawyer at IJDH.

Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). N.d. “About.” [Accessed 6 Feb. 2017]

Le Monde. 22 November 2016. “Haïti : deux partis revendiquent la victoire à l’élection présidentielle.” [Accessed 20 Jan. 2017]

North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA). N.d.a. “About Us.” [Accessed 31 Jan. 2017]

North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA). N.d.b. “The Fanmi Lavalas Political Project.” Jeb Sprague. [Accessed 25 Jan. 2017]

Le Nouvelliste. 7 October 2016. “Fanmi Lavalas clôt sa campagne électorale par une collecte de fonds….” [Accessed 23 Jan. 2017]

Le Nouvelliste. 26 September 2016. “Maryse Narcisse accompagnée de Jean-Bertrand Aristide en campagne dans le Sud-Est.” [Accessed 23 Jan. 2017]

Le Nouvelliste. 15 February 2016. “Le pire ennemi de Martelly c’était Martelly lui-même.” [Accessed 1 Feb. 2017]

Le Nouvelliste. 3 July 2013. “Fanmi Lavalas lance son université d’été.” [Accessed 30 Jan. 2017]

Perspective monde. 23 September 2014. “Mandat d’arrestation contre Aristide : la continuité d’un parcours controversé.” Sandrine Jouis. [Accessed 23 Jan. 2017]

Political Handbook of the World 2015 (PHW). 2015. Edited by Thomas Lansford. Washington, DC. [Accessed 20 Jan. 2017]

Relations. March 2003. L’impasse Lavalas. Franklin Midy. No. 683. [Accessed 23 Jan. 2017]

Réseau national de défense des droits humains (RNDDH). 5 February 2006. “Rapport préliminaire de l’observation des joutes électorales du 7 février 2006.” [Accessed 23 Jan. 2017]

Réseau national de défense des droits humains (RNDDH). N.d. “Vision & Mission.” [Accessed 1 Feb. 2017]

Voice of America (VOA). 29 August 2016. “Aristide Joins Haiti Rally to Urge Voters to Back Candidate.” [Accessed 23 Jan. 2017]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Associate professor, Queens College; Associate professor, Université du Québec à Montréal; Association des journalistes haïtiens; PhD candidate, Université de Montréal; Plate-forme des organisations haïtiennes des droits humains; Professor, University of Guanajuato; Professor, University of Virginia; Professor, University Wesleyan; Réseau national de défense des droits humains.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; Factiva; Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’Homme; Freedom House; HaitiAction.net; Human Rights Watch; IRIN; Reporters sans frontières; United States – Department of State.

Attachment

AlterPresse. 23 September 2016. “Haïti-Élections : Maryse Narcisse de Fanmi Lavalas plaide pour le renforcement de l’État et des investissements.” [Accessed 10 Feb. 2017]