Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in a USA/Caribbean mini-summit
Last week, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse attended a USA/Caribbean mini-summit organized by the US President Donald Trump, at the former’s residence at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. The summit, attended by leaders of the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Bahamas and Saint Lucia, among others, was organized around such familiar themes of governance, energy, security, investment and foreign policy. Similar issues were discussed in a private meeting with the US President, a meeting at which President Moïse is said to have raised his disappointment at the US State Department taking the unilateral decision to raise the travel alert to level 4, which is the highest for warning travelers to Haiti island. Mr. Moïse’s disappointment stems from the implications of such a unilateral decision on the tourism industry in the country. For some observers, the hastily organized summit was nothing short of a charm offensive to further pursue the US policy towards Venezuela, which it seeks to further isolate in the region, together with the perpetual pariah, Cuba.
Prior to leaving for the above-mentioned summit in Florida, the President met with the visiting US Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, who was on the island to meet with the various political actors and leaders of civil society on a variety of issues, chief among them, the organization of elections and inter-Haitian dialogue as well as security concerns. Besides leaders of government, the U.S. Senator met with the UN Special Representative Helen La Lime, the MINUJUSTH Police Commissioner, Serge Therriault and the PNH Police Commissioner Michel-Ange Gédéon. While emphasizing the need for elections, the Senator reminded leaders of the various political parties that the proceedings must follow constitutional stipulations and the respect for democratic institutions in the country. He also met with business leaders.
Since returning from the summit in Florida, President Moïse has struck a conciliatory tone towards opposition groups, calling for unity to surmount the mounting problems facing the nation. Reaching out to the radical opposition, the President said that he wanted everyone to know that “the nation needs serenity, calm and understanding from all” because “we need to work with our brothers and sisters in the opposition and all who work on our team”. The President wants to put the country on the right path as the last 9 months of his administration has been chaotic and almost untenable, resulting in dismal economic activities that resulted in decreasing revenue and slowdown of economic activities due to strikes and demonstrations.
While this call to unity should be celebrated by all who wish to move the country forward, it appears that the radical opposition dubbed, Secteur démocratique et populaire, is calling for new protest marches across the nation on March 29th, the anniversary of the promulgation of the 1987 Constitution. This call is coming, less than a month after the “pays lock” demonstrations that paralyzed economic and administrative activities across the nation from February 10th through the 17th, leading to the dismissal of the sitting Prime Minister, an action that pitted both houses of the legislature against each other. But the thorny issue is the recalcitrance of the fringe opposition that is demanding, after the President’s call for unity and dialogue, that they are willing to dialogue except not with the current sitting president. Their condition for dialogue requires the resignation of the President while the more moderate opposition are calling for a real dialogue that does not only address the current crises but also the socio-economic problems that have crippled the country in recent years.
Last week, President Moïse named Jean Michel Lapin, a career public servant who served under the
Martelly and Moïse governments, as the interim Prime Minister. No sooner was he named than Mr. Lapin, who is equally Minister of Culture and Communications called for transparency in his administration and work towards realizing the goals set by his immediate predecessor. Unlike his predecessor who listed his plans but did not have the time to execute them, PM Lapin came up with a 15 point plan during his first cabinet meeting held on Friday. Mr. Lapin ordered the ministries to prioritize current policies or projects underway and to avoid taking on new projects until the ones already in progress are completed.
Another issue is the US$229million promised to Haiti by the IMF which has been rumored to be withheld for now, given the political climate in the country. President Moïse upon returning from his meeting with the US President in Florida, denied rumors that the funds have been blocked. However, a transcript obtained from the IMF spokesman, Gerry Rice contradicted the President’s statements. Responding to a question on the IMF’s recent agreement with the country, Mr. Rice stated that with regards to the staff-level agreement on a potential program for Haiti; “we’re monitoring that, of course” and “look forward to the formation of a new government and the introduction of a budget. And until we have that, we will not be able to bring forward that recently negotiated staff-level agreement for a program that I mentioned. We would not be able to bring that forward to the Board until there’s a bit more clarity on the new government and the introduction of a budget. So, we hope that the policy and political uncertainties can be resolved quickly, so that we can get back to that work helping Haiti and the people of Haiti to meet the considerable social and economic challenges that they face”.
Elsewhere, the Ministries of Environment (MDE) and education (MENFP) launched a tree planting project in public and private schools across the nation. With more than 4 million students to undertake this project across the nation, planting trees across the country will begin in early April, with students given the opportunity to learn about the environmental issues facing the country across all departments. Recent drought in Cornillon/Grand Bois in the West Department, and at Péligre in the Central Plateau Departments have intensified the call to action on the environment and for getting the school children involved as the most sustainable effort.
On Sunday, the senior national team, the Grenadiers, beat their Cuban counterparts 2-1 in the CONCACAF League of Nations Cup. This win was more of therapy for a people who have been going from one bad news to another. It also brought joy and pride to many, and for a short moment, people forgot about their daily suffering to rejoice in the victory that has more implication for the nation than most people know. The victory means that Haiti is qualified for the Gold Cup but more importantly has moved to the division A of the confederation.
Finally, it’s been six years since the journalist and politician Georges Henri Honorat was murdered in Delmas, not far from his house by two armed individuals, in March 23, 2013. And six years later, justice has yet to be served as the authorities drag their feet on the case. Despite the complaints against the thugs, successive governments seem to turn a deaf ear to the complaints raised. In order to keep his memory alive and seek justice in his brutal killing, the Centre Georges Henri Honorat and the Artists’ Workshop organized a day of activity on Saturday March 23, 2019 around the theme “Justice for Georges H. Honorat” Activists decry the state of affairs in the country that allows such crimes to go unpunished. Building a strong state means dealing with criminals of all kinds and justice must not distill drop by drop according to the whims of the highest bidder, and injustice, just like justice is a social project that embraces corruption and crime. Representatives of the center used the opportunity to call on authorities to address the impunity which reign in the country as the case drags on without any indictment in sight. To the Center, this attempt to sequester the freedom of the press in a country that has paid a high price for speech must not go unpunished.