President Jovenel Moïse met briefly with the American Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, on Sunday August 16, 2020 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, during the inauguration of the newly elected president, Luis Abinader. Speaking to reporters later about their brief encounter, President Moïse said the meeting was a fruitful one in which the American diplomat reiterated his country’s support for organizing the upcoming parliamentary elections. According to sources, though the discussions were brief, the most pressing issues facing the nation have been touched upon, key are the organization of the upcoming parliamentary and general elections, and the immediate formation of a new electoral commission, after the all nine members of the most recent CEP resigned en bloc. Secretary of State Pompeo told President Moïse to work hard to ensure that free and fair elections are held soon and expressed the US’s concern about the economic and security issues confronting the nation. He also expressed his government’s support for the Haitian leadership against the opposition’s attempt to boycott the elections and relaunch protests to force the government out of power. He called on President Moïse to make the new electoral commission more inclusive of the diverse communities and voices in the country. Both President Moïse and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took to their twitter page to announce the meeting with the Secretary of State further stating that the Haitian government must work hard to strengthen the rule of law in the country and also support human rights in the country.
Such meetings and assurances come at a time when the most concerning issue facing the country is the increasing insecurity, brought on by the proliferation of armed gangs, a majority of which work in favor of the ruling government, according to many reports by human rights organizations, such as FJKL, CARDH and RNDDH. Since these armed gangs enjoy an unprecedented impunity, there are doubts about the credibility of any electoral process currently under way. Beyond the insecurity that is creating terror in the country, the other important handicap is the corruption and widespread poverty that threaten to derail any elections called by this government. More than 60 percent of the population lives below the poverty line (thus amounts to about US$2.41 a day, according to the World Bank). Up till now, the country has been paralyzed by a political crisis with alarming socio-economic consequences.
Elsewhere, the government and the supreme court of administrative disputes, Cour Supérieure des Comptes et du Contentieux Administratif (CSCCA) have disagreed on the issue regarding the energy contract that the government signed with the US firm, General Electric. The judges have sent the dossier back to the Ministry of Public Works because of numerous irregularities. The President’s advisor, Patrick Chrispin, while not offended by the court’s rejection of the contract denounces a conspiracy and a plot against the people. He recalled that the Presidents’ plan has been to democratize the energy sector and build new infrastructure to improve energy access. He promised that the government will make the necessary corrective adjustments in the hope that the court will review and approve the execution of the contract with General Electric to supply electric power so needed for economic development. There was no intention to quickly run the contract through the court system, but they will take the court’s decision to heart and will avoid any confrontation with the court. But to Gédéon Jean, head of an anti-corruption organization, the initial energy contracts were illegal, especially the information on companies involved in the project have not been provided, and there are anomalies reported since another company is slated to receive payment of funds under the contract.
While still on the issue of energy, the government is looking to modifying the process of importing fuel and petroleum products. The president hinted that officials in his government and leading civil servants are working on a new process that will be more favorable to the people. According to the current system, the government is forced to seek financing from the central bank, BRH, on a recurring basis to import crude oil, a system that benefits those entrepreneurs in the energy sector, to the detriment of the public treasury. The State buys the crude oil and sells it to the private entrepreneurs whose debt can extend over 3 months. In other words, the State buys the fuel cash and sells it on credit to the companies. This process clearly shortchanges the government treasury as the government becomes strapped for cash. During the past quarter, the debt incurred by the companies operating in the petroleum sectors was above US$70m. In addition, President Moïse concluded that monetary financing is essential to cover unforeseen expenditure, pointing out that state revenues have fallen sharply between October 2019 and June 2020, partly as a result of the four months of peyi lok protests and the Covid19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the national police, PNH, have received equipment from the US Drug Enforcement Agency of the US Department of State, last week. The materiel includes police protections equipment, riot gear, communications equipment for the various specialized units within the state security apparatus and the carceral community, jails and prisons, to help prevent the spread of the virus in the jails.
Former senator Youri Latortue was released after appearing before the anticorruption organization, l’Unité de Lutte Contre la Corruption (ULCC), where he testified for over 5 hours, and released without making any statement to the press and journalists present. Hundreds of followers of the AAA party assembled in front of the ULCC building and after the Senator left, some of them threw stones at the building forcing the police to disperse the crowd with tear gas. During the day, 3 cars were set on fire by followers who feel the hearing was a political witch hunt. In Gonaïves, the senator’s followers demonstrated by setting up barricades and burning tires, paralyzing commercial activities in the city of independence. The former Senator was being questioned on a 70m gourdes loan obtained in his mother’s name in 2017.
Finally, Haiti has lost one of her favorite daughters, Maman Gizou, Ghislaine Fortuney Lamothe, the internationally renowned artist, painter and sculptor and mother of former Prime Minister, Laurent Salvador Lamothe, who passed away this past Saturday, August 15, 2020 at 85 years old. She is known through her art to promote the values of the Haitian woman, a recognition that won her the 1969 award for originality in Barcelona, Spain. Her passing is not only a lost of a national treasure but a void in the artistic world.