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Haiti’s newsreel: constitutional challenges

In his address to the nation on Friday October 23, 2020, the President of the Republic, Jovenel Moïse spoke about changing the constitution as a precondition for general elections. Mr. Moïse noted that he has no personal interest or agenda rewriting a new constitution which he believes will better reflect current conditions. But the President warned that a new modern constitution will be decided by the people in a referendum. Accordingly, if the Haitian people decided that they want a new constitution, then this will be taken into consideration before the next general elections are held. Mr. Moïse further stressed that such an undertaking cannot be accomplished without the accord and participation of all the various sectors of socio-political life of the nation. He has had fruitful discussions with the opposition, without naming names, people with whom he feels he could not have reached an agreement but with putting their pride and personal interests cast aside, they prioritized the collective interest of the nation.

The President’s declarations on working with the opposition to draft a new constitution in the face of all the other ills afflicting the nation is not welcomed by certain segments of the population. According to the group of opposition parties collectively known as the La Direction politique de l’opposition dite démocratique (DIRPOD), the President’s declaration that he’s been in talks with the opposition for three months is erroneous at best and disingenuous at worst. There have not been any negotiations around any agreement is going on with the President’s office. No member of the group has been contacted, nor took part in any meeting with Jovenel Moïse, according to a statement published by the organization. The president, by making such statements is simply misleading the public as he has done with the Unites States representative at the United Nations. The group said that in his address to the nation, the president has not grasped the gravity of the political crises that his catastrophic governance has pushed the nation into. The opposition  group seized on the about face the president did when on a visit to an energy plant under construction the next day declared that the elections will take place with or without a new constitution, is a sure additional sign that there is no truth  to the president’s pronouncements. In trying to change the constitution he takes pleasure in violating, the President, who took an oath of office to uphold the constitution, is perjuring himself and committing high treason. He is advised to use the 105 days left in his reign to restore the authority of the state and bring back a sense of security to the country.

Meanwhile, as part of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, the office in Haiti, led by Helen La Lime organized an online conference/debate to assess the role of the organization in the country. After providing a background history of the role the country played in the US, especially with the adoption of the universal declaration of human rights, the debate focused mostly on the assessment of the organization’s presence in the country both militarily and as a peace keeping force. According to sociologist, Michèle Oriol, the UN must change the way it intervenes and interacts in its dealings with Haiti. The current BINUH must abandon the logic that governed the MINUSTAH, MANUH and MINUH, to help recreate political responsibility in the country. The presence of the UN characterized by multifaceted programs and through peace missions has had serious implications over the years. With the military presence, the state abandoned its main sovereign responsibilities, such as ensuring the safety of the people, and beyond the political instability lies the administrative instability in which the gangs have the upper hand on imposing their brand of law and terror on the population. The best way to engage is to allow Haitians to regain confidence and take their responsibilities seriously. The Assistant Special envoy, Bruno Lemarquis expressed the Secretary General’s wish to work with international and national partners to advance development projects in the country. He recognized a certain lassitude on the part of international partners as regards issues facing the country and call for looking closely at the issues and tackling them head on. Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe for his part thanked the UN for their participation and role in the country for all these years.

Finally, with the upcoming US elections, Haitians are taking a more visible role, both as a voting bloc and as candidates for elected office. With TPS status still in the balance, an issue dear to the Haitian community, given the current government’s attempts to end the status for most Haitians, this election is very critical for the more than 420,000 Haitian Americans in Florida and 200,000 in New York. Below is a list of some of the Haitian Americans running for public office in both New York and Florida:

In New York, Constantin Jean-Pierre, a former corrections officer and youth sports coach in the community is running in the 9th congressional district in Brooklyn, as a Republican, challenging the incumbent Rep. Yvette Clarke, a Democrat who has represented the district since 2013. Kimberly Jean-Pierre a Democrat and 3rd term Assembly member is facing a challenge from Eugene Murray, her Republican challenger in the 11th District in Suffolk County. Michaelle Solages, a 4th term Assembly member ad Democrat from the 22nd District in Nassau County is facing Nicholas Zacchea her Republican opponent in the upcoming election. She is currently the Chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. In his second term as the Assembly member from District 33 in Southeast Queens, Clyde Vanel, a Democrat is running unopposed. He chairs the Assembly’s Subcommittee on Internet and New Technology. From District 42 in Central Brooklyn, the two term Assembly woman who chairs the assembly’s subcommittee on the Oversight of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE), Rodneyse Bichotte is running unopposed. Also, in her second term, Mathylde Frontus, a Democrat is facing a challenge from Mark Szuskiewicz, a Republican, in her South Brooklyn district 46. She is currently a member of the committees on Aging, Children and Families, Mental Health, Economic Development, Tourism and Transportation. Phara Souffrant Forrest is running to represent District 57 in the Fort Green, Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn, after defeating the incumbent Assembly member Walter T. Mosley in the democratic primary. A nurse and tenant activist, Ms. Forrest is also a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.

In Florida, Dotie Joseph, is running unopposed for her second term as the representative from District 108 in Miami-Dade County. She currently serves on the Energy & Utilities, Higher Education Appropriations, Collective Bargaining and Local Administration subcommittees. Marie Woodson, a former public administrator is running as a Democrat to represent District 101 in Southeast Broward County and faces a republican challenger, Vincent Parlatore. Nancy St.Clair who works in the legal field is running as an Independent to represent District 92 in Northeast Broward County, and faces the incumbent Democratic Representative Patricia Hawkins-Williams. Gepsie Metellus, co-founder and executive director of the Sant La Neighborhood Center, a social service organization serving Haitian immigrants in South Florida, is running to represent District 3 on the Miami-Dade County Commission. A non-partisan race, she was able to garner enough votes to force a runoff election against the current Commissioner Keon Hardemon. Linda Julien, currently an economic development manager for the city of North Miami is running for a non-partisan position on the City Council seat 5, facing the incumbent Councilmember Andre Williams. Nadia Assad, a community advocate who works for the City of Fort Lauderdale is running for the position of Commissioner of the City of Lauderdale, in a non-partisan race against two other candidates, Kelly Davis and Ray Martin. Nancy Metayer, a community activist who works for a non-profit dedicated to building social justice movements is running against five (5) opponents as candidate for City Commission District 3 in Coral Springs. Her opponents are Randal Cutter, Noor Fawzy, Andy Kasten, Jose Morera and Abel Pena. Finally, Ketley Joachim, Henry Raphael Dube and Daniela Jean are all running in a non-partisan race for Commissioner Seat 3 in the City of North Miami Beach, together with other candidates Ruth Abeckjerr, Margaret Love and Dianne Weis Raulson.

Dela Harlley

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