Posted: Wednesday, July 21, 2021. 10:09 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: On Monday according to the New York Times, incumbent interim Prime Minister of Haiti, Claude Joseph, handed over to assassinated president Jovenel Moïse’s chosen successor, Ariel Henry.
Henry is a neurosurgeon who had been appointed to the position by the president shortly before he was killed, the elections minister said Monday.
It is part of a power struggle playing out since Moise’s death nearly two weeks ago, heavily influenced, some say, by foreign countries and especially the United States. One senior politician reported he was directly told by American officials to stay out of the race for leadership of the country.
American officials said they were pushing for a unity government among the various figures claiming leadership of Haiti, with the aim of paving the way for free and fair elections down the road. Joseph continues in government as Henry’s foreign minister.
“We are encouraged to see Haitian political and civil actors working to form a unity government that can stabilize the country, and build the foundation for free and fair elections,” said Ned Price, a spokesman with the State Department.
However, the political maneuvering by Haitian officials and international power brokers was met with anger by Haitian activists and democracy advocates, who said it did not consider what the people wanted.
“It’s as if they have replaced the Haitian people. It’s revolting,” Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the leader of Seeing Eye To Eye, a civil society group that represents more than one million Haitians in the countryside, said of the foreign powers. “We need the accompaniment of a lot of countries but we can’t accept they make decisions in our place.”
Henry has addressed the Haitian people, asking his fellows to remain peaceful and planning “sufficient consensus” for his new cabinet and interim government until conditions were met for elections.
Haiti has lost much of its democratic institutions – all but ten senators were not replaced due to expiration of their terms; the lower house is entirely vacant; the head of the Supreme Court died of COVID-19 in June.
On the streets, the change in government has not exactly been welcomed, though some disagree as to why Haiti cannot seem to get its act together.
Jean-Baptiste said that Joseph’s resignation on Monday made little difference to him, pointing out that Joseph and Henry, like Moïse, came from the same political party, the ruling Bald Head party, or P.H.T.K.
“We can’t accept that P.H.T.K. will continue to lead the country,” Jean-Baptiste said on Monday, “with the gangs, with the massacres, with the looting of state coffers. It’s not possible. We want to finish with the regime of Jovenel Moïse.”
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