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US fears Feb. 7 could bring new political upheaval in Haiti – with huge ramifications

Michael Wilner and Jacqueline Charles, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

After more than a two-year hiatus, 63 Haitian migrants arrived in the Upper Florida Keys in November aboard a rickety wooden sailboat after more than three weeks at sea. They were followed by 52 migrants who landed in almost the same spot on Christmas Eve. On Monday, the largest group arrived. U.S. Coast Guard counted 176 Haitian migrants aboard a 60-foot wooden vessel near the shores of the exclusive gated community of Ocean Reef in north Key Largo.

Fragility of Henry’s authority

Henry is already facing questions about his connection to a main suspect, Joseph Félix Badio, in Moïse’s killing after police cited two phone calls between him and Badio in the hours after the slaying. In a Jan. 6 report by the National Human Rights Defense Network, a local Port-au-Prince human rights group, the group accuses Henry of speaking by telephone with Badio, a former ministry of justice consultant and employee in the anti-corruption unit who maintained close ties with Haitian politicians.

A fugitive, Badio is accused of renting an apartment across from Moïse’s house to keep a close eye on him and of being responsible for receiving real-time information about the president’s actions on the night he was killed.

In a press statement after the accusations involving his phone logs first surfaced, the prime minister’s office said Henry had “received countless calls, of all kinds” the night of the slaying and it was difficult to say all “who called him, or even the nature of the conversations.”

Such accusations could further weaken Henry’s ability to govern amid challenges to his legitimacy to run the country. A large swath of Haitian society, including constitutional experts, has long contended that Moïse’s mandate ended last February under the country’s constitution and how it calculates presidential terms.

 

A senior State Department official would not comment on Henry’s alleged connection with the murder suspect, only calling on Haitian authorities to conduct a “thorough, transparent, comprehensive investigation,” and noting that U.S. law enforcement would probe any suspect or person of interest within its jurisdiction.

But the official said the prime minister’s term was not constitutionally tied to the president’s and argued that Feb. 7 should not serve as a basis for Henry’s political adversaries to undermine his authority.

“We’re already at a point of great uncertainty, from the beginning of Prime Minister Henry’s tenure,” the senior diplomat official said. “The challenge in Haiti is that there continues to be significant political divisions. There continues to be a lack of consensus around a way forward.”

On Thursday, political leaders and members of the Haitian diaspora and others began meeting at Southern University Law Center in Louisiana for a six-day Haiti Unity Summit. The goal is to come out with an agreement to help competing blocs in Haiti arrive at a solution to get the country to elections and some measure of stability.

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