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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

At home, a coalition of civil society organizations recently signed a political pact with a powerful group of current and former lawmakers to put in place a two-year transition. They have been championing an agreement known as the Montana Accord.

The transition, under the newly reached consensus, would be led by five presidents, appointed by three different structures in the country, an appointed prime minister to run the daily affairs, and a ministerial cabinet coming from signatories of the accord.

The new structure was announced Monday after Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols and U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Kenneth Merten, meeting with members of the Montana group earlier in the day, asked them to have “serious discussions” with Henry and other key players to find a solution leading to free and fair elections in Haiti.

The senior State Department official would not say how long Washington plans to wait for the parties to come to a political consensus on how to govern Haiti, in lieu of an elected president or parliament. But concerns remain with some of the key players vying to lead.

“We need to give them the space to reach an agreement,” the diplomat said. “There are actors in Haiti that come from all different stripes, and some of them come with concerning baggage. They are significant political players.”

But in the meantime, ahead of Feb. 7, the Biden administration plans to send Secretary of State Antony Blinken to a Jan. 21 ministerial-level meeting hosted by Canada focusing on security assistance to Haiti. Haitians have said without a plan to address the insecurity, they do not see how any elections can take place.

“The goal is for the participants to identify specific areas where they can support the Haitian people, particularly in the area of security but also in economic development, in areas of electoral preparations farther down the line when that becomes more viable,” the diplomat said. “There’s a broad range of things that countries will be bringing to the table. And I hope that there will be a robust list of assistance that will come out of the meeting.”

 

“Dealing with the gang problem in Haiti, particularly in the area around Port-au-Prince, is a crucial component to the international community’s response for security assistance,” the official noted, citing threats of gang violence targeting Haiti’s political leadership.

One concession that Henry has made is allowing the remaining tier of the Senate to remain in office until 2023, despite pressure by supporters to dismiss them in the same manner that Moïse had done two years earlier when he declared that the terms of 20 of 30 senators had expired. The decision, along with the dismissal of the Lower Chamber of Deputies, rendered the parliament non-functional and allowed Moïse to begin ruling by decree.

Henry, who has been building his own political allies through a Sept. 11 accord and recently managed to raise the price of fuel without social unrest, has said he wants to implement a constitution change and hold elections this year so that a new president and parliament can take over starting in 2023.

But with the country’s ongoing security problems, police inability to control the gangs and the challenges to his power, many are doubtful that Haiti will see free and fair elections before 2023.

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©2022 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Visit at mcclatchydc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.