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Crisis-ridden Haiti turns a page, officially welcomes new transitional government

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

Haiti welcomed a new government on Wednesday, completing the final step in a new political transition that many are hoping will bring a reprieve to the country’s ongoing gang-fueled crisis and pave the way for long-overdue general elections.

A new cabinet of ministers was presented by newly selected Prime Minister Garry Conille at a ceremony. Conille this week finalized his government after days of negotiations with members of the transitional presidential council. Conille, 58, a former regional director with UNICEF, the United Nations child welfare agency, managed to reduce the cabinet from 18 ministers to 14 by combining some ministries.

Like former Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who was forced to resign by the United States to pave the way for a transition amid gang attacks that erupted on Feb. 29, Conille will keep for himself the portfolio of interior minister. In Haiti, the interior ministry is responsible for issuing passports and staging elections.

Most of the members of Conille’s new cabinet are unknowns or relative newcomers to Haitian politics. Most of their names, however, were put forward by the sectors represented on the nine-member presidential council, where seven members have voting rights and two serve as observers. Still, there are some notable names among them. They include Carlos Hercule, the new minister of justice; Dominique Dupuy, the minister of foreign affairs and Haitians Living Abroad; and Ketleen Florestal, the minister of finance and planning.

Hercule, a lawyer, formerly headed the Port-au-Prince bar association. In his role he will need to rebuild the justice system that today is wrestling with the escape of more than 4,000 inmates after armed groups raided the country’s two largest prisons in early March. There is also the thorny issue of the investigation into the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. More than 50 people, including the president’s widow, have been indicted, and Hercule will face pressure to continue to pursue the case.

The justice ministry has also been intimately involved in the negotiations with the government of Kenya over the deployment of the Multinational Security Support mission to help the country’s beleaguered police take on powerful gangs.

Dupuy was Haiti’s ambassador to UNESCO and had been previously named as one of the seven members of the presidential council by a political party coalition led by former prime minister and foreign minister Claude Joseph. She resigned, citing threats to her life. She will be charged with not only overseeing Haiti’s foreign policy but cleaning up a ministry saddled with corruption allegations in some of its foreign embassies.

A Columbia University graduate, Florestal is an economist who began her career as a law intern and briefly served as chief of staff in Haiti’s justice ministry in the early 1990s. She replaces finance minister Michel Patrick Boisvert, who served as interim prime minister after Henry’s resignation. Florestal has served as an adviser on Haiti at the three leading international lending institutions, including the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund. She holds a master’s degree from Columbia University in economic policy management and a master’s from Johns Hopkins University in applied economics.

 

The new government faces a host of challenges, from restarting the economy to addressing the ongoing violence.

Armed violence that escalated nearly four months ago has brought Haiti to the brink of both economic and humanitarian collapse. The most recent numbers from the United Nations show that there’s been a 60% increase in the number of people displaced between March and June, from 360,000 to nearly 580,000.

On Wednesday, a court in Kenya postponed for two weeks a hearing on a new lawsuit against the government’s efforts to deploy police officers to Haiti. Days earlier three Haitian police officers were killed after armed gang members set a trap, leading to their ambush in the Delmas neighborhood of the capital.

In March, the Caribbean Community, along with the U.S. and other nations, brokered a deal with Haitian political and civic leaders that led to the formation of a nine-member presidential council. Last month, after wading through more that five dozen applications, the council selected Conille, a former U.N. development expert who briefly served as prime minister between 2011 and 2012 , as the new prime minister.

Over the weekend, Conille needed medical care after experiencing breathing problems. He was discharged from a hospital after spending the night. Though he immediately addressed the population in a video about his ordeal, Conille has yet to provide specifics about his priorities or how he intends on governing Haiti.

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©2024 Miami Herald. Visit miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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