Haiti president breaks silence, says will not resign
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – President Jovenel Moïse broke his silence Tuesday and said it would be irresponsible for him to resign amid Haiti’s unrest, which has entered a fifth week of deadly protests that have paralyzed the economy and shuttered schools.
Moïse said during a surprise news conference at the National Palace that he was constitutionally elected and would relinquish power only through a legal process like elections.
His speech was directed in part at thousands of protesters angry over corruption, inflation that has hit nearly 20% and the dwindling of basic supplies including gasoline. Joining the call for the president’s resignation are business groups, church leaders and human rights organizations.
Moïse reiterated that he is open to any negotiations leading to a peaceful resolution of the political crisis, saying that the opposition should agree to a dialogue with his government to address the country’s problems.
“However long it takes, I am ready for dialogue. We don’t want to have another 1986,” Moïse said, referring to the year that then President Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier fled Haiti following lengthy demonstrations against his regime.
During his speech, Moïse said Haiti is “worse off” than it was from 2004 to 2015, the years following the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Opposition leaders immediately rejected Moïse’s bid for talks, saying his offer was “not credible” as they called for more street protests to force his resignation.
Moïse spoke on the day that the U.N.’s Mission for Justice Support in Haiti ended its mandate, marking the first time since 2004 that there is no U.N. peacekeeping operation in Haiti. The U.N. Integrated Office in Haiti will take its place and play an advisory role.
As the peacekeeping operation wrapped up, the United Nations appealed to the Haitian people for political dialogue, an end to violence and compromise, saying that is the only way to resolving the political crisis.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the U.N. peacekeeping chief, told the Security Council that progress since 2004 had been “considerable but the achievements of stability are still fragile and must be deeper rooted in democracy and development.”
Lacroix said “mistrust is making compromise difficult” but forming a unity government as Haiti’s president called for “may well provide a way forward to lasting political solutions that are desperately needed.”
The last time Moïse spoke publicly was nearly three weeks ago during a 2 a.m. televised address, which further angered Haitians demanding a change in government.
After his speech, a couple hundred protesters marched through the capital of Port-au-Prince, while others watched as artists painted murals memorializing victims under a bridge that has served as the starting point for demonstrations.
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Protesters recently threw a Molotov cocktail and burnt tires in front of the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince. At another rally demonstrators hurled rocks at the embassy and a protester was filmed holding a sign saying: “Fuck USA. Merde la France. Fuck Canada.”
While jarring for most Canadians, these acts reflect the anger of an impoverished people fed up with foreign governments dictating their affairs.
For more than a year Haitians have been engaged in a remarkable popular uprising against a corrupt and repressive foreign-backed president. Since September schools and businesses in Port-au-Prince have for the most part been shut due to protests challenging the president, racism and economic inequality. However, Haitians are also rejecting Canadian foreign policy.
Jovenel Moïse remains president because he has the backing of Canada, France, the United States and other members of the so-called “Core Group.” Canada provides the unpopular president with important financial, policing and diplomatic support.
During the past decade and a half, Haitians have increasingly identified Canada with the country’s historic influencers. Michel Vastel, a prominent Québec journalist, reported that a secret meeting took place on Jan. 31, 2003 in Ottawa, where officials discussed Haiti’s future. No Haitian representative was invited to the summit where high level officials from the U.S., Canada, France and the Organization of American States discussed overthrowing elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, putting the country under international trusteeship and resurrecting Haiti’s dreaded military.
Thirteen months after that meeting, the U.S., France and Canada ousted Aristide. For the next two years they imposed a government responsible for thousands of deaths. The coup also ushered in a UN military force whose reckless sewage disposal caused a cholera epidemic that took 10,000 lives.
After the country was struck by a deadly earthquake in 2010, Canadian officials continued their inhumane and antidemocratic course. According to internal government documents the Canadian Press examined a year after the disaster, officials in Ottawa feared a post-earthquake power vacuum could lead to a “popular uprising.” One briefing note marked “secret” explained: “Political fragility has increased, the risks of a popular uprising, and has fed the rumour that ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, currently in exile in South Africa, wants to organize a return to power.” The documents also explained the importance of strengthening the Haitian authorities’ ability “to contain the risks of a popular uprising.” To police Haiti’s traumatized and suffering population 2,050 Canadian troops were deployed alongside 12,000 US soldiers and 1,500 UN troops (8,000 UN soldiers were already there).
A year after the earthquake the U.S. and Canada forced third place presidential candidate, Michel Martelly, into the runoff of an election that barred Aristide’s party. The central figure in the multi-billion dollar corruption scandal that has spurred recent protests, Martelly is Moïse’s mentor.
It’s no wonder Haitians are angry with the Canadian government. But, an alternative Canadian position is also being put forward. On Oct. 31, Québec’s National Assembly unanimously endorsed a motion declaring “our unreserved solidarity with the Haitian people and their desire to find a stable and secure society. ” It urges “support for any peaceful and democratic exit from the crisis coming from Haitian civil society actors.” A week earlier the Concertation pour Haïti, a collection of Québec NGOs and unions, called for “Canada to make the right choice and use its influence in the international community to support” a presidential transition.Last week David Suzuki, Amir Khadir, Roger Waters, Maude Barlow, Yann Martel and more than 100 other writers, musicians, activists and professors signed an open letter requesting that “the Canadian government stop backing a corrupt, repressive and illegitimate Haitian president.”
It is time for a change in Canadian policy in Haiti.Marie Dimanche is founder of Solidarité Québec-Haiti #Petrochallenge 2019. Frantz André is with Comité d’action des personnes sans statut and Solidarité Québec-Haiti. Yves Engler is a member of Solidarité Québec-Haiti and author of 10 books.
Rebo S.A., for its deluxe coffees, Askanya S.A., with its premier bean-to-bar chocolates, Belzeb S.A., the producers of holistic massage oils and organic teas, and Berling S.A., the authentic premium rum and cream liquers distillery, made up the delegation of Haitian businesses that presented their products at the 2019 Taiwan International Tea, Coffee and Wine Expo.
The expo which was held from November 15 to 18 at the Taipei Nangang Exhibition Hall brought together exhibitors from more than 53 countries and hosted nearly 200,000 visitors. They were four days of awe, with tasting and exhibition sessions for the Asian public and each of the Haitian entrepreneurs left with hopeful eyes.
In Haiti, hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Port-au-Prince Wednesday, in the latest demonstration to call for the ouster of President Jovenel Moïse.
Protester: “We can’t suffer any longer. We live in a place where there are no roads, no water, no hospitals. There’s nothing. Everything is blocked in this country. We’re saying this isn’t possible. That’s why we’re in the street. We’re going to stay in the streets every day.”
More than 40 people have been killed in two months of the anti-government protests.