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De facto President Moïse of Haiti continues authoritarian rule after term has concluded


In a replay of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the father and son dictators who ruled Haiti from 1957 through 1986 and proclaimed themselves President-for-Life, “current” Haiti de facto President Jovenel Moïse, has refused to leave office. 

Moïse’s five-year term ended on Feb. 7, 2021 (he disagrees). Haiti once again has a neo-Duvalierist inspired President. He's worse than the first, 2011 U.S. installed President Michel Joseph Martelly. At least Martelly left office. 

Moïse has blamed powerful oligarchs and his dedication to defeating organized crime for his seven attempts in his five-year term to overthrow Haiti’s democratic system and his refusal to honor the will of the people. The people want Moïse to leave.

It began, well it began in 1915 under Woodrow Wilson, but for the purposes of this essay it began in 2018 when the two Twitter hashtags—#PetrocaribeChallenge and #KotKobPetwoKaribea (meaning “prosecute those involved in PetroCaribe”), went viral then people took to the street in the form of protest. In 2019 a panel of judges accused Moïse of an embezzlement scheme that siphoned off money from Venezuela's Petrocaribe aid program meant for fixing infrastructure damaged in the 2010 earthquake. A 600 page document pointed to Moïse investing much of the aid into his own personal business interests. Since 2018 there have been regular protests resulting in the deaths of 187 protesters, 44 police officers, and 2 journalists.

The United Nations (U.N.) supports Moïse remaining in office. 

“Only a democratic renewal, resulting from the prompt holding of credible, transparent, and participatory elections, can provide Haiti with the opportunity to overcome its protracted political crisis.”

La Lime, head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti.

That is not leaving office.  

The Office of the American States (OAS) supports Moïse remaining in office.

The OAS said that its General Secretariat states that it “renews support for the electoral process as the only option consistent with the Democratic Charter to replace the current constitutional President with another President on Feb. 7, 2022.”

This is also not leaving office, and it’s the wrong date.

The U.N. and the OAS have been tools for neoliberalism and imperialism around the globe. The OAS disputed the fairness of Haiti's 1996 election of liberation theologian Jean-Bertrand Aristide of the Fanmi Lavalas, a center left social-democratic party. The result of which, Haiti did not receive debt relief until after their devastating earthquake of 2010. The 2011 election brought in right-leaning “open for business” Martelly, with help from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“The United States had pushed for quick poll, and then the OAS went even further and declared — without evidence — that Martelly had qualified for the final round over the incumbent party’s candidate. Rather than rerun the preliminary round and let the Haitian people choose, Clinton reportedly pressured then-President René Préval with the loss of U.S. and international aid unless the election results were changed to fit the OAS’s recommendation.”

2016, Karen Attiah, Hillary Clinton needs to answer for her actions in Honduras and Haiti, Washington Post

Around the world, leaders have put out statements asking Moïse to step down.

Moïse remaining in office gives him opportunity to make more mischief.

A bit of what he has done so far:

  • Dissolving the parliament in 2020
  • Refusing to hold legislative elections in 2019
  • Attempting to unilaterally name the members of the body that would certify the results of the future election La Lime discussed
  • Arresting Supreme Court Judges and charging them with treason
  • By a decree on Feb. 8, 2021, declared himself the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of power
  • Give 20,000 acres of the country’s land to capitalists producing stevia for Coca-Cola

On Mar. 7, thousands of Haitians filled the streets of the capital, Port-au-Prince, again to call on President Jovenel Moïse to step down and to demand a crackdown on kidnappers, who they say are holding the nation hostage.

2021, Sandra Lemaire, Renan Toussaint, & Matiado Vilme, Haiti’s Doctors, Lawyers, and Handicapped Join Pro-Democracy, Anti-Kidnapping Protest, Voice of America,

Haiti’s 1987 Constitution was written to prevent another 29-year authoritarian dictatorship from occurring. Haiti’s current Constitution bars presidents from serving two consecutive terms. On April 25, a constitutional referendum will occur. Moïse and other neo-Duvalierist want the Constitution changed, specifically that part about consecutive terms. They also want "Haiti open for business." 

“[T]he Trump Administration [stood] by President Moïse as he dismantled Haiti’s democracy and promoted the chaos and violence I had feared. With U.S backing, Moïse refused to negotiate in good faith with opponents.”

2021, U.S. Representative Maxine Waters, Miami Herald

According to Haiti Information Project media a government-sponsored gang called “5 Seconds” (5 Seconds because that’s how long it takes them to kill you) terrorizes anyone who opposes Moïse.

“I am alarmed by recent authoritarian and undemocratic acts — from unilateral removals and appointments of Supreme Court judges to attacks against journalists. Respect for democratic norms is vital and non-negotiable.”

2/16/2021, Julie Chang, Acting Assistant Secretary for U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Twitter

Haiti needs more than a tweet from the U.S.

The U.S. needs to be explicit about the fact that Moïse term is over, inform Haiti that it will not provide support for an unconstitutional referendum, either directly or through the United Nations or the Organization of American States. Finally, the U.S. needs to extend Temporary Permit Status to Haitian immigrants. Trump and prior administrations caused this problem, and the U.S. has a moral obligation to mitigate the effects on the people and to peaceful take steps to end it. 

Teka Lo, Public Intellectuals



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