Thursday, July 7

Joseph Harold Pierre, political scientist: “Anarchy reigns in Haiti, the government has no control”

In Haiti there is no truce. Neither peace. Its president, Jovenel Moise, has been assassinated in an armed attack on his own residence, Prime Minister Claude Joseph reported on Wednesday. Crime plunges the Caribbean nation – the poorest in Latin America – into greater uncertainty and institutional vacuum.

The assassination of Moise, who ruled by decree for more than a year, comes amid tensions over when his term ended and after months of intense instability after presidential and legislative elections were called for next September 26. Moise did not intend to appear in those elections: his intention was to leave power on February 7, 2022, five years after his inauguration.

For that same September 26, a referendum is also scheduled to create a new constitution that would replace the 1987 one, despite international and opposition criticism, who consider it a not very inclusive and transparent process.

Neither tensions nor instability are new to the Caribbean nation, which has been mired in a climate of insecurity and political violence since the 1990s, and is still suffering the devastating effects of the 2010 earthquake, which caused tens of thousands. dead and that exacerbated their dependence on international aid.

The Haitian economist and political scientist Joseph Harold Pierre answers questions about what has happened in recent months and how this situation has come about.

What is happening in Haiti?

What is happening in Haiti today is worse than what happened during the Duvalier dictatorship. Now there are no rules, the Government has no control of anything, it is an anarchy. The political power in Haiti is extremely corrupt, there is no will to transform the country. Everything is based on corruption and power obstructs the possibility of doing justice and consolidating the State, which is the victim of its own actions.

Haiti’s problem was not President Jovenel Moise. However, their decisions have contributed enormously to worsen the situation in the country. It approved, for example, decrees that served to create an intelligence agency and to classify acts of vandalism as “terrorism”, and this meant reducing certain freedoms and was done outside the constitutional order.

Jovenel Moise became president because there is a political leadership vacuum in the country. Becoming president in Haiti is like winning the lottery: you can play your whole life and never win, or play once and be your turn. It is sad, but it is reality.

How do you explain the insecurity that the country is experiencing?

The State has never assumed the responsibility of providing security to society. What’s more, it has contributed to insecurity, especially in elections, where presidential and senatorial candidates have handed over weapons to criminals and consolidated into uncontrollable criminal gangs. The private sector also appears to have gangs to control its businesses.

The state as such does not exist. It is conceived as a loot that must be squandered and all possible means must be used, corruption and crime, and that explains why this point has been reached. The government has no control of anything and the police are extremely weak.

Now in the country there is a tense calm, it is like a bomb that has not yet exploded.

In 2019, there were intense protests after a report on corruption in the Venezuelan aid program Petrocaribe splattered President Moise and thousands of protesters demanded his departure. On February 7 of this year the situation worsened because that day Moise had to leave power. But he denounced a coup and remained in government.

The situation has been getting worse in recent years. First with the handling of funds from the Petrocaribe program and then with what happened on February 7, when, according to the Government, a group of people wanted to carry out a coup and were arrested.

Throughout this time there were widespread crimes in the country and numerous kidnappings. Criminal gangs have more political strength than the opposition today, as they have the ability to counter the Government for the influence they exert.

Without going any further, earlier this month at least 15 people were murdered in the country, including Radio Vision 2000 journalist Diego Charles and opposition activist Marie Antoinette Duclaire, spokesperson for the Matriz Liberación movement.

The political power in Haiti is extremely corrupt, there is no will to transform the country

In addition, the Government had just made two decisions that have horrible consequences on the future of the country. Last Monday, the Executive granted total and complete exemption from responsibility to the former prime ministers and ministers who served the country between 1991 and 2017 – a necessary requirement to stand as a candidate in the September elections. These politicians got the go-ahead from the judiciary, but it is a highly politicized and dysfunctional power. It is an action with dire consequences on the democracy of Haiti.

On Monday, the government also decided to appoint doctor Ariel Henry as the new prime minister to replace Claude Joseph, who took office on an interim basis last April. Joseph was very aligned with the president, he had no political experience. That is why the Organization of American States (OAS) also recommended that Moise create a new cabinet with a new prime minister who would have the confidence of the people.

These are actions that aggravate the conflict between political groups in Haiti and there is also a new electoral calendar. All this combo worsens the situation in the midst of generalized violence where the Police have no strength and the gangs are in command.

What can happen now?

At the political level, there will be a transitional government, but now the political situation does not matter so much as the social one. How high will the insecurity reach? What will be the level of violence? It is still too early to know, although the entry of international forces could help contain the possible wave of violence that can be unleashed now.