Haiti news: The conversation about dialogue, flag day events and take action on TPS

ACTION: The Biden Administration must re-designate TPS for Haiti

“It is critical for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to redesignate Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).   TPS is appropriate when extraordinary and temporary conditions in a nation make returning its nationals unsafe.  There is overwhelming political and civil society recognition that redesignating Haiti for TPS is appropriate because such conditions exist; even DHS officials in internal discussions and documents acknowledge that Haitians they return “may face harm” upon return in Haiti.  Nevertheless, and in violation of President Biden’s campaign promise to halt Haiti expulsions, DHS has expelled to Haiti since February 1 about 1700-2100 Haitians, mainly families including hundreds of children, on at least thirty three (33) flights, [This is more Haitians than President Trump expelled during all of FY2020].  This policy is inhumane and contradicts the stated values and promises of President Biden and Vice-President Harris.” [from Steve Forester at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti]

It is hard to imagine anyone in this administration lobbying to continue deportations and expulsions to Haiti under the current conditions, but somebody must be. Meanwhile, halting removals to Haiti is a consistent demand across the spectrum – check the New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, hundreds of human rights activists and organizations, and members of his own party in Congress. 

Redesignating Haiti for Temporary Protected Status would mean those Haitians in the United States could stay until the crisis at home is resolved. TPS is a policy often utilized for humanitarian purposes. It was just extended to Venezuela, for example. Because Trump tried to kill TPS for Haiti, and many other countries, Haiti’s earlier designation for TPS (2011) is still being fought in the courts. Redesignating Haiti now would make this earlier case moot, and protect more families from removal. It is the right thing to do, and there is bi-partisan cover to the extent Biden is worried about the GOP backlash.

Actions to take:

  1. Sign/share the Color of Change petition calling on the Biden administration to redesignate Haiti for TPS
  2. For organizations, you can sign/share this Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights letter asking for TPS redesignation for Haiti.

Flag Day events on Haiti

May 18 is flag day in Haiti, the anniversary of the adoption of Haiti’s flag in 1803. This year flag day will involve much more than cultural celebrations. Here are a few events to check out:

Current realities regarding the gains of Haiti’s 1987 constitution
Haitian Studies Association:
Tuesday, May 18, 4 :00 EDT (Haitian Flag Day)
Moderator: François Pierre-Louis

Participants :

Chantal Hudicourt-Ewald
Danièle Maggiore
Georges Michel
Lucien Prophète
Jean Eddy Saint Paul
One of the most current issues in Haiti is a referendum scheduled for June 17 for a new constitution called for by the current state. The proposed constitution involves a series of changes.

This panel will discuss the legacy and stakes of the constitution of March 29, 1987, a national consensus after the fall of Duvalier in 1986. The 1987 constitution was written in a very specific context, to implant democracy and human rights. This panel will analyze the gains of the 1987 constitution in today’s context, comparing it with the proposed constitution, asking a range of questions for engaged Haitian citizens to make an informed decision.

Get details, and register here.


U.S. Policy on Haiti and U.S. Position on Haiti’s Elections
with Julie Chung, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere
U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Global Public Affairs Event
Tuesday, May 18, 2021 from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM EDT
To register click here


Civil society organizations form “Commission for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis”

The political crisis in Haiti, which has deep historical roots, but is most immediately the result of opposition to the government of Jovenal Moise over the last three years, is entering a new phase with Moise insisting on holding a constitutional referendum in June and then moving forward with elections this fall. Both of these measures are opposed by broad sectors of society. While many recognize the need for constitutional reform, as well as the need for elections for a new government, Moise is not recognized as a legitimate authority to oversee these things. There was broad agreement from across the political spectrum that Moise’s tenure ended on February 7, 2021, and that he should step down to make way for a provisional authority to oversee new elections.

As we have noted, the Biden administration has by and large accepted the Trump policy of demanding elections, and has defended Moise’s argument that his tenure should extend another year (to February 7, 2022). Biden’s administration has voiced concerns about the constitutional referendum, as have a number of other external actors (the OAS and European Union, for example), but there is no sign that they will actually try to stop it.

The impasse over elections, referendum and ongoing instability, is in some manner the result of international actors backing Moise’s position, despite the widespread opposition within Haiti. Moise has often claimed a willingness to dialogue, but has not been willing to compromise much.

A possibly hopeful sign is that a coalition of civil society organizations have formalized an agreement reached back in January to form a commission to promote “Haitian solutions” to the crisis.  From the declaration:

In view of the government’s refusal to comply with constitutional imperatives despite massive popular and political mobilizations as well as the political sector’s inability to impose its views with regard to mechanisms of resolution of the crisis, the country is experiencing a political deadlock. From a perspective of change, it is therefore important for us to seek ways and means to rebuild and reestablish our institutions. In the absence of institutions of counter-power, the vital sectors of the country, in a patriotic spirit, are to take action in order to avoid the total collapse of the state and to allow the nation to emerge from this deadlock. As a matter of priority, it is about returning to the normalization of the social and political life as soon as possible via a return to the constitutional order as a guarantee to the functioning of the rule of law and a way to allow citizens to choose their leaders freely and safely in a peaceful atmosphere.

It is in the name of this objective that the Forum of Civil Society Organizations gathered on January 30, 2021 recommended to establish a Commission to work towards a peaceful resolution of the current political and institutional crisis. Based on combined criteria of affiliation to an organized sector of society, notoriety, morality, civic and patriotic commitment, competence and availability, the commission was then established in consultation with various sectors of society. These sectors, in a great display of magnanimity, agreed to contribute to this attempt to find a solution to this crisis, which has already drained the country. As a result, the Commission will devote itself to working together with all the different components of society, including political parties and groupings.

The Commission membership:

– Reverend Father Frantz Joseph CASSEUS / Église Épiscopale d’Haïti (Episcopal Church of Haiti)

– Mrs. Monique CLESCA / Independent

– Mrs. Magali COMEAU DENIS / Kolektif Atis Angaje (Collective of Committed Artists)

– Reverend Pastor, Jean Kisomaire DURÉ / Fédération Protestante d’Haïti (Protestant Federation of Haiti)

– Mr. Evens FILS / Fédération des Barreaux d’Haïti (Federation of Haitian Bars)

– Mrs. Magalie GEORGES / Collectif des Syndicats Haïtiens pour le respect de la Constitution (Collective of Haitian Trade Unions for the Respect of the Constitution)

– Mr. Louis Joël JOSEPH / Plateforme des Organisations Paysannes 4G-Kontre (Platform of Farmers’ Organizations 4G-Kontre)

– Mrs. MANIGAT / Plateforme des Organisations Féministes (Platform of Women’s Organizations)

– Mr. Maxime RONY / Plateforme des Organisations Haïtiennes des Droits de l’Homme (Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations)

– Mr. Ted SAINT-DIC / Independent

– Mr. Wilfrid SAINT-JUSTE / Voodoo Sector

– Mr. Michel A. PEAN

– A representative of the Haitian Forum for Peace and Sustainable Development 

 The full declaration is here.


Organization of American States Holds Special Session on Haiti

The OAS held a special session to discuss a proposed OAS Mission to Haiti to facilitate dialogue between various “stakeholders” and the government over the electoral process. The hearing was held on Wednesday and can be viewed here. The OAS had proposed the mission at an earlier session. This latest meeting followed the government of Haiti’s acceptance of the Mission. The Mission itself has not yet been formally approved. The session Wednesday gave foreign ministers an opportunity to express their support or concerns so that a final agreement outlining the terms of the mission can be drafted. It seems likely that this will come to fruition – there was little opposition to the idea.  

Dialogue is, of course, to be welcome. If this mission proceeds with full participation across a range of civil society and political groupings, it could very well help. Of course, the concern is that the OAS has thus far been pressing for elections and supporting Moise’s position on tenure. Which means this Mission could end up playing the role of defending Moise’s position and giving it international cover for an electoral process that is (under current terms) widely opposed. 

For the hardcore, the full Organization of American States Permanent Council meeting can be viewed here. The discussion on Haiti begins at 1:38 (it follows a discussion on Nicaragua).

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Haiti News from Congress to Harvard Law School to the Border

Congress and Haiti this week

This week, 69 members of congress sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking for a review of U.S. policy toward Haiti. From the Miami Herald,

More than 60 U.S. House Democrats are calling for “a significant review of U.S. policy in Haiti” by the Biden administration and warning that “the U.S.’s insistence on elections at all costs in Haiti” later this year risks exacerbating the country’s cycle of political instability and violence.

“While elections will clearly be needed in the near future to restore democratic order, we remain deeply concerned that any electoral process held under the current administration will fail to be free, fair, or credible,” members of Congress said Monday in the letter addressed to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. “Parliamentary, local, and presidential elections set for Fall 2021 could increase the risk of violence throughout the country significantly.”

The U.S. lawmakers said the administration of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, who has been ruling without a parliament for over 15 months, not only “lacks the credibility and legitimacy” to administer elections that are free and fair but also a constitutional referendum scheduled for June 27.

The full text of the letter is available here.

The Biden administration’s ongoing support for elections in Haiti this year continues to be the focal point of critique. The security situation continues to deteriorate and with it, Moise’s limited credibility to oversee much of anything, much less elections. 

It should be noted, however, that the U.S. government does not support the scheduled referendum on the constitution, and even the Organization of American States has been critical of this (after waffling a bit). The question for many in Haiti regarding the referendum is thus whether to participate. A boycott makes it more likely that the reforms will pass, however, many doubt the integrity of the process to begin with – and so do not want to legitimate through their participation. It is still possible, of course, that the referendum will not occur. Even likely. It continues to be highly controversial within Haiti, even among some within Moise’s party.

There will be public panel discussion on the constitutional referendum on May 18 at 4:00 p.m (EST) including scholars and constitutional experts from Haiti. More information here.

Legislation was also introduced this week calling for a series of reports on the use of aid by the Haitian government and U.S. oversight of said aid. The full text of The Haiti Development, Accountability, and Institutional Transparency Initiative Act (H.R. 2471) is not yet available, but is almost identical to H.R. 5586, which was introduced during the last Congress.  It passed the House, though it was never taken up in the Senate.  

New Report from Harvard Law School and Haitian Observatory calls out Haiti’s government for Crimes Against Humanity (from press release announcing report)

Three deadly massacres targeting impoverished neighborhoods in Haiti were carried out with Haitian government support and amount to crimes against humanity, according to a report released today by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and the Observatoire Haïtien des Crimes contre l’humanité (OHCCH). The report points to evidence that the gang-led attacks were resourced and supported by state actors, ranging from high-ranking officials in the Moïse administration to the Haitian National Police. 

The report, “Killing with Impunity: State-Sanctioned Massacres in Haiti,” analyzes three attacks that took place between 2018-2020, which have together killed at least 240 civilians. The massacres targeted the Port-au-Prince neighborhoods of La Saline, Bel-Air, and Cité Soleil, which have played a leading role in organizing protests demanding government accountability for corruption and other human rights violations. 

“Moïse’s government has been pushing the story that the attacks are merely gang infighting, but the evidence demonstrates high-level government involvement in the planning, execution and cover-up of the attacks,” said Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, a member organization of OHCCH. 

The report relies on investigations by Haitian and international human rights experts that show that senior Moïse administration officials planned the attacks or otherwise assisted by providing the gangs with money, weapons, or vehicles. Off-duty police officers and resources were utilized to carry out the attacks. The Haitian National Police repeatedly failed to intervene to protect civilians despite the sites of the attacks being in close proximity to multiple police stations. In each attack, gangs arrived in the targeted neighborhood, shot at residents indiscriminately, raped women, and burnt and looted houses. The massacres repeatedly involved gangs affiliated with the G9 alliance led by Jimmy Chérizier, which reportedly enjoys government connections.

“We found that Moïse’s failure to stop or respond to attacks initiated by his subordinates may make the President himself liable for crimes against humanity,” said Beatrice Lindstrom, a Clinical Instructor at the Harvard Clinic who supervised the research and drafting of the report. “This should serve as a wake-up call to the international community to stand up for human rights, fully investigate allegations of serious abuses, and do its part to hold perpetrators accountable,” she added. 

Read the full report here. Send it to everyone you know who cares about Haiti.

New Title 42 report includes the testimony of hundreds of people expelled, including Haitians

Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance and Otro Lado published a powerful report that unpacks the toll that Title 42 expulsions are having on migrants. The report includes hundreds of testimonies from people expelled at the border, including testimony from Haitian migrants assembled by the Haitian Bridge Alliance.

The report is titled “Failure to Protect: Biden Administration Continues Illegal Trump Policy to Block and Expel Asylum Seekers to Danger” and can be read here. Excerpt from findings:

The Biden administration is blocking asylum-seeking families and individuals at ports of entry and expelling those who cross the border seeking protection to danger in Mexico. They include refugees from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cuba, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Russia, Somalia, Venezuela, and Yemen. Restarting its tracking of reports of attacks on asylum seekers in Mexico, Human Rights First has identified at least 492 public and media reports of violent attacks since January 21, 2021 –including rape, kidnapping, and assault – against people stranded at the U.S.-Mexico border and/or expelled to Mexico. In a survey conducted by Al Otro Lado from mid-February through early April 2021 in Baja California, 81 percent of LGBTQ asylum seekers reported that they were subjected to attack or an attempted attack in Mexico in the past month, including sexual assault by Mexican law enforcement and human trafficking. Those delivered to severe violence in Mexico after requesting protection in the United States include: a woman reportedly kidnapped and raped in Reynosa after being expelled in February 2021; a 10-year-old Nicaraguan boy and his mother kidnapped immediately after U.S. border officers expelled them in March 2021; and a Cuban asylum seeker expelled to Tijuana where she fears the smugglers who previously kidnapped her and killed her friend.

We published our own report on Title 42 with the Haitian Bridge Alliance and UndocuBlack last month. Our report was principally focused on a review of the policy, with an expanded section featuring testimony from Haitians. The new report from Human Rights First (with Haitian Bridge Alliance and Otro Lado) goes much further as an investigation – based on hundreds of interviews done at the border during February and March, plus contributions from co-authors. Read it. Share it.

Biden must Re-designate Haiti for Temporary Protected Status

It is hard to imagine anyone in this administration lobbying to continue deportations and expulsions to Haiti under the current conditions, but somebody must be. Among the points raised in the Congressional letter referenced at the top of this column, is the need to halt removals and grant TPS to Haitians already here. Halting removals to Haiti is a consistent demand across the spectrum – from Congress, to every human rights organization I know working in Haiti, to the editorial boards of dominant media outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post. The Harvard study makes clear the severity of the security situation, and government complicity in the violence.

I cannot imagine what Biden gains by continuing these removals. Is he that scared of the Fox News world? Given everything he is pressing for, this is small-scale stuff (compared, for example to $1.8 trillion for universal pre-school and free community college). It would, however, make a huge difference to hundreds of families. Just do it!

If you agree, you can call the White House comment line (202-456-1111) and let them know. You can also forward a copy of the letter from Congress to Blinken (if they have not already signed on) along with a copy of the Harvard study to your member of Congress. Ask them to speak out for TPS, and an end to removals to Haiti. Congress does not have the power to make these policy changes – but they can certainly press the Administration for action.

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Yard gardens create food security one family at a time

A long-standing aspect of the training done through our partners at the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center in Haiti is work with families, typically women, to develop yard gardens or patio gardens.  These are small-scale projects, where family members learn to grow a surprisingly wide variety of vegetables in small spaces.

The current iteration of the yard garden project enrolled 375 new families during the first quarter of the year, with support from the seed bank and training from the agronomy team. Some highlights below:

Songé (red hat) with formation participants in Kalabat. The packets they are holding include starter seeds for their gardens.


Songé (center) demonstrates a planting technique to use with drip irrigation in Ti Davi.


A planter & her child in Ti Davi. They created their garden plots out of found materials


Bucket gardens in Siten


Yard gardens can be placed anywhere, even when people do not have actual land.

 

 

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Haiti Update: Insecurity reigns, while talk of elections continues

On Sunday, April 11, 5 priests, two nuns and family members of a priest from Galette Chambon were kidnapped. As of this writing, they have not been released.  The group was ambushed and taken on route to the installation of Father Jean Anel Joseph as parish warden of Galette Chambon. Those taken:

  • Father Evens Joseph, Société des prêtres de Saint-Jacques (PSJ)
  • Father Michel Briand (French citizen), PSJ
  • Father Jean Nicaisse Milien, PSJ
  • Father Joël Thomas, PSJ
  • Father Hugues Baptiste, priest of the Archdiocese of Cap-Haïtien
  • Sister Anne Marie Dorcélus, PSST – aunt of Father Arnel Joseph, PSJ
  • Sister Agnès Bordeau (French citizen), sister of Providence of la Pommeraye
  • Madame Oxane Dorcélus, mother of Father Arnel Joseph, PSJ
  • Miss Lovely Joseph, sister of Father Arnel Joseph, PSJ
  • Mr. Welder Joly, godfather of Father Arnel Joseph, PSJ

In response to the dramatic rise in kidnappings of which this attack is a part, the Episcopal Conference of Haiti issued a strong statement condemning the kidnapping and calling for Catholic institutions across the country to stop work on April 15. The statement reads in part, 

We denounce and condemn with all our might the dictatorship of kidnapping in our country. We must not let bandits continue to kill, rape, kidnap others…We must unite in prayer, in striving to have another country similar to the one God wants us to be. The risen Jesus is the strength for all living Christians in the struggle for life. Thus, like the apostle Paul, we can say: “We are troubled but not despairing, we are under persecution, but we are not alone. They have struck us, but they have not killed us ”(2 Corinthians 4: 8-9).

It is in this sense that we, the Conference of Bishops and the CHR (Haitian Religious Conference), to protest against these evil deeds in the country, we ask all Catholic schools, presbyterals, congregants, universities and all other institutions. we are due to stop work next Thursday, April 15th. We ask the pairs and all the consecrated, all the pastoral agents to accompany and keep the people of God in hope as Pope Francis has just told us: “Do not let difficulties overwhelm you.” But we look forward with confidence and hope ”. We ask that on Thursday, April 15, throughout the country all bells be rung at noon and that we celebrate Mass in all our churches to ask God for change for Haiti. In Port-au-Prince, Mass will be celebrated in the church of St. Peter Petion-Ville and all the Bishops of Haiti on the same day at noon.

Full statement here (in Haitian Creole).

On April 15, 50+ businesses in Haiti announced that they would join with the church on the day of protest and Quisqueya University closed in solidarity.

A New Prime Minister

As the situation of insecurity continues to worsen, Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe resigned April 13th, and Moise nominated Charles Joseph, the current foreign minister, as his replacement. 

In accepting Jouthe’s resignation, Moise referenced the security situation and the need to continue to press for some kind of compromise solution to the ongoing political stalemate.

Charles Joseph is set to become the 5th prime minister to serve under Jovenel Moise since massive protests against the government led to the resignation of Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant in July 2018. The others were Jean-Henry Céant, who resigned in March of 2019 following another round of demonstrations. To be followed by Jean-Michel Lapin and then Fritz William Michel – who was never confirmed by parliament. Joseph Jouthe was made prime minister by Moise in March of 2020 and thus served one year during which Moise ruled by decree. 

Haiti’s government holds a “town hall  meeting” in the United States to sell referendum

Determined to press ahead with a referendum on the constitution, the government held a special town hall meeting for Haitians living in the United States. Under provisions of earlier constitutional reform, Haitians living in the United States will be able to vote in the referendum. It is important to remember that earlier constitutional reforms are themselves controversial, and secondly, a referendum of this kind is not allowed under the 1987 constitution. 

That said, the government seems intent on moving forward, though neither the United States nor the UN office in Haiti support the referendum. It is not clear that either the US or UN will seek to block the process, but both argue that legislative elections need to happen first, and that constitutional questions should be settled in consultation with that new legislature.

From the Miami Herald: “At this stage, the process is not sufficiently inclusive, participatory or transparent,” the U.N. Integrated Office in Haiti, which is headed by La Lime, said in a tweet. “National ownership of the draft constitution requires the engagement of a wider range of political, societal, including women’s and religious groups across the country.”

The proposed constitutional reforms have only been available in French – not Haitian Creole. The referendum is scheduled for June, but it is very unlikely to happen – at least not with much in the way of participation. Many organizations see the reforms as illegitimate and thus plan to boycott the process. Further, as many people have pointed out, the security situation in the country makes holding the vote impractical, indeed, dangerous.

The United States still doesn’t get it

In addition to the kidnapping of the group attending Father Jean Anel Joseph’s installation, gangs attacked an orphanage, killing a guard and sexually assaulting two children over the weekend. The previous week witnessed another attack in Croix de Bouquet that led to several deaths and mutilations. Days earlier gangs from Delmas under the leadership of Jimmy Cherizier attacked the community of Bel Air – claiming to be a response to a previous attack from Bel Air, but which others argue was an effort to quell opposition to the government.

Twitter is daily filled with reports of gang violence, kidnappings and assaults on women and girls. For much of the country, Jovenel Moise should no longer be president. His tenure, according to organized sectors of civil society, constitutional scholars, and Supreme Court Justices, should have ended on February 7, 2021. He remains. Those organized in opposition do not support Moise overseeing elections. There is no consensus on a specific solution to the stalemate, but there is broad agreement among opposition forces on the need for a transitional government to oversee elections. And one of the main reasons is that many view Moise as responsible for the reigning insecurity, i.e., gangs have been mobilized to secure political positions – not simply as criminal operations.

Into this fray, which has been fraying for almost three years now, the United States has entered with a consistent mantra: elections must happen. The problem is that aside from Moise and his political allies, hardly any one else in Haiti is saying that. Rather, much as with the referendum, people are saying that the security situation is not conducive to holding elections. Further, if Moise is responsible (either through incompetence, or complicitity) for the main source of instability, i.e., the gangs, then any election overseen by him is likely to be poorly attended and widely seen as illegitimate – not to mention dangerous. In other words, elections in and of themselves, will solve nothing. 

So it comes as no surprise that amidst the deepening crisis, the State Department’s comment on the change in Prime Ministers:

Tone deaf.

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Biden must halt expulsions to Haiti

Yesterday morning I had two messages on Haiti in my inbox. One noting that the 27th removal flight to Haiti since February 1, 2021 was scheduled to land in Port-au-Prince later that afternoon. The other message was about a gang attack in the Marin 26 neighborhood in Croix-des-Bouquets not far from the airport in Port au Prince. On Wednesday this week (April 7), three young men were shot and at least one of them beheaded. Initial reports indicated that members of the gang “Chen Mechan” were responsible for the attack – one of the victims being the leader of a rival gang. 

The two story threads have been consistent since Biden took office. Two or three times a week (back in February, three times in one day!) expulsion flights are leaving the United States for Port-au-Prince. Meanwhile, there are daily reports of gang attacks, kidnappings, or assassinations in Haiti. I keep wondering how Biden’s folk are unable to connect these dots, and stop the expulsions. 

The sad truth is, Biden’s people know all this – and they keep returning Haitians anyway; Women, children, men, families, are being expelled without having a chance to request asylum. This needs to stop. 

“May face harm…”

Toward the end of February, there was an interagency meeting held to discuss the dangers that people removed to Haiti may face. A document summarizing the meeting was leaked to Hameed Aleaziz of Buzzfeed News. His report of the document’s contents on March 2, 2021, says: 

“[B]ased on a recent analysis of conditions in Haiti, USCIS believes that Haitians removed to Haiti may face harm upon return to Haiti as follows.” The document goes on to explain the conditions in the country and relies exclusively on publicly available information, including a State Department travel advisory from August that recommended not traveling to Haiti due to “crime, civil unrest, kidnapping, and COVID-19.”

By the end of February, the Biden administration had ramped up expulsions to Haiti, deporting more people during the first three weeks of February (963) than Trump had deported in all of Fiscal Year (895). Since this interagency meeting was reported (it is not clear when the meeting itself was held), and despite the clear observation that people “may face harm,” another 700+ people have been expelled to Haiti. 

There is widespread opposition to these expulsions to Haiti within the U.S. Congress, and among human rights organizations, public health experts and others. Nevertheless, Biden’s Department of Homeland Security has been unrelenting. 

Two weeks ago we released a report with the Haitian Bridge Alliance and UndocuBlack, The Invisible Wall: Title 42 and its Impact on Haitian Migrants. The report concerns the Trump era Center for Disease Control public health order claiming authority under Title 42 of the U.S. Code to expel people absent an asylum review or access to other humanitarian relief.  Though public health experts have lined up repeatedly to denounce this order as having no public health justification, Biden currently insists on keeping it in place.

For most people, Title 42 policies mean summary expulsion back into Mexico. Well over 90% of the people expelled are removed within 2 hours of first encounter by Border Patrol. One result is that many simply try to come back again. Nearly 40% of those removed this way, try again (this is one reason why the number of apprehensions have been increasing in recent months, even before Biden took office). However, for the vast majority of Haitians, Title 42 does not mean quick expulsion back across a bridge into Mexico. For Haitians, Title 42 means being placed in detention for weeks, and then put on a plane and sent back to Haiti.  

As we document in this report, most of the people arriving at the United States/Mexico border today left Haiti years ago. They are arriving from Brazil, Chile and other countries in Latin America where tens of thousands fled after the Port-au-Prince earthquake in 2010. So, after years of migration, fleeing violence and racism in other countries, on a journey across thousands of miles and seven to ten countries, people arrive at the U.S. border to make a claim for asylum. This they are denied. They are summarily expelled to Haiti without being heard

Another distinction for Haitian removals is that a large portion of them are families. Title 42 policies have no exemption for families and as a result, families have been expelled along with everyone else. Though there is some evidence that Biden is expelling fewer families overall in recent weeks, Haitian families are still being removed at alarming rates. Again, they are not allowed to request asylum or another kind of humanitarian relief. They are denied access to attorneys. They are held in very poor conditions. Most are not able to communicate with the people detaining them. From The Invisible Wall:

“Roseline” is a 37-year-old wife and mother who fled Haiti after being kidnapped, beaten, and raped by a group because of her political affiliations.“They had kidnapped me so I could give information about the political group I was a coordinator of. They beat me up, they raped me… I said I didn’t know any- thing. They let me go and asked me to search for information to bring to them.” After the attack, Rose- line tried to go to the Haitian police, but they refused to provide any form of protection.“I went to the police with what had happened, the police just laughed. They act just like bandits and said I didn’t get killed but I’m still complaining.”

Roseline and her husband fled Haiti in July of 2016. She gave birth to their first son while they were traveling through Mexico. After a long and grueling journey, Roseline entered the United States on Feb- ruary 1, 2021, and was expelled on February 11, 2021 under the Title 42 policy.

In the United States Roseline did not have a chance to speak to an immigration officer about her fear of returning to Haiti. She was never given a Haitian Creole interpreter nor were any of the documents she was given translated into Creole. Roseline did not get an opportunity to speak to a lawyer nor present her case to a judge. She was detained for 11 days without access to a shower or to brush her teeth:

I was in prison, they kept me there and did not give me access to a shower or to brush my teeth or wash myself. I couldn’t do anything and they put me on a plane back to Haiti…. Anywhere in the world it’s known that a woman cannot go two days without bathing. I spent 11 days there without any access to clean myself with a 4-month-old baby. When I got wipes for the baby, I had to use the wipes to wash my private parts. The baby had pooped on the clothes. I asked if I could change the baby’s clothes and I had to put the dirty clothes in a plastic bag, and they said they had no clothes for me. I wanted to get access to our stuff to get clean clothes but they didn’t allow me so I had to put the clothes with the poop on the baby again, and those are the clothes the baby wore on the plane…. I had in- fection when I returned to Haiti because I spent the whole time without bathing.

Roselyn’s case is not unique. While difficult to confirm with DHS, we estimate that Haitian families make up at least half of these expulsions. Advocates working to halt removals have encountered full expulsion flights of all family units, including dozens of young children. The optics of expelling children, some just months old to Haiti are not great for the administration. However, the optics of treating them decently seems to scare Biden more. So, while there is often buzz about this or that deal on Title 42, the only public gesture Biden’s administration has made regarding Haiti immigration is the U.S. Embassy posting warnings to Twitter, telling people not to come to the United States.

Meanwhile, the conditions in Haiti that people are being returned to are deteriorating rapidly.

The psychosis of fear

The administration’s observation that people returned to Haiti “may face harm” seems laughably obtuse – except that there is nothing funny about the collapse of governance and rising insecurity in Haiti.

“Practically every Haitian is living in a psychosis of fear,” [Michelle] Obas told the Miami Herald. “Every time you see a vehicle, you jump. Even your child. You are taking them to school and they are afraid. … The country’s traumatizing and we are in a situation that is chaotic with no idea when we will get out of it.” 

The topic on everyone’s mind at the moment is the rise in gang violence. The reality is that gangs are a manifestation of a deep structural crisis involving long-term unemployment, crowded, underserviced cities, and the parallel collapse of state capacity, as public agencies have been gutted by decades of neo-liberal reform. All of this has occurred alongside an utter refusal to stem the flow of weaponry to the country (despite a “weapons embargo” thousands of small arms have entered Haiti since 2004/5, most from the United States and the Dominican Republic).  

The result is that gang violence has been steadily on the rise over the past few years, and shows no sign of abating. While the refrain that the government is “behind the gangs” is probably not true across the board, there have been multiple reports that some armed groups, such as the federation G-9 under the control of Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, are backed by – or at least tolerated by – the government in exchange for keeping a lid on opposition activity. 

Just this week the situation in Port-au-Prince exploded again, as Cherizier’s gang attacked the community of Bel Air, burning out families in a rampage that left an untold number of people dead. From the Miami Herald,

They arrived unannounced, brandishing heavy artillery as they scaled the rooftops of houses, firing shots and setting homes ablaze.

While some residents managed to escape amid the billows of black smoke and tear gas, others became trapped and died inside their burning houses. The Thursday assault on residents inside the poor, pro-opposition neighborhood of Bel Air in Haiti’s capital was the third large attack in less than two years.

It occurred within walking distance of Haiti’s presidential palace and was perpetrated by gang members affiliated with Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier, a fired policeman-turned-powerful gang chief who is wanted in several massacres, including the slaughter of dozens of men, women and children in a 2018 attack in Port-au-Prince’s La Saline slum.

Cherizier does not deny attacking Bel Air, but claims he was defending his neighborhood (Delmas) against attacks from rival gangs in Bel Air. Cherizier argues that Haiti’s opposition is “supplying guns and cash to Bel Air so residents could attack his alliance.”

Human rights leaders said it had nothing to do with gang rivalry, but “was to break the resistance of Bel Air, which is considered an opposition stronghold, and to prevent residents from taking to the streets in anti-government protests, which have increased in recent weeks. . . . The attack is also the result of the impunity that Chérizier and his fellow gang members have come to enjoy under the administration of President Jovenel Moïse, Gilles added.” 

It is worth noting that days before the attack, people mobilized in large demonstrations against the government.

While the motivations and alliances underlying the gang phenomenon are multi-faceted, and vary in different parts of the country, one thing that should be abundantly clear to the U.S. Embassy and thus the Biden administration is that gang violence in Haiti right now, whatever criminal activity accompanies it, is political violence. Period. People who are fleeing this situation are as much refugees as people fleeing a war zone. 

For the time being, however, Biden’s team keeps sending people back into the heart of the conflict. And, to be clear, not just sending them back, but doing so without even allowing them a chance to make a claim for humanitarian relief. It is infuriating to watch, and it must stop. What political calamity does Biden fear so much that he is willing to send families back to Haiti without even pausing to ask them why they fled? 

What can be done?

Among the recommendations we make in our report, the big ticket items are 1. Rescind Title 42 policies, 2. Re-designate temporary protected status (TPS) for Haiti, and 3. Halt all expulsions and deportations to Haiti.

Title 42 is just lousy policy. When implemented it was widely viewed as a political stunt by Steven Miller, Trump’s anti-immigration advisor, to use the COVID-19 pandemic as an end around federal courts, which had blocked several Trump efforts to shut down asylum. Title 42 also bypasses Congress altogether.  Public health experts have repeatedly bashed the CDC order as unnecessary, and have offered multiple sets of recommendations that could replace it and actually provide enhanced public health measures at the border without closing off asylum claims.

Biden has agreed to review the policy – and the CDC order will have to be revoked eventually, one would think. For now, every day thousands of people are being expelled with no due process by the president who promised to rebuild asylum. He needs more time, he says, and blames the whole situation on Trump. We don’t think this is good enough.

The message to Biden: Revoke Title 42, and replace it with real public health protections and expanded asylum processing.

Second, re-designate TPS for Haiti. Temporary Protected Status is a designation that the president can make that protects most people currently in the United States from a specific country from removal. People who are unauthorized, or unable to return home, can get permission to work for some period of time, rather than be deported. Haiti was granted TPS following the earthquake in 2010, and it was redesignated in 2011 (meaning anyone from Haiti living in the United States as of July 23, 2011 was protected from removal). 

Trump tried to kill TPS for Haiti by refusing to renew it in 2018. This set off a court battle that is still underway.

The demand being made now is that Biden re-designate TPS for Haiti. This would end the uncertainty Haitians previously designated have been living with since Trump starting dismantling TPS, and it would also protect others currently in the United State who are more recent arrivals.

Politically speaking, there is no reason not to do this! Members of the Senate, including Republican Marco Rubio, have called for redesignating TPS for Haiti.This week, House leadership on the foreign relations committee joined in the call for a redesignation of TPS for Haiti. This seems to be the most likely remedy. 

Unfortunately redesignation does nothing about the Title 42 expulsions. Anyone from Haiti arriving after the re-designation date, will still be expelled. At the same time, halting Title 42 expulsions, while reducing the number of people being removed, does not mean people get to stay unless Haitian asylum claims are taken more seriously.

So, we support all of the above. But the simplest demand is to stop the expulsion of Haitians! No more removals until the political situation stabilizes. 

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A “State of Emergency” Declared in Haiti

On Monday, March 15, Jovenel Moise declared a “state of emergency” in Haiti in a decree endorsed by his Council of Ministers. According to news reports,

A decree adopted by the Council of Ministers said:  “The state of emergency is instituted in gangsterized areas for one month, during which certain rights can be suspended in neighborhoods concerned, in order to allow the PNH (National Police of Haiti) to regain control of the situation.”

The decree defines the state of emergency as “a situation in which a regime applies restricting certain fundamental freedoms and exceptional powers of the executive which are justified by a situation of proven or imminent national disaster, terrorist attack or serious breach of public order challenging the police and endangering national security and requiring the adoption of urgent measures.”

Though a “State of Emergency” is defined legislatively, the Council of Ministers amended legislative provisions in order “to give the Superior Council of the National Police (CSPN) the means to combat banditry and crime, and to empower the PNH and the Armed Forces of Haiti (FADH) to work in synergy to combat.” 

Specific areas named in the decree include: Village de Dieu, Grand-Ravine, Delmas 2, and Savien (in the Artibonite). However, the decree allows for the emergency declaration to be applied in other areas defined by the Council, so enforcement could ultimately reach anywhere.

With declaration in hand, Moise met with officials at the Organization of American States on Monday, and the United Nations on Tuesday to ask for “technical and logistical” support for police activity. 

Meanwhile, the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, restated U.S. qualified support for Moise during hearings last week. Blinken’s statement was shared on Twitter by the U.S. Embassy in Haiti on Monday: “I share concern about some of the authoritarian and undemocratic actions that we’ve seen. Decrees need to be limited to essential functions. We need to see the Haitians organize, with international support, genuinely free and fair elections this year.”

The moves this week all point toward Moise attempting to consolidate his grip on power in the wake of the bloody and disastrous police invasion of Village de Dieu last Friday. The police effort to take control of Village de Dieu, reportedly a location where many kidnapping victims are held, and under the control of the “5 Seconds” gang, ended in disaster. Armed groups in the area seized one of the police’s armed vehicles, burned another, and killed four police officers, while wounding another eight – three of whom required emergency surgeries. Gang members shot video of the violence, including desecration of the bodies of the police officers; videos were shared widely on social media.

The whole episode has magnified criticism of the government – including, now, from members of the police force. For over a year, some members of the national police have been organizing periodic protests against the government in disputes over pay and dismissals. Formally, demands for better pay and treatment have come from the Syndicat de la Police Nationale d’Haiti (SPNH17). Informally, some members of the police have mobilized under the banner of Phantom 509, which has ridden through sectors of Port-au-Prince on motorcycles and burned vehicles during various protests over the past year.

This week, Phantom 509 issued an ultimatum to the gangs in Village de Dieu to hand over the bodies of police officers killed in the operation last Friday. Then on Thursday, Phantom 509 marched again with other police officers. Under the auspices of SPNH17 some police officers issued a call for the resignation of Chief of Police Leon Charles. Members of Phantom 509 also invaded a police station to set free members arrested in other actions.

Where does this all lead? If one interprets the police operation in Village de Dieu last Friday as an effort to establish credibility on Moise’s part, it clearly backfired – massively. Moise is now seen as even more inept, with calls for his removal widening even further (see #FreeHaiti). Among rank and file police officers Friday’s disastrous attack has only widened divisions further.

So, now Moise is retreating to where he always has – seeking support from international bodies and the U.S. government. 

Over the weekend the U.S. Undersecretary of State for the Western Hemisphere stated, “The vile murder of Haitian National Police officers in Village de Dieu highlights the broader insecurity challenges in Haiti. We call on the Haitian government to provide the police with the resources it needs to protect the Haitian people from gangs.” (emphasis added). Moise has taken this “advice” to heart with the declaration of a State of Emergency, providing expanded powers to the police, alongside the prospect of joint operations with the Armed Forces of Haiti (presumed to be loyal to Moise). 

Biden may well tire of standing with Moise, as the situation continues to unravel. Of course, Moise would not be in power were it not for the machinations of the last administration of which Biden was a part. Obama’s team at the State Department under then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton helped put the PHTK in power back in 2010-2011, and U.S. pressure helped put Moise himself in power. Accountability for such interventions being foreign to the United States, I don’t expect Biden to actually change course now. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Haitians are left to reap what the elite and their allies in D.C. have sown.

 

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Amidst the political turmoil, life goes on Gros Morne

Throughout February, as Haiti was facing an ongoing political crisis that has kept much of the country on edge, work continued. For the agronomy team from the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center this meant visiting community organizations, presenting workshops, checking in with people and their livestock with the mobile clinic, and talking to farmers about the quality of the recent sweet potato harvest. I capture some of these activities below, with updates from the team. 



In the top-left photo above, participants in the goat program bring their goats to a mobile vet clinic led by Songé; in the top-right photo, Songé speaks with a young man who has brought a chicken in for a check-up. The goat program is built around the concept of “paying it forward.” Community groups receive training on the program and care for the goats, and then “cohorts” are formed including 10 female goats and one billy goat. When the goats have kids, they are shared with other members of the community. The chicken program works in a similar fashion, with community organizations involved in the distribution of chickens, which provide another source of food as well as eggs that can be sold in local markets.

On the bottom left, Aneus, a member of the agronomy team, holds a community meeting with people who are using a cistern to water their yard gardens in Bigue. The cistern project has been a major undertaking (funded by Focus on Haiti, a project of the Sisters of Mercy). More on this below. In the bottom right photo, Teligene, another member of the agronomy team, shows workshop participants how to prepare a smoked fish.

In this photo, Teligene & Songé hold a formation about land preparation before the spring planting in Baden. The spring planting is the primary one for the year (there is another in the fall). These kinds of trainings are one of the benefits for participants in the seed bank, through which farmers can purchase seeds at subsidized rates and hold them “in deposit” at the bank until preparations for planting are complete. The timing and success of plantings is highly contingent on rainfall, which has become increasingly unpredictable. 


Above is a map of program sites where the agronomy team is involved in training and other support for farming communities. You can see the various places where the goat and chicken programs have been launched, where work is being done with planting gardens, and in training on the planting of weevil free sweet potatoes. 

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Haiti update, and call to stop removals!

On February 7, Jovenel Moise refused to step down from the presidency of Haiti. As we reported last week, there has been a flurry of activity since, as Moise has sought to secure his position and attack opponents. On the morning of February 7th, Moise had 20-23 people arrested, including a supreme court justice and police inspector, on charges that they were plotting to kill him and take control of the government. The coup narrative, reported widely around the world that day, served its purpose of deflecting attention away from the source of the crisis (Moise’s refusal to step down) but has mostly been met with skepticism since. 

Later that evening a segment of the opposition selected another supreme court justice, Joseph Mecene Jean-Louis , to serve as a provisional president. The next day, police officers surrounded the Supreme Court building, and Moise, later “retired” three more justices. The retirements were likely not legal, and neither was Moise’s appointment of three replacements on Friday. With the Supreme Court recast in his image, and Parliament defunct, Moise has contained any institutional opposition to his continued rule. 

Not surprisingly, of course, over the past week there have been demonstrations against the government. In several of these demonstrations police very clearly targeted journalists, two of whom were shot. Mobilization from popular neighborhoods in the capital are dangerous, as many of these neighborhoods are under the control of gangs aligned with the government. The biggest demonstration of the week came on Sunday, February 14.

Moise is still holding the executive office, and is pressing ahead with plans for a referendum on a package of constitutional reforms to be held in April (though when or if this happens is still an open question). The reconstitution of the Supreme Court takes on increased relevance here, as the referendum itself is likely unconstitutional. If Moise proceeds, he is likely to use the new court to approve the various measures he is attempting to roll out.

The “opposition”

While many people have rallied behind Justice Joseph Mecene Jean-Louis  as a provisional president, he is hardly a consensus choice. This underscores an important point for all of us reading the crisis from abroad: The opposition is not a singular entity. In March of 2019 Commune published an article by the Kolektif Anakawona that provides background on different facets of the opposition, a rubric that is still largely applicable and worth a review.

There is, of course, a “partisan” opposition, made up of current and former parliamentarians. These folks were the focal point of attention when parliament was still in session, but many of them struggle with legitimacy among grassroots and popular organizations. Youri Latortue, for example, led the charge in investigations of abuse of PetroCaribe funds, yet has himself been the target of corruption investigations. If one focuses solely on the disputes between opposition members of parliament and Moise, it gives the appearance that the crisis is rooted in partisan wrangling. That is certainly how the White House under Trump and now Biden has viewed it. This would be a gross oversimplification.

People have been mobilizing not for a change of party but for structural change. What this means might vary group to group, but ultimately it is a demand for a more inclusive society – not simply better elections. Nou Pap Domi, a grassroots organization that grew out of the PetroCaribe protests, for example, issued a “Message to the Nation” on February 6, 2021 that said, “NOUPAPDÒMI does not recognize the legitimacy of the rest of the senators in parliament, nor some civil society actors as well as some politicians who were involved in all the wasteful negotiations and initiatives that got us into this crisis, to organize any dialogue or play any role in the country’s governance after the presidential term ends. There will be a RUPTURE from all the people, all the groups that never worked for the well-being of the people, who are up to their elbows in everything that got us into this state of turmoil today.”   

Though there is a diversity in the long and medium term vision of where Haiti needs to go – from politicians seeking new elections and new positions in a newly reformed government, to youth organizations seeking a rupture with the past and reconstitution of political and economic forces – there is near unanimity that Moise’s term has expired and a transition must begin immediately. Again, reading the crisis from the United States, we are confronted with the fact that our government’s position stands against the vast majority of Haiti’s political organizations and civil society. That said, we must keep in mind that no one group “speaks for the people of Haiti,” an obvious fact that somehow gets glossed over. From the U.S. then, we should demand that Biden’s State Department drop its support for Moise’s mandate extending to February 7, 2022 – but not argue about who gets to take charge, or how. Under no circumstance should we demand that the U.S. play any role in removing Moise. 

As we’ve said many times, the U.S. needs to get out of the way of a solution rather than promote the one that seems most conducive to U.S. interests. By simply saying, some variation of “the United States supports the people of Haiti in deciding the way forward…,” the Biden administration would make a solution far more likely. Currently, however, what we see is a stream of patronizing platitudes raining down on Haiti from the U.S., O.A.S., and U.N. that endorse Moise’s tenure. The expressions of concern, cautions about constitutionality and the expressed need for dialog all become pretty vacuous when enjoined with, “and we think Moise’s mandate ends February 7, 2022.” 

Biden has removed more people to Haiti in three weeks than Trump did in all of FY2020

Yes that is true. The Biden administration is expelling people to Haiti at an insane rate. And they continue to, After flying people out nearly every day (there were three expulsions flights to Haiti in one day last week!), this week there was a short break due to the weather – not principle – with transportation and energy infrastructure in Texas largely shut down. That said, there were still removal flights to Haiti on Monday and Friday.

According to ICE’s recently released annual report for FY 2020 (which runs from October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020), 895 people were removed to Haiti during that year – which includes Title 42 removals from March to September. While precise numbers on the flights this month are not known (flight manifests are not public) there have been 13 flights since February 2, some full with 135 people, others with fewer. But estimates are that at least 900 people have been removed so far this month, most of whom have been part of family units. Including infants.

So, Biden’s ICE isn’t any nicer than Trump’s. Amidst the current crisis in Haiti, this level of removal is unconscionable. 

What you can do?

For now, we are very much focused on ending the expulsion of people to Haiti. There are a number of petitions and statements circulating that you can join onto. While these actions do not address the roots of the crisis in Haiti, they are directed at one of the inhumane responses of our government to that crisis – continuing to expel people.

The Haitian Bridge Alliance is circulating a letter calling for a halt to removals to Haiti. It is a strong letter and open to organizations and individuals. You can view the letter hereand sign here.

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition is circulating a sign-on letter for congregations and other organizations, calling for end to removals. You can sign your group on here.

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition is also circulating a letter for individual faith leaders to sign. View that here

Faith in Action is also circulating a statement to end removals to Haiti in the context of the political crisis. You can sign that here.

There is a growing movement to press Biden to revoke Title 42 sooner rather than later. The Latin America Working Group has launched a petition to the effect which you can sign here.

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Political Crisis in Haiti

As many of you know, Jovenel Moise refused to step-down from Haiti’s presidency on Sunday, February 7, 2021. Moise is arguing that a delay in his inauguration (he did not take office until 2017) means he should serve until February 7, 2022. The United States government and Luis Almagro, OAS General Secretary are standing by Moise. Meanwhile, most of Haiti is not.

Woy magazine published one of the clearer explanations of the argument about Moise’s term, sighting the section 134-2 of the Constitution, as amended in 2012: The president elected enters into his functions on 7 February following the date of his election. In the case where the ballot cannot take place before 7 February, the president elected enters into his functions immediately after the validation of the ballot and his mandate is considered to have commenced on 7 February of the year of the election.

Moise won election in 2016 (following allegations of fraud during the original 2015 election), hence, his mandate is considered to have begun on February 7, 2016. Seems clear enough.

That said, another president might have garnered the benefit of the doubt. But not Moise. He has been the target of ongoing demonstrations since July 2018. At that point frustration with economic decline, revelations (some implicating Moise) of billions of dollars stolen out of PetroCaribe funds, and an IMF mandated cut in fuel subsidies all combined to send thousands of people into the street, and ultimately led to the collapse of the government and resignation of Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant.

Moise, however, survived.  Over the last two and half years, there have been ongoing protest cycles that have locked the country down repeatedly, the one consistent demand: Moise’s resignation. Another Prime Minister was forced to resign following protests in February of 2019, and a new government, at least one approved by Parliament, never materialized. Yet, Moise remained. Then in January 2020, the terms of the House of Deputies, and the majority of Senators expired. Since then, Moise has been ruling by decree and the human rights situation in the country has deteriorated even further.

Moise’s refusal to step down was not a surprise. He has been indicating that he intended to stay in power for some time now. He has proposed a constitutional referendum for this April, to be followed by two rounds of elections in the fall. The Electoral Commission he appointed to oversee all of this, was not approved by most sectors and is widely seen as illegitimate. The opposition, though divided in many ways, remains united in the demand the Moise step aside and allow a provisional president or council to oversee elections. There is precedent for this. Mosie’s predecessor, Michele Martelly stepped down in 2016 despite there being no replacement, to allow a provisional president to complete the electoral process (delayed for wide spread accusations of fraud) that brought Moise to power.

Timeline of activity this week

Events since Sunday have evolved quickly – too quickly to offer much detailed analysis (below the timeline I point to some resources that give a deeper understanding of the context of events). Here I simply offer a summary and highlight stories and statements

Sunday

Moise announces a foiled coup attempt from the airport, (on his way to Jacmel). 

Those arrested include a Supreme Court justice Yvickel Dabrésil and police inspector Marie-Louise Gauthier

Many are skeptical of the coup story.

Later in the day, Moise issues a pre-recorded message, declaring his intent to remain in office and hold a referendum on Constitutional changes. 

Opposition leaders select Supreme Court Justice Joseph Mecene Jean-Louis as provisional president. He gives a brief statement.

Monday

Monday morning, Haiti National Police surround the Supreme Court

Moise issues an order “retiring” three Supreme Court justices

Many are skeptical of the legality of this order,

The Haitian military (FAdH) release a press statement citing responsibility to “assure national security” and defend “democratic order.”

During protests on Monday, two reporters are shot (both still alive)

Tuesday

OAS General Secretary Luis Almagro Issues a statement expressing concern, but endorsing Moise’s position.

The United States Embassy issues a statement claiming to be “deeply concerned” about order to remove judges. However, the U.S. does not walk back form its support of Moise’s decision to remain in power.

Guerline Josef from the Haitian Bridge Alliance appears on Democracy Now to discuss the Biden administration’s resumption of removal flights to Haiti after only a one day suspension.

Wednesday

On Wednesday, students demonstrate in Port au Prince

The demonstration is broken up by the police, who once again target journalists covering the march.

Moise announces a new agroindustrial park – apparently on behalf of the Apaid family (apparel industry giants, among other business interests in Haiti)

Thursday

Supreme Court justice Yvickel Dabrésil, one of the accused in the alleged “coup” plot, is released from jail.

Demonstrations are announced for the coming Sunday

Resources/Background

Some reactions from Haiti’s civil society to the arrests and forced retirements from the last few days (List from Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti)

More Haitian civil society statements (most have been translated) on crisis on the new Haiti Watch blog

More back ground, see Mark Schuller’s excellent NACLA article,”The Foreign Roots of Haiti’s ‘Constitutional Crisis’”published online February 6, 2021

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti’s most recent report on the human rights situation

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Stalemate over Haiti’s elections continues

Haiti’s president, Jovenal Moise, and his electoral council have proposed a timeline for elections that include a referendum on a new constitution. At the same time, there is disagreement about Moise’s tenure in office, with opposition leaders and some legal scholars saying Moise should step down on February 7 this year. Moise, disagrees. The timeline his electoral council has submitted assumes he stays in office another year. 

Overdue elections

Haiti has not had a sitting parliament since January 13, 2020. Parliamentary elections, supposed to be held in the fall of 2019, were not held in time. As a result there were not enough members of Parliament to achieve a quorum (and vote on a new election law). Later in the year terms for most local officials also expired without elections to fill posts. One estimate is that there are only 11 elected officials serving in the entire country at the moment. Since January 2020, Moise has ruled by decree. 

It is important to keep in mind that massive demonstrations in the summer of 2018 brought about the resignation of the government. A new prime minister was then forced out of office again amidst protests in February of 2019. During the fall of 2019 lasting through the beginning of 2020, the country was locked down as the result of protests calling for Moise to resign. 

With U.S. backing, Moise has prevailed through it all. Over the last year, with Moise ruling by decree, there has been an increase in violence by non-state actors (evidence suggests in many cases they are aligned with police), including political assassinations. Protests have been met with state violence as well. In December Moise issued an executive decree increasing penalties for protest and initiating new intelligence services.

Opposition voices, both in the streets and among a divided political class, are demanding Moise leave – before elections and constitutional reforms proceed. Moise’s election was itself problematic. He “won” in a highly contested election – one with two rounds of balloting as the first round was cancelled due to accusations of corruption. Because there was a delay in Moise taking office, he has argued his tenure should extend another year. The opposition says no! He must leave on February 7, 2021 as originally scheduled. Moise’s predecessor, Michel Martelly, left office on February 7, 2016.

With most eyes in the country on February 7 (which this year marks the 35th anniversary of Jean Claude Dulavier’s resignation and flight from the country amidst widespread protest), Moise is looking ahead.

Election timeline

What Moise is proposing is a referendum on changes to Haiti’s constitution in April of 2021, and then to hold national elections on September 19, 2021, for parliament and the presidency. On November 21, local elections will be held, alongside runoffs (as needed) for national posts. To approve and implement this timeline, Moise appointed a 9-member electoral commission, by decree, of course. Which is to say, the whole process is already illegal, at least under the existing constitution. 

As far as the new constitution goes, it has not been made public yet. However, some of the changes possibly in-store were leaked. From the Miami Herald:

Among the biggest changes, according to an interview with Louis Naud Pierre on Port-au-Prince-based Magik 9 radio station earlier this week, is the elimination of the post of prime minister and the Haitian Senate, and the introduction of governors for each region.

The United States and the Organization of American States, which split intervention duties in Haiti when it comes to elections, have given divided messages. Both are standing with Moise, and his authority to oversee elections, but the U.S. wants those elections held immediately. The OAS agrees with a quick timeline for elections, though has, in previous statements, accepted the extended tenure for Moise. Biden’s campaign has only said he would “work with the international community” to ensure elections happen soon. What the U.S. position will be concerning the election timeline once he takes office is not exactly clear.

Meanwhile, the opposition is arguing for Moise to step down on schedule (Feb 7, 2021), to be replaced by a transitional authority that would oversee new elections. Such an exercise in self-determination is not likely to be supported by the U.S. or the OAS, but we’ll see. Perhaps the Biden administration will be too busy dealing with fallout from our own electoral crisis to weigh in too heavily on Haiti’s.

So, we wait. The days leading up to February 7th and whatever follows, could well lead the country into another lock down, and/or much more violence. Moise seems determined to hold power – for now – and has decreed himself an enormous amount of authority to use force if he decides it is necessary. The opposition is still refusing to accept a process that involves him, which for now leaves them the bully pulpit of opposition media, and the streets. For the majority of Haitians this means a good chance that there will be more disruptions to their lives and work. Even if most are sympathetic to opposition demands, people are clearly weary of the conflict.  

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