Haiti News Round-up: Political and Civil Society Leaders Meet in Jamaica

Political and civil society leaders are meeting in Kingston, Jamaica this week in a CARICOM-backed effort to break Haiti’s political impasse

From June 11 to 13, consultations were held between stakeholders from the Haitian government, the political opposition, and actors from Haitian civil society in Kingston, Jamaica in order to find solutions to the ongoing crises in Haiti. The summit was backed by CARICOM with financial support from the United States and Canada

In his remarks during the opening session, de facto Haitian PM Ariel Henry stated his intention “to listen” to the discussions taking place without moving beyond the December 21 accord, which remains contentious among many political and civil society actors.  “We did not come here to negotiate for another agreement,” Henry said. “We are here to listen … talk about … the next steps we have to take to rebuild our democracy.” After delivering his opening remarks, Henry reportedly left the meeting. 

Speaking on behalf of CARICOM’s Eminent Persons Group, former Jamaican prime minister Bruce Golding stated: “Yes, the discussions will most likely be contentious at times. Yes, ideas will be put forward that will attract criticism and objection. Yes, each of you must have the opportunity to put forward your positions firmly. We ask only that it be done respectfully, with a willingness not just to listen to contending views but to consider their merits before brushing them aside.”

On day two, Henry and other signatories of the December 21 accord requested a recess when participants began discussing issues of governance, according to Jeffsky Poincy, who is participating in the meetings on behalf of the anti-corruption collective, Nou Pap Dòmi. Local press reports indicate that Henry received pressure to continue participating in the summit from international officials. 

There appear to be disparate goals from the various actors in Kingston, including from the international community. Whereas Haiti’s main political parties and civil society actors have stated their desire for a broader political accord, Henry and some international officials appear to be more focused on building support for Henry and for a subsequent international security intervention. 

“I need the support of all, or of the greatest number, to combat insecurity and reassure the brotherly countries which plan to come to the aid of our security forces,” Henry stated

Ahead of the CARICOM meeting, BINUH, the UN Integrated Political Office in Haiti, announced its support for the December 21 accord and stated that it should be the basis of any negotiation.

Notably, after convening a roundtable discussion on security last month, the High Council of Transition, a key component of the December 21 accord, decided not to attend the meeting in Jamaica. 

A number of Haitian human rights and civil society organizations, some of whom are participating in the Kingston summit, have issued an urgent appeal outlining a rights based approach to the current crises. “An essential first step is to stop propping up the set of actors who created the crises facing the country, including those currently in power,” the groups wrote. They called for the creation of a new, legitimate transitional government. The full statement, which also calls for the creation of a “Haitian-Led Reparations Process,” is available here

More from the summit: Fanmi Lavalas statement on the topics of the CARICOM discussions (in French); Montana accord statement on the Kingston meeting (in French); Several political protagonists defend their positions at the CARICOM forum in Jamaica (in French); Former Haitian PM Claude Joseph’s comments on Ariel Henry’s “damning record” while in power, calls for his ouster at Kingston meeting (in French).

The CARICOM-backed meeting followed a visit to the Bahamas by US Vice President Kamala Harris and Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols last week

Ahead of a CARICOM leaders summit in the Bahamas last week, US officials renewed the Biden administration’s push for a multinational action force to address the ongoing security crisis in Haiti. While there, Nichols also met with Ariel Henry.

While the Biden administration has been pushing for this action since October 2022, the plan has largely faltered due to the lack of willingness of many nations, including the United States, France, Brazil, and Canada, to lead the force. There is also significant opposition in Haiti given the nation’s long history of international intervention. Many actors also argue that any security intervention would only consolidate Henry’s power. 

Vice President Harris announced a package of new programs aimed at combatting arms trafficking in the region, an issue of paramount importance to Haiti, where the majority of the illegal weapons are sourced from the United States. The administration also announced the created of a Haiti Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit “to facilitate investigations and prosecution of transnational crimes, including those with a U.S. nexus.”

In addition, the vice president announced $54 million in new humanitarian assistance to Haiti. “This new funding will provide vulnerable Haitians with urgently needed support, including vital food assistance and other humanitarian assistance, as 4.9 million people face acute food insecurity,” the White House said in a statement. An additional $10.5 million will go toward supporting Haiti’s agricultural sector. 

In response to the pledge of new humanitarian funding, Faith in Action released a statement urging USAID to include Haitian farmers and local organizations in their use of the funding as “Haitian farmers are the backbone of fighting hunger in Haiti.” For more background on the issue of local procurement and USAID reform, see the CEPR report, “Capacity Development for Whom? An Agenda for USAID Reform in Haiti.” 

Last week, the US designated former prime minister Laurent Lamothe due to “significant corruption”

On June 2, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced that former Haitian prime minister Laurent Lamothe had been designated due to his “involvement in significant corruption.” The announcement specifically highlighted the misappropriation of at least $60 million from the coffers of the Petrocaribe fund. The designation makes Lamothe, a longtime Miami resident, “generally ineligible for entry into the United States,” but notably does not entail any financial sanctions. Lamothe vehemently denounced the US’s actions in an interview with the Miami Herald. 

In 2018 and 2019, nationwide protests erupted in Haiti over the Petrocaribe program. Subsequent audits by government bodies revealed hundreds of millions of dollars lost due to waste, fraud, and abuse. In 2021, Lamothe’s use of offshore tax havens was revealed in the Pandora Papers leaks

Last month, de facto prime minister Henry issued a decree outlining new rules concerning money laundering, arms trafficking, and other financial crimes. The decree allows any country that sanctions a Haitian national to request their extradition and allows the Haitian state to freeze the assets of any individual sanctioned by other countries. 

The first defendant was sentenced in the Miami-based trial relating to the assassination of Jovenel Moïse

On June 2, Haitian businessman Rodolphe Jaar was sentenced to life in prison over his role in the 2021 assassination of Haiti’s president. For years, Jaar worked as a DEA informant before eventually being arrested for stealing 50 kilos of cocaine. He was sentenced in 2013 but only received three years because of his history of cooperation. 

Jaar was arrested in the Dominican Republic in January 2022 and is the only one of the 11 individuals currently in US custody to have pleaded guilty. He told prosecutors that he provided lodging, weapons, and money in furtherance of the assassination plot. 

For more background on the assassination case, see: “They Fooled Us” and “How Haiti’s Assassination Plot Unraveled, Minute by Minute and Text by Text.”

Deadly floods and yet another earthquake mark the beginning of hurricane season

On June 3, torrential rain across multiple departments in Haiti led to flooding and damage to homes, with several people reported missing or dead. The latest reports from the Civil Protection Office cite 58 deaths, 143 people injured, 20 missing, 2,843 homes damaged or destroyed, and 34,519 homes flooded. Overall, the total number of affected families has reached 44,994.

On June 6, a magnitude 5.5 earthquake affected several departments across southern Haiti, with most of the damage concentrated in the city of Jeremie in the department of Grand-Anse. Civil Protection has reported three deaths, 28 people injured, and several collapsed homes. The region is still recovering from a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in August 2021. 

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