Haiti finally gets a prime minister

The Haitian Senate voted on July 31 to ratify the appointment of economist Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis as prime minister. Twelve of the 18 senators present voted in favor, and five abstained; as required by the regulations, Senate president Kelly Bastien did not vote. The Senate’s action completes the ratification process, since the Chamber of Deputies approved Pierre-Louis’ appointment on July 17. President Rene Garcia Preval nominated Pierre-Louis on June 23; it was his third effort to find a prime minister to succeed Jacques Edouard Alexis, who was forced to resign on April 12 following violent protests over the rising cost of food. Pierre-Louis is Haiti’s second woman prime minister.

Some of the opposition to Pierre-Louis stemmed from her position as director of the Foundation for Knowledge and Liberty (FOKAL), a nongovernmental organization supported by the Open Society Institute of US financier George Soros, who has backed neoliberal economic policies in Latin America. Some opposition was because of rumors about her sexual orientation. In the debate on July 31, Sen. Edmonde Supplice Beauzile said she wouldn’t vote for Pierre-Louis for moral reasons, while Sen. Rudy Heriveaux said people shouldn’t be penalized for their sexual orientation. Challenges facing Pierre-Louis now include dealing with the rising cost of living; finding a way to jump-start food production in the country; handling protests by former members of the army, which was disbanded in 1995; preparing for the start of the school year on Sept. 1; and arranging elections for nine of the 27 seats in the Senate. (Associated Press, July 31; Reuters, July 31; AlterPresse, July 31)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 3

See our last post on Haiti.