Haiti: third try to appoint prime minister

On June 23 Haitian president Rene Preval nominated economist Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis to succeed acting prime minister Jacques Edouard Alexis, who was forced to resign on April 12 following violent protests over the rising cost of food. Preval made two other nominations before naming Pierre-Louis; Parliament rejected both. Pierre-Louis was an official at the National Airport Authority from 1979 to 1982, during the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier (“Baby Doc,” 1971-1986), and held a cabinet post in the first administration of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide in 1991.

She has worked with various nonprofit organizations and has been director of the Foundation for Knowledge and Liberty (FOKAL), which funds libraries, youth education programs and women’s networks in Haiti; it is supported by the Open Society Institute of US financier George Soros. If confirmed, Pierre-Louis would be Haiti’s second woman prime minister. (Haiti Support Group News Briefs, June 23 from Reuters; AlterPresse, July 12)

Business sectors support Pierre-Louis, and on July 11 the Franco-Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CFHCI) and the Center for Free Enterprise and Democracy (CLED) called on Parliament to move ahead with the confirmation. (AlterPresse, July 11) Activists have objected to FOKAL’s connection with Soros, a proponent of the neoliberal economic policies that many blame for Haiti’s current economic crisis. Supporters of Aristide’s Lavalas Family (FL) party oppose Pierre-Louis because she broke with Aristide during his second administration (2001-2004) and publicly criticized his government. At a conference in Miami on July 9, LF supporter Father Gerard Jean-Juste—who was imprisoned by the interim government that succeeded Aristide in 2004—denounced “the collaboration of Michele Pierre-Louis with the Duvalier dictatorship as an official of the International Airport.”

There have been rumors about Pierre-Louis’ sexual orientation. On July 9 Rev. Sylvain Exantus, president of the Protestant Federation of Haiti (FPH), called for a commission to investigate the nominee’s morals, saying that the Bible calls sexual relations between people of the same sex an “abomination.” The Catholic church hasn’t expressed a position, but Jeremie bishop Willy Romelus remarked that if the rumors about Pierre-Louis were true, she wouldn’t be the first person with a same-sex orientation to occupy an elevated position in the Haitian government. (Agence Haitienne de Presse, July 8, 9)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 13

See our last post on Haiti.