On Oct. 13 the United Nations (UN) Security Council approved a one-year extension of the mandate for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), a 9,000-member military and police force that has occupied Haiti under Brazilian leadership since June 2004. The main change in the mandate is a slight reduction in the number of soldiers from 7,000 a 6,940, with the number of police agents increasing from 2,000 to 2,211. (Adital, Oct. 15)
According to Radio Jamaica on Oct. 20, US president Barack Obama has certified Haiti as having fulfilled workers’ rights criteria. The country was required to establish an independent labor ombudsperson’s office and a program operated by the International Labor Organization (ILO) to assess compliance with basic labor rights in Haitian factories. Some local producers also had to participate in the ILO program. The labor rights certification means that Haiti will continue to be covered by HOPE II, US trade legislation which gives duty-free access to the US market for some apparel products and other articles assembled in the country, including brassieres, luggage headgear and sleepwear. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, called the certification a sign that Haiti was ready for business. (Radio Jamaica, Oct. 20)
Former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001), now a special UN envoy to Haiti, has joined with US and Brazilian business interests to promote the development of assembly plants (maquiladoras) in Haiti that would benefit from the HOPE II legislation.
On Oct. 30 the Haitian Senate passed a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Michèle Duvivier Pierre-Louis, with 18 of the 27 members in favor of the motion. Pierre-Louis is now required to resign, and President René Préval will have to appoint a new prime minister. The motivation for Pierre-Louis’ removal, which was promoted by senators from President Préval’s Lespwa (Hope) party, is not clear, although critics said she had failed to move quickly to revive the economy during her 14 months on the job. The president is expected to nominate Planning and External Cooperation Minister Jean-Max Bellerive to replace her.
Both the UN and the US expressed concern that a new prime minister should take office as soon as possible. “The international community wants stability, predictability, and a government favorable to Bill Clinton’s business investment project,” University of Virginia professor Robert Fatton told the Miami Herald. “Whether it’s Michèle Pierre-Louis or not is irrelevant” to major players like Canada, France and the US. (Miami Herald, Oct. 29; AlterPresse, Oct. 30)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 3
See our last posts on Haiti.