Venezuela crisis at issue in Haiti unrest

Thousands of Haitians filled the streets of Port-au-Prince and several provincial cities to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise on Feb, 7‚ÄĒanniversary of the¬†1986¬†ouster of long-ruling dictator¬†Jean-Claude “Baby Doc”¬†Duvalier. Demonstrators also called for the arrest of officials responsible for the plundering of monies from the Venezuela-provided PetroCaribe fund over the past 10 years. At least two were reported dead in the protests, with vehicles burned, a police station attacked, some 40 arrested, and many wounded, including 14 police officers. Haiti faces a fast-deepening crisis,¬†with hunger, unemployment¬†and inflation all growing. The cost of food and other necessities is increasing daily as the national currency depreciates. In 1986, the gourde was fixed at five to one dollar. Now 83 gourdes buys a dollar, up from 65 when Jovenel Mo√Įse came to power two years ago. (Haiti Libert√©)

Protests first broke out in October over the disappearance of funds from PetroCaribe, a project of Latin America’s Venezuela-led alternative integration that makes oil available to member states on favorable terms, freeing funds for local development. But Haiti has been saddled with debt for the oil provided through the program since joining in 2006. Meanwhile, $2 billion made available through the program for infrastructure and earthquake reconstruction was apparently siphoned off by corrupt officials. An investigation into the matter is pending. Unlike during last year’s “Kot K√≤b Petwo Karibe a?” (Where is the PetroCaribe money?) movement, Moise’s ouster has now emerged as a demand. (Miami Herald, Haiti Libre)

Protesters are additionally angered by the government’s vote with the US in the OAS not to recognize the presidency of Venezuela’s Nicol√°s Maduro. On Jan. 10, as Maduro was inaugurated¬†and the Organization of American States voted to deny him recognition, Haiti for the first time¬†voted with Washington and against Caracas‚ÄĒwhich has provided Haiti with some $4 billion in oil under the PetroCaribe accord. The resolution “to not recognize the legitimacy of Nicol√°s Maduro’s new term”¬†was approved with 19 votes in favor (Argentina, Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, United States, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, and Saint Lucia); six against (Bolivia, Dominica, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Venezuela); eight abstentions (Mexico, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, and El Salvador); and one absent (Grenada).¬†(Haiti Libert√©)

Photo: Haiti Liberté

  1. Attempted coup in Haiti?

    Haitian government authorities say they foiled an attempt to overthrow President Jovenel Moise, who is facing mounting anger from opposition leaders and the public over when his mandate ends. Justice Minister Rockefeller Vincent said an “attempted coup d’etat”¬†took place on Feb. 7, while authorities said 23 people had been arrested, including a Supreme Court judge and senior police official.

    Moise’s five-year presidential term officially ends Feb. 7, which is why the opposition is demanding that he step down. But the president is refusing to vacate office before February 2022, arguing that an interim government occupied the first year of his five-year term. is seeking to expand his presidential powers in the coming months by changing the constitution. A referendum on the new constitution is set for April. (Al Jazeera, NYT)

  2. Constitutional crisis in Haiti

    According to¬†Article 134(1) of Haiti’s Constitution, the president has a term of five years beginning and ending on Feb. 7 following the date of elections.¬†Jovenel¬†Mo√Įse was elected in the October 2015 elections, but its results were¬†annulled due to fraud. He¬†won again in the 2016 elections¬†and was sworn in on February 7, 2017. The tussle between the opposition and Mo√Įse’s supporters is over the year of his ascent to office, with the former claiming that his term began in February 2016 while the latter claims that his term began a year later, in February 2017.

    The country’s constitutional crisis is escalating with¬†civil disobedience protests¬†on the streets and the opposition nominating Magistrate Joseph Mecene Jean Louis as the¬†interim president. The Superior Judicial Council¬†has already ruled¬†that Mo√Įse‚Äôs term has expired and has further expressed concern over the “serious threats resulting from the lack of a political agreement.” (Jurist)