Friday, June 17, 2016
Can Haitian Stop the Rise of Yet Another Dictator? by Stanley Lucas
The term of Haitian Provisional President Jocelerme Privert ended on June 14. At the opening of the General Session of Haiti’s parliament, the General Assembly confirmed and announced that the mandate of Provisional President Privert was over on June 14. They took the same action at the conclusion of President Michel Martelly’s term on February 7. On June 17, the Judiciary issued a statement also confirming his term was over on June 14 and stating that they do not recognize his authority.
Yet, Privert delivered a speech on June 15 announcing he would remain in office as the interim president in order to maintain stability. Violence has ensued as Haiti heads down the well-trod path of another dictator.
His actions will accomplish anything but stability. In his 120 days in office, Privert failed in his sole mission: organize democratic elections. His mandate was to organize runoff Presidential elections on April 24 so that a new democratically elected President could assume office on May 14.
Rather than organize the elections, he spent the 120 days using partisan tactics to organize a coup on behalf of his – and former dictator Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s – Lavalas party. It became apparent early in his term that elections were not forthcoming and that this delay tactic would be implemented.
So what is the official process? At the end of Privert’s 120 day term, parliament has the responsibility to replace Privert. The Prime Minister and the cabinet assume a caretaker role for the government. In February, when Martelly departed office as scheduled, it took the Parliament a week to select a provisional President. Parliament has already initiated a set of political consultations to replace Mr. Privert, and, to ensure that non-elected officials do not decide the fate of the country, they have ordered the Prime Minister not to undertake any decisions beyond the daily functioning of the government until parliament ratifies the next steps. This is an automatic process.
The Judiciary also called for a meeting between the three branches of Government, the Prime Minister as the representative of the Executive Branch, the two representatives of the Legislative Branch, the President of the House and the Vice President of the Senate and the President of the Council of Judicial Powers in the perspective to find a solution in case of Privert continue to undermine quorum to prevent the General Assembly in parliament.
But instead of respecting any of Haiti’s institutions, Mr. Privert has decided to make a power grab and remain in office. This sets him up as the defacto President – an action that will most certainly not be tolerated by the Haitian voters.
Privert ignored the Parliament’s order and called for them to take action to extend his term in office. Meanwhile, he is working actively to undermine and dissolve parliament. He has ensured that several senators will not sit for quorum so that the senate is unable to take legal action. The deputies are less amenable to his agenda and are therefore being threatened. Deputy Romel Beauge was already the subject to heavy machine gun fire at his home, and Deputy Price Cyprien President of the Justice Commission was attacked by Privert's personal security.
In anticipation of the coming protests, Privert has imposed a curfew, arrested democratic activists, fired machine guns at the KID party headquarters of Evans Paul, and threatened other political activists. After failing to secure arms shipments from Venezuela and Cuba, he and his acolyte ransacked a National Police walking off with 75 Galil automatic rifles. Those rifles have already been distributed to the so-called chimeres – or hired guns -- working for him.
Around the country Privert’s new Delege local representatives of the President’s office and Commissaire du Gouvernement, local prosecutors, are conducting systematic repression in order to secure the coup. They attacked TV Plurielle because the owner publicly characterized Privert’s inner circle as “scary” in reference to their abysmal track records of human rights violations and violence.
Privert has a history of defaulting to violence when the political winds do not blow his way. In 2004, according to human rights and Haitian justice system records while serving as Minister of the Interior, he was involved in the Raboteau massacre in Gonaives and Lascierie in Saint Marc resulting in the murder of about 85 people.
Before Haiti suffers another Privert sponsored and executed bloodbath, action must be taken. In case of a stalemate the Haitian people will almost certainly take action to prevent the rise of yet another Haitian dictator. What will the international response be? That is one of the critical and decisive factors yet unknown.