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US Under Secretary for Political Affairs visits Haiti

The US Under Secretary for Political Affairs, David Hale was on an official visit to Port-au-Prince on Friday, March 1, 2019, where he met with President Jovenel Moïse, Prime Minister Jean-Henry Céant and the Senator Evalière Beauplan who represented the popular democratic movement. Mr. Hale’s visit was meant to meet with leaders of the political and private sectors as well as civil society to discuss ways to move the country forward, through achieving dialogue and economic growth. Mr. Hale further urged the government to develop a long-term strategy that aim to strengthen institutions of state, improve good governance and fight corruption.

Speaking on behalf of the group of opposition parties collectively known as the democratic and popular sector, Michel André reiterated their groups position, as related by their representative Senator Evalière Beauplan to the American envoy; namely the departure of President Jovenel Moïse as a pre-condition for meaningful dialogue. According to the group, the President is the main obstacle to a political dialogue aimed at resolving the crisis in the country. The leader of the opposition group, Pitit Dessalines, Jean Charles Moïse on the other hand has stated that he was invited to the talks with the US envoy by both national and international leaders but refused because of the one condition that can move the country out of the stalemate is the departure of the current President. Mr. Moise used the occasion to call for new anti-government protests for Thursday, March 7, 2019. The US envoy stated his administration’s encouragement of efforts deployed for a serious and an inclusive dialogue and is waiting patiently for an honest and transparent parliamentary and municipal elections in October which will help channel change through the ballot box rather than through violence.

 

In other news, the government and international community have launched an appeal for funds to the tune of US$126.2million to address the humanitarian needs of some 1.3 million people under the 2019-2020 Humanitarian Response Plan. The plan seeks to reinforce the people’s resiliency and state institutions in the face of recurring natural catastrophes by working hand in hand with development actors. This current plan will focus on addressing food shortage, providing access to basic services and protection for the most vulnerable people in society, and reinforce the fight against such epidemics as cholera, malaria and diphtheria, and preparation for natural disasters.  Speaking on behalf of the UN, the resident Humanitarian Coordinator of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that the presence of the international actors at the launch of this appeal, confirmed their sustained, continued and renewed commitment to the people of Haiti, many of whom are marginalized and need humanitarian assistance: assistance aimed at protecting the most vulnerable, rebuilding economic and social livelihoods, strengthening resilience and community solidarity.

 

Meanwhile, Senator You Latortue has taken the Moïse-Céant government to task for subsidizing rice importers, in an attempt to lower the price to consumers in the market. While he does not condemn their intentions to alleviate the pain food insecurity prevalent in the nation, he nonetheless condemns the government’s decision to exempt 4 rice importers from paying taxes. Giving tax breaks to rice importers will further hurt local rice producers who are already facing numerous problems. In his plea, the senator argued that the government should take care of both rice producers and importers, by subsidizing fertilizers and seeds and cleaning of gutters to allow for water to flow where the farmers need them most. A rabid critic of the President, the former Senator reminded the president of his campaign promises to jump start local agricultural production. He called for intensifying anti-government protests in the Artibonite region unless the government reverses its decision.

 

While the government has decreed that there will be no national carnival this year, given the socio-political atmosphere across the country, some cities have decided to go ahead with the festivities. On Sunday, former President Michel Martelly, defied the Mayor of Cayes to take part in the carnival in this southern city, in defiance of the local Senator Jean Marie Salomon’s decision to block him from performing. In his usual self, Sweet Mickey performed along the route, amassing a throng of supports and onlookers, with others throwing stones at his float. Protected by his coterie of heavily armed guards, the former president entertained the crowd with his usual profane songs. He accused the opposition of knowing nothing but only capable of destroying things his party, tet kale (PHTK) built. As his usual self, he kept singing “kote Salomon? M pa wè Salomon”, an obvious dig at the Senator.

 

If Sweet Mickey decided to oppose the authorities in Cayes, some other renown musicians have decided not to participate in the carnival. Both Orchestre Septentrional and Tropicana d’Haiti have decided to sit out this year’s festivities at Cap-Haïtien, even though they have already released their songs for this year’s carnival. Both groups released “Kat-wouj” and “Monte nivo w” respectively for this carnival but decided last minute to not participate.  Other groups that were announced to take part are indeed taking part in the three-day festivities. These include Bell Look, Anbyans Tèt dwa, and Alèz pi move. Though the government decided not to proceed with carnival, it did not stoop municipalities from organizing their own and made available funds for those cities that plan to host their own.

 

Finally, the Trump Administration announced the extension of TPS status for Haitian immigrants for another year, and Air Canada has decided to suspend flights between Montréal and Port-au-Prince until April 27, 2019 due to the violence and instability in the country. It encouraged those who already bought tickets to contact their customer service office or their travel agents.  Meanwhile, Air Transat announced that they have not suspended services to Haiti but will no longer sell packages with transfer to Club Decameron, until May 1, 2019 due to security reasons.

Dela Harlley

 

 

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