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Updated: April 19, 2022 @ 2:47 am
Haiti passed a grim milestone in February, when the traditional presidential inauguration day came and went with no president taking the oath of office, no realistic prospect of presidential elections, and no established consensus on how to restore some semblance of functioning democracy in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. Meanwhile, the Biden administration props up an interim prime minister whose writ, so far as it runs, is to preside over a government with no claim to legitimacy.
That prime minister, Ariel Henry, was named to the job by President Jovenel Moïse, who was assassinated two days later, before Henry could be sworn in. On Feb. 7, Moïse’s term expired. Henry has said he will organize elections this year, but that promise is empty, given how far-fetched it is that balloting could be staged amid rampant insecurity and the current power vacuum.
A potentially hopeful sign was the emergence last year of a coalition of civic organizations that proposes installing an interim government for two years, after which elections would be held. The coalition, which calls itself the Montana Accord, after a hotel in the capital where it meets, consists of political parties, faith groups, professional associations, human rights organizations and trade unions.
However broad-based, the coalition has no more constitutional legitimacy than does Henry. Moreover, its plan to run the country with a prime minister plus a five-member council exercising presidential powers is unwieldy, to say the least. Even if it assumed power by some unforeseeable means, there is no credible prospect that it would establish control over the nearly 15,000-member police force, which is rife with corruption. Without that, chances are nil that it could stabilize Haiti, mount elections and resuscitate the economy.
The country of more than 11 million has just a handful of elected officials, the terms of scores of others having expired in the absence of elections. Henry took office largely on the strength of support from a U.S.-led group of ambassadors. But the government and national institutions are in shambles.
Moreover, Henry’s commitment to bring Moïse’s killers to justice has proved not just hollow but suspicious after a report that he was in contact with a key suspect before and just after the assassination. Although signs point to the involvement of drug-trafficking figures in the president’s killing, most of the kingpins who have been implicated remain at liberty. Haiti’s own authorities have made no meaningful progress in the murder investigation. Meanwhile, according to The Post, U.S. prosecutors, who allege that the killing was partly planned in the United States, have charged two suspects and are seeking the extradition of a third.
The Biden administration has ruled out sending troops, instead paying lip service to finding a Haitian-led exit from the crisis. If there is such a way out — a big if — it might consist in a consensus between the Montana Accord coalition and Henry’s own forces. Forging such an agreement should be high on the Biden administration’s agenda. But there is little sign Washington is paying attention to events in the impoverished country — despite its long history of devolving into crises that then become impossible to ignore.
Today’s editorial is from The Washington Post. The views expressed are not necessarily those of this newspaper.
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