On the one-year anniversary of his ascension as Haiti, Prime Minister Ariel Henry reaffirmed promises to peace and hold elections, among others. Critics found the speech, and his governance, lacking.
PORT-AU-PRINCE — On the one-year anniversary of his ascension as Haiti’s interim Prime Minister, Ariel Henry said he is committed to bring peace to the country, hold elections and combat inflation and gas shortage.
“This is the only condition that will allow us to continue importing fuel and make it available permanently,” Henry said in a July 21 address, meant to be a sort of state-of-the-union update to the nation.
“Nor must dialogue be an opportunity to waste time in useless quarrels and to needlessly prolong the suffering of people and this situation of chronic disability,” Henry added, referring to competing approaches on moving the country forward.
Critics pounced on the acting Prime Minister’s statements, saying he is handing over management of the country’s affairs to others, and numerous protest movements drew people railing against Haiti’s continued decline in the past year.
“Ariel Henry’s address to the nation is pathetic, the Justice system is at its worst under his government,” Arnel Remy, a signatory of the Montana Accord, told The Haitian Times. “There is more illegal immigration now because of people want to flee this climate of violence that has worsened. We are even more humiliated in foreign countries. Nothing has improved.”
In Port-au-Prince, public transport operators deeply impacted by the fuel crisis led some of the demonstrations against Henry after his speech, which lasted about 10 minutes.
“This guy works for himself and his international bosses,” said Carl Destiné, a Champs-de-Mars passerby. “How come the first decision of his government is to increase the price of fuel? This has made life more difficult for the most disadvantaged.”
“Yet, no measure has been taken to reduce the constantly increasing cost of living,” Destiné said.
Henry said he also wants to fight corruption, establish a credible electoral process that ensures participation to legitimize elected officials and reach a consensus. He appealed for dialogue with the political parties and promised the diaspora that he would do his best for them to take part in the future of the country.
Henry also called on the international community to provide effective support in line with the priorities he shared and take the country’s needs into account.
What Henry failed to say or do, many Haitians critiqued, was lay out any plans to address issues hobbling Haiti.
“The prime minister did not address the Haitian people,” said a sweets vendor in downtown Port-au-Prince who did not give her name. “When authorities are lying to us, they speak French, not Creole. They think people won’t understand.”
“What we need is a secure climate, lower prices of fuel and of basic necessities so that we minorities can live,” said Caverns Pierre-Paul, 25, passing in the Champ de mars area. “I do small jobs to survive. I can barely feed my two children.”
Emmanuel Menard, president of the reformist political party called Force Louverturienne, said Henry has mismanaged the country and is ruling essentially by decree. Menard is among the signatories of a September political agreement, initiated by Henry, to reach a political consensus.
“ I must admit that the Prime minister has formed a coalition with a group of people who manage the country’s affairs but have failed. In one year there has been no improvement,” Menard said.
The agreement, signed September 11 by various political parties and members of civil society, provides terms for the release of political prisoners, establishing a peace climate and holding elections. Menard said the Prime Minister has not kept the promises made in the agreement.
“We are open to dialogue, but it has to be constructive and inclusive,” Menard said regarding Henry’s call for dialogue.