By Juhakenson Blaise
PORT-AU-PRINCE — United States President Joe Biden has named Nicole D. Theriot as the newest chargé d’affaires ad interim in Haiti to succeed the outgoing Kenneth Merten.
Theriot, who has served in Haiti since 2020, takes on the higher diplomatic role as the nation of 11 million appears no closer to a political transition, is anxious due to worsening gang violence and increasingly more uncertain after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse nearly one year ago.
A career diplomat, Theriot had served as Deputy Head of Mission. Before arriving in Port-au-Prince, she served as Director of Immigration and Visa Security at the United States National Security Council within the Executive Office of the President from 2019 to 2020. Among Theriot’s prior posts are Senior Advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Foreign Citizen Services (OCS) in the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the Department of State from 2018 to 2019.
Theriot began her career with the State Department as an intern at the United States Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya in 1997. She holds numerous Department of State awards, including top honors for her work on peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan in 2018.
Merten, who served as United States Ambassador to Haiti from 2009 to 2012, returned to Haiti as interim Chargé d’Affaires in October 2021 to replace outgoing U.S. Ambassador Michele Sison. At the time of his appointment, Merten made it clear that the United States wanted a more “robust” dialogue in Haiti.
“My mission was to encourage Haitian actors to sit down together to find an agreement”, he said then.
In 2021, Merten’s return to Haiti had surprised some and irritated others in Haiti’s political arena. Some said his appointment was disrespectful because Merten’s seemingly unreserved support of former President Michel Martelly, including the musician’s disputed nationality, led to the latter’s ascent to head of state.