US Lawmakers Want Re-assessment of US Policies on Haiti

Haiti constitution
FILE - In this Oct. 8, 2019 file photo, entrepreneur and youth leader Pascéus Juvensky St. Fleur, 26, holds up his copy of the Haitian constitution during an interview in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Haiti has unveiled multiple proposed changes to overhaul the country’s Constitution that officials plan to present to voters starting in Feb. 2021 for an upcoming referendum that looms amid growing unrest. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

Several United States lawmakers have sent a letter to the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken urging that Washington re-assess its policies towards Haiti.

Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Gregory W. Meeks, and Hakeem Jeffries, Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, were among 68 legislators that wrote to Blinken regarding Haiti, where President Jovenel Moise is under tremendous pressure to step down from office.

The letter, which was also signed by every Democrat on the Western Hemisphere subcommittee, calls on the Biden administration to withhold funding for the constitutional referendum proposed by President Moïse and warns of the dangers of pushing forward with flawed elections later this year.

“Listen to the voices of Haitian civil society and grassroots organizations, who have been clear that no elections under the current administration in Haiti will be free, fair, and credible,” the letter noted.

It said “the State Department should instead focus on the underlying democratic legitimacy issues identified by Haiti’s civil society and support a Haiti-led process for change.

“Elections held without meeting internationally accepted standards for participation and legitimacy will only further undermine faith in democratic governance, waste scarce resources and perpetuate a cycle of political instability and violence.”

The US legislators said that they were forced to write Blinken to “express our serious and urgent concerns regarding the quickly deteriorating situation in Haiti.”

They said while they appreciated “your personal engagement with Haiti, and the State Department’s recent criticism of some of the unconstitutional actions by the administration of President Jovenel Moïse, we believe it is past time for a more significant review of U.S. policy in Haiti. We look forward to working with you to make this a reality”.

The legislators said that they were encouraging the Biden administration to “support the sovereignty of the U.S.’s oldest neighbour in the hemisphere by reaffirming the U.S. commitment to the principles of democracy and rule of law.

“The Biden Administration inherited a multifaceted crisis (constitutional, human rights, economic, social) that the actions of the previous administration exacerbated. However, we must also recognize that the crisis of today did not start yesterday.

“For decades, the international community has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to help Haiti achieve political stability and a representative democracy. In order to move forward more productively, we must acknowledge that these efforts have failed to achieve their desired results, and that continuing along the same path will only exacerbate the situation.”

They said that nationwide unrest and political turmoil have increased significantly since 2018 and have brought about severe instability and political violence.

The lengthy letter said that parliamentary, local, and presidential elections set for later this year “could increase the risk of violence throughout the country significantly.”

But they said that “despite this alarming situation, the State Department has been insistent, both in public and in private briefings with members, that elections – now scheduled for later this year – are the only path forward.

“While elections will clearly be needed in the near future to restore democratic order, we remain deeply concerned that any electoral process held under the current administration will fail to be free, fair, or credible and that continued U.S. insistence on elections at all costs will only make this outcome more likely. President Barack Obama’s former Ambassador to Haiti, Pamela White, made clear during her testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee in March that legitimate elections are not possible in the current context. Witnesses from Haitian civil society agreed strenuously,” they wrote.

They said considering these factors, “we urge the State Department to: make clear that the U.S. will not provide any support, financial or technical, to facilitate the proposed constitutional referendum, including through multilateral institutions”.

Earlier this month, Washington said it was looking forward to working with the new Prime Minister of Haiti, Claude Joseph, who has pledged to continue efforts for the staging of the referendum and the organization of new elections in the country.

CMC

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