Recent Feature Articles

By Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald, March 3, 2017

The evening before he died, two-time Haitian President René Garcia Préval, who led Haiti during food riots and its worst natural disaster, called his wife, Elisabeth, who was visiting Coral Gables. He had just returned from paying his respects after the passing of a friend, and had discovered a new restaurant, he told her.

Préval, who had come to prefer the quiet of home to public restaurants in his post-presidency years, was excited about his new Italian find, and he couldn’t wait to take his wife there, Elisabeth Delatour Préval said to the Miami Herald.

On Friday, she remembered the conversation: “He asked, when am I coming home?”

Préval died Friday at their home in Laboule, a neighborhood in the hills of Port-au-Prince. He was 74. The cause of death has not been confirmed but friends close to him, many of whom gathered at the hospital where his body lay on a metal gurney, say it was likely the result of a heart attack.

By Carol Gunesburg & Ronald Cesar, VOA News, March 2, 2017

Late last year, the United Nations vowed to intensify the fight against a deadly cholera outbreak its peacekeepers inadvertently carried to Haiti.

To date, however, the UN has raised just a small fraction of the estimated $400 million needed over the next two years to wage that campaign, according to a letter from the new secretary-general.

“The voluntary contributions that have been received are not yet sufficient and constitute only 2 percent of the amount," Antonio Guterres wrote in the letter sent last week to permanent representatives of the international body.

That would mean about $8 million. The letter said that as of February 8, five member states -- Chile, France, India, Liechtenstein and South Korea -- collectively had pledged almost $2 million to a U.N. multi-partner trust fund. Outside of that fund, Japan has promised $2.6 million and Canada has committed about $6 million.

By Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté, March 1, 2017

Borrowing a practice used by the new U.S. President Donald Trump, Haiti’s new president Jovenel Moïse announced his choice for prime minister via Twitter on the evening of Feb. 22, 2017.

“After a second series of consultations with the presidents of the two chambers, I’ve made a choice of Dr. Jack Guy Lafontant as Prime Minister,” he tweeted in French.

Jovenel Moïse was exasperated after days of wrangling with his putative allies in Parliament, who were jostling and lobbying for various rival candidates, in particular House of Deputies president Cholzer Chancy, a reputed drug trafficker. The in-fighting was intense. The president ultimately decided to choose his own doctor (and that of his wife and father), whom he had been considering for the post of Health Minister.

“Jovenel finally got fed up and decided to choose his own man,” said Dr. Michel José Charles, a New York-based Haitian gastroenterologist who has known the prime minister pick for decades. Dr. Lafontant was a supporter of Jovenel Moïse since he launched his presidential campaign under the banner of the Haitian Bald Headed Party (PHTK) in 2015.

By Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald, Feb. 22, 2017

An obscure physician who heads the Petionville Rotary Club has been designated as Haiti’s next prime minister by President Jovenel Moïse. Dr. Jack Guy Lafontant, a gastroenterologist and member of the American College of Physicians, confirmed to the Miami Herald that he had been tapped and was “awaiting official confirmation.”

That confirmation came after Lafontant’s name was published Thursday in the country’s official publication, Le Moniteur. Now he must convince both chambers of Parliament thatwith his cabinet and political program, he’s the right man for the job.

The choice of Lafontant, 55, came as a surprise to Haitian political watchers and lawmakers. One of them, Sen. Jacques Sauveur Jean, a member of Moïse’s ruling PHTK party, told Magik 9 radio station that he only learned of the news Thursday morning and had no idea who Lafontant was or what he looked like.

By Marc-Arthur Fils-Aimé, Haiti Liberté, Feb. 22, 2017

Haiti’s Nov. 20, 2016 elections did not live up to expectations. There was great hope that they would enable the country would emerge from its ever-deepening crisis. Instead, the elections were fraught with fraud and irregularities, sometimes similar but often different from that seen in 2015.

Electoral participation was only about 20%, enabling neo-liberal political parties without a proven program to seize power. Many of those elected are rumored to be drug traffickers, smugglers, and perpetrators of other heinous acts, thus depriving them of legitimacy and respect. The nation will suffer for at least the next four or five years.

By David Mcfadden, Associated Press, Feb. 20, 2017

Dozens of emaciated men with sunken cheeks and protruding ribs lie silently in an infirmary at Haiti’s largest prison, most too weak to stand. The corpse of an inmate who died miserably of malnutrition is shrouded beneath a plastic tarp.
 
Elsewhere, prisoners are crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in cellblocks so overcrowded they have to sleep in makeshift hammocks suspended from the ceiling or squeeze four to a bunk. New arrivals at Haiti’s National Penitentiary jostle for space on filthy floors where inmates on lockdown 22 hours a day are forced to defecate into plastic bags in the absence of latrines.
 
“Straight up: This is hell. Getting locked up in Haiti will drive you crazy if it doesn’t kill you first,” said Vangeliste Bazile, a homicide suspect who is among the about 80 percent of those incarcerated who have not been convicted of a crime but are held in prolonged pretrial detention waiting for their chance to see a judge.
By Jake Johnston, Jacobin, Feb. 13, 2017

After more than a year of delays, Haiti finally elected a new president this past November. Jovenel Moïse — nicknamed the Banana Man — scored a first-round victory in a sprawling field of twenty-seven candidates, taking over 55 percent of the vote. The banana exporter, who has never held public office, was inaugurated on February 7.

The previous president, Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, seemingly plucked Moïse out of nowhere last year, making him the new face of the Haitian Bald-Headed Party (PHTK). Moïse’s win is an extraordinary achievement for a political neophyte, but it has one glaring problem: only 20 percent of Haiti’s voters showed up on election day. Moïse became president with less than 10 percent of registered voters ― only about 600,000 votes — supporting him.

Haiti stands as a stark reminder of the fragility of electoral democracy amid rising inequality and exclusion. After the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, Haiti’s poor majority turned out en masse for general elections, but that cycle appears to be broken. Today, Haiti ranks among the lowest worldwide in terms of voter participation.

by Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté, Feb. 8, 2017

Former auto parts salesman and banana exporter Jovenel Moïse, 48, became Haiti’s 58th president on Feb. 7, 2017, in ceremonies at the Parliament and a miniature model of the former National Palace, which was destroyed in the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake.

The President of Haiti’s Senate and Parliament’s National Assembly, Sen. Youri Latortue, whom the U.S. Embassy has described as a “Mafia boss,” “drug dealer,” and “poster-boy for political corruption,” draped the ceremonial Presidential sash on his close political confederate, who takes over from interim president Jocelerme Privert.

Indeed, the Parliament is dominated by senators and deputies from Moïse’s Haitian Bald Headed Party (PHTK) and other allied right-wing parties, making the Haitian government look very similar to that of the U.S. where another politically inexperienced businessman promising jobs, Donald Trump,  won power and has a Republican majority in Congress.

A number of the parliamentarians, including Latortue and Chamber of Deputies President Cholzer Chancy, have well-known criminal backgrounds, including some indictments and convictions. Indeed, one senator-elect – former soldier, police chief, and “rebel” leader Guy Philippe – could not make the ceremonies because he is being held on drug trafficking charges in a Miami jail cell, after having been arrested by Haitian police and turned over to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) on Jan. 5.

By Jake Johnston, Center for Economic & Policy Research (CEPR), Feb. 7, 2017

Jovenel Moïse will be inaugurated as Haiti’s new president today as the country returns to constitutional order after a one-year extra-constitutional period of interim rule due to electoral delays.  Moïse had previously come in first in an October 2015 election, only to have the results thrown out due to fraud. Rerun in November 2016 under the interim government that replaced former president Michel Martelly, the elections had Moïse securing more than 50 percent of the vote, winning in the first round.

By Nicole Philips, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), Feb. 6, 2017

On the eve of President-elect Jovenel Moïse’s inauguration, a new report by international legal observers argues that Haiti’s democratic institutions are suffering a profound crisis of confidence. Low turnout, voter disenfranchisement and lingering concerns about fraud raise troubling questions about the breadth of the incoming president’s mandate, according to the report, entitled Haiti’s Unrepresentative Democracy: Disenfranchisement and Disillusionment in the November 20 Elections.

The report notes that despite many improvements in security and electoral administration over the 2015 elections, the 21 percent voter turnout represents the lowest participation rate for a national election in the Western Hemisphere since 1945. “Many Haitians did not vote, not because they did not want to, but because they were unable due to difficulties in obtaining electoral cards, registering to vote and finding their names on outdated electoral lists,” said attorney Nicole Phillips, delegation leader and co-author of the report.