CNN – Is there a democratic solution to Haiti’s current crisis?

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Analysis by Caitlin Hu and Etant Dupain, CNN

A president accused of dismantling democracy

« President Moise did not remove the judges. He only asked them to exercise their right to retire, » Haiti’s Ambassador to the US, Bocchit Edmond, told CNN.

Rezo Nòdwès – Edmond Bocchit n’est pas un Ambassadeur plénipotentiaire d’Haïti à Washington, il ne représente que son ombre et son clan, car le Sénat haitien ne l’a jamais confirmé à ce poste conformément à la Constitution. Bocchit est un usurpateur de titre à l’égal de son maître, le président de facto Jovenel Moise.

Samedi 13 février 2021 ((rezonodwes.com))–

Turmoil in Haiti could soon test democratic leaders’ support for embattled president Jovenel Moise, a former banana exporter whose claim to another year in office has sparked protests in the capital, arrests and the abrupt dismissal of several Supreme Court judges.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Port-au-Prince this week, with plumes of black smoke from burning tires and flags seen in the capital city, as well as white clouds of tear gas. At least two journalists were injured, a witness told CNN.

« I heard people saying I’m a dictator, but I want to be clear; I have a mandate for five years and I will finish my term, » Moise said in a televised speech on Sunday.

The United Nations, the Organization of American States, and the Biden Administration support his plan to remain in office until 2022 — but Moise’s attempts to end the debate domestically have taken an undemocratic cast that has his backers worried. On Monday, Moise ordered the retirement of three of 10 Supreme Court judges, raising the question of what institutional guardrails now remain on the presidency.

Moise has ruled by decree since letting the parliament’s mandate expire in January 2020. « Jovenel Moise destroyed every institution, from the parliament to local government. It is clear what he wanted to do. Unfortunately, we have an international community who don’t support the fight against this corrupt dictator, » opposition leader and former senator Nenel Cassy told CNN.

Moise’s office declined to comment directly for this story, instead referring questions to Haiti’s ambassador to the US.

Haiti’s opposition has called for a three day « general uprising » this weekend. It will be the latest in a succession of anti-government demonstrations that have marked Moise’s term, fueled by anger over Haiti’s foundering economy, a sweeping corruption scandal and surging criminal violence.

Haiti’s democratic institutions have been crippled under Moise, who has not organized parliamentary or local elections, leaving the legislative branch of government largely vacant and powerless. His new order for judges from Haiti’s highest court to retire now deals a blow to the country’s judicial branch.

In an interview with Voice of America, Moise accused all three of designs on the presidency, and said his order was intended to keep the Court from getting involved in politics. « As a guarantor of the institutions, we cannot allow an institution such as the Supreme Court to stray from its mission, » he said.

« President Moise did not remove the judges. He only asked them to exercise their right to retire, » Haiti’s Ambassador to the US, Bocchit Edmond, told CNN.

Judge Jean Wilner Morin, President of the National Association of Haitian Judges, explains to CNN that the President has no constitutional authority to unilaterally retire a judge, or appoint a new one.

« One cannot remove a judge in the course of his term. It is impossible. Therefore the decision to remove three judges from the Supreme Court by the President of the Republic, the order given by the president, is an illegal and unconstitutional order. »

Without a functioning legislature, though, who is left to challenge the move?

The US said it is monitoring developments. « We are deeply concerned about any actions that risk damaging Haiti’s democratic institutions. The Executive Order is now being widely scrutinized to determine whether it conforms to Haiti’s Constitution and laws, » the US Mission to Haiti said in a statement.

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