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Haitian Peasants, Drivers, and the Displaced Share Views on Presidential Council


« I have no faith in this council. Everyone is looking to get a piece of the pie. And given their personal agenda, they won’t even think about the situation in the country, » Camilus Flaubert, a farmer in Dessalines, told AyiboPost

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The controversies surrounding the Presidential Council are of little concern to Beauzile Yvenat.

In Delmas 83, the « madan Sara » sold green vegetables, a few overripe bananas and other tubers stored under a worn umbrella on Wednesday, May 1.

« If the state wanted to help us, we wouldn’t be at this stage today, » says Yvenat, adding with a dismissive look that she was not aware of the installation of the Presidential Council last Thursday.

The mother of four who was chased out of her home by gangs in Canaan in 2022 justifies her lack of interest with « one observation »: « Politicians, » she says, « are content to fill their pockets and their families’ pockets. »

Read also: Photos | Hunted by gangs, victims expelled from state offices

The founder of the Fontaine Hospital in Cité Soleil, Jose Ulysse, « doesn’t expect anything from the Presidential Council » either.

Less than a week after being sworn in, the grouping of nine political blocs is already at the centre of a storm.

Four of its seven voting members announced that they had chosen their president and the next prime minister, after signing an « indissoluble » agreement.

At least two other members of the Council, also with voting rights, are protesting these decisions « in violation », according to their analysis, of a Political Agreement signed by the stakeholders on 3 April 2024.

« They start with cunning, » said Ulysse, whose Fontaine Hospital was closed for a week in November 2023 during a clash between two gangs in Cité Soleil.

« These are the same people who for 25 or 30 years have caused all the problems we have: how can they now provide solutions? » asks Ulysse, a former adviser to former presidents Jean Bertrand Aristide and Michel Joseph Martelly.

Read more: Selection of prime minister and prime minister divides

As the debate unfolds, emergencies abound.

Half of the population is food insecure. Gangs isolate Port-au-Prince, stunting the operation of the main airport, attacking ports and prohibiting the delivery of fuel.

Soldat protège Aéroport international Toussaint Louverture Haiti

An FADH soldier guards the airport entrance in anticipation of the rumored arrival of PM Ariel Henry. March 2024 | © Jean Feguens Regala/AyiboPost

Water is starting to run out. Dozens of hospitals have closed, and stock in pharmacies is dwindling.

« I have no faith in this council, » says Camilus Flaubert, a farmer in Dessalines, a town in the Bas-Artibonite region that was struck down by Savien’s « Gran Grif » gang.

« Everyone is looking to get a piece of the pie, » the farmer continues. « And given their personal agenda, they won’t even think about the situation in the country. »

Flaubert, along with hundreds of workers in the area, are going through a difficult time.

National road #1 remains almost impassable. The public markets in his locality are functioning inadequately. The drought is making the farmer’s rice production of about nine hectares very deficient.

« This year is the most terrible, » says Flaubert. « I am not assessing the losses yet. »

Read also: Artibonite: an agricultural area that has become a valley of crime

According to a source involved in the process, the council is due to meet on Thursday.

One of the issues on the agenda is the need to return to the process set out in the April 3 Agreement for appointing the Prime Minister.

« These people who don’t even respect the decree creating the Presidential Council won’t respect anything, even when they sign other documents, » said Samuel Madistin of the Je Klere Foundation. « The division of ministries and directorates will breed corruption, » the human rights defender continued.

According to the agreement reached at the beginning of April between the groups with often antagonistic alliances and interests, the head of government was to be appointed in a concerted effort, on the basis of a list with a single name submitted by each of the sectors, not exceeding a total of 15 candidates.

After choosing Edgard Leblanc as President of the Council, the Group of Four also announced the selection of former cabinet minister Fritz Bélizaire as the next head of government — without going through the April agreement process.

The so-called « indissoluble » arrangement reached between the four council members, made public on April 30, provides that three of them can decide for the block of four.

However, the April 3 agreement assigns one vote to each of the seven voting members. It is not clear whether a dissident member of the « indissoluble » bloc can vote in certain cases with the rest of the Council.

Read also: Disagreements over the decree creating the Presidential Council

Outside Port-au-Prince, these intrigues do not mobilize the population.

« I’m not interested in the news anymore, I’m not interested in what’s going on, » says from Jacmel Peterson Prévost, a former bus driver who ran the Port-au-Prince – Jacmel route for 10 years.

The professional had abandoned the transport sector in 2022, after being robbed by bandits on the road to Martissant.

Since then, he has retired to his hometown of Jacmel, where he works in local transport to support his family.

Prévost has had enough of grandiose speeches and promises. Politicians, he says, will need « more than just words to regain my trust. »

The agreement of April 3 announced the arrival of a « Document on the organization and functioning of the Presidential Council ». This document has not yet been made public.

Thus, there is no indication whether political parties and groups can replace their delegates during the transition.

The specific duties of the President of the Council are not defined and questions persist as to the need for members to submit the legal documents required in the decree establishing the Council.

Divergent interests on vital issues such as the indictments in the assassination of Jovenel Moïse, as well as financial and blood crimes, suggest, according to observers, a fierce battle ahead to form the transitional ministerial cabinet.

The specific duties of the President of the Council are not defined and questions persist as to the need for members to submit the legal documents required in the decree establishing the Council

Part of the population is cautiously observing the unfolding of events.

« I’ll see what they come up with. That way I’ll know if it’s worth voting when they have to hold the elections, » says Althemany Clifford, a young man who was evicted from Carrefour-Feuilles by gangs at the end of last year.

Since then, the former language teacher has found refuge at the Fritz Pierre-Louis high school in downtown Port-au-Prince, then at the Ministry of Communication from March 8, 2024.

In this camp with his wife and son, Clifford no longer sleeps at night because of the conditions in the space, which he describes as « miserable ».

Destitute, the little family placed its future in the political process. « This is a last chance for us to get our lives back on track, » Clifford told AyiboPost.

However, the supposed illegitimacy of the council remains a concern.

« To be honest, I don’t trust Haitian politicians, especially when they weren’t appointed through elections, » said Fredo Saint-Cyr, an electronics technician and computer science teacher in Tiburon, a commune in the southern department.

The father of two, who is forced to « take out loans to pay his rent » is hoping for a resolution of the situation to facilitate an economic recovery.

Others, like Faustin, despair. Kidnapped in Croix-des-Bouquets in 2022 while trying to return home to Petite-Rivière de l’Artibonite, the former modern languages student at the École normale supérieure is waiting for the next opportunity to leave Haiti.

« It will be hard to tell my children about all these tragedies, if I live long enough to have any, » says Faustin.

By Jerome Wendy Norestyl, Wethzer Piercin and Widlore Mérancourt

Cover image: Citizens fleeing the lower part of the city. March 2024 | © Jean Feguens Regala/AyiboPost

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Journaliste-rédacteur à AyiboPost, Jérôme Wendy Norestyl fait des études en linguistique. Il est fasciné par l’univers multimédia, la photographie et le journalisme.