A meeting in Miami between U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and some of South Florida’s most prominent Haitian Americans ended Thursday with a message for the Democratic leader to take back to Washington: The U.S. needs to stop meddling in Haiti’s internal affairs — and Haiti President Jovenel Moïse needs to go.

“The people of Haiti are saying, ‘My goodness, let us govern ourselves. Let us find our own path… just support us,’” said Gepsie Metellus, the executive director of Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center, which provides social services to the community. “What do people want to see? They want to see the United States ask, ‘What do you want and how can we help you get it?’ We don’t want the United States or Canada or France or the rest of our friends dictating. We don’t want to be dictated to.”

Activist Carline Paul was more blunt, telling Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, who organized the round-table discussion, that she called contacts in Haiti before coming.

“The people of Haiti say, ‘No interference. No [Temporary Protected Status] deportations after Jan. 20, no more support of President Jovenel Moïse as president of Haiti.”

Wilson, who represents one of the largest congressional districts of Haitian Americans, introduced Pelosi at the Father Gerard Jean-Juste Community Center in North Miami-Dade, saying that when she originally invited her, it was to discuss issues affecting the community. Haiti was not yet the powder keg it has become since protests over a recurring fuel shortage morphed into a fresh round of violent protests demanding the resignation of Moïse, who has been in office for 32 months.

On Thursday, a leading human rights group in the country said at least 17 people have been killed and 187 injured, including journalists, between Sept. 16-30.

Accusing anti-riot police officers of engaging in repressive violence, the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights/Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains is calling for an investigation into the misuse of tear gas and incidents of police brutality by the Haiti National Police.

“The police, an apolitical institution, must be able to behave professionally,” the human rights group said, also criticizing the use of masked police officers during the demonstrations.

The human rights report said some of the individuals have turned out to be fake police officers, hired by the government to quell the anti-government demonstrations. Among the exhibits in the report: a photo showing armed men in uniform escorting the new representative of the executive in the North Department, Pierrot Degaul Augustin, during his installation on Monday.

The National Network for the Defense of Human Rights said the recent insurgency by the population can be blamed on public policies put in place by Haiti’s current authorities “who, since their accession to power, flout the democratic gains of the Haitian people and systematically violate their rights.”

“They have never taken seriously the various protest movements in the country since July 2018 by a population plagued by all ills,” the human rights group said. Continue reading

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