By Jacqueline Charles

Cate Oswald, chief policy and partnership Officer for Partners In Health, speaks during forum on COVID-19 in Haiti

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson hosted a virtual forum on Haiti titillating “An Impending Crisis: COVID-19 in Haiti, Ongoing Instability and the Dangers of Continued U.S. Deportations.” By TBD

Human rights and opposition leaders in Haiti are taking the secretary general of the Organization of American States to task, accusing him of overstepping his role and wrongly supporting an extension of President Jovenel Moïse’s presidential mandate.

Luis Almagro, who assumed his second term as head of the hemispheric body last week after heavy lobbying by him and the Trump administration, recently issued a statement declaring that Moïse’s term as Haiti’s 58th president ends on Feb. 7, 2022.

The declaration, which urged Haiti’s political forces to “find a cooperative framework in order to comply with the letter and the spirit of their constitutional order,” immediately stirred already turbulent political waters and accusations of meddling.

Now, in an open letter, seven human rights organizations have decided to school Almagro on Haiti’s constitution in hopes of settling the debate over whether Moïse’s presidency ends on Feb. 7, 2022 as Almagro states, or on Feb. 7, 2021, as others contend.

The issue has long been a bone of contention — and political bargaining —since Moïse took office on Feb. 7, 2017 following a nearly two-year political crisis and presidential and legislative electoral process marred by violence, allegations of fraud and delay. The president and his supporters have always argued that he was voted in in a new election and therefore his five-year presidential term ends in 2022, five years since his Feb. 7, 2017 swearing in.

Moïse “knows that his term ends on Feb. 7, 2021, and what he’s trying to do is convince people otherwise,” said Gedeon Jean, a lawyer and founder of the Center for Human Rights Analysis and Research, who signed the six-page letter and issued a separate 22-page legal analysis supporting the constitutional argument. “I am sure that [Almagro] didn’t really understand the process; this is why in the letter we decided to spell it out.”

Almagro’s spokesman, Gonzalo Espariz, did not respond to a Miami Herald email seeking comment. Jean and opposition leader Edmonde Supplice Beauzile, whose Fusion Social Democrats political party is among five opposition groups that issued a separate document to the OAS, said the OAS representative in Haiti informed them their documents have been forwarded.

At the heart of the debate, which threatens to trigger an even deeper crisis amid the global COVID-19 pandemic currently ravaging Haiti, are several issues.  Continue reading

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