By Ralph ‘Onz’ Chery

Haiti’s Ambassador to the United States Hervé Denis speaking at the University of Delaware in November 2019. Photo Credit: Kathy F. Atkinson/ University of Delaware

When the American Embassy in Haiti tweeted that anyone who opposes Haiti’s new Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) would suffer consequences, the message infuriated scores of Haitians. But to Hervé Denis, Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S., the Americans are acting within their rights even though the new council’s creation is unconstitutional. 

“U.S.A. is the king of the world,” said Denis, who is based in Washington, D.C. “If there weren’t Haitians in front of the American Embassy asking for ‘visa’ every day, maybe they [U.S. diplomats] wouldn’t have told them that.”

Further, Denis said in an exclusive interview with The Haitian Times, forming the CEP does violate Haiti’s constitution. But, Haiti’s leaders often go against it in order to govern.

“We can write an encyclopedia on how many times they violated it,” Denis said. “Everybody agrees that the constitution is a source of problems. If we agree on that, we need to also agree that it needs changes.”

Haiti President Jovenel Moïse named the new nine-member CEP on Sept. 18, two days after the U.S. Embassy’s tweet calling for the panel required to carry out elections in Haiti. 

The move rankled many Haitians on social media and in Haiti.

“I never heard an embassy from another country telling people what to do,” student activist Tristan ‘Mahfoud’ Matiado said. “It’s gone too far!”

In Port-au-Prince, residents marched the following Sunday to show their disapproval of the new election. 

A group of politicians also published a statement to say that Moïse’s nomination of the new nine members of the CEP was “unconstitutional and illegal.” Among them are well-known leaders Edmonde Supplice Beauzile from the Fusion of Haitian Social Democrats party, Kénol Mathieu from Veye Yo (“Watch Them” in Creole) and Génard Joseph from Verite (Truth).

Denis acknowledged that forming a new CEP is unconstitutional and said Haiti’s governments routinely take actions not written into the constitution.

“It is hard to follow it,” Denis said. “If you’re trying to follow every letter in the constitution you’ll reach a point in which you won’t be able to do anything.”

Monferrier Dorval, the head of the Port-au-Prince bar, often spoke on the need for a new constitution. He was murdered hours after saying so in a radio interview Aug. 28.

The United States Embassy’s election tweet came after Dorval’s killing threw the country into mourning and raised insecurity fears. It also came soon after another Twitter post urging the Haitian government to issue fewer decrees, a message that also infuriated some people.

“When you’re a country that depends on other countries, the stronger country can tell you ‘I’d like for things to get done,” Denis said. “It’s a question of balancing power. The force on this end [Haiti’s] and on the United States’ end.”  

Named to his current post as the Haiti Ambassador to the U.S. in February 2019, Denis served previously as Haiti’s ambassador in Canada and the Dominican Republic. 

Recently, Denis has been working to renew the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA), an agreement that facilitates trade within the Caribbean countries and drives employment in that region. On Sept. 22, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the renewal and passed it on to the U.S. Senate to affirm.

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Onz Chery is a Haiti correspondent for The Haitian Times. Chery started his journalism career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He later wrote for First Touch, local soccer leagues in New York and Elite Sports New York before joining The Haitian Times in 2019.

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