By Onz Chery
They planned to assassinate him. There’ve been countless violent protests against him. Members of the United States Congress said his time is up. Despite it all, President Jovenel Moïse said, he is and will remain in office.
“Today is February 7. I was supposed to leave, I’m still here.” Moïse said, speaking from Jacmel during an address to the nation on the day opponents tried to overthrow him. “If you guys keep fighting me, I guarantee you that I will win.”
Moïse also called on the opposition to side with him in his speech. But members of the opposition, clearly riled by the beleaguered leader, plan to replace him.
“Jovenel is a vagabond who’s messing around. Anyone can slap him in his mouth,” said André Michel, the National Democratic and Popular Sector’s spokesperson in a press conference Sunday.
“In the near future, the name of the provisional president who will replace Jovenel Moïse will be revealed,” he added.
Ivickel Dabrésil, a Supreme Court judge who was initially supposed to replace Moïse, was arrested alongside 22 other residents for allegedly attempting a coup d’etat. Police found a copy of the speech Dabrésil intended to give when he would’ve replaced Moïse.
Also among the 23 people arrested were Marie Antoinette Gauthier, a former delegate of the Western Department and ex-presidential candidate, and her sister Marie Louise Gauthier, a police inspector.
However, Judge Wilner Morin denounced the arrest of Judge Dabrésil and said other officials of the Supreme Court were intimidated and threatened of being arrested also, according to Le Nouvelliste.
Others believe that the mass arrest was planned.
“It was a political intimidation that started a long time ago,” said Ebens Cadet, the spokesperson of #NouKonsyan, an activism group in Port-au-Prince. “The police aren’t acting based on the law, they’re acting based on what Jovenel Moïse wants.”
Police officers went to former Port-au-Prince Mayor Youri Chévry and ex-Senator Antonio Chéramy’s houses in the past two weeks to arrest them, but they weren’t there. Chéramy and Chévry have both voiced that they don’t support Moïse. Cadet himself was among 12 political activists arrested on Jan. 21 at a demonstration in Miragoâne, a commune in the Nippes Department, to demand that Moïse leave office.
The Feb. 7 protests weren’t as chaotic as people predicted, Cadet said. Protests took place in many cities like Gonaïves, Cayes, Cap-Haitien and Port-au-Prince. Police did engage in skirmishes with protesters, made some arrest but no deaths were reported as experts predicted.
However the houses of at least ten residents who support Moïse were set on fire, according to TripFoumi Enfo.
Experts and political leaders predicted that the coming days will be disastrous because residents will continue to protest.
The unrest stems from a constitutional crisis that led to different interpretations of when Moïse’s five-year term ends. Opponents of Moïse said his term began in 2016, the year he won the election, based on Article 134-2 of the Constitution.
They said he does not deserve an extra year simply because a delay led to him not assuming office until 2017.
The United States is also divided over when Moïse term should end. Edward “Ned” Price, the spokesman for the United States Department of State, told reporters that Moïse’s term ends Feb. 7, 2022, on Friday. The following day, members of the U.S. Congress sent a letter to the Department of State saying that it’s an “unmistakable message that [Moïse’s] term must end on Feb. 7.”
“This constitution is a demon, a demon of division,” Moïse said. “It put rocks in our hands.”
Moïse has been advocating for a new constitution since when he was campaigning in 2015. A new draft of the constitution was released on Wednesday and a referendum will be held on Apr. 25.
Via its public relations firm in the wee hours of the morning, the government shared its position on the need for a new constitution and the calls for Moïse to step down, saying:
- Haitian presidents, by law, serve 5-year terms. President Moïse was inaugurated in February 2017. That means his term ends in February 2022.
- This has been verified by the OAS and even those who were responsible for drafting the 1987 Constitution have publicly stated this is the case.
- President Moïse has assigned an independent advisory committee to draft a new constitution to remedy the faults of the 1987 text and finally put Haiti on a better path of representative democracy.
- The 1987 constitution designed a distorted decision-making process in the legislature, leading to repeatedly postponed elections and presidents governing by executive order numerous times – without parliamentary oversight.
Although Moïse is still in office many residents no longer view him as president.
“Most of the sectors in the country reminded Jovenel Moïse that his term is done but he still decided to stay in charge of the country,” Cadet said. “Today it’s clear that Jovenel isn’t the country’s president.”
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