Haiti's president defends record at UN, US slams 'rule by decree'

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Haiti's president defends record at UN, US slams 'rule by decree'

Monday, February 22, 2021

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HAITI'S President Jovenel Moise told the UN Security Council on Monday that "democracy was doing well in Haiti" despite its ongoing political crisis, an assertion challenged by the United States, which called on him to quickly put an end to his era of "rule by decree."

Moise has been ruling by decree for a year because there currently is no parliament, and only a third of its senators are in office. Legislative elections due in 2018 were delayed.

He also maintains that his term lasts until February 2022 -- but the opposition argues it should have ended two weeks ago, in a standoff over disputed elections.

During a rare address by a head of state -- countries are usually represented by the foreign minister -- Moise said that in four years, his country "had had to face down bids to interrupt the constitutional order through violence.

"At the base of all this, there is a rejection of the democratic regime and of elections as the only means of access to the management of the affairs of the state," he said, lauding his own administration's "tireless efforts... to appease the sociopolitical climate."

"We are facing a powerful lobby which has great resources," he said during a speech that lasted 27 minutes, instead of the 15 normally granted, and that was marred by the sound and image cutting out because of a poor internet connection.

He said this lobby was associated with "sore losers" and has violently blocked the senate's regular functioning, preventing the government from being formalized and voting on a budget and an electoral law.

The president promised "limited use" of presidential decrees until the next general election scheduled for September, but Washington asked him to stop using them at all, while France said that several of the more recent ones were "a source of concern."

Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the acting US ambassador to the UN, reiterated "the need to bring the current period of rule by decree to a swift conclusion."

He said such measures should only be taken when absolutely necessary and in issues such as security and election preparations.

"We urge the government of Haiti to hold overdue legislative elections as soon as possible in order to restore the parliament's constitutional role," he said.

"Recent actions unilaterally removing and appointing three supreme court judges, creating a national intelligence agency, and actions constraining the role of Haiti's independent audit agency risk damaging Haiti's core democratic institutions," he added.

The dispute in Haiti stems from Moise's original election. He was voted into office in a poll subsequently canceled after allegations of fraud, and then elected again a year later, in 2016.

The issue has led to weeks of violent protests on the streets of the poor Caribbean country.

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