Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Haiti's New Day?

A new prime minister was sworn in today.

At the New York Times, "A New Day in Haiti? Many Haitians Have Their Doubts":

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Gerard Lovius falls asleep at night on the floor of an empty classroom to the sound of gunfire. He and his shellshocked neighbors started living there a month ago, after gang members invaded his home, sending his terrified wife and three children running to the streets and leaving him with nothing: no money, no possessions, not even a cellphone.

On Tuesday morning, Mr. Lovius was back at his job as a street cleaner, tidying up before the day’s stately memorial for Haiti’s assassinated leader in the Champs de Mars, the capital’s main square. President Jovenel Moïse would soon be laid to rest, and the sparring members of his government had just reached a truce, vowing to lead the country anew.

But there was little peace in Mr. Lovius’s life. “We have hope only in God,” he said, hauling a wheelbarrow of trash up the street. Haiti’s leaders have called the political truce a new chapter, a historic turning of the page that, in the words of the interim prime minister, shows “that we can actually work together, even if we are different, even if we have different world outlooks.”

But for many in country, it does not seem like a change. The list of cabinet ministers published in the government’s official gazette featured several familiar names from Mr. Moïse’s governing party, including the new prime minister and the new foreign minister, both of whom had been angling to take over since the president was killed.

“This is a provocation,” Pierre Espérance, the executive director of the Haitian National Human Rights Defense Network, said of the party’s control of the new government. “It means the crisis will continue, insecurity will continue, and the gangs will continue.”

He argued that Mr. Moïse was a victim of his own rule, a leader who “died because of the insecurity his party created.” Two years ago, violence and furious demonstrators condemning corruption and demanding the president’s ouster locked the country in place — keeping the sick from hospitals, children from school, workers from rare jobs and people in the dark in areas where electricity stopped flowing.

Gangs have become more brazen since then, controlling large parts of the capital, attacking at will, kidnapping children on their way to school and pastors in the middle of delivering their services.

“The country is going to remain in the same condition, unless they get their heads together,” Rosemane Jean Louis, said shortly before the memorial began and the new government took office. “We have no security. We are hungry. We are in misery.”

Ms. Jean Louis recounted how she had casually said goodbye to her son, 24, one day last year, not knowing it would be the last time. With a smile, he had grabbed a piece of candy from the pile of treats she sold outside their home, then continued on his way to meet a friend. He made it a block, she said, before being shot dead by gang members in front of a church.

“I didn’t even find his body,” said Ms. Jean Louis, 61, tears falling. “They took it with them.”

Crime, kidnappings, gangs, security: the words streamed from Haitians across the capital as dignitaries paid their respects to the assassinated president on Tuesday and his successors took the helm. Even as rival politicians made claims and counterclaims to replace Mr. Moïse, residents were still in the streets protesting — often because they felt certain that their new leaders, whoever might prevail, would not care about them.

The place is in bad shape.

Keep reading.