Another humanitarian disaster looms in Haiti. But this one is preventable.
A political and humanitarian crisis in Haiti has been brewing for two years, intensifying in the past few months. An increasingly authoritarian president has strengthened his grip on power by:
Not organising elections, resulting in no parliament since January 2020 and no elected local government since July 2020
Ruling by decree (41 decrees and 120 orders published between January and December 2020)
Establishing a new secret police force, reporting directly to him
Coordination of government and security services with gangs, who carry out massacres, kidnappings and murders with impunity, often targeting individuals and groups who oppose the president
Installing people loyal to him in all positions of power and authority, including the Supreme Court.
The Organisation of American States and the United Nations have, to date, supported the president’s plan to hold a constitutional referendum in April 2021 and general elections at the end of the year.
However, changes to Haiti’s constitution by referendum are illegal. New voter ID laws would disenfranchise millions of Haitians, making it impossible for them to vote. The push to hold a referendum and elections this year will not only be illegitimate, it will also disregard the rule of law and could deal a lethal blow to democracy.
Under the current administration, systematic human rights abuses have escalated dramatically. Human rights groups and the US government’s Office of Foreign Assets Control have documented evidence of coordination between senior government officials, security officers and gang-leaders. Politically-motivated massacres, kidnappings and murders have become a way of life for ordinary Haitians. Fear among the general population is of a level not experienced since the Duvalier Era.