Mon | Nov 29, 2021

Haiti PM: Elections and referendum to be held next year

Published:Tuesday | September 28, 2021 | 4:10 PM
In this July 20, 2021, file photo, Haiti's designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry (centre) and interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph (right) pose for a group photo with other authorities in front of a portrait of slain Haitian President Jovenel Moïse at the National Pantheon Museum during a memorial service for Moise in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Henry says he plans to hold a referendum to modify the country’s constitution by February, and he hopes to organize presidential and legislative elections early next year, during an interview Tuesday, September 28, with The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn, File)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti's prime minister said Tuesday that he plans to hold a referendum to modify the country's constitution by February, and he hopes to organise presidential and legislative elections early next year.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Ariel Henry dismissed opponents who accuse him of wanting to stay in power and said that mistrust is one of the biggest challenges he faces.

Henry said the referendum is a priority because the current constitution is rejected by a majority of political figures and civil society leaders.

He also said an electoral council that will be responsible for setting dates has yet to be named after he recently dissolved the previous provisional council.

“The elections must be held as soon as possible,” he said as he lamented the lack of trust among Haitians.

“People don't believe what is being said.”

After being postponed several times this year, presidential and legislative elections were scheduled to be held November 7, along with the constitutional referendum.

But the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse at his private home on July 7 upended those plans.

Henry also criticised how the US government recently treated Haitian migrants along the US-Mexico border, where it expelled more than 2,300.

He said that action was not “suitable.”

“We don't understand the way that our compatriots were treated,” he said.

Henry's comments came just hours before the arrival in Port-au-Prince of Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols, the top US diplomat to Latin America, who is seeking to contain the fallout from the abrupt resignation last week of the US special envoy to Haiti.

Daniel Foote, a career diplomat, quit the high-profile post over the deportations at the border, saying it was inhumane to return the migrants, many of whom fled the island following the devastating 2010 earthquake, to a country buffeted by gang violence, a collapsed economy and political turmoil.

Foote, in his resignation letter, also criticised the US for standing by what he considers a “corrupt government with gang alliances” instead of embracing a broad-based coalition of civil society groups that have come up with their own blueprint for stabilising the country.

Henry declined to comment on Foote's resignation, saying it was a foreign affair, but he said he does not think the situation will affect the relationship between the US and Haiti, which he said would continue and deepen.

Henry added that the government is working on a draft of a potential program to help the thousands of migrants who have been expelled.

He said one proposal is to give the migrants access to credit so they can launch their own small businesses.

“We're trying to do that immediately,” he said.

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