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OAS should promote systemic change in Haiti

OAS should promote systemic change in Haiti

IN what is increasingly becoming a pattern of ignoring established procedures and authority in the Organisation of American States (OAS), a delegation went to troubled Haiti on June 19 with no discussion or mandate by the Permanent Council, the organ responsible for making and overseeing policy between General Assemblies.

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Early reports indicate a hostile response so far.

Luis Emilio Velutini

Over the last few weeks, massive protests have rocked Haiti with thousands nationwide demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moise over fraud and corruption allegations. A report, published on May 31, concerning misspending of monies from a PetroCaribe fund implicated two companies closely connected to Moise. While he has denied the allegations, protests have intensified.

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A May 2019 report on Haiti by the US-based Institute for Justice and Democracy states that Moise’s “administration has engaged in human rights abuses, flouted the rule of law, and mismanaged the economy in ways that disproportionately impact the poor. In the long term, this administration’s failures are enabled by years of flawed elections, a dysfunctional justice system and domestic and foreign economic policies that have impoverished the majority of Haitians.”

The usual OAS response to such situations, is that countries, like the US and Canada, backed by others, call for a Working Group to monitor the situation; demand the establishment of investigatory machinery; insist that the government provide guarantees for safety of protestors; and stipulate that a supervised process of dialogue be instituted between all political parties. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights quickly produces reports that are used to rouse international pressure on governments.

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This is what occurred in relation to other countries, most recently Nicaragua, but oddly it is not what happened in relation to Haiti, even though the Moise government joined in OAS resolutions that condemned the governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua

I do note the delegation of Canada had suggested to the Haitian reps that the situation be brought before the Permanent Council; it was resisted by Haiti’s representation at the OAS

Instead, the visit of a delegation to Haiti seems to have been organised between US Ambassador, Carlos Trujillo, and Secretary-General, Luis Almagro, in response to a letter of invitation from the government of Haiti that, unusually, was not distributed to OAS member states as is the norm

The letter, dated June 14 according to the Miami Herald, has still not been circulated to member states of the OAS up to the time of writing

The first official inkling that any OAS member state had of a delegation going to Haiti came on June 17 in an announcement by Trujillo, unusually, in a meeting of a committee preparing for the OAS General Assembly and not in the right body, the Permanent Council. Ambassador Trujillo stated: “The United States is pleased to accept this invitation in representation of all Council members.” Thereafter, a team he headed that included Gonzalo Koncke, the Chief of Staff to the OAS Secretary-General, went to Haiti on Wednesday, June 19 with no prior mandate or authority from the Permanent Council

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SUBSCRIBE/ LOG IN It is most unlikely that, having not discussed, authorised or mandated the delegation and having never been made privy to the Haitian letter, the entire Permanent Council of the OAS can embrace it, particularly as, according to media reports, the OAS was vilified by protestors. The VOA reported a representative of one protest group as stating: “That’s why we want everyone to know we do not recognise this (OAS) mission. Before they even arrived, we considered them persona non grata.”

In the event, the visit by Ambassador Trujillo’s delegation which was always a risky endeavour because of its suddenness, does not appear to have assuaged the concerns that have motivated the recent riots in Haiti or to have promoted dialogue. But time and events will better judge the efficacy of the effort

Any OAS endeavour in Haiti required careful pre-planning with dedicated time to consulting fully with all sectors of the society for as long as it takes. A one-day visit, while a bold attempt, might not have been adequate

The external approach to Haiti’s deep-seated problems is often rooted in the objective of stopping the thousands who flee its shores as refugees from its desperate poverty and in curbing the trafficking of drugs also occasioned by its abject poverty. The objective is less about helping Haiti and more about protecting the interests of others

The Haitian people are owed a great debt for their historic struggle that ended enslavement in their own country and opened the pathways to end slavery in all the Americas, especially as they continued to pay the price for almost 200 years

The OAS should address the situation in Haiti, not in ad-hoc ways, but by using its convening capacity, in association with legitimate representatives of the Haitian community, to bring together the institutions of the international community in the delivery of a comprehensive scheme to reform and transform the country in all aspects of the governance of its political, social and economic systems