LEADERSHIP CHANGE IN HAITI (July 19, 2021)
Claude Joseph is handing the leadership over to Ariel Henry, according to an interview this morning in the Washington Post. Joseph has been acting prime minister since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse." The international community, led by the Core Group, made it clear the path forward in Haiti's political leadership.
Below is a tick-tock of the different groups applying public and private pressure on the Caribbean island over the weekend. (The Core Group includes the Ambassadors from the United States, France, Spain, Brazil, Germany and Canada, as well as representatives from the UN and OAS.)
On Friday, a group of Hatian opposition leaders published a "National Memorandum of Understanding '' making clear they no longer supported Ariel Henry, according to Haiti Economie.
On Saturday a group of civil society leaders expressed their interest in being involved in the process of naming a new president, according to VOA News.
Later on Saturday, the Core Group of Ambassadors on Haiti endorsed designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry and did not mention Claude Joseph, interim prime minister and Haiti’s effective leader, according to a statement (only in French). The Washington Post reported that, "by apparently snubbing Joseph and backing Henry, the Core Group appeared to be the first major international group to withdraw its support for Joseph.
Also on Saturday, the U.N. Special Representative in Haiti, Helen La Lime, released to a statement on Saturday that didn't name names but concluded, "all Haitian stakeholders must urgently set aside their differences, eschew their narrow interests, and work together to tackle the protracted political, structural, and social issues that hinder the country’s progress."
Some neighboring countries expressed displeasure at the Core Group's decision, according to the Jamaica Observer.
Haiti's former First Lady's return to the island seemed to be in anticipation of Friday's funeral, according to the Miami Herald, But now it seems to have been a way to be present in all the political changes. It was the departing leader Joseph who has the backing of police and the military and who met the former First Lady at her unannounced arrival in Port au Prince this weekend, according to the AP.
Jakob Johnston (of CEPR's Haiti AidWatch) tweeted over the weekend: "The Core Group statement isn't about snubbing Claude Joseph, who had already accepted, begrudgingly perhaps, to join Henry's government. It's a snub to parts of the opposition, who issued a statement opposing Henry yesterday, and to the civil society commission."
The Financial Times' editorial board wrote that Haiti and Cuba must find their own steps forward. (The editorial is only hours old but the news has outpaced it.)
Other Haiti News
The Miami Herald reported on Haitian President Jovenel Moïse final phone calls. “My life is in danger. Come quick; come save my life.” (A summary is also in the Sun-Sentinel).
The Pentagon identified seven Colombian nationals, arrested in Haiti, as having received "U.S. military or police training ... both in Colombia and the United States between 2001-2015," in a Friday news dump, according to Voice of America. In Haiti, four of those on the assassinated President's security detail are not allowed to leave the country, according to the Washington Post.
On Friday, the head of Colombia’s national police gave a press conference where he suggested it was Haitians who shifted the plan from an arrest of the president to an assasination of Jovenel Moïse, according to the New York Times. The underworld of Colombian mercenaries is explored by the Los Angeles Times.
A revealing look at the missteps and failures of both the Trump and the Biden administrations was published in Sunday's NYTimes and includes an anonymous but "senior Biden official" calling their strategy of keeping their predecessor's policies in place " a mistake." Haitian novelist Évelyne Trouillot writes, "We have been living in an atmosphere of terror for months," in an op-ed in the Washington Post.
Moïse and the northern city of Trou-du-Nord, where he was from, is profiled in the New York Times. There have been Catholic masses and marches there in his honor, where "he was remembered mostly as the son of a sugar cane farmer and seamstress."
This weekend it was pro-government forces who paraded around Havana in "a very different show of strength", according to the Washington Post and Reuters. In the crowd were President Miguel Díaz-Canel and Raúl Castro. (The Post cops to an unfortunate translation error in an editor's note.)
The Cuba Study Group put out a press release "unequivocally supporting the right of all Cuban citizens to self-determination and to peacefully make demands for change. The myth that large-scale public protests cannot happen in Cuba has been shattered." The Center for Democracy in the Americas statement "urges the Biden-Harris administration to adopt policies of engagement that empower the Cuban people to determine their own future." And almost 500,000 have signed a petition calling for a "humanitarian military intervention", on Change.org, and reported on by 14 y Medio. According to a column in Foreign Policy, "Biden’s hard-line rhetoric belies the island’s humanitarian crisis and cedes an opportunity to shape what comes next."
Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez writes an essay in the NY Times: "the goal of these protests is not to escape the island’s economic crisis on a raft, but to bring about change in the island." She is director of 14ymedio and hosts the podcast Ventana 14. Sánchez was able to tweet out live reports this weekend, reacting to the government-sponsored marches, but she was unable to share her videos.
Cuba now has the highest "contagion per capita" of COVID-19, according to Reuters. About 20% of the population is fully vaccinated; see data and #s from Cuba's Ministry of Health.
The Washington Post profiles Cuba president Miguel Díaz-Canel, "a former education minister, longtime bureaucrat and Communist loyalist," and head of state since 2018 and compares him with the Castro brothers. When Díaz-Canel "walked through streets of protesters this week, he was cursed at," something that never happened to Fidel or Raúl."
Virtual private networks, or VPNs, are allowing websites blocked in Cuba to be read and watched in Cuba, according to Reuters. Media previously blocked can be seen and then, "shared on social media sites generally available in Cuba."
Pope Francis said, “I am close to the dear people of Cuba in these difficult times, in particular to those families suffering the most," in his first appearance since leaving the hospital, according to Vatican News.
Presidential primaries in Chile's two largest political groups were held over the weekend and they selected Sebastian Sichel (Chile Vamos) and Gabriel Boric (Convergencia Social), according to La Tercerca. These results showed "signs of moderation", says EFE, and were clearly "upset wins," according to Reuters. Polls had suggested that communist candidate Daniel Jadue or ultraconservative Jaoquín Lavín would be top vote getters. Sichel, former president of the state-owned BancoEstado and ex-minister of social development under Piñera is the candidate for the coalition that included his Christian Democratic Party. Boric, the former student leader and now 35-year-old member of Congress, had a convincing win. The first round of the presidential elections is on Nov. 21; the runoff on Dec. 19. News of the winners was warmly welcomed by corporate interests, according to Bloomberg. The winners provided the "final blow" to traditional politics, according to a column in El Mostrador.
Several newspapers around the world report on The Pegasus Project about "military-grade spyware leased by the Israeli firm NSO Group to governments for tracking terrorists and criminals [that] was used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, business executives." According to the Washington Post, "the greatest number was in Mexico, where more than 15,000 numbers, including those belonging to politicians, union representatives, journalists and other government critics, were on the list." The Guardian reports on a murdered Mexican journalist, found on the list.
"It’s Not a Border Crisis. It’s a Climate Crisis", argues an analysis from Guatemala published in Politico. "And it’s not just climate change acting alone. It’s food insecurity. Malnutrition. Poverty. It all ties together."
Confessions of torture in the 'house of horrors', in Chalchuapa, a town about 50 miles from the capital, are coming out according to Reuters and a censored story in Revista Factum. "The macabre discovery has sent a chill through a nation that's no stranger to brutality."
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro left the hospital on Sunday and was expected to return to work today, according to Reuters and the BBC.
Lula's presidential campaign is ramping up the volume but keeping policies on the downlow, according to the Financial Times.
There is a dearth of vaccines for second doses for COVID-19 in Brazil, according to the BBC.
The Bronx Documentary Center's fourth Annual Latin American Foto Festival is taking place and the BBC shares some of its fantastic photography.
It's Eduardo Romero here filling in for Jordana: let me know if I missed or misinterpreted something or perhaps you have a different take.