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Four days after returning from the CARICOM conference in Belize, interim Prime Minister Henry’s office announced that he, together with his Foreign Affairs Minister, Jean Victor Généus, will be part of an official delegation to Chile, where they will take part in the inauguration ceremonies for newly elected president Gabriel Boric Font, a former student activist who will be the youngest ever to hold the office. The news release of the trip to Chile was made at a state dinner organized by outgoing billionaire president Sebastián Piñera and his wife, María Cecilia Morel Montes. Prime Minister Henry also plans to hold bilateral talks with his Chilean counterparts at the inauguration. The Prime Minister expressed his satisfaction with the CARICOM conference, stating that it provided the opportunity to meet with leaders from the Hemisphere as well as form other parts of the world who pledged to help address the increasing security concerns in the country. For instance, Mr. Henry said to have spoken to the King of Spain and other Heads of states and there are plans afoot to provide aid, although no specific details were provided. For some time now, several countries including the US, France and Canada have pushed for the creation of a multi-donor fund to help the national police, PNH. As of now, the significant assistance expected to enable the PNH to strengthen its capacities and rout the gangs has still not arrived, and between raids and homicides, the kidnappers and assassins ended up instilling fear in people’s hearts.

While back at home, PM Henry was once again invited to appear before the Senate on Thursday March 17, 2022. The invitation by the senate, composed of a third of its normal membership was to have the prime minister answer questions about stalemate in the talks with other parties such as the Montana Accord signatories and the prime minister’s office. In a letter addressed to the prime minister, the office of the senate is said to be continuing the process to find a global political agreement between the various political actors in the country in the hope of addressing the issues facing the nation. The prime minister shunned an earlier invitation by the putative legislative body.

Meanwhile security concerns continue to plague the country with no clear direction or concrete plan to stem the tide. On Monday, residents took matters into their own hands and erected barricades in several streets in Lalue and Bas-Peu-de-Chose to protest the kidnapping of the principal of the Jacques Roumain Ernst Lafleur School and his wife, on Friday afternoon, in Lalue. The disenchantment follows a spate of raids and kidnappings in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. At least eight people were kidnapped from Avenue Poupelard, Poste-Marchand, Pont-Morin and Tabarre; and the majority of the kidnappings this weekend occurred within the jurisdiction of the Port-au-Prince police station, in neighborhoods such as Village-de-Dieu or Grand-Ravine, known places of kidnappings, and a fortress for the National Police of Haiti (PNH). The Haitian medical association is leading the call for a strike to protest the insecurity in the country. In a public statement, the organization is calling for a three-day strike from Monday, March 14 through Wednesday March 16, for all in the health and allied professions, asking private hospitals and clinics to close their doors, all the while respecting international norms regarding their availability to care for the sick in the event of emergencies. The president of the association, Dr Carrole Cadet Day further expressed that this decision has no political connotation since it is contrary to its statutory regulations. Instead, the strike aims to demand from the established authorities a swift intervention to obtain the unconditional release of their two colleagues, Drs Pierre Boncy et Michel D’Alexis kidnapped from their clinics while they were exercising their professional activities as well as the implementation of a series of concrete measures to curb this wave of insecurity which deprives all their fundamental freedom to circulate in complete safety.

Elsewhere, former Prime Minister Evans Paul spoke on the status of insecurity in the country, arguing for declaration of a state of siege in order to give more freedom and latitude to the national police, PNH, and the army, Fad’H as part of their operations to fight insecurity, including kidnappings. According to Mr. Paul, the state of siege is an exceptional measure which allows the police and the army to have more freedom of action within the framework of their operations. If the government gives the police and the army the cover of the state of siege, it will give them additional powers which must of course be limited. In the past, the state of siege has been declared in conformity with the constitution as done by former Prime Minister Claude Joseph on July 7, 2021, judged constitutional at the time. Mr. Paul went on to state that the state of siege must be accompanied by certain measures such as a compensation fund for the police to encourage exemplary officers, increased training for the force and also an attempt to call on former soldiers and police officers with honorable mention and no checkered past to re-enlist to help in the fight. There should also be an awareness campaign by the government to educate the public on their rights and responsibilities and provide a hotline for them to report criminal activity or report when they are victims of a crime. As of now, there is not a single hotline available in the country for people to use to report such activities. The former Prime Minister said he has charged himself with the responsibility of speaking out about such things and plans to discuss it with the current Prime Minister. He added that he has been in contact with former police officers and soldiers and former staffers of the Justice to see how to articulate an action with a legal basis and with a connection between the state authorities and civil society so that there is a consensus for dealing with the current climate of insecurity. This includes attacks on life, property, the movement of people and goods which has long crossed the threshold of the intolerable. Mr. Paul added that the current situation has gone on too far, and physical insecurity does more damage on a daily basis, to the point of paralyzing the country. It is this insecurity that must be tackled as a priority, and as a nation, we cannot face insecurity in these times of contradictions, of battle between agreements. We need a truce so that everyone tackles this problem together.

An operation undertaken by the security forces in Cap-Haïtien, in the neighborhood of Shadda on Monday yielded firearms, munitions and drugs. The operation resulted in the arrest of seven (7) suspects at a hideout used by gangs led by a bandit known as Das who exchanged fire with the officers. The police retrieved 3 guns, 16 rounds of ammunition, masks, 2 knifes and 3 machetes.

Finally, in celebration of 160 years of operation, the national treasure, Rhum Babancourt launched its 160 years anniversary festivities with a star-studded intimate dinner at the elegant locale of Forbes Magazine, in the heart of Manhattan, New York. The who is who of stars included Wyclef Jean, Emeline Michel, Michaël Brun, Azede Jean-Pierre, J. Perry, Medjy and Nico of Enposib. The CEO of the company, Delphine Gardère, said this initial intimate dinner serves to launch yearlong festivities to celebrate the drink that was just recognized by the UNESCO world Heritage foundation as national treasure. Despite the socio-economic conditions in the country, Delphine Gardère believes that we must celebrate this special year, highlight our heritage, telling the world the rich and colorful story that makes us proud. According to Ms Gadere, Barbancourt want to showcase the undeniable know-how, the award-winning rum, to show the world that Haiti can do something beautiful, and something great.

Dela Harlley

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