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In what appears to be first step of a transition plan for the country’s return to normalcy, interim PM, Ariel Henry swore in the three members of the transitional council, Le Haut Conseil de la transition (HCT) on Monday, February 6, 2023, on the premises of the Ministry of Commerce. The ceremony was conducted in the presence of diplomats, business leaders, senior state officials and representatives from each sector represented on the council. The council, created as a result of the December 21 Consensus agreement is composed of Mr. Laurent St Cyr, Rev. Calixte Fleuridor and Mirlande Hyppolite Manigat, who are charged with three (3) major undertakings that include a constitutional review, judicial reform and the establishment of the provisional electoral commission as well as advising the government on a host of other issues.

In an address following the installation of the advisors, PM Henry thanked the councilors for accepting the responsibility to engage with his government in the noble and thankless task of serving their country in these difficult times. Chosen by various sectors of the political and social communities, these citizens must now accept the multiple constraints placed on them as they attempt to find solutions to the various problems facing the nation. Speaking about the accord that led to this day, the PM reiterated that the title of the very accord reveals the path to be traveled together and address our most pressing issues in order to create an environment conducive for popular participation in the governing process. We must do everything possible to bring together as many compatriots as possible into the political process and do what must be done to resolve the current impasse. Everyone must be brought in to the national dialogue. The Prime Minister appealed specifically to those still reluctant to join the national dialogue, KONBIT NASYONAL, and invited them to also take a seat at the table, together with their new advisors, their fellow citizens, and the government in the fight to restore democracy. Mr. Henry further stated that no one person, no sector, no group can claim to offer a lasting solution to the problems crippling the nation and that is why he will continue to talk to others to try to convince them to join his government. He further asked that the advisors help him reach out to others because of the need for strong mobilization of all our compatriots so that they participate massively in the next popular elections, as the legitimacy of the newly elected will be at stake.

Speaking on behalf of the newly installed advisors, Ms. Manigat stated that she hears the cries of the people resonating strongly in her ears and as advisors, they experience the anxieties and worries of the people daily. Refraining from making false promises, she reminded the people that there’s no miracle recipe for what they are experiencing, and the struggle can only be won with a common front, and that she does not intend to save the country as Emperor Dessalines did but intend to start treating the ills that are eating away at the society. According to her, the country is increasingly engulfed in a political crisis affecting all sectors of national life and faced with the complexity and volatility of the situation, it is imperative that every citizen, consistent in his sphere of activity, respond to the call of duty.

Meanwhile, Korean textile company, S&H Global, a main employers in the Caracol Industrial Park announced plans to close one of their factories as announced layoffs in five (5) other factories for a total of 3,500 employees. In a published letter dated January 31, 2023, the company stated that they will shortly begin to downsize their factory Module #3 which employs around 1,000 workers, with an expected shutdown by February 28, 2023. The company stated that voluntary departure application forms will be received during a limited period from February 1 to 10, 2023, for those who are willing to leave voluntarily, and in compliance with Haitian Labor laws, The Company will pay arrears and severance pay to all workers affected by the layoffs. This declaration follows a history of unfair labor practices as evidenced in August 2022, when the workers union, la Centrale autonome des travailleurs haïtiens (CATH) denounced the illegal, unjustified, and unjustifiable layoff of more than 4,000 workers from different modules of the S&H global company. This attitude, manifestly unfair, is part of the anti-union and anti-democratic policy, put in place since the establishment of this company in Haiti, who never satisfied the legitimate demands of unionized workers.

According to S&H Global, they are facing a shortage of orders as orders are re-routed elsewhere in the Caribbean and Central America to reliable suppliers and factories, they are also having trouble maintaining their usual operations which is increasingly difficult because of the unique challenges in the country in these turbulent times. Another factor is the global economy which in under pressure from rising inflation and interest rates, war in Europe, disruptions in the supply chain and a world that is not yet fully recovered from Covid-19.

Elsewhere, striking doctors at the general hospital criticized the Director General of the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP), Dr. Lauré Adrien, for his indifference to the worsening crisis at the state university hospital (HUEH). During a peaceful march organized on Monday, demonstrators attacked the building housing the Notre Dame de La Merci hospital center, directed by Dr Lauré Adrien. Violent exchanges between demonstrators and agents in charge of monitoring the health infrastructure caused panic. There seem to be no prospect of resolving the crisis as health authorities and the doctors remain deadlocked on a solution to their demands which has kept activities at the hospital paralyzed since December 2022. The protesters demand better working conditions, an increase in the fees allocated to residents and an improvement in the regulations for admitting patients to the HUEH. Without these prerequisites, the strike at the HUEH will continue, while they call for the Executive Director of the General Hospital, Dr. Jessy Colimon Adrien to resign her position due to her lack of leadership.

Pre-carnival festivities were organized in several cities across the country this Sunday, February 5, as Port-au-Prince, Jacmel, Saint-Marc, Miragoane, Cap-Haitien, Ouanaminthe, and others went into carnival mode, even though authorities have yet to announce a decision on whether to hold the national carnival this year. Interrupted a week ago, carnival activities resumed on Sunday, February 5, 2023, in downtown Port-au-Prince as hundreds of revelers were seen at Lalue and Champ de Mars. The musical entertainment was provided by a musical float and the walking band, Flash-Band marched from Avenue Christophe to Avenue John Brown (Lalue). All major cities have plans to organize the three-day bacchanal from February 19, through the 21st, though the government is yet to make a formal declaration.

The La Fondation Lorquet pour une Nouvelle Haïti (FOLONHA), is appealing to the Haitian authorities to quickly intervene and repatriate some estimated 5,000 Haitians stranded in Turkey, following the 7.8 earthquake that hit that country this past Sunday. The foundation said most of the compatriots have made known their desire to return home in the face of the situation they’re facing in Turkey, but the slowness of the authorities and budgetary constraints have prevented them from being returned home. Also, seven (7) migrants have died in the past three weeks, stranded in Peru on the Bolivian border in the Andean highlands paralyzed by roadblocks and demonstrations against the government of Dina Boiarte, according to the UNHCR representative in Peru, Iris Baño Romero. Six of the deaths, including a minor, occurred in Desaguadero, a small town that connects Peru and Bolivia through a bridge in the South American Andes, and the seventh occurred in Juli, also on the border with Bolivia. The reasons for their death include non- access to food despite the generosity of the population, the absence of accommodation, health problems and the weather conditions. The barricades on the Desaguadero International Bridge, south of Lake Titicaca, are one of the roadblocks that remain active in Peru amid protests. Baño Romero noted that the Haitian migrants present in Desaguadero have already spent, in general, several years in Chile or Brazil and are in Peru in transit, with the intention for the most part of continuing their journey towards the United States.

Dela Harlley

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