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Reviews | Haiti needs help from Washington to get out of its quagmire

Haiti took a grim step in February, when the traditional presidential inauguration day came and went with no president sworn in, no realistic prospect of presidential elections, and no consensus established on how to restore a semblance of functional democracy in the western hemisphere. poorest country. Meanwhile, the Biden administration is backing an interim prime minister whose mandate, if executed, is to preside over a government with no pretensions to legitimacy.

This Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, was appointed to this position by President Jovenel Moïse, who was assassinated two days later, before Mr. Henry could be sworn in. On February 7, Moïse’s term expired. Mr Henry has said he will hold an election this year, but that promise is hollow given how far-fetched it is that the polls could take place amid widespread insecurity and the current power vacuum.

A potentially promising sign was the emergence last year of a coalition of civic organizations proposing to install a caretaker government for two years, after which elections would be held. The coalition, which is called the Montana Accord, after a hotel in the capital where it meets, is made up of political parties, faith groups, professional associations, human rights organizations rights and unions.

Broad as it is, the coalition has no more constitutional legitimacy than Mr. Henry. Moreover, his plan to run the country with a prime minister and a five-member council wielding presidential powers is unwieldy to say the least. Even if he were to take power by unpredictable means, there is no credible prospect that he would establish control over the approximately 15,000 members of the police force, plagued by corruption. Without this, there is little chance that he can stabilize Haiti, organize elections and revive the economy.

The country of more than 11 million people has only a handful of elected officials, the terms of dozens of others having expired in the absence of elections. Mr. Henry took office largely with the support of a US-led group of ambassadors. But the government and national institutions are in shambles.

Moreover, Mr. Henry’s pledge to bring Moses’ killers to justice has been proven not only hollow but suspicious after a report that he was in contact with a key suspect before and immediately after the assassination. Although there are signs that drug traffickers were involved in the president’s assassination, most of the kingpins who were involved remain at large. Haiti’s own authorities have made no significant progress in investigating the murder. Meanwhile, according to The Post, US prosecutors, who allege the murder was partly planned in the United States, have charged two suspects and are seeking the extradition of a third.

The Biden administration has ruled out sending troops, preferring instead to pay lip service to finding a Haitian-led way out of the crisis. If there is such an outcome – a big if – it could be a consensus between the Montana Accord coalition and Mr. Henry’s own forces. Reaching such a deal should be high on the Biden administration’s agenda. But there are few signs that Washington is paying attention to events in the impoverished country – despite its long history of degenerating into crises that then become impossible to ignore.