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Ariel Henry Announces Plans to Resign Amid Rising Opposition in Haiti

A newly proposed transition plan attempts to “put a veneer of legality on this situation,” says scholar Jemima Pierre.

Unelected Prime Minister Ariel Henry has announced he plans to resign amid rising opposition in Haiti, where a coalition of armed groups opposing the de facto leader have declared an uprising, led mass jailbreaks and taken over the country’s airport. At an emergency meeting with international actors in Jamaica, the regional bloc CARICOM has reportedly proposed a plan to set up a seven-member presidential panel that would appoint a new interim prime minister. Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said the panel would only include Haitians who support the deployment of a U.N.-backed security force, a policy supported by Henry, while large swaths of Haitians voiced opposition to another hand-selected leader. “I’m not sure this solves the problem that’s been going on in Haiti,” says Haitian American scholar Jemima Pierre, who explains why Henry’s resignation and transition announcement attempts to “put a veneer of legality on this situation,” while the country continues to operate under occupation by foreign interests. “There’s going to be more flare-ups in the next few months … if we don’t stop this problem by its root, which is the constant U.S. imposition of its terms on Haitian people and the denial of Haitian sovereignty.”

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re beginning today’s show with Haiti, where the unelected Prime Minister Ariel Henry has announced he’ll resign once a transitional council is established. He made the announcement after Caribbean leaders, U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken and others held an emergency meeting in Jamaica to discuss the crisis in Haiti, where armed groups launched an uprising last week against Henry. He announced his resignation in a video message posted online.

PRIME MINISTER ARIEL HENRY: [translated] After the Council of Ministers, it’s been agreed to set up a presidential transitional council. Once chosen, the council will govern over different sectors of national life. … Haiti wants peace. Haiti needs stability. Haiti needs sustainable development. Haiti needs to rebuild democratic institutions. I’m asking all Haitians to remain calm and do everything they can for peace and stability to come back as fast as possible for the good of the country.

AMY GOODMAN: The Miami Herald is reporting CARICOM has proposed a plan to set up a seven-member presidential panel that would appoint a new interim prime minister who would rule until elections are held. Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said the panel would only include Haitians who support the deployment of a U.N.-backed security force. Last week, Prime Minister Ariel Henry traveled to Kenya, which is slated to lead the security mission. He has been unable to return home and was reportedly most recently in Puerto Rico.

On Monday, one of the leaders of the recent armed uprising in Haiti, Jimmy Chérizier, who’s known as “Barbecue,” warned against outside forces picking Haiti’s next leader.

JIMMY CHÉRIZIER: [translated] We take this opportunity to say to the international community that if it continues down this path, we will plunge Haiti into chaos when it chooses a small group of politicians and negotiates with them on paper to decide who can be president and what kind of government we’re going to have. Today it’s clear that it’s the inhabitants of the working-class districts and the Haitian people who know what they’re suffering at the moment, and it’s up to them to choose the person who’s going to lead them and the way he’s going to lead them.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by Jemima Pierre, professor at the Social Justice Institute, University of British Columbia in Canada, and research associate at the University of Johannesburg. She’s a Haitian American scholar and co-coordinator of the Black Alliance for Peace’s Haiti/Americas Team, which has been closely following the crisis in Haiti. She has a recent piece in NACLA headlined “Haiti as Empire’s Laboratory.”

Welcome back to Democracy Now! Events and developments are proceeding quickly, Professor Pierre. Can you respond to Ariel Henry’s announcement, we believe from Puerto Rico, that he will be stepping down, and what exactly that means?

JEMIMA PIERRE: Good morning, Amy. Thanks for having me back again.

I wanted to — it is interesting. What many people are saying is that: How could a prime minister that was not chosen by the people or any elected official resign, when he didn’t have a mandate to begin with? And so, what I see, and what many see, is this charade apparently happening, in the sense that they’re trying to put a veneer of legality on this situation, basically saying that Henry has to resign in order to have a presidential council in order to move on with so-called free and fair elections. And so, to me, the people making decisions continue to make the decisions, and the resignation is only a veneer of legality for those making the decisions. And that itself is a problem that is not going to be solved.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Professor Pierre, all the coverage that we’re getting here in the United States is of chaos created by gangs in the street. You have a different perspective in view of these so-called gangs, and you actually object to that use of that term. Could you talk about why and the role of the gangs in forcing Henry out?

JEMIMA PIERRE: Well, like I said yesterday, the problem that people focus on and what makes the media, what makes the mainstream news in the U.S., is just pictures of extreme violence by these groups. I don’t like the term “gangs” because I don’t think these are gangs. It’s an extremely terrible and racialized term, used especially when it comes to people from nations like Haiti. And I think these are armed groups. Some are paramilitaries, and some of them are just armed groups that have access to guns. And in that sense, we have to be clear that this is not a bunch of people running around, you know, in terms of thinking about movies from the 1990s in the U.S. about gangs. And so, that’s the first.

The second thing is that the so-called gang violence is actually not the main problem in Haiti. The main problem in Haiti is the constant interference of the international community. And the international community here is, very explicitly, the U.S., France and Canada. What’s fascinating about yesterday’s negotiations with CARICOM is the fact that the key negotiators, so-called foreign negotiators, outside the CARICOM countries, were U.S., France, Canada and Mexico. And that’s problematic in itself, because it was U.S., France and Canada that were behind the coup d’état that removed our elected president, that led us to this — the precipice that we’re in right now. And so, how is it that France, of all places — why is it all the way in the Caribbean negotiating on behalf of Haiti?

The other part is, these negotiations were happening — the foreign governments met first in a secret meeting that did not include Haitian participants, and then, later on, let in the Haitian participants. And then the foreign governments laid out the rules of engagement, which means that you cannot be part of the discussion if you don’t agree, first of all, to this foreign intervention that the U.S. is planning for Haiti. And so, that tells us — what does that tell us? That the U.S. makes the decisions, that this is the status quo, and that the same things that happen now will flare up again later.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what interest does the U.S. have in Haiti, and Canada, as well?

JEMIMA PIERRE: Right. People always ask, “Why is it that the U.S. has so much interest in Haiti? And we have to ask that from the very beginning, because the U.S. has been trying to control Haiti for a very long time, since the late 1800s, when it wanted the Môle-Saint-Nicolas island inlet, the top part of the island, because Haiti is on the Windward Passage, which is a direct route through there to the Panama Canal for the U.S. to reach Asia. The U.S. needs to have a very strong force there in order to stave off, you know, Cuba, Venezuela and so on. The U.S. needs Haiti for its corporations and cheap labor, because Haiti has 12 million people in its population, the largest country in CARICOM. And Haiti has been destabilized by the U.S. over and over again.

And this mission — I wanted to also say this mission, that people are calling a U.N. mission, is a problem, because it is not a U.N. mission. It’s a U.N.-sanctioned mission. But if people read the print of the resolution that allows for this deployment — and it’s a Chapter VII deployment, which means that these forces can use extreme force by land, air and sea. If they read the agreement, it says that it’s not officially a U.N. mission. It’s a mission led by volunteer states. That means that they have to pay for it, which is why Blinken and the U.S. said that the Department of Defense is adding more money, and that’s why Blinken is paying for the Kenyans $200 million — now it’s $300 million — to come in and do this.

And so, this not being an official U.N. mission means that it’s actually more precarious for Haitian people, because in terms — when we think about human rights, at least we had the veneer of protection under a U.N. occupation when we had MINUSTAH. The U.N. occupation occupied Haiti from 2004 to 2017. And everyone remembers what this occupation meant for Haitians. It meant cholera, that killed 10 to 30 million and sickened — not million, 10,000 to 30,000 and sickened a million. That brought lots of extrajudicial killings and murders and sexual exploitation of young girls and women in Haiti. And so, for us, what occupation means is this.

And so, now — and these were the people who were under U.N. rules of engagement. This mission to Haiti is not under U.N. rules of engagement. And for people to say — for those running these negotiations to say that the first requirement to be able to participate in this conversation is to allow this foreign force of Kenyans, who don’t speak English, who are known for their human rights abuses, to me, that’s a very big problem.

And I have to say, just quickly, this reminds me of something that Dantès Bellegarde, who was a Haitian diplomat in the early 1900s while Haiti was also under occupation, when he said, “God is too far, and the United States is too close.” And I think this is what a lot of people are feeling right now in Haiti.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, is this going to allow Henry to come back into the country, now that he said he is planning to step down? And what about the implications that Henry was involved with the assassination of Moïse, having spoke repeatedly on the phone to Badio, who was the man in the room with Moïse and the Colombian assassins, who identified this is the president, for them to kill, and had been to Henry’s house multiple times? So, was he implicated? And do you think he will come back to Haiti?

JEMIMA PIERRE: Well, I think — I’m not sure Henry will come back to Haiti, because, you know, he’s become persona non grata, even though I think he’s not the main problem. The main problem is the so-called international community running Haiti.

Henry is implicated in the assassination, which is why we also have to ask why the U.S. supported Henry all these 30 months, despite the fact that we all knew — they knew — that he was implicated in the assassination. What Henry has to be concerned about is the U.S. sanctioning him and also, later on, charging him in this assassination.

And so, you know, I don’t — I’m not sure this solves the problem that’s been going on in Haiti. People said — you know, journalists were reporting that the streets were calmer yesterday, but I’m not sure the people are going to take this, because what it does, it just demonstrates that Haiti is continuously under this occupation of these foreigners.

And I have to say, one of the other conditions that Mia Mottley, working on behalf of the U.S., said was, in addition to — for you to be at the negotiating table, you have to accept the multinational corporations, but you also have to accept that when there’s an election board set up for the transition, that those negotiating cannot disagree with the result of the election board. And so, they set the parameters for them to choose their next — the next leader of Haiti. And that, to me, means that this problem will continue, and there’s going to be more flare-ups in the next few months, in the next few years, if we don’t catch this by its root, if we don’t stop this problem by its root, which is the constant U.S. imposition of its terms on Haitian people and the denial of Haitian sovereignty.

AMY GOODMAN: Jemima Pierre, we want to thank you for being with us — of course, we’ll continue to cover this — Haitian American scholar, professor at the Social Justice Institute of the University of British Columbia in Canada, research associate at the University of Johannesburg, just recently left UCLA as a professor.

Next up, we go to Rafah as Israel continues to restrict aid coming into Gaza, which is on the brink of famine. Back in 60 seconds.

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