Haitian Activist Says It’s Not Up to the US to Determine Haiti’s Prime Minister

Two weeks after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, Ariel Henry has been sworn in as Haiti’s new prime minister, after acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph announced he was relinquishing power. Henry is a neurosurgeon who was appointed by President Jovenel Moïse shortly before he was assassinated, but not formally sworn in. Both Joseph and Henry had claimed power following Moïse’s death. Over the weekend, the United States and other members of the so-called Core Group threw their support behind Henry, who will become Haiti’s seventh prime minister in four years. Monique Clesca, a Haitian pro-democracy advocate based in Port-au-Prince, says despite the polarization and turmoil in the country, it is ultimately up to Haitians to find a political solution. ​ “It is not up to the United States State Department to tell us who should be the prime minister of Haiti,” Clesca says. “It is offensive. It should not be done. It is unacceptable.”

TRANSCRIPT

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AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Ariel Henry has become Haiti’s new prime minister. He was sworn in to office Tuesday, a day after the acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph announced he was relinquishing power. Henry, who’s a neurosurgeon, was appointed by President Jovenel Moïse shortly before he was assassinated on July 7th. Both Joseph and Henry had claimed power following Moïse’s death. Over the weekend, the United States and other members of the so-called Core Group threw its support behind Dr. Henry, who will become Haiti’s seventh prime minister in four years. Claude Joseph will stay in the new government as foreign minister.

On Monday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price defended the Biden administration’s decision to back Henry. He was questioned by the Associated Press’s Matt Lee.

NED PRICE: We are taking the side of the Haitian people. We’re taking the side of —

MATT LEE: No, you took the side of the guy who was named but hadn’t taken office.

NED PRICE: We are taking the side of the Haitian people. This is a dialogue that has been ongoing between various Haitian political stakeholders.

MATT LEE: Ned, whether you want to admit it or not, there was a shift in what you had been saying. Prior to that statement, you were all in support of the acting prime minister, and then, all of a sudden, on Saturday, you and the other members of the Core Group came out in support of Mr. Henry.

NED PRICE: Matt, we are supporting the inclusive dialogue that Haiti’s political actors are undertaking themselves.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by Monique Clesca, a Haitian pro-democracy advocate, usually based in Port-au-Prince. She worked for many years with the U.N., including at UNICEF in Haiti for 15 years. She’s joining us now from Washington, D.C., where she’s just arrived from Port-au-Prince.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Monique. As you listen to this, this discussion in the United States about who will be the prime minister, who is the prime minister of Haiti after the assassination of the Haitian president, what are your thoughts? And what are you calling for?

MONIQUE CLESCA: Well, thank you. I’m very honored to be invited to Democracy Now!

My thoughts, in hearing — after hearing Ned Price, is, they haven’t talked to us. They haven’t — how can — such arrogance of a State Department spokesman to say they are speaking on behalf of the Haitian people. No, I believe the Haitian people are able to speak for themselves. And we have been speaking for ourselves for the last three years during this crisis, demonstration after demonstration. How many demonstrators have been killed? No one listened to what we’re saying.

And now what we’ve been saying is, “Let us pause. Let us sit down. And, Haitians, talk together, come together and find a solution.” It’s not going to be like magic that it’s going to be done. There is such polarization. There is such mistrust. But we must do this.

It is not up to the United States State Department to tell us who should be the prime minister of Haiti. It is offensive. It should not be done. It is unacceptable. That is my reaction to this. And the Haitian people will not accept it. We will protest. We will fight. And we will continue to bear, to continue the fight to get a democracy, but not a democracy à la Jovenel, as Mr. Moïse had said before his unfortunate, brutal and untimely death. No, we will do it the way Haitians want to do it, properly and in a democratic way.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Monique Clesca, I wanted to ask you why, in your sense — what is your sense of why Claude Joseph agreed to hand over power to Mr. Henry, to Ariel Henry? Because it seems almost like who is less illegitimate, because they were — both got their power from the assassinated leader, who was himself — questions about his ability to hold power, after not being — after his term ended.

MONIQUE CLESCA: They are all illegitimate. Jovenel Moïse was illegitimate. He held power in a very autocratic way. He was a dictator. He should have left back in February. The Prime Minister Claude Joseph was illegitimate, because he came from Jovenel Moïse’s same regime. Ariel Henry is illegitimate. They are all legitimate. And that’s what we’re saying.

Why did Ariel Henry decide to step aside? I have no idea. I have no idea who whispered anything in his ear. All we know is that before Jovenel Moïse’s corpse was even cold, they were saying — the U.S. and the U.N. were saying it should be Claude Joseph. Then, a few days later, they change and say it should be Ariel Henry. Whatever is being cooked on the back burner somewhere in the U.S. Embassy, the U.S. State Department or the U.N. BINUH office of Madame La Lime really has nothing to do with the Haitian people.

We, actually, at the commission that I’m honored to be part of, had several meetings where various groups of civil society came to discuss a draft agreement. And they agreed that the Constitution 1987 should be respected. They agreed that there should be a provisional president and a prime minister, and are about to set up a committee so that they can decide and propose names to be provisional president and provisional prime minister. And it has come from an elaborate, consensual process over the last four months, with political parties and civil society.

That is what we are saying. It is up to the Haitian people. And we cannot continue this way, to have our sovereignty just stepped upon, not only by the United States government, but also by the U.N. and also by the likes of Ariel Henry and Claude Joseph, who await instructions from the State Department and from the U.S. Embassy rather than listen to us Haitian people. And this is what we’re saying. Listen to our voices. That’s what democracy is about. It’s not taking something from the State Department, from a very arrogant spokesperson at the State Department who is saying, “We’re listening to the Haitian people.” This is funny. The American Embassy has not even called our commission. Not once have they called us to say, “We would like to hear what you’re saying.” No, this is unacceptable.

AMY GOODMAN: Monique Clesca, we want to thank you for being with us. Of course, we’re going to continue to follow this and also who murdered the Haitian president. Monique Clesca is a Haitian pro-democracy advocate, who’s just come up to Washington, usually in Port-au-Prince. She’s a member of the Commission for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis.

And that does it for our show. Democracy Now! is currently accepting applications for our video production fellowship and our digital fellowship here in our New York City studio. Learn more and apply at democracynow.org.

Democracy Now! is produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud and Adriano Contreras. Our general manager is Julie Crosby. Special thanks to Becca Staley, Miriam Barnard, Paul Powell, Mike DiFilippo, Miguel Nogueira, Hugh Gran, Denis Moynihan. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.