Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haiti senators jeopardizing stability – U.N. envoy

By Joseph Guyler Delva

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Aug 23 (Reuters) – The U.N. special envoy to Haiti said on Thursday that some lawmakers were threatening efforts to stabilize the Caribbean nation after a group of senators took steps to fire the prime minister and Cabinet.

The lawmakers decided late on Wednesday to summon Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis to appear before the Senate with the intention of taking a vote of no-confidence. A yes vote would force Alexis and his Cabinet to step down. No date was set for Alexis’ appearance.

The U.N. envoy, Edmond Mulet, denounced the legislators and groups of unidentified “ill-intentioned individuals,” telling a news conference they wanted to prevent the government from establishing the rule of law in Haiti, where a previous elected government was overthrown in 2004.

The senators, who have the constitutional right to fire the prime minister and Cabinet, took steps toward a no-confidence vote after the government’s chief prosecutor in the capital, Claudy Gassant, failed to appear before the Senate judicial committee.

The lawmakers wanted to question Gassant about the recent arrests of several high-profile businessmen and members of prominent families accused of involvement in corruption, smuggling and financial crimes.

Some lawmakers have called on the government to let them out of jail provisionally pending the outcome of the charges, while others simply called for their release.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, has been relatively stable in recent months following more than two years of political and gang violence before and after the fall of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former president ousted in a bloody rebellion in February 2004.

Haiti was ruled by an appointed U.S.-backed government until early 2006, when a one-time Aristide protege, Rene Preval, was elected president. He chose Alexis as his prime minister.

His government has launched an offensive against drug trafficking and corruption. Haiti has long been a transshipment route for Colombia drug cartels and is ranked by the anti-corruption group Transparency International as the world’s most corrupt country.

“There are lawmakers who are jeopardizing the stabilization process in the country,” Mulet said at the news conference at U.N. mission headquarters in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

“Those politicians should be careful not to give the impression that they side with the drug dealers or the corrupt,” Mulet said.

But Gabriel Fortune, a senator with the center-right Union Party, who first called for a no-confidence vote, said, “Gassant has committed an act of rebellion.”

“Since the prime minister failed to force him to comply and to sanction him, we hold him responsible,” Fortune said.

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