By Catherine Champagne, Haiti Liberté, June 26, 2019
Concerning the report of the Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes (CSC/CA) on PetroCaribe funds, the debate is about the legal status of Jovenel Moïse in this case. All lawyers recognize that at the time of the corruption he was a businessman and hence an ordinary citizen, who should be tried in common law courts. On the other hand, with his status today as head of state, he can only be brought before a special court (High Court of Justice). In short, as long as Jovenel Moïse is in the National Palace as President of the Republic and without being indicted by Parliament, he has nothing to fear. Herein lies the difficulties for the opposition and the PetroChallengers to convince Jovenel Moïse to voluntarily give up this constitutional refuge, which serves as a natural protection against ordinary justice.
Although the country has been on fire and paralyzed for more than a week with demonstrators surrounding the besieged Palace seven days a week, Jovenel stays silent, which speaks volumes about the decisions he faces. He worsened his situation when he used the 24th anniversary of the creation of the National Police on Jun. 12 to say “I am not corrupt, and I have no intention of resigning” without forgetting to tweak his opponents with this sentence: “The situation is complicated. The matters are complex. But I will not give up the fight for the benefit of men who protect this system,” adding “What is the most complicated and the most dangerous is that this system has the capacity to turn the executioners into bandits and victims into executioners. The system also has the capacity to turn the executioners into victims.” One can imagine that the President has a thousand and one questions running through his head.
IN HIS STUBBORNNESS TO STAY IN POWER, JOVENEL MOISE TAKES THE GREATEST RISK THAT AT THE END OF HIS MANDATE HE WILL BE ARRESTED ON THE VERY DAY OF THE HANDOVER.
He wonders if he should surrender or if he should resist to the end knowing that, if he gets there, exile awaits him, or in the worst case, prison, not for the crime of high treason as opposition members have just asked the Speaker of the Lower House, Garry Bodeau, since Jovenel has done no serious crimes during his tenure (at least nothing now known in the absence of an investigation into his political management), but as one of those who largely benefitted from PetroCaribe funds.
Former President Michel Martelly may be worried now by a lawsuit for his mismanagement of PetroCaribe funds. Does Jovenel Moïse have a chance in a thousand to escape justice in this PetroCaribe matter? That’s very difficult to answer.
We can safely say that Jovenel Moïse faces two alternatives. The first, he negotiates his resignation with Haitian authorities who let him go into exile with his family and let the nation’s opposition and other forces decide what happens next.
The second, he remains obstinate and resists by refusing, as he has so far, to resign. In this case he runs two risks. First, in the worst case, he ends up being caught by the populace and lynched as in Sylvain Salnave’s time. Secondly, he continues to live reclusively in his Palace transformed into a bunker until the end of his mandate with a totally dysfunctional country where institutions no longer work. It will be difficult for anyone to go before Parliament to be ratified as Prime Minister. The various attempts of Jean-Michel Lapin in the Senate are signs that Jovenel Moïse no longer politically controls anything in the country.
Nor is it sure that the opposition and the PetroChallengers will quietly wait for his term to end without trying to get him out of the presidency. Finally, in his stubbornness to stay in power, Jovenel Moise takes the greatest risk that at the end of his mandate he will be arrested on the very day of the handover. There was a precedent in Haitian recent history, certainly unfortunate, with the arrest of Mrs. Ertha-Pascal Trouillot in 1991 on the very day of the inauguration of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. PetroCaribe is a trap for Jovenel Moïse since everything depends on his ability to get out of this trap in which he is wrapped. Far from thinking that this business would come back to bite him, Jovenel Moise took full advantage of PetroCaribe’s money for his companies Agritrans SA, BETEX, etc., during the presidency of his friend and mentor Michel Martelly.
By succeeding the latter, the Northeast banana planter may have never imagined that he would have to pay the price years later by taking the heat for Martelly’s malfeasance. Because, the PetroCaribe affair above all concerns the three previous Administrations namely: René Garcia Préval, Michel Martelly, and Jocelerme Privert. All disbursements were made during the presidency of these three heads of state. Justice can no longer pursue the late René Préval, but for Michel Martelly, it is quite another matter. The musician/ former President who still hopes to return to office if everything goes well for Jovenel, is in the sights of the judges of the Court of Auditors who have dissected his management of PetroCaribe funds. Moreover, Michel Martelly, whose name is rarely mentioned during the demonstrations, is the one who has spent most of the money put at the disposal of the Haitian government by the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for Haiti’s development since the second term of René Préval.
According to the Court of Auditors’ Report, the Martelly administration has placed the highest number of tenders for public contracts that have never achieved anything. The evidence shows that certain calls for tenders passed under Martelly’s presidency were in fact only bogus bids. In reality, it was just a means to allow the state to disburse funds straight into the pockets of friends, relatives, and fictitious companies created from scratch to divert money from the state. To a lesser extent, even when a project was real, the work was never completed or even started. The Court’s Report No. 2 is full of examples demonstrating this reality. The various stadiums supposedly built in the country by Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe are in truth only empty lots without any infrastructure. Airports advertised everywhere, including on Ile-à-Vache, in Cayes, Hinche, Port-de-Paix, etc., have never seen the light of day. For some, only the first stones were laid.
Michel Martelly’s administration is the one that caused the most corruption and waste of the PetroCaribe Fund as exemplified by this scam of the bridge at the junction of the Nazon and Delmas roads commonly called the “viaduct,” which cost a fortune, and the Fontamara Market which was never finished. Michel Martelly and his former prime ministers also have a lot of explanations to give to justice and to the population on the use of PetroCaribe funds.
The former interim President Jocelerme Privert did not engage in huge projects given that he only had the mission to organize the general elections to resolve the political crisis started under Martelly’s presidency. Privert used some of the PetroCaribe money to successfully organize elections without international financial aid in order to return to a so-called constitutional situation after Michel Martelly’s somewhat hectic departure and Privert’s surprise arrival to the presidency of the Republic. According to the report, Jocelerme Privert can be reproached for practically nothing, at least with respect to his management of the PetroCaribe fund.
The report also said nothing about the presidency of Jovenel Moïse since the audit of the Court of Accounts stops in 2017, the year he took office. The legitimate focus on Jovenel Moïse by the opposition is due to his being head of the state. The great paradox of this case, if Jovenel was able to benefit and participate in the skimming and squandering of this public fund, is thanks to the way in which his two predecessors used the funds. Jovenel was one of the major beneficiaries of this corruption as a private sector entrepreneur, and he played a significant role in this national scandal, and as such he must pay the consequences.
Moreover, the PetroChallengers and the opposition in general, see Jovenel Moïse as the current official most responsible for the squandering of public funds. That is why the president will have the greatest difficulty in getting out of this mess. For the first major mobilization that followed the publication of the Court’s Audit Report, no one can say that it has not been very successful. Indeed, a week after the judges released the conclusion of their audit on the use of PetroCaribe funds, the opposition and the PetroChallengers announced their agenda. They wanted to make a show of force in order to signify to the power they intend to make of this report, the indictment of President Jovenel Moïse. The date of this uprising was set for Sun., Jun. 9, 2019. But, as of Friday 7 and Saturday 8, the population began to mobilize by burning tires or blocking some arteries of the capital.
It was a foretaste of what was going to happen on Jun. 9th. As usual, very early in the morning, the streets of Port-au-Prince and most provincial towns had begun to fill up with people. Over the hours, tens of thousands of demonstrators stormed the arteries of cities especially in Port-au-Prince where the goal was to go to the National Palace if possible. The mobilization began around 11 a.m. under the “viaduct” at Nazon and Delmas, as has become the tradition. But long before, on the Champ de Mars, some demonstrators, very against the President whom they accuse of squandering PetroCaribe funds, played a real scene of urban guerrilla war with the police, as the students of the Faculty of Ethnology had done with the police in the vicinity of the National Palace the day before.
On Jun. 9, 2019, the population had responded to the call for mobilization of sectors hostile to Jovenel Moïse, including that of the new organization called “Nou Pap Domi,” one of the spearheads of this mobilization for the accountability and the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse. Several personalities took part in this mobilization that the organizers consider as the Final Act of the uprising against the Tèt Kale power. From Western Senator Patrice Dumont to the former presidential candidate and former Senator Steven Benoît, Assad Volcy, Moïse Jean-Charles, André Michel, Schiller Louidor, Nènel Cassy, Vélina E. Charlier, and of course Antonio Chéramy aka Don Kato, one of the leaders of the opposition in the Senate, all demanding the departure of the head of state and a PetroCaribe trial against Petro-thieves. Several institutions and businesses were attacked. Protestors tried to set the French Embassy’s main gate on fire. At Pelerin 5, near the private residence of Jovenel Moïse, a protester spent a good quarter of an hour being stoned by a zealous policeman.
In downtown Port-au-Prince, several vehicles and shops were attacked by angry protesters. In the region, too, thousands of protesters packed streets shouting “mare volè yo” (tie up the thieves). In this mobilization there are several sectors and personalities who until recently supported Jovenel Moïse. This is the case of the businessman Reginald Boulos, the Private Sector Economic Forum, the Episcopal Conference of Haiti (CEH), some unions and other organized civil societies. For everybody, now, Jovenel Moïse cannot continue to lead the country, especially since for some time he has no control over anything. Insecurity is in full swing in the country, the assassination of police becomes a game for the armed bands and the national currency, the gourd, is worth nothing. We have returned to the darkest hours of the assassinations of journalists.
STORES, BANKS, SHOPS, SCHOOLS, AND THE PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION, DESPITE THE PRIME MINISTER’S APPEALS, REMAIN CLOSED.
The latest victim was the well-known journalist Rospide Pétion, one of the founders of the Radio Sans Fin (Endless Radio), who was riddled with bullets at Portail Léogâne Mon., Jun. 10, 2019 when going home. Before, it was the premises of the Radio and TV Ginen in Delmas 31 that were targeted with cars from the station that were burned. There were also attacks on the journalists of the public media (National Radio and Television) and the headquarters of the RTVC (Radio Television Caraïbes) at Chavannes Street, which was attacked by angry protesters. Not to mention the shooting at Radio and TV Zenith, which is very committed to the opposition, and the stone-throwing attack on Wed., Jun. 19 against a vehicle of the Radio and Télé Métropole around Turgeau by individuals who have not been identified. More than a week after the big demonstration, the capital and some cities remain paralyzed, and we continue to see road blocks and actions on public institutions.
Stores, banks, shops, schools, and the public administration, despite the Prime Minister’s appeals, remain closed. And the whole country is waiting for a declaration by President Jovenel Moïse who, as usual, remains walled up in a silence that probably explains his dismay at the scale of the mobilization and especially the will of all the actors and socio-political sectors of the country to push him to resign.
It is quietly on his Twitter account that he condemned the assassinations and the attacks against the media. His interim Prime Minister, Jean-Michel Lapin, is still waiting for a new summons from the Senate for a fourth attempt to present his General Policy Statement. While none of the people’s honorable senators and deputies came to Parliament to respond to the invitation of the President of the National Assembly, Carl Murat Cantave, who had invited them to the opening of the second ordinary session of the parliamentary term on Mon., Jun. 10, 2019.
As a result, an extraordinary session held at the invitation of President Jovenel Moïse with the aim of ratifying his Prime Minister, appointed since May, is still possible.
Thus, the country is sailing like a boat without a rudder and drifting with the wind. Uncertainty reigns, and everyone is waiting for the only gesture that can unblock the situation: the announcement of the President’s resignation or his departure into exile. Meanwhile, the pressure does not relent. The PetroChallengers, the opposition, the organized sectors and a good part of the population with the Court of Auditors Report under their arms keep the pressure on him. They all seek to present an alternative for the post-Jovenel period. The four senators of the opposition and Civil Society presented Fri., Jun. 21, 2019 a plan for an exit from the crisis and the succession of Jovenel Moïse. While the Movement “Nou Pap Domi” initiated a new form of anti-Jovenel protest, organizing almost daily seven laps around the perimeter of the National Palace. The first two days were a great success.
Jovenel Moïse is being hunted like a wounded animal. Either he throws in the towel and becomes a prisoner at the nearest police station, or he goes into exile at night. As for the PetroCaribe case and Petro-thieves’ claim for a lawsuit, everything will depend on the success of the “Alternative Consensus for the Refounding of Haiti” (ACRH) project presented by the opposition and various sectors of society, which proposes a temporary alternation of power after Jovenel Moïse.
In truth, the fight is just beginning.
Posted July 4, 2019