As Haiti’s carnival drums prepare to kick off in this weekend’s pre-Lenten celebrations, a different kind of rumbling has attracted the attention of the international community, Jacqueline Charles writes in The Bellingham Herald.
So concerned are Haiti’s foreign friends about looming political tensions that the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, ended a four-day visit to the earthquake-ravaged nation by calling on its political leaders to stop the fighting.
“Haiti’s executive and legislative branches,” Rice said, “need to rise above their interests and work together in the spirit of compromise to overcome their common challenges.”
Rice led a 15-member delegation of the U.N. Security Council on a visit to Haiti this week. They left on Thursday after field trips to the police academy, a tent city, cholera treatment facility and new industrial park in the north. They also met with President Michel Martelly, Prime Minister Garry Conille, parliamentarians and business leaders.
But accomplishing that in perpetually tumultuous Haiti remains challenging as fears of a deepening post-carnival political crisis remain evident.
“From what we heard, there is a risk of political confrontation,” Ambassador Philip Parham, the United Kingdom’s deputy permanent representative, told The Miami Herald in a telephone interview from New York. “Some people think it is really significant.”
On Friday, the National Palace issued a statement saying “trouble makers” near the Champ de Mars attacked the president’s motorcade. Haitian radio reported that Martelly, who was on foot, was hit by a rock but not seriously injured.
Parham said it’s important for Haitians to quickly find a way to resolve their differences.
“One vital ingredient in moving forward is going to be clear and inclusive leadership from the top,” he said.
Haiti’s political stalemate has been ongoing, but has hit a fever pitch after Conille announced plans to audit $300 million in contracts awarded by his predecessor during the 18-month emergency period after the earthquake. The contracts were financed by a Venezuelan fund.
Then this week, Conille ordered his ministers to cooperate with a Senate commission that is investigating the nationalities of several members of the government including himself, Martelly and several ministers. Some lawmakers have charged they hold foreign passports, which would make them ineligible to govern under Haiti’s Constitution. All have denied the accusations.
Conille’s directive, however, flew in the face of a decision by Martelly that the commission lacked authority.
“It’s a mess,” said Kesner Pharel, one of Haiti’s leading economist and political analysts. “We are waiting for the carnival break to see what will happen. Very scary situation.”
At one point, he noted that Conille was not part of the meeting with Martelly. And after a reception where business leaders were present, he wrote:
“Many of them are downbeat about the stand-off between President and parliament – which the President told us was due to ‘a few manipulators:’ the disputes are over constitutional amendments required for Senate and local elections; parliament’s demands that the President and Ministers prove that they do not hold dual nationalities; and investigation of government contracts. Some think this will all come to a head in a matter of days,” he wrote.
And with his encounter with the parliament, Parham noted that, “they also complain about their political differences with the President, with whom the opposition-dominated parliament is at loggerheads.
“It would have been good to hear more of a positive vision for Haiti and the role of the parliamentary leadership in that,” he wrote.
For the original report go to http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2012/02/17/2398888/on-eve-of-carnival-political-crisis.html#storylink=cpy