Uncertainty looms in Haiti where interim president’s term nears end

On Monday, the term of Haiti’s American-backed prime minister, Ariel Henry officially ends. It will also be seven months since the island nation’s president was assassinated, raising concerns over another crisis in a nation struggling to contain gang-violence in its capital city. Miami Herald’s Haiti correspondent Jacqueline Charles joins.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    It will be seven months tomorrow since the assassination of Haitain president Jouvenal Moise. It's also an important date for the island country that finds itself in an uncertain transition amid an ongoing crisis.

    For more I spoke with Jacqueline Charles, Haiti correspondent for the Miami Herald.

    First, Jacqueline, why is tomorrow, February 7th, so significant for Haiti?

  • Jacqueline Charles:

    Well, February 7th is the day that Haiti started its modern democracy, I mean, February 7th, 1986, it expelled the 29 year Duvalier dictatorship, and this was the date that every five years a new president is supposed to be sworn in to Haiti.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Tomorrow, what are you looking for in this kind of unstable political situation as it exists?

  • Jacqueline Charles:

    So of course, 36 years after Haiti started its democracy, it is once again in a transition. This is going to be the fourth time that the country finds itself in this situation. According to the U.S. and international community, President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in July. His term officially ends tomorrow. But instead of swearing in a new president, Haiti has to figure out a way forward. It currently has an interim prime minister. There is pressure for him to step down. There are a number of political agreements. So far the political groups have not been able to reach any sort of power sharing agreement, and that has a lot of people worried because at the end of the day, the concern is that this country that is already in crisis will just plunge deeper.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    The interim person in charge right now, are there other groups competing for that?

  • Jacqueline Charles:

    Interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who was named by President Moise about a month before Moise was assassinated and the debate has been well, if Moise's term ends on February 7th, should not his prime minister also go? But yes, there are at least a dozen or so political accords that are floating out there. But the main challenge to President Henry, is in a court called the Montano court. This is a group of civil society leaders. They're proposing a two year transition that's run by a five person presidential college. They've asked interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry to come join them in a power sharing agreement. He has so far rejected both, he said. The next occupant of the presidency, of the presidential palace, will be someone who was elected and that he is moving ahead with his own accord, which consists of other political parties. But his mission is to have a new constitution and to also stage elections before the end of this year.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    I know President Biden was rather critical of President Trump's role and posture toward Haiti. Has President Biden been that different?

  • Jacqueline Charles:

    President Biden recognized that this country is too dangerous, too unstable for Haitians living in the United States to return to. So he redesignated temporary protected status for all Haitians who are undocumented, who were here as of July of last year. But since mid-September, the Biden administration has deported more than 15,000 Haitians back to a country that they have acknowledged is too dangerous and to unstable for many Haitians to return to. It's a very difficult situation. There's a lot of uncertainty. That's the only thing that's certain today in regard to what's happening in this country. There's a lot of uncertainty and given all of the issues that it faces, it really is a recipe for disaster.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Tell me a little bit about what life is like right now. I mean, how is Haiti economically? How is it in terms of food security? There are still natural disasters that don't care who's in the palace or who is prime minister.

  • Jacqueline Charles:

    Exactly. You know, in the last two weeks, we've seen more than 75 earthquakes that have taken place in the country, there in fact have been more than a thousand quakes since August, when we saw that major 7.2 earthquake hit the southern peninsula. Two thousand people were killed because of the ongoing gang violence at the southern entrance of Port-au-Prince. The aid efforts have stalled. Hospitals have had to close. 4.6 million people out of 12 million are facing increased food insecurity. Basic hunger prices are rising. Life is very difficult in that country right now. People don't go out after six o'clock. I mean, there's a kidnaping problem. The country every day increasingly becomes unlivable.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Jacqueline Charles, Caribbean and Haiti correspondent for the Miami Herald, thanks so much for joining us.

  • Jacqueline Charles:

    Thank you for having me.

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