Haiti President Jovenel Moise says he’s not corrupt, appeals for calm
Haitians learned from a foreign newspaper, the July 12 Miami Herald, that President Jovenel Moise plans to call on the Organization of American States (OAS) to conduct an audit of PetroCaribe funds, the Venezuelan oil aid meant to improve the lives of the poor.
It is a scandalous and shameful proposition for two reasons, in addition to being perversely counterintuitive.
First, an audit already has been done by the state institution mandated to do so, the Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes. The 600-plus page report released in June found that Moise, before he became president, received millions of dollars for highly questionable projects as part of an embezzlement scheme that defrauded Haiti’s citizens out of almost 4 billion PetroCaribe dollars. In 2017, Moise, then president-elect, faced allegations of money laundering by the Central Unit of Financial Intelligence (UCREF), a government agency that investigates financial crimes.
While Moise denies all accusations, he makes a mockery of state institutions by claiming the audit report is political; he fired UCREF’s director once he took office. It is a disgrace for us to have a president with so little regard for Haiti’s institutions, no matter how weak they may be. By continuing to belittle our accountability agencies, Moise not only disrespects Haitian people but also distances himself from us. That’s why civil-society organizations, including Catholic bishops, Protestant pastor associations, business leaders and citizen groups have called on him to resign.
Second, by writing in the Miami Herald, Moise, in his own twisted way, told Haitians that he is not our president and signaled that he only trusts foreign institutions. For if he were our president, common sense would tell him to address us directly.
Regrettably, in the past, he cynically has used silence in response to our demands, i.e the million-person anti-corruption demonstrations of Oct. 18 or national tragedies such as the LaSaline slum massacre. It didn’t dawn on Moise or any of his numerous spokespeople and advisers that a message of sympathy was necessary; that common decency dictated some consoling words for the grieving families; that a moral high ground needed to be taken to calm the nation, if only for the optics.
The president’s contempt for us and our institutions is matched only by his ineptitude to govern. Granted, Haiti has long been a case study for bad governance, political instability and intolerable social and economic inequality. Half of its population lives under the poverty line of less than $2.41 a day, and close to one quarter lives below the extreme poverty line of $1.23 a day, according to the World Bank.
Today, under Moise’s presidency, there is no government, no budget for 2018-2019 fiscal year, 18 percent inflation in May, a downgrade of the 2019 expected economic growth rate from 2.8 percent to 1.5 percent, plunging Haitians inexorably into more misery. Armed gangs have taken control of entire neighborhoods heightening our sense of helplessness.
Sadly, Haiti is on a precipice. Haitians’ repeated calls for Moise to resign is not hollow, behind it is a more urgent one for transformative change in the governance system from one of graft to one of justice, transparency and provision of services. Moise’s calls for dialogue with the opposition are rejected because he has lost all credibility and whatever little legitimacy he had. Basically, he doesn’t govern anything.
While young people despair from joblessness, women are raped, children are starving, mothers die in childbirth, gangs have shooting wars like cowboys in the Wild West, Haiti’s current regime is mute and blind to our suffering. Moise’s indifference is as sinister as his arrogance. His repeated assault on our dignity must stop.
His narrative is clear: I talk to foreign media and governments, and international institutions rather than guarantee the functioning of my country’s institutions.
How utterly pathetic that none of his foreign friends have told him there is grace in listening to the people you lead.
Our narrative is clear: First, President Jovenel Moise, the former administration and all their enablers cited in the multiple reports of corruption and embezzlement of state funds must answer to Haitian institutions. Second, my voice amplifies those of my countrymen and countrywomen to ask the United States and international community to be allies — and not meddlers or imposers of solutions or schemes. Let us Haitians find Haitian solutions to our Haitian problems. Third, Jovenel Moise, as the face of everything that is wrong with Haiti’s current political class, does not speak for us, Haitian people.
Monique Clesca, a journalist and writer, is a retired United Nations official. She is writing a memoir on growing up under the Duvalier dictatorship.