Haiti’s Prime Minister resigns and the crisis of the de facto government deepens

The resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe deepens the political crisis within the government and adds to the internal disagreements in the ruling far-right Haitian Tèt Kale Party

March 17, 2021 by Lautaro Rivara
Joseph Jouthe and Jovenel Moïse with other government officials.

Prime Minister of Haiti Joseph Jouthe presented his resignation to de facto President Jovenel Moïse on Thursday March 11. This was confirmed by local sources to the newspapers AlterPresse and Le Nouvelliste, who reported that the resignation letter had been submitted without a date. At the moment, no official source has commented on the matter.

Jouthe, a member of the ruling Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK), was appointed to head the government on March 2, 2020, by Moïse himself. Two months before this, the executive had decreed the expiration of parliament, given that the mandates of senators and two-thirds of the country’s deputies expired without the government organizing the legislative elections provided for by the Constitution to renew the benches. In fact, according to the country’s constitution, the Prime Minister had to be ratified in his duties by the legislature, which never happened. Thus, Moïse concluded a two-year cycle of instability in office, as Jack Guy Lafontant had also resigned in the midst of protests against the increase in fuel prices in July 2018.

The news could deepen the political crisis within the government: the closure of parliament in January 2020, the recent intervention of the Court of Cassation and other courts of justice, and the expiration of Moïse’s constitutional mandate on 7 February, seem to add to the internal disagreements in its own political formation.

The conflict broke out last Wednesday during a meeting of the Council of Ministers, in relation to the measures to be taken to combat the wave of kidnappings -at least 100 have been committed so far this year- and the situation of widespread insecurity in the country.

But the dispute could be related to the recent arrest of Lissner Mathieu, a Haitian-American drug dealer, and Peterson Benjamin, the leader of one of the gangs involved in the kidnappings in the capital Port-au-Prince. Both were transferred to the United States on March 5 after being captured by the National Police.

Mathieu, alias “TI-NWA”, was found with several identity cards, including an official card from the National Palace, which would have given him completely free access the offices of government officials and those of the president himself. As for Benjamin, he would be a hierarchical member of the gangs that control the town of Aldea de Dios, according to a spokesman for the National Police.

According to the Miami Herald, these arrests could help clarify the links between the Moïse government and organized crime. Organizations such as the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH) and the Je Klere Foundation, as well as different sectors of civil society, accuse Moïse of collusion with the armed gangs, particularly those federated by Jimmy Cherizier, a former police officer. According to these organizations, the kidnappings and different massacres would be directly linked to the government’s attempt to demobilize the anti-government protests that have been going on without interruption or a solution for three years.

The country’s irregular political situation reached the United States Congress last Wednesday. The Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, responded to “concerns” about certain “authoritarian and undemocratic” actions of Moïse’s government, marked by “irregular governance by decree.” He said, however, that the United States “will ensure” that the next elections “are truly free and fair.”

Lautaro Rivara is a sociologist, researcher and poet. As a trained journalist, he participated as an activist in different spaces of communications work, covering tasks of editing, writing, radio broadcasts, and photography. During his two years in the Jean-Jacques Dessalines Brigade in Haiti he was responsible for communications and carried out political education with Haitian people’s movements in this area. He writes regularly in people’s media projects of Argentina and the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean including Nodal, ALAI, Telesur, Resumen Latinoamericano, Pressenza, la RedH, Notas, Haití Liberte, Alcarajo, and more.