Foreign Minister Approved as New Premier
Reuters, May 3, 2012
PORT-AU-PRINCE- Haitian lawmakers on Thursday approved the nomination of a close adviser to President Michel Martelly as prime minister, raising hopes of ending a political stalemate that has stalled reconstruction efforts after Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake. The lower house of parliament voted 62-3, with two abstentions, to approve Martelly’s nomination of Laurent Lamothe, currently Haiti’s foreign minister.
Lamothe, a 39-year-old former businessman and close friend of Martelly, was approved by Haiti’s Senate last month. He will replace Garry Conille, who resigned in February after only four months on the job.
Bill Clinton urges Haiti leaders to confirm PM
By Trenton Daniel, Associated Press, May 3, 2012
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haiti’s leaders need to quickly confirm President Michel Martelly’s new pick for prime minister and establish a functioning government within the week, former U.S. President Bill Clinton said in a statement Thursday (May 3). Clinton, who is the United Nations’ special envoy to Haiti, said its government has a responsibility to put the population first and set aside political differences and self-interest so donor money will flow again to rebuilding efforts as the Caribbean nation struggles to recover from the 2010 earthquake.
“I believe that the Haitian people deserve better from their leaders,” Clinton said in the statement. “The current political crisis disrupted progress towards a more prosperous Haiti for too long.”
The statement came on the same day that Haiti’s Chamber of Deputies gathered to vote on whether to approve Laurent Lamothe, a foreign affairs minister, as Haiti’s next prime minister. Lawmakers in the 99-member chamber will vote on the final part of a two-step confirmation process, the debate could go late into the night.
Deputy Arnel Belizaire, a Martelly critic who said he and his colleagues wouldn’t vote for Lamothe, criticized Clinton’s statement. “Clinton can’t tell us what to do,” Belizaire said by telephone. “No authorities of other countries will tell us what to do.”
Even if Lamonthe’s nomination were to be ratified, the prime minister-designate would need to have his Cabinet and policy agenda approved by Parliament, which could take days or even a couple of weeks.
The Martelly government has had a prime minister for only four months since the president, a political newcomer, took office a year ago. The outgoing prime minister, Garry Conille, announced his resignation two months ago after he clashed with Martelly over the government’s priorities.
The vacancy has stalled reconstruction efforts and the absence of a fully functioning government has discouraged donors from fulfilling billions of dollars in quake-related pledges.
Despite Clinton’s hopes, more vacancies lie in the horizon. The terms of 10 senators, or one-third of that legislative body, expire May 8. But their seats won’t be immediately filled because legislative elections that were supposed to have been held in November weren’t organized in time.
How Lamothe Clinched Senate Approval by Distributing Money and Jobs
By Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté, May 2, 2012
Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles calls it the “vote of shame” and “a scandal.” On Apr, 10, 19 of Haiti’s 30 Senators approved the technical qualifications of Laurent Lamothe, President Joseph Michel Martelly’s prime ministerial nominee, despite vociferous questions and objections raised during a heated late-night session before the vote.
A special Senate commission investigating the alleged illegal dual nationality of Lamothe, Martelly and several other high Haitian government officials recommended that the nominee not be approved due to indications that he did not met constitutional requirements for nationality, residency and the timely payment of taxes. But pro-Martelly Sen. Wenceslas Lambert dismissed such questions, vigorously raised by Jean-Charles and colleague Sen. Stephen Benoit, as mere “details.”
Another special Senate commission reviewed whether Lamothe met the legal requirements to become Martelly’s second Prime Minister, following Garry Conille’s forced resignation on Feb. 24. That commission was packed with pro-Martelly senators, many of whom wear pink bracelets (Martelly’s official campaign color), and not surprisingly recommended that the nominee be approved.
Six senators walked out of the vote in protest. “I stayed to vote ‘no’ because I wanted our arguments about the patent deficiencies of Mr. Lamothe’s qualifications to go down in the historical record,” Sen. Jean-Charles told Haïti Liberté. “I was truly shocked at the betrayal of certain principles by certain senators, particularly Joel John Joseph and Maxime Roumer.”
Sen. Jean-Charles explained to Haïti Liberté how Sen. Joseph had feigned to be collaborating with him in an effort to block Lamothe’s approval. “But then, after we had strategized, every few minutes I would see him go over to whisper in the ear of Sen. Joseph Lambert,” one of Martelly’s greatest allies in the Senate, Jean-Charles said. “When I asked him what he was saying to Lambert, he claimed it was just procedural questions.”
“Imagine my surprise to see Sen. Joseph’s hand shoot up when the vote on Lamothe’s qualifications finally came,” Jean-Charles said, shaking his head. “Many senators sold out because Lamothe offered them money and jobs in the Haitian diplomatic service for their wives, girlfriends, or cousins.”
Lamothe is still Haiti’s Acting Foreign Minister.
According to another well-placed source, for his “yes” vote, Sen. Dérex L. Pierre-Louis, who represents the Northeast Department for former President René Préval’s party Inite, was promised jobs in the Haitian foreign service for 15 of his family members, including three of his children, two of whom live in the Dominican Republic. A son of Sen. Pierre-Louis already acts as Lamothe’s security chief.
Sen. Jean-Charles, who met with Haïti Liberté during a brief visit this week to Florida, said that in exchange for their votes, some senators were given envelopes of cash – some containing $100,000, others containing $120,000. That was only the first of two payments. “Senate President [Simon Dieuseul] Desras called for another vote on the budget after the vote on Lamothe,” Sen. Jean-Charles said. “Only three uncorrupted senators showed up for that vote because the second installment of the money for the corrupt senators was not yet forthcoming.”
One of Sen. Jean-Charles’ biggest surprises was when Sen. Jean-Maxime Roumer, who represents the Grande Anse Department for Inite, voted to approve Lamothe. “Here is a guy who claims to be a communist, whom I knew from years ago when I was a militant in the National Popular Assembly [APN],” Jean-Charles said. “How can he justify selling his principles to vote for Lamothe?”
According to Jean-Charles, during the session, Sen. Desras passed a note to Sen. Roumer sarcastically saying that he would be giving Roumer a pink bracelet following the session. After the vote, Roumer crumpled up the piece of paper into a ball and threw it at Desras, hitting him on the right side of his face. “Kolanget manman ou (Fuck you!)” Roumer yelled in Kreyòl at Desras, according to Jean-Charles.
A special commission of the Chamber of Deputies is now reviewing 59 documents which Lamothe submitted to it on Apr. 23. That commission said it would give its recommendation in two weeks.
The political stakes in Haiti’s Senate are about to get even higher. On May 14, the mandates of 10 senators expire, including those of key Martelly allies Joseph Lambert and Youri Latortue. How this will affect the math and strategizing of different political forces in the weeks ahead remains to be seen. But one thing remains clear: in Haiti’s Senate at least, money talks.
Distributed by CHAN (Canada Haiti Action Network)