When, six months ago, in the wake of violent protests against the increase in fuel prices by the government of the then Prime Minister, Jack Guy Lafontant, some businessmen and political leaders advised the president to let go of his prime minister, President Jovenel Moise was right to distrust the idea. Then, he did everything in his power to avoid this blatant manifestation of political weakness. Because in Haitian politics, you can never be sure when the first concession will be your last.
Since the July 7th events in which violent demonstrators rocked the capital and burnt down businesses, the opposition has been emboldened in its protests against Jovenel Moise. In the last three months, the rallying cries have been against corruption, the president, and his allies. Many individuals close to the president have been accused of the embezzlement of some two billions dollars from Venezuela’s aid that should have been used to rebuild the country after the 2010 earthquake.
What began as a civil protest on social media was promptly transformed into a political movement from which the opposition parties have been able to mobilize all kinds of protesters against the government. The social instability this daily unrest has brought about has worsened with the obvious political distance between the president and the Prime Minister, Jean Henry Céant. Jovenel Moise has seen the departure of many individuals from his inner circle, former ministers from the government of Michel Martelly, who is now accused of corruption. The president is now a diminished political figure, with little political capital to turn around the political situation.
But the opposition, whose principal figure is Moise Jean Charles, a former presidential candidate who came third in the last presidential elections, has not been be able to capitalize on the political situation. His radical views have alienated many sectors, especially the middle-class intellectuals in the city. His last protest in which he took down the official blue and red flag to hoist the black and red one created by JeanJacques Dessalines in 1806, to symbolize his denunciation against the minority, mostly white population that controls the economy was not been well received.
In this context, besides the political chaos the confrontation between gang rivals in some of the shanty towns that surround the capital, Port-au-Prince, has been another feature of the situation. Many of these gang members are financed by politicians or other groups interested in spreading chaos. There have been reports linking some of the gang members who have perpetrated many massacres in the last two months with political operatives from the party of the president.
The reality is that, since the events that brought about the new government Haiti has become a burgeoning field for political entrepreneurs of all kinds. In a context where no one seems to have control of the situation, the next three years of the government of Jovenel Moise will be another lost opportunity to strengthen democracy in Haiti or to take bold actions that help change the dire economic and social situation that affects the vast majority of the population. The only preoccupation of the president will be surviving until his term ends, with the hope of being re-elected candidate in 2021. For the opposition, the objective is to further weaken the president and, hopefully, to get him to leave power before completing his term.
In these circumstances, where no political actors, officials and opposition, have the strength to impose their most preferred outcome, political chaos, economic despair and gang violence will be a consistent feature of the political landscape in the coming months if not years.