Source: Resumen Latinoamericano / The Dawn News / February 19, 2017
On February 7, Jovenel Moïse assumed the government of Haiti, in representation of the PHTK (Haitian Tèt Kalé Party) —a right-wing party that has been in power since 2010 to early 2016 with former President Michel Martelly, whose government included many of the people that used to work for the Duvalier dictatorship.
The PHTK program consists, first and foremost, on opening up Haiti’s economy to international capital, mainly the US and Canadian companies.
Moïse was elected President on November 20, 2016, after a long and turbulent electoral process. It began in August 2015 and was riddled with fraud, violence, cancellations of voting calls and, most importantly, lack of participation of the population: only 21% of all people enabled to vote participated in the November elections. Even the main candidates of the opposition denounced fraud and didn’t acknowledge the victory of the PHTK candidate.
Unlike what happened in late 2015 and early 2016, when Haitian people and opposition parties were out on the streets protesting the electoral fraud and the foreign intervention in the elections, this time the opposition called to protests again, but with little participation by the people. Perhaps it’s because the people think that these candidates aren’t truly committed to their best interest and are not that different to the winning candidate. During his campaign, Moïse always said he would continue the policies that Martelly had begun: the creation of industrial free-trade areas, mining, agribusiness and luxury tourism.
During the inauguration act, the new President thanked the international community for their role in this electoral process, along with president Martelly, and most of his speech was about the development of agriculture and tourism.
Regarding tourism, he said he will keep giving licenses to the main hotel chains, developing six touristic areas in the country: in Mount Saint Nicholas (Northeast province), Haitien (North), Montrouis (Artibonite), Jacmel (South), Jeremy (Grand’Anse) and Port Salut (South).
Another government policy he referred to is the industrialization of agriculture in the country. This is where his own interests come in, because he owns around 700 hectares of land that produce organic bananas that are exported to Germany.
In fact, his campaign slogan was ‘Jovenel Moïse Neg bannann nan’ (a wordplay referring to his banana business), because he’s known as a successful agricultural businessman in the country. This, in a country where 55% of the population lives in rural areas and agriculture has a strong participation in the GDP, is something that catches the eye.
Moïse’s policy for agriculture has three main aspects:
- To give farmers legal ownership of their lands. Nowadays, only 1% of farmers own tht titles of their lands. There are around a million small properties (with a size 0.5 and 3 hectares) without proper documentation and that makes it easier for farmers to sell their lands and move to the cities or to another country.
- To change the Constitution to remove restrictions on selling lands to foreigners. This is a part of the agreement he made to win. Most of the donations for his campaign came from agricultural companies in Dominican Republic and the United States—some of which don’t yet have businesses in Haiti.
- To create free-trade areas for agroindustry, financed by the Haitian government (Moïse wants to create a bank exclusively to finance these areas), the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank and the European Union. According to the President, the latter has already agreed to finance these tax-free areas around the country.
There will also be a strong investment in mining extractivism. There are already 15 mining transnational companies operating in the country, and 12 of them are Canadian. So it comes as no surprise that, on the day of the presidential inauguration, Canada announced a 91-million-dollar donation to Haiti, and clarified that if the occupation forces of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) leaves the country, they are prepared to send troops to continue to ‘protect the Haitian people’.
Similarly, just one day after the inauguration, the European Union announced the donation of 31 million euros to Haiti’s budget. In exchange, it demanded the President of the Haitian Congress to reactivate the Economic Partnership Agreement that eliminates customs barriers between Haiti and the European Union.
Regarding the Congress, the new President won’t have resistance coming from there. Both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate are filled with big businessmen. Only 4 of the 30 Senators are from the opposition, and of the 119 Deputies, 84 are favorable to the government.
Speculations have begun about who will be designated as Prime Minister. All of the names mentioned by the Haitian press are businessmen linked to either US or Canadian companies.
After the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country, international powers landed in Haiti, and a neoliberal government rose, which begun to apply policies favorable to foreign capital. The next five years under this new government will be directed towards the consolidation of these policies: mining, agribusiness, luxury tourism and free-trade areas. If progressivist social movements and left-wing parties aren’t united in struggle, the government won’t find much resistance to their plan to consolidate neoliberal policies.