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US Special Envoy for Haiti Faces Criticism After Weekend Meetings With Officials


U.S. Special Envoy Daniel Foote meets with National Police Chief Leon Charles, U.S. Ambassador Michele Sison and a police official in Haiti over the weekend, in this image posted by the national police on Twitter on July 24, 2021.

Some Haitian officials are expressing doubt and criticism about U.S. Special Envoy Daniel Foote's mission in Haiti after he had meetings over the weekend with National Police Chief Leon Charles and Senate President Joseph Lambert.

"(This is just) one more American official. But to do what?" Senator Patrice Dumont, one of 10 Haitian senators whose parliament terms have not expired, told VOA. "Haiti is an adult and should resolve its own problems."

FILE - Haitian Senator Patrice Dumont gestures during an interview with Reuters in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, July 15, 2021.
FILE - Haitian Senator Patrice Dumont gestures during an interview with Reuters in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, July 15, 2021.

Asked by VOA if Haiti should accept American assistance in resolving its political crisis, Dumont responded, "Absolutely not."

A State Department statement emailed to VOA said Foote will lead "U.S. diplomatic efforts and coordinate the effort of U.S. federal agencies in Haiti from Washington, advise the secretary and acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and coordinate closely with the National Security Council staff on the administration's efforts to support the Haitian people and Haiti's democratic institutions in the aftermath of the tragic assassination of (President) Jovenel Moise."

On Saturday, the national police posted three photos on its official Twitter account showing Charles meeting with Foote, U.S. Ambassador Michele Sison and a police official.

The message did not provide any details about what was discussed during the meeting. It said only that it was in response to a request for assistance made by former Prime Minister Claude Joseph shortly after Moise's assassination.

Lambert also posted on Twitter a photo of his meeting on Sunday with Foote and Sison.

"I was invited by Ambassadors Sison and Foote. Our conversation was intense. Our exchanges took into consideration Haiti's situation, which is currently at an impasse, as well as the urgent need to restore the country's institutions," Lambert tweeted.

Foote is a Foreign Service officer whose experience as a diplomat includes serving twice as the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince. He also served as U.S. ambassador to Zambia during the Trump administration.

The envoy arrived in Haiti on Friday with a delegation of American officials named by President Joe Biden to represent the United States at the national funeral of Moise. The delegation was evacuated from Haiti after gunfire erupted and angry protesters approached a private compound serving as the site of the funeral.

Pastor Edouard Paultre, who heads the civil society organization National Council of Non-State Actors, said Foote should follow the will of the Haitian people.

"This is a period of extreme distress for our nation, as well as institutional bankruptcy. None of our institutions are able to function properly. It's in this context that Daniel Foote is arriving in Haiti. But he is also arriving at a time when civil society is collaborating with other sectors of Haiti to search for a solution to the crisis," Paultre told VOA. "I don't know what he's looking for, but he should not be making any unilateral decisions."

The pastor said he thinks Foote should work with Haitians toward an "inter-Haitian" consensus.

Foote has not yet commented on his meetings with Haitian officials. But two U.S. representatives who traveled with him from Washington to Haiti for the funeral on Friday issued statements about their brief time in the country.

New York Democrat Gregory Meeks, chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee, said the U.S. wants to support the Haitian people as they work toward security and a stable government.

"Now is the time for the international community to listen to the voices of the Haitian people and stand shoulder to shoulder with them as they navigate these turbulent times, helping bring about a better future for all of Haiti," Meeks said in a statement emailed to VOA.

U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry, a Nebraska Republican, posted a video message on Twitter that he had recorded on the tarmac at the Cap-Haitien airport. He expressed regret about having to leave so abruptly.

"I regret that, because it's a bit undignified, the way we had to leave," Fortenberry said. "This is an important country, in proximity to America. It's on our doorstep as we've tried to help significantly over the years, and we want to stand in solidarity with the Haitian people as they mourn and suffer."

Fortenberry expressed hope that the tragedy of Moise's assassination would lead to redevelopment and hope for Haiti's people in the future.

Congressional correspondent Katherine Gypson contributed to this report.

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