WASHINGTON - Haiti has responded to a tweet by Julie Chung, the U.S. acting assistant secretary for the State Department's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, expressing alarm at "authoritarian and undemocratic acts" by President Jovenel Moise.
Chung’s tweet on Wednesday also said, "Respect for democratic norms is vital and non-negotiable.”
The United States will not be silent when democratic institutions and civil society are attacked.— Julie Chung (@WHAAsstSecty) February 17, 2021
We condemn all attempts to undermine democracy by violence, suppression of civic freedoms, or intimidation.
Haiti's Ambassador to the United States Bocchit Edmond announced on Twitter early Thursday that he had a "constructive meeting" with Chung about the situation in the country.
"We’re determined to create a better environment for free, fair & transparent elections under robust international observations," Edmond tweeted.
2/2) I also spoke with @WHAAsstSecty about the steps taken by the Electoral Council to prepare for the Constitutional referendum and the elections. We’re determined to create a better environment for free, fair & transparent elections under a robust international observations.— Bocchit Edmond (@BocchitEdmond) February 18, 2021
Chung’s tweet also said, "The United States will not be silent when democratic institutions and civil society are attacked." It cited "unilateral removals and appointments of Supreme Court Justices" and attacks on the media.
Addressing Chung’s concerns about attacks on the press, Edmond tweeted: "I reassured her that the Govt of Haiti has no intentions of targeting journalists.”
1/2) I had a constructive meeting with @WHAAsstSecty Julie Chung about the current situation in Haiti. I reassured her that the Govt of Haiti has no intentions of targeting journalists. We are deeply devoted to respecting freedom of the Press & improve our ranking 83 on 189 PFGI.— Bocchit Edmond (@BocchitEdmond) February 18, 2021
On the night of Feb. 12, President Moise tweeted that he had appointed three new Supreme Court Justices, to replace the justices he retired last week.
J’ai nommé à la Cour de Cassation trois juges issus d’une liste préalablement soumise par le sénat de la République, conformément aux dispositions de l’art 175 de la Constitution.— Président Jovenel Moïse (@moisejovenel) February 13, 2021
He also issued an "Arrete," an official announcement, saying he had chosen a new secretary of state for communications, secretary of state for public security and a new delegate for the Artibonite Department.
The announcements came hours after a statement by U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Michele Sison expressing concern about Moise's unilateral moves.
"What troubles us is governance by decree, governance by presidential decree that has been going on in Haiti for a period that is not normal and is ongoing," Sison told VOA in an exclusive interview on Feb. 12.
At least two journalists have died due to their interactions with law enforcement during protests so far this year. Others have been severely injured and hospitalized.
Chung’s tweets about Haiti, which the U.S. Embassy in Haiti retweeted on its official Twitter account and translated into French and Creole, echo what Ambassador Sison told VOA.
"Elections are essential to end the political paralysis that exists in Haiti since a long time. For more than a year," Sison said. "Haitians should have their say, so they can realize their own vision for their country."
Laurent Weil, a country analyst for The Economist magazine's Intelligence Unit who specializes in Latin America and the Caribbean, told VOA elections are central to an improvement in Haiti’s situation in 2021.
"The best-case scenario is that you have an elected parliament. You have an elected president that takes office following this long and uncertain process," Weil told VOA. "There is a generalized sentiment on the ground that things need to change."