WASHINGTON - The United States will support an inclusive, credible Haitian government, Laura Lochman, the State Department’s acting deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, told VOA on Wednesday.
Lochman was part of a U.S. delegation President Joe Biden dispatched to Haiti on July 11 in response to a request from the government of Haiti for assistance after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise last week.
The U.S. delegation met with Haitian acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph, Prime Minister-designate Ariel Henry and Senator Joseph Lambert.
The senator posted a message on Twitter, saying he had met with the U.S. delegation and that they “appreciate” the Haitian Senate resolution naming him as provisional president of Haiti.
“It’s up to the Haitians to come up with the solution to this political process at this point so we rely on them and give them all the support that we can to work conclusively, to work together to form a consensus government. And the United States will definitely, along with our international partners, support an inclusive, credible government,” Lochman told VOA in response to a question about who the United States will support as Haiti’s leader.
Haitian politicians float their own plans
In Port-au-Prince, a commission comprised of representatives of all sectors of Haitian civil society plans to meet Thursday to sign a political accord that will name a new president.
Ted Saint Dic, one of the organizers of the upcoming meeting, told reporters the group plans to meet with the 10 Haitian senators whose terms have not expired.
“We will present a plan based on discussions we have already had, that we will make public during the meeting. With regards to the proposal to name Senator Lambert president of the republic, we believe that before making such a decision, there must be consultations. That’s where we are right now,” Saint Dic said.
He described the effort as a “society effort” that would not be rushed.
“We’re not in a hurry. We want to allow the country to find a way to enter into dialogue and agree on solutions that fundamentally address the biggest preoccupations of the Haitian people," Saint Dic said. "The people have what it takes to decide who their leader will be.”
Elsewhere in the capital, several political leaders held press conferences Tuesday to discuss their efforts to solve the current political void.
Former Senator Steven Benoit discussed his plan during a press conference.
“I told Senator Lambert that we need to organize as soon as possible a national dialogue with representatives of all sectors of society, including the religious sector, to decide what we are going to do,” Benoit said. "The constitution has been ignored (by President Moise) since January 2020, so today we need a political accord. And I’ve asked Senator Lambert to meet with the different political parties, which he has begun to do, as well as members of civil society, to discuss the issues and come up with a Haitian solution."
Political leader Dieudonne Lherisson of the PLANSPA (Platfom Nasyonal Sekte Popile Ayisyen) Party also held a press conference Tuesday to call for a national dialogue.
“Everyone knows there were (only) 11 elected officials in the country — President Moise and the 10 senators. President Moise is dead now, so 10 elected officials remain, who were elected by the people. It is time for them to take responsibility and organize a national dialogue — not to mess around — but rather to find the best formula to reestablish order, fight insecurity and organize elections to allow the people to choose their leader in a democratic fashion,” Lherisson said.
“We’re very happy to hear that they’re moving in that direction,” said Lochman told VOA.
Former Senator Benoit is pushing for an 18-month transition period, ending with presidential and legislative elections in September or October 2022. But Lochman said the United States would like to see elections held this year.
“We have always believed and in fact continue to believe very strongly, that it’s imperative to hold elections for both president and the legislature this year and that is because there has been a vacuum in democratic governance in Haiti that is not serving the needs of the Haitian people,” Lochman said.
In fact, the parliament has been out of session since January 2020 when the terms of most of the legislature expired. Elections have not been held to elect new members due to mass protests, the coronavirus pandemic and uncontrolled gang violence.
Lochman stressed the need for Haiti’s executive, legislative and judicial branches of government to be fully operational.
“You need to have all branches of government in place and working together and working in the pursuit of providing services to the Haitian people that they deserve. And we the U.S. government as well as our international partners have been working with them and will continue to stand with them to improve their democratic governance and institutions,” she told VOA.
The question of whether the U.S. will send troops to Haiti has been a hot topic both inside Haiti and in the U.S. since President Moise’s assassination.
“The Haitian acting prime minister did send a letter both to the United Nations and the United States prior to last weekend, asking for asking for assistance in maintaining some of their critical infrastructure as well as helping in election security and with the investigation of the assassination,” Lochman told VOA.
Pressed about whether the U.S. has decided to send troops to Haiti, she said the conversation is ongoing.
“To be clear we are working with them now to get a very clear idea of exactly what their needs are and how we can best respond to those. And while nothing is being taken off the table at this point, we are trying to understand better the fundamental issues they are grappling with,” Lochman said.
Renan Toussaint and Matiado Vilme in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, contributed to this story.