Haiti’s President Is No Longer in Power

Cholera returns to Haiti as nation lurches from one crisis to the next.

By Lorne Stockman

July 19, 2018

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A week after Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti’s central island, the country’s government has collapsed under the weight of its own incompetence and corruption. President Michel Martelly survived the storm but was later detained by the military, accused of failing to pay the government employees who suffered the worst of the storm’s aftermath. Two days later, he resigned.

In a state of crisis similar to the one the country would face after Hurricane Irma, the president in power since 2010 is no longer in position to lead. But he is not out as much as one might suspect.

In mid-November, he was arrested for allegedly paying bribes to officials in his country. He was released on bail on Jan. 3, but the military and the Haitian police were still looking for him. In late January, he finally fled to France, where he lives in exile. His whereabouts were unknown when I visited Haiti last month, but he was still very much the man in charge as of Jan. 10.

As Haiti struggles to emerge from the disaster, the United Nations is in a scramble, working with the military to identify and distribute water purification tablets to help prevent cholera as well as provide food to survivors. Meanwhile, the United Nations is pushing hard to get in touch with the president’s political opponents so that they, too, can take their seat in the new government.

The country is in a state of emergency but the lack of leadership has left the country dangerously unstable. A new crisis is looming that could be even worse than the one that brought disaster to the island: an election.

“If we have a government without any legitimacy, we’re going to have a disaster,” said David Beaulieu, an anthropology professor at George Mason University who was helping organize an aid effort following the storm. “There’s nothing else to replace the legitimacy.”

In the past 50 years, Haiti has been spared two major hurricanes. But Haiti’s economy is facing an existential crisis, and in the wake of a devastating earthquake in January 2016, an exodus of nearly one-quarter of the population could cripple the country’s fragile health and education systems

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