Meeks, Clarke Urge Pressure on Haitian President to Step Down

Haitian President Jovenel Moïse with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Wikimedia Commons)

Queens County Democratic Party Chair and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) and U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn) led a group of lawmakers over the weekend in urging the U.S. Secretary of State to condemn what they said were anti-democratic actions taken by Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. 

In a letter sent on Saturday to U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the lawmakers congratulated his recent Senate confirmation before expressing concern that Moïse’s refusal to step down as president threatened Haiti’s fragile democracy.

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks
U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke

“His extra-constitutional decrees – including the establishment of a domestic intelligence force, the unilateral appointment of key officials, and the harsh criminalization of acts of protest – must be called out for exactly what they are: attempts to hold onto the Presidency at the expense of the democratic process,” the letter reads.

The letter’s co-authors, which include U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota), Albia Sires (D-NJ), Andy Levin (D-Michigan), Alcee Hastings (D-Florida) and Darren Soto (D-Florida), urged Blinken to support a democratic transition government led by the Haitian people.

Moïse has led Haiti since February 2017 after winning the country’s elections in November 2016. Although his term officially ended on Sunday at the insistence of Haiti’s opposition judiciary, he has refused to vacate the office. This sparked unrest in the Caribbean nation and a coup attempt Monday morning.

“The human rights situation in Haiti is equally perilous. Civil rights are under siege, and those who advocate for them are often facing literal attacks. Seemingly state-sanctioned violence targets those who challenge the state. Victims of such violence have no path towards accountability and justice. Meanwhile, Haiti remains gripped in a cascade of economic, public health, and political crises,” the letter reads.

Representatives from the Consulate General of Haiti declined several requests for comment.

State Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte

Meeks elaborated further on his hopes for a transitional government amid the recent and current challenges the country faces. 

“Haiti is in the midst of economic, public health, and now electoral crisis. President Moïse un-democratic actions has lost him credibility to govern [sic],” said Meeks. “I am deeply concerned for the well-being being of the Haitian people, who deserve the ability to choose their own government.”

Clarke chose to wait to comment pending a response to the letter from the State Department.

State Assemblymember and Kings County Democratic Party Chair Rodneyse Bichotte, a prominent voice in New York’s Haitian community, welcomed the group’s proposals.

 “The people of Haiti want a stable, democratic government that abides by its constitution. Many people believe that President Moise has served his term and it ends today, while the President maintains that his term ends next year, in 2022,” she said. “I also believe it is the will of Haitian-Americans here in Brooklyn, and in the United States, that our loved ones abroad are no longer denied a voice in their government.”