Monday, January 31, 2022

Haitian groups choose transitional leader (Jan. 31, 2022)

A group of Haitian civil society and political organizations chose former prime minister Fritz Alphonse Jean to head the country as interim president for two years. The vote was carried out by 42 voting members of the National Transitional Council (CNT) out of 44 (after the withdrawal of the Famni Lavalas party).  Delegates also chose former Senate president Steven Benoit as interim-prime minister. The vote was not recognized by acting-prime minister Ariel Henry.

The CNT stems from the Montana Accord, a political agreement signed by a coalition of more than 1,000 civil society organizations and political parties, that seeks to create a two-year transition process. The transition, under the newly reached consensus, would be led by five presidents, appointed by three different structures in the country, an appointed prime minister to run the daily affairs, and a ministerial cabinet coming from signatories of the accord.

Last week Henry rejected a separate attempt to form a transitional government by the "Haiti Unity Summit," which also chose Jean to head an interim government. Henryt -- appointed by President Jovenel Moïse just ahead of the president's assassination last July -- said the country's next president will be "elected freely and democratically by the majority of the Haitian people," but did not say when. 

Jean said he planned to speak with organizations and political parties that are not part of the Montana Accord, and that he had already spoken with former senator Jean Edgard Leblanc.

February 7 marks the end of Moïse's presidential term, a date that could provide Henry’s adversaries with a pretext to challenge his fragile authority, and which could develop into a new flashpoint in Haiti's prolonged political, social and security crisis, reported the Miami Herald earlier this month.


Regional Relations
  • U.S. authorities banned former Haitian senator and presumed current presidential candidate Jean-Charles Moïse from entering the country, last week, likely in response to his contacts with Venezuela's government, including high-level Maduro official Diosdado Cabello, the reputed head of a Venezuelan drug cartel. Cabello and Maduro both face drug trafficking charges in the United States, and have bounties on their heads of $10 million and $15 million, respectively. (Miami Herald)

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro sparked criticism with his plan to maintain a scheduled visit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin despite the escalating military crisis along the Ukrainian border, reports the Guardian.
News Briefs

Argentina
  • Argentina's preliminary deal to postpone loan repayment installments to the IMF takes the "noose off the country's neck," though there's "long road ahead" according to President Alberto Fernández. (Telam, see Friday's briefs.) The specifics remain to be determined, but the key points of the deal include no swift spending cuts, and a gradual reduction in the fiscal deficit by 2024 without austerity measures, reports the Washington Post.

  • The clash between a leftist Argentine government that values social spending and the IMF pushing for budget cuts is a fairly standard script. ("What’s unusual is the size of the IMF package being renegotiated, the speed at which it went sour and the complications posed by the pandemic, which hammered an already staggering economy," as Bloomberg put it recently.

  • Both supporters of the Fernández administration and some of its critics agree that the 2018 $57 billion deal with the IMF was a bad idea -- it's generally accepted that geopolitical concerns trumped economic considerations in the record-breaking loan.  In fact, the IMF acknowledged errors in a self-assessment of the deal. (Washington Post.) Nonetheless, the mainstream narrative remains negatively focused on the Argentine government's lack of enthusiasm to pay back what was, by all accounts, an ill-considered deal.
Brazil
  • Landslides and flooding caused by heavy rains killed at least 19 people in Brazil’s São Paulo state yesterday. The waters forced some 500,000 families from their homes over the weekend, reports the Associated Press. After flying over affected areas, governor João Doria announced he  would direct $2.7 million to help the 10 most affected cities and 645 municipalities in Brazil’s most populous state—home to 46 million people, reports AFP.
Chile
  • Chilean protesters marched against immigration in the northern city of Iquique, and some groups destroyed the belongings of migrants in street camps, an echo of angry protests last year when camps were burned. (Reuters)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... 

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