Haiti’s transitional council elects new prime minister for the country

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — U.N. development specialist Garry Conille was named Haiti’s new prime minister Tuesday night, nearly a month after a coalition within a fractured transitional council sought to elect to another person for the position.

The long-awaited move comes as gangs continue to terrorize the capital of Port-au-Prince, opening fire in once peaceful neighborhoods and using heavy machinery to demolish several police stations and prisons.

Council member Louis Gérald Gilles told The Associated Press that six of the seven council members with voting power elected Conille early Tuesday. He said one member, Laurent St. Cyr, was not in Haiti and therefore did not vote.

Conille has been UNICEF’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean since January 2023 and previously served as prime minister of Haiti from October 2011 to May 2012 under then-president Michel Martelly. She replaces Michel Patrick Boisvert, who was named interim prime minister after Ariel Henry resigned by letter at the end of April.

Henry was on an official trip to Kenya when a coalition of powerful gangs launched coordinated attacks on February 29, seizing control of police stations, shooting up Haiti’s main international airport and storming the country’s two largest prisons, freeing more than 4,000 inmates.

The attacks left Henry out of the country and the airport in the capital of Port-au-Prince was closed for almost three months.

Gang violence continues to rise in parts of Haiti’s capital and beyond as Conille takes command of the troubled Caribbean country pending the deployment of a UN-backed police force from Kenya and other countries.

Conille studied medicine and public health and helped develop health care in impoverished communities in Haiti, where he helped coordinate reconstruction efforts after the devastating 2010 earthquake.

He worked for several years at the United Nations before Martelly appointed him prime minister in 2011. Conille resigned less than a year later after clashes with the president and his cabinet over an investigation into government officials who have dual nationality, which is not allowed. by The Constitution of Haiti.

Conille has an arduous task ahead of him: having to quell rampant gang violence while helping to lift Haiti out of deep poverty, with inflation reaching a record 29%, according to the latest available data. In recent years, gangs that control at least 80% of Port-au-Prince have forced more than 360,000 people from their homes and continue to control key routes from the capital to Haiti’s northern and southern regions, often paralyzing transportation. of critical merchandise. estate.

Conille’s election as prime minister comes just weeks after former Haitian sports minister Fritz Bélizaire was elected to the position in late April by a four-member coalition within the nine-member transitional council in a surprise announcement that It angered many. Critics said the proper procedure dictated by the framework established by the council was not followed, so a new process to elect a prime minister was launched, with dozens of names put forward for the position.

The lengthy process has been criticized by many, including the Montana Accord, a Haitian civil society group that has a representative on the council.

In a statement on Tuesday, the group accused the council of failing to take any “major action” since its establishment, as “people’s suffering is worsening, while gangs are taking control of more territory and committing more crimes.”

He also accused the council of not being transparent in choosing a new prime minister, saying it did not publicly share the criteria used or the names put forward, among other things.

Liné Balthazar, president of the Tet Kale party, called on the council to be transparent in an interview Monday with Magik9, a local radio station, and said the selection of a prime minister seemed improvised.

In addition to selecting a new prime minister, the nine-member council, of which seven have voting power, must also appoint an interim electoral commission, a requirement before elections can be held. The council’s non-renewable term expires on February 7, 2026, when a new president is scheduled to be sworn in.

In addition to electing a new prime minister, the council is also responsible for selecting a new cabinet and holding a general election late next year.

The members of the council are Emmanuel Vertilaire, of Petit Desalin, a party led by former senator and presidential candidate Jean-Charles Moïse; Smith Augustin for EDE/RED, a party led by former Prime Minister Claude Joseph; Fritz Alphonse Jean, of the Montana Agreement; Leslie Voltaire, of Fanmi Lavalas, the party of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide; Louis Gérald Gilles, for the December 21 coalition that supports former Prime Minister Ariel Henry; Edgard Leblanc Fils, of the Colectivo 30 de Enero, which represents parties such as that of former president Michel Martelly; and Laurent Saint-Cyr for the private sector.