PORT-AU-PRINCE, (Reuters) – The United States said yesterday it was “deeply concerned” about Haiti’s fragile institutions, although it stopped short of chastising President Jovenel Moise after his government retired three Supreme Court judges who posed a threat to his leadership.
Fresh political turmoil engulfed the volatile Caribbean nation this weekend after Moise alleged there was an attempt to overthrow the government and 23 people were arrested, including a Supreme Court judge and a senior police official.
The detained judge was one of three Supreme Court justices who the opposition approached as possible candidates to be interim leaders of a transitional government to take over from Moise until elections are held.
On Monday, the government issued an executive decree ordering the three judges to be retired from the court.
The U.S. Embassy in Port-Au-Prince said in a statement that it had seen the executive order about the judges.
“We are deeply concerned about any actions that risk damaging Haiti’s democratic institutions. The Executive Order is now being scrutinized to determine whether it conforms to Haiti’s constitutions and laws,” the embassy said.
Haiti’s opposition claims Moise should step down as his five-year term in office expired on Feb. 7 following 2015 elections, which were disputed and the result cancelled by the electoral counsel.
Moise rejects those claims, pointing out he took power in February 2017 after winning fresh elections in 2016 and has pledged to step down next year.
Washington last week appeared to back Moise’s timeline, with a State Department spokesperson saying a new leader should replace Moise in February 2022.
The U.S. Embassy said “all political actors should focus on restoring to the Haiti people the right to choose their lawmakers by organizing overdue legislative elections as soon as technically feasible and presidential elections soon after”.
The opposition accused Moise of violating the constitution as his government failed to hold legislative elections in 2019, leaving the parliament without lawmakers and allowing the president to rule by decree since January 2020.