US envoy who quit says Haiti PM not credible

Washington (AFP) –


The former US envoy on Haiti who resigned in protest last month testified Thursday that the United States made a mistake by backing Prime Minister Ariel Henry, saying he had no credibility.

Asked at a congressional hearing if Henry's government could stay in power without US support, Daniel Foote replied: "I do not believe they would survive for a minute."

Henry was appointed just two days before the July 7 assassination of president Jovenel Moise, who had been ruling by decree, ushering in a new crisis in a nation already battered by rampant violence and natural disasters.

Under a deal reached later in July, a new government was tasked with working toward holding elections. Henry became the favorite after the US, French and other ambassadors in Port-au-Prince in a joint statement threw their support behind him.

Foote said he had no personal grudge against Henry but believed the "consensus is nearly unanimous" among the public that the prime minister belonged to a ruling party that was to blame for Haiti's problems.

"Haitians see that as meddling and are not happy and do not see the current interim government as credible," Foote told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Foote said that officials in President Joe Biden's administration had "almost blindly" supported Henry as they felt "nervous" about too much change in government in the troubled country.

Foote, a veteran diplomat who served only two months in his role, said that the row contributed to his resignation.

Representative Andy Levin told Foote he was "furious" that the United States missed what he called a historic chance to involve civil society and instead blessed an appointee of Moise, who had led a "kleptocracy, a gangsterization" of Haiti.

The Democratic lawmaker urged the Biden administration to encourage a "real and not just for-show transition back to democratic rule."

"I believe our current policy disrespects and fails to see the Haitian people, something our country has done over and over again," Levin said.

In a letter last month, Foote said that he could not support mass deportations being carried out under Biden amid widespread outrage at scenes of horseback border guards' harsh rounding up of Haitians.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman replied that his explanation was disingenuous and that he had lost a policy debate by calling for a US military involvement in Haiti.