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Haiti Embarks on a New Era: Ariel Henry’s Departure and the Path to Democratic Renewal

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Amid escalating tensions and threats from armed groups that challenged the nation’s stability, Ariel Henry’s tenure as Haiti’s prime minister has come to a conclusion. This development marks a critical juncture for Haiti, ushering in a period of potential transformation and reformation towards democratic governance.

The departure of Henry, who had steadfastly held onto power despite widespread calls for his resignation, was precipitated by a concerted campaign by the country’s gangs. These groups, asserting a crusade for liberation, vowed to remove Henry from office, with Jimmy Chérizier, a former police officer turned gang leader, threatening dire consequences if their demands were not met.

Henry’s attempts to return to Haiti were thwarted last week, effectively placing him in exile, as gang violence targeted strategic locations including Port-au-Prince’s airport. The change in leadership was officially recognized during a press briefing in Jamaica, hosted by the CARICOM, with the chair, President Irfaan Ali of Guyana, announcing the end of Henry’s role and the beginning of a transitional governance framework aimed at ensuring a peaceful transfer of power.

This transition is to be facilitated by a newly formed Presidential Council, comprising seven voting members and two non-voting observers, representing a broad spectrum of Haitian society, including the private sector, political groups, civil society, and the interfaith community. This initiative aims to foster a credible and independent governance body, explicitly excluding individuals with criminal convictions or sanctions, or those intending to run in upcoming elections.

The council’s immediate priorities include the appointment of an interim Prime Minister and a cabinet, followed by the monumental task of reconstructing Haiti’s democratic foundations. This entails establishing a provisional electoral council and a national security council to oversee the deployment of a multinational force intended to stabilize the security situation in Haiti.

President Ali emphasized the shared vision for a Haiti where safety and democratic principles enable prosperity and peace. He called for unity, patience, and dedication among all stakeholders to navigate this transition successfully, highlighting the importance of rebuilding strong democratic institutions, peaceful conflict resolution, and a secure environment for all Haitians.

As Haiti faces this pivotal moment, the international community’s support and the commitment of its people to these ideals are essential for realizing the vision of a stable, democratic, and thriving nation.

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OECS Nations Reform Citizenship by Investment Programs Amid EU Scrutiny

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Responding to significant pressure from the European Union, four nations within the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)—Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, and St. Kitts & Nevis—have taken a decisive step to reform their Citizenship by Investment Programs (CIPs). This move aims to address EU concerns over security and maintain visa-free access to the Schengen area for their citizens. A landmark agreement signed on March 20 introduces a unified approach to enhancing the integrity and appeal of their CIPs.

During a press briefing in Dominica, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit highlighted the collaborative effort to confront EU critiques, emphasizing the critical role of visa-free European travel for Caribbean nationals. The EU’s apprehensions have grown over the potential misuse of CIPs by individuals seeking to bypass legal scrutiny, sparked by incidents of abuse highlighted in reports by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). These investigations uncovered cases where individuals involved in criminal activities exploited the programs to evade justice, underscoring the urgent need for reform.

A European Commission report shed further light on the situation, identifying a significant proportion of CIP applicants from countries traditionally requiring visas for EU entry. The possibility for identity alteration post-citizenship acquisition through these programs raised alarms about the security implications for EU member states. In response to these concerns, EU officials and representatives from the OECS convened to devise a strategy to mitigate the security risks associated with visa-free access provided through CIPs.

The reforms, set to be implemented by June 30, include a notable increase in the minimum investment for citizenship, setting it at $200,000—twice the amount previously required. This adjustment is part of a broader initiative that will also see the establishment of a regional authority to standardize CIP criteria, enhanced regulation of CBI agents, improved information sharing among member states, and the implementation of joint training and due diligence efforts. These measures are intended to fortify the programs against misuse while preserving the benefits of visa-free travel to Europe for citizens of the participating countries.

Saint Lucia, however, remains an outlier, having not joined the agreement. Consequently, it will be the sole OECS nation continuing to offer citizenship at the lower price point of $100,000 plus fees beyond the June 30 deadline. This collective move by four OECS members marks a significant shift towards addressing international concerns and ensuring the long-term viability of their citizenship by investment offerings.

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Crisis in Haiti: Transitional Council’s Struggles and Escalating Food Insecurity Amid Violence

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The newly formed presidential transitional council of Haiti is facing significant hurdles before it can effectively tackle the severe crisis engulfing the nation. Concerns over safety and profound disagreements about the council’s composition have led to the withdrawal of key members, undermining its efforts to elect a chairperson and move forward.

Dominique Dupuy, Haiti’s Ambassador to UNESCO, publicly announced her resignation from the council in a video statement on Sunday, citing a barrage of political attacks and threats to her life. Although Dupuy was promptly replaced, additional members exited just hours before a crucial meeting set for Monday evening, intended for the election of the council’s chair.

Leslie Voltaire, a representative of Famni Lavalas, expressed in a letter the need for a political agreement among the various sectors prior to electing a president. Concurrently, Jean Jumeau, serving as a non-voting council member, declared his exit, stating the urgent need for action over passive observation.

This turmoil within the transitional council, emerging only two weeks post its announcement, has led to calls for increased international involvement, a notion met with resistance from both the capital’s armed factions and a segment of the populace.

Gedeon Jean, head of the Center for Human Rights Analysis and Research, advocated for the deployment of regional military forces to help stabilize the dire security conditions. Despite a temporary lull in violence in Port-au-Prince, recent days witnessed the arson and looting of businesses and health care centers by armed gangs, exacerbating the instability.

The ongoing violence has further intensified Haiti’s food insecurity crisis. UNICEF and the World Food Program (WFP) highlight the critical situation, with Jean-Martin Bauer, WFP’s Country Director for Haiti, emphasizing the urgent need for action as rising hunger fuels the security crisis. The WFP reports a 22% hike in food basket costs from August 2023 to February 2024, pushing millions into deeper poverty, with nearly 5 million individuals facing severe food insecurity levels. The Artibonite valley, vital for the nation’s food supply, remains under the grip of armed groups disrupting agriculture and hindering humanitarian aid.

Amid these challenges, the transitional council convened with regional and international leaders on Monday, seeking viable solutions to the chaos. Haiti, under the interim leadership of Acting Prime Minister Michel Boisvert, continues its quest for a transitional authority to navigate through these tumultuous times.

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Governor Albert Bryan Jr. Embarks on Diplomatic Mission to Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines

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Governor Albert Bryan Jr. is scheduled to depart the U.S. Virgin Islands for a diplomatic mission to Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines from March 25 through April 1, as announced by Government House. This visit underscores Bryan’s commitment to enhancing international relations and identifying collaborative ventures that promise mutual benefits for the U.S. Virgin Islands and the respective Caribbean nations.

During his visit, the governor will engage in discussions aimed at deepening connections and fostering cooperation with these Caribbean counterparts. Following his engagement in Barbados, Governor Bryan is slated to meet with Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, highlighting the mission’s goal of bolstering ties.

To ensure the smooth operation of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ governance in his absence, Lt. Governor Tregenza Roach will assume the role of acting governor until Bryan’s return on April 1.

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