Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Haitians protest the 'emergency law' and demand removal of President Preval

On the night of April 15-16 the Haitian Senate approved an 18-month extension of the state of emergency that President René Préval decreed after a Jan. 12 earthquake killed some 230,000 people and devastated the capital area. The "emergency law," which had been approved by the Chamber of Deputies one week earlier, would take effect once Préval had it published in the official government gazette, Le Moniteur.

Thirteen senators voted for the new law, while two opposed it and one abstained; 11 senators boycotted the April 15-16 session, charging that the vote's outcome was already decided. Sen. Hector Amacacis, who supported the law, said that before the vote a meeting was held at a Western embassy "to push the members of Parliament" to approve the law. "The foreigners put all their weight into the balance to get the law adopted," he said.

In addition to extending the state of emergency, the new law formally establishes an Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti (CIRH) to oversee projects funded by the nearly $10 billion pledged by various countries at an international donors meeting on March 31 in New York. Of the CIRH's 16 members, nine are foreigners and just seven come from Haiti. The commission's co-presidents are current Haitian prime minister Jean-Max Bellerive and former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001), now the United Nations special envoy for Haiti.

The law also significantly expands the powers of the Haitian government's executive branch, authorizing the president to approve contracts without bids, to requisition private land to build camps for people displaced by the earthquake, and to evacuate the displaced from their current camps. (AlterPresse, Haiti, April 16 Radio Métropole, Haiti, April 17)

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