Another Haiti government has been ousted.
Haiti’s Lower Chamber of Deputies fired Prime Minister Jean Henry Céant and his government on Monday, deepening uncertainty amid a political and economic crisis that led to violent protests last month and the U.S. and Canada warning citizens not to travel to the country.
The swift no-confidence vote came with hardly any debate and after Lower Chamber President Gary Bodeau noted that neither Céant nor any of his cabinet ministers were present. Deputies voted 93-6 in favor of censuring the government with three lawmakers abstaining.
“The decision is illegal and was outside of the constitution,” Céant told the Miami Herald. “It is unacceptable.”
He added: “The justice [system] needs to shed light.”
The vote came one day after Céant officially marked six months in office and as both the lower chamber and Senate engaged in a battle of high-stakes political chess over his fate. The Senate, citing the recent arrest of five Americans with an arsenal of guns in Haiti and their subsequent release from the country with the help of the State Department, had summoned both Céant and his justice minister to its chamber on Monday.
But as Céant waited for a quorum in the 30-member Senate Chamber, Bodeau proceeded with his hearing despite having received a letter from the prime minister informing him that he had already been summoned to appear by the Senate and would be unable to make it.
“It was illegal. It was unconstitutional,” Deputy Sinal Betrand, who was among the six who voted against the government’s censure, said about Bodeau’s maneuver. “The Senate had already seized the file and they rushed to do this. We hadn’t had a session in three months.”
Bertrand, who had voted against Céant in September when lawmakers overwhelmingly approved his political program in back-to-back marathon hearings, said his stance on Monday was one of principle. He said deputies were more “interested in their pockets” than doing the right thing.
Céant and his 21-member cabinet will remain in office as caretakers until a new prime minister is named by President Jovenel Moïse and a new government takes control after both chambers of parliament approve. Under Haitian law, a caretaker prime minister and government can only oversee the country’s day-to-day affairs, and cannot enter into any new contracts.
This will have major ramifications for not only Haiti’s ongoing economic crisis — inflation is 15 percent annually and the cost of basic staples is skyrocketing — but also on the immediate disbursement of millions of dollars in badly needed international aid.
Last month the International Monetary Fund agreed to provide Haiti with $229 million in loans at zero percent interest paid over three years. But the money, which included an initial disbursement of over $40 million, was conditioned on the government carrying out several measures including reducing its budget deficit, implementing social protection programs and getting approval for the budget from parliament by May.