Haiti senate president to step down after Prime Minister condemns him

Donald Jean-Charles’s resignation letter said he was quitting after ‘violent repression’ of President Jovenel Moïse’s critics and promises of ‘constitutional chaos’

The leader of Haiti’s senate has called on the country’s prime minister to resign after accusing government officials of “violent repression”.

Donald Jean-Charles submitted his resignation on Monday, saying he was stepping down after recent incidents that “have disturbed the atmosphere in the country”.

He cited media reports about alleged irregularities surrounding the distribution of food aid, as well as a video taken by a camera crew from a rebel radio station showing prime minister Jack Guy Lafontant in what the president’s spokesman called “violent repression” of protesters.

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Jean-Charles’s resignation letter said he was quitting after “violence and violence against the opposition, active politicians and a small number of constitutional elites”, adding: “To salvage Haiti’s fragile democracy, we must govern in a constitutional and democratic manner.”

Jean-Charles, who has been Haiti’s senate president since 2012, also said he was resigning because he did not want to serve alongside Lafontant.

The Haitian president’s spokesman, Thierry Schwartzel, denounced the resignation as a “distraction” from the talks that former president Michel Martelly recently launched with his successor, Jovenel Moïse, in support of a constitutional reform that would transfer power from the elected president to a council of elders, charged with overseeing government.

Moïse later said the reform was a priority of his government and that he had told the senate president he could serve alongside him. “I’m sure the president will react. There will be presidential measures,” he said.

Haiti’s Senate has not produced a leader since the suspension of the country’s parliament last month. Jean-Charles’s resignation comes as parliamentary rivalries have seen the parliament fall hostage to protests, and with elections due in October and a general election due by May 2019, the country’s political consensus has been tested to breaking point.

Demonstrators barricaded the main road to the capital, Port-au-Prince, on Monday, pressing for the resignation of Lafontant, Haiti’s prime minister since 2016. The demonstration also opposed an electoral reform proposal put forward by Martelly, which was unanimously approved by Martelly’s successor.

Chanting “Presidente, je suis cumple!” (“President, resign!”), demonstrators blocked parts of the capital’s Grand Palais international terminal.

Riot police and hundreds of security guards who were installed at the terminal were removed from the area after the protests turned violent. Several people were injured and police fired teargas to disperse protesters, several private media outlets reported.

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