PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Thousands of young Haitians spent 2019 on the streets, demanding President Jovenel Moise resign over his government's failure to prosecute years of unbridled corruption that siphoned billions in international aid into bank accounts overseas.
For now, Moise's opponents have failed.
Haiti's parliament shut down indefinitely in January because of the chaos, eliminating the check on presidential power that paralyzed Moise for years. Thursday marks the president's first month of ruling the country by decree.
But the reed-thin former banana farmer looks nothing like the strongmen of Haiti's past.
With weak political support at home and an international community wary of democratic backsliding, Moise has issued no significant decrees and billions in development aid is blocked.
Three years into his five-year term, the president appears barely able to enforce his will beyond the gates of the National Palace downtown and his relatively modest rented home in the hills above Port-au-Prince. In the city below, gangs rule entire neighborhoods and a wave of kidnappings is terrifying ordinary Haitians.
“A few hundred feet from the National Palace, armed gangs control the streets,” said Paul Denis, who served as justice minister under President René Preval. “But the president who leads us, what is he doing? What is he doing to impose order, to render these bandits harmless? Absolutely nothing.”
The United States, United Nations and Organization of American States are trying to midwife a deal between Moise and his opposition that would lead to declaration of a unity government and avert a return to chaos on an island that's seen two coups, U.S. intervention, a U.N. peacekeeping mission and a devastating earthquake in the 34 years since the end of a decades-long dictatorship.