Bowing to pressure, Haiti Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe has resigned, paving the way for a new government to lead the country into long overdue legislative and local elections.
Lamothe said he was making the sacrifice for Haiti because the country not only needs development but also political stability to advance.
“Despite all of these accomplishments, if this is what can truly unblock the political crisis, I’ve decided,” he said, “to hand President Martelly my resignation and that of the entire government.”
The resignation came on yet another day of tense anti-government protests, which also spread to the cities of Cap-Haitien and Gonaives. In Port-au-Prince, protesters accused police of killing an unarmed demonstrator who had a visible bullet wound in his chest.
Police spokesman Gary Desrosiers said “no one died in today’s protests. There were no great incidents.” He said an investigation has been launched into the death of the unidentified man, but it looked like people “put the body there.”
The protests took place despite President Michel Martelly announcing Friday that he would accept Lamothe’s offer to resign as part of a series of far-reaching “calming” measures recommended by a presidential commission to quell rising political tensions.
But with no timetable on Lamothe’s resignation, opponents believed Martelly would try to outsmart them and took to the streets Saturday demanding both his and Lamothe’s resignations. Opponents accuse Martelly of intentionally delaying the vote so that he could rule by decree on Jan. 12, making it easier for Lamothe to become a presidential contender in next year’s presidential elections.
“Michel Martelly has allowed the crisis to rot and degenerate by not doing what he should have done months ago,” said Volcy Assad, a protest organizer, referring to the delayed local and legislative elections.
But his criticisms weren’t just about Martelly, who has accused opposition senators of blocking the vote of an electoral law needed to schedule the balloting. Assad and others criticized the U.S. support of Martelly while waving photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin and singing, “Long Live Putin, Down with Obama.”
They also strongly condemned former U.S. President and U.N. Haiti Envoy Bill Clinton for his recent defense of Lamothe in a Miami Herald interview.
“Bill Clinton says that this is ‘the most consistent and decisive government' he has ever worked with, yet you have thousands of Haitians in the streets, who are hungry and protesting because they are not happy with the situation,” Assad said. “Yet he’s clapping, ‘Bravo.’ Economic interests are at play here, not Haitian interests. We are defending Haiti’s interests.”
Under increasing pressure to organize elections, Martelly, who took office in 2011, appointed an 11-member presidential commission late last month to help stem the crisis. They called for a new Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) and several resignations including the controversial head of the Supreme Court.
At the top of their list, however, was the resignation of Martelly’s best friend and confidante, Lamothe. A tech-savvy entrepreneur, he was named prime minister with unusual swiftness after Martelly’s first prime minister, longtime U.N. diplomat Gary Conille, was forced to resign after only four months.
Lamothe’s energy on the job invigorated the government and captivated the international community. But his rigid personality, jet-setting and refusal to be accountable to Parliament fired up opponents and the streets in a high-stakes, competitive and unforgiving Haitian political environment.
Adding to his problems were his political ambitions and allegations of government corruption.
In a speech broadcast early Sunday morning, Lamothe thanked President Michel Martelly, Parliament, ministers and the Haitian people as he gave an account of his accomplishments. They included increasing the percentage of children enrolled in school, augmenting tourism and foreign investments, and cutting insecurity and extreme poverty.
Citing a recent World Bank study that looked at the drop in poverty in Haiti between 2000 and 2012, Lamothe who took office in May 2012, said, “We are happy, but we are not satisfied when we see the number of people in extreme poverty has dropped from 31 percent to 24 percent in 2014 thanks to 1 / 8our 3 / 8 work.”
The bank acknowledged the government’s investments in social programs, which Lamothe took credit for in his speech, but questioned the programs’ sustainability in the face of dwindling foreign aid nearly five years after Haiti’s Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake.
“We can say today, that after 31 months, the results are there,” Lamothe said. “We’re leaving. We are going with the sentiment that we did all we could for the country. …I leave the post of prime minister this evening, with the feeling of accomplishment.”
Martelly is expected to name an interim prime minister from within his administration to address the country’s day-to-day affairs.