People march during a protest against the remobilisation of the army and angry at a senatorial report that investigated the Petrocaribe funds between 2008 and 2016, after the report said there was embezzlement of public funds, in Port-au-Prince, on November 18, 2017. (Photo credit: HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
News Americas, PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Weds. Nov. 22, 2017: Thousands of people took to the streets of Haiti on Sunday, Nov. 19th, urging President Jovenel Moise to step down.
This weekend’s protest is the latest against Moise and came on the heels of his November 18th announcement of the official reintroduction of a Haiti national army, some 22 years after it was disbanded.
Haitian defense minister Herve Denis told Reuters the army will begin with 500 soldiers in engineering, medical and aviation corps, but is still working to fill its ranks. He said the government plans to ultimately expand to 5,000 troops working to protect Haitian borders, fight terrorism, curb illegal trade and aid Haitians affected by natural disasters.
Government opponents fear the Moise administration could use the military to crack down on foes despite the president’s claims that troops will steer clear of politics.
“I don’t believe the Moise regime really wants to reinstate the army, but instead set up a political militia to persecute political opponents,” Andre Michel to Reuters.
Haiti has been without military forces since 1995, when former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide disbanded the army after returning to power following a coup, leaving the national police responsible for security.
Moise has named former army colonel Jodel Lesage as acting commander-in-chief, moving troops closer to full operation. However, the appointment still needs to be approved by Haiti’s senate.