UN Chief concerned by political instability in Haiti
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concerns over growing political uncertainty in Haiti and urged the two candidates in the presidential run-off to help the electoral process move forward while preserving the country’s democratic gains.
Ki-moon’s call comes after the December 27th run-off election between Jovenel Moise from the governing party and former government executive Jude Celestin was postponed until further notice.
Widespread protests broke out in Haiti last year after many opposition candidates and their supporters condemned the October 25th elections saying that it was rigged. One of the most vocal critics of the election results has been Jude Celetin, the man who came second in the preliminary polls. He described the election results as a “ridiculous farce” and encouraged his supporters to stand up against the results.
A recent commission that evaluated the Haitian election results said that it found numerous cases of irregularities in the first-round of voting but attributed most of these irregularities to ‘ineptitude by poll workers’ rather than political mischief. According to Rosny Desroches, a commission member, “ Many of the irregularities that we have seen are due to lack of preparation, negligence, lack of competence and lack of professionalism (by poll workers).” But he was adamant that there were no signs of vote rigging as the opposition asserts.
Under the Haitian constitution, current president Michel Martelly is due to demit office on February 7th when his term comes to an end. Political experts have said that in order for Haiti to have a President by that time, the run-off elections must be held by January 17th. Many political observers now fear that the run off election will not occur before January 17th, which will effectively leave the country without a president after Martelly leaves office.
The UN and other political agencies are concerned that this may have a negative impact on the political gains that have been made toward Democracy in Haiti.
NDP challenge St. Vincent Election Results
The main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) has filed election petitions in connection with the December 9 general elections.
Party leader Arnhim Eustace, who made the announcement on Monday, is encouraging voters to stand in support of the party and defend their democracy. The petitions were filed on December 30th, two days after a High Court judge denied NDP candidate for Central Leeward, Ben Exeter, access to certain election documents.
Ralph Gonsalves was granted a 4th term in office after his Unity Labour Party (ULP) won the December 9th elections by taking 8 of the 15 seats. Since then Eustace and his party has refused to accept the results claiming that the elections were rigged in favour of Gonsalves.
Eustace has since written to the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) asking them to look into the election, which he and his supporters claimed was rife with fraud, theft and improprieties with regards to the handling of ballots.
The NDP claims that they, not the ULP, won the December 9th general election.
According to Eustace, the outcome of the petitions could see the ULP administration falling: “The petitions, if we win those petitions, can lead to a by-election. It can even lead to a general election,” he said.
Some have called for the NDP to accept the results of the election, but Eustace was adamant that someone must challenge what he has described as a corrupt electoral process: “All you have is a corrupt process. And those who try to hide behind it with ‘It done gone so what’s wrong with them?’” Eustace said.
“Those who should be speaking out, everybody trying to give an excuse. But they admitting it’s wrong,” he continued. “Well, we are not letting it pass,” he said, noting that when the government wanted to increase the number of seats from 15 to 17 in 2010, the NDP went to court over the decision and won.
“So, don’t give up hope. We have to keep the issue constantly before the people of this country to ensure some victory for us at the end of this process.”
Virginia looking to increase trade with Cuba
Virginia’s Port Authority will become the first U.S. port operator to sign a cooperation agreement with its Cuban counterpart in an effort to increase trade and establish direct service with Cuba, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has said.
“We are going to sign an agreement between the Port of Mariel and our Port of Virginia which will be a strategic alliance,” McAuliffe said during a three-day trip to the Communist-run Island.
He is the fourth U.S. governor to visit Cuba since both countries announced they would work to normalize relations just over a year ago.
His 30-member delegation included various state officials and about twenty business leaders.
The recently opened Mariel Port, just west of Havana, aims to become a major shipping center as larger ships pass through the Panama Canal and use it as a logistical hub.
“As Cuba and the United States normalize relationships, we’d like to see the Cuban companies establish Virginia as their distribution point for the United States,” Thomas Capozzi, chief sales officer for the Port of Virginia, told Reuters.
According to the New York-based U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, Norfolk, Virginia, ranked first – in metric tons – of 14 ports used in 2015 for exporting agricultural products from the United States to Cuba.
President Barack Obama has relaxed parts of the comprehensive trade embargo of Cuba and has asked Congress to lift it completely.
Virginia is Cuba’s third U.S. trade partner. “The state has exported nearly $400 million in goods to the island in the last decade,” McAuliffe said.
The United States authorized cash-only agricultural exports to Cuba in 2000.
“Virginia’s sales to Cuba, hampered by U.S. sanctions that bar Havana from credit, dropped to $25 million in 2014,” Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore told Reuters, echoing a call by the governor to allow bank credit for the food trade.
Trinidad and Tobago
T&T plans for recession as new Government settles
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has said that his administration is moving towards reviving the ailing economy of the oil-rich twin-island Republic and avoid going to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
He urged citizens “to acknowledge that we don’t have as much as we would like so there are going to be some restrictions on spending.”
But Rowley, who became head of the Trinidad and Tobago government after he led the People’s National Movement (PNM) to victory in the September 7 general election, said he does not want his administration to be classified as “an austerity government.”
“Austerity is not the word, it is common sense. We are not in a restricted program…in fact we want to ensure that we don’t end up in a situation where we are governing by…austerity equals IMF.”
“If we don’t manage our affairs properly we could end up in a situation where we don’t have options available to us. Right now we have options and the options are to behave properly and acknowledge the circumstances and choose the best of the options that we have,” Rowley told listeners of Citadel radio in Trinidad and Tobago.
Since taking power, the Rowley-led PNM has succeeded in having the borrowing limit, which was reached by the previous government, lifted. This allows the current government to increase its borrowing to offset the shortfall caused by the fall in the prices of crude oil and natural gas in 2015.
In light of its current financial situation, the Prime Minister has asked each ministry to cut spending by 7%, and has also embarked on other cost-saving initiatives, one of the most controversial being the cutting of its expenditures on free books for primary and secondary school students by 90%.
Former Central Bank Governor Jwala Rambarran declared in early December that Trinidad and Tobago was officially in recession. During his announcement, he encouraged consumers to buy local goods and also revealed the companies with the highest import bills. Since then, Rambarran has been for releasing confidential information about said companies. He has since been replaced by former Deputy Central Bank Governor, Alvin Hilaire, who is now seen as an important figure in implementing fiscal policies that will help steer Trinidad and Tobago out of the Economic whole it has found itself in.