New Cabinet Reflects Merger of Haiti’s “Radical” Opposition with its Former Nemesis, the Ruling PHTK

SDP leader André Michel (left) and Prime Minister Dr. Ariel Henry. The new government consecrates their marriage.

The Democratic and Popular Sector (SDP), headed by former KID militant and lawyer André Michel, President René Préval’s former Women’s Affairs Minister Marjory Michel, and former Lavalas Family Senator Nenel Cassy used to be called the “radical” opposition, for its trenchant, uncompromising condemnations of the governments of former President Michel Martelly and his successor Jovenel Moïse, as well as their ruling party, the Haitian Bald-Headed Party (PHTK).

But now the SDP, along with the social democratic party Fusion and the Dessalines Children party of former senator Moïse Jean-Charles, has formed a new government in alliance with Prime Minister Dr. Ariel Henry, who was appointed to the post by President Moïse, just two days before his Jul. 7 assassination, on Martelly’s recommendation.

Of Haiti’s 18 ministries, nine were filled with new leadership on Wed., Nov. 24, just as André Michel was becoming antsy over the reshuffling’s announcement. The new posts were among the most coveted in any cabinet. They are:

Ex-convict Berto Dorcé is Haiti’s new Justice Minister. Will his appointment lead to the release of Woodly “Sonson La Familia” Ethéart, a notorious jailed criminal who is his former client?

Ariel Henry now doubles as Minister of Culture and Communication; former Consul to Boston and Ambassador to Cuba Jean Victor Généus became Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship; former Senator for the South East department from the Dessalines Children party Ricard Pierre is now Minister of Planning and External Cooperation; economist Nesmy Manigat resumed leadership of the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training, a post he held under Martelly; former Health Minister under René Préval, Dr. Alex Larsen (in which role he was Dr. Ariel Henry’s boss) was appointed Minister of Public Health and Population; a long-time leader in the Fusion party, Rosemond Pradel is now Minister of Public Works, Transport and Communications; Odney Pierre Ricot became Minister of Social Affairs and Labor, the ministry where he previously worked as a Technical director; former Cité Soleil deputy Raymonde Rival was appointed Minister of Youth, Sports and Civic Action; and lawyer Berto Dorcé became the Minister of Justice and Public Security.

Remaining in their posts were Charlot Bredy as Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development (MARNDR); Ricarden St-Jean as Minister of Commerce and Industry (MCI); Enold Joseph as Minister of Defense (MD); Nazareth Auguste as Minister of Haitians Living Abroad (MHAVE); Michel Patrick Boivert as Minister of Economy and Finance (MAE); James Cadet as Minister of the Environment (MDE); Sofia Loréus as Minister for Women and Women’s Rights (MCFDF); Liszt Quitel as Minister of the Interior and Territorial Communities (MICT); and Luz Kurta Cassandra François as Minister of Tourism (MT).

Perhaps the appointment which is most emblematic of the new government is that of Berto Dorcé to head the all-important Justice Ministry. Formerly a justice of the peace in Miragoâne, Berto was found guilty for involvement in drug trafficking in 1997 and served six months in jail in Haiti. He has also been the lawyer for Charles “Kiko” St. Rémy, Martelly’s brother-in-law and reportedly Haiti’s most powerful drug trafficker; Dimitri Vorbe, arch-Jovenel foe and the owner of the idled power company SOGENER; and Woodley “Sonson La Familia” Ethéart, the former head of the infamous “Galil Gang,” a former close associate of Martelly.

The re-imprisonment of the drug-trafficking Sonson La Familia has been cited by some as a possible reason for Moïse’s assassination two months later.

After being jailed in 2014 on kidnapping charges, Sonson La Familia was controversially freed from jail in 2015 under Martelly and disappeared from sight. But he went to attend a concert by Martelly’s “Sweet Micky” persona in the Dominican Republic on May 15, 2021, where he was rearrested by Dominican police and turned over to Haitian authorities. He was placed back in jail in Haiti.

The re-imprisonment of the drug-trafficking Sonson La Familia, who was also close to Kiko (the power behind Martelly’s throne), has been cited by some as a possible reason for Moïse’s assassination two months later.

His appointment as Justice Minister augurs that Ethéart may soon be freed from jail. If Kiko and Martelly were indeed involved in Moïse’s assassination (as PM Henry has also been accused), then it is also likely that the investigation into Moïse’s killing will continue to be buried and delayed, further frustrating the calls for “Justice for Jovenel Moïse.”

The SDP members are in heaven after their marriage to the PHTK. In a press conference on Tue., Nov. 30, 2021, they made that clear.

According to André Michel, the SDP team currently leads 5 to 0. He was referring to the five achievements carried out by the Ariel Henry government in the name of the Sep. 11, 2021 Musseau agreement, such as: the dismissal of the Justice Minister Rockefeller Vincent and Government Prosecutor Bedford Claude, the change of the national police chief, the reshuffling of the government led by Dr. Ariel Henry, and the release of several personalities and political activists including former deputy Arnel Bélizaire. However, Belizaire refuses to identify his release as the result of any agreement at this time.

Former Deputy Arnel Bélizaire in court on Oct. 11, 2021 with his then lawyer André Michel. Photo: John Wesley Amady/Haiti Liberté

Long before his arrest in November 2019, Bélizaire in an interview with Radio Caraïbes on Nov. 21, 2018 had called André Michel “a malicious man” and asserted that “the fight to oust President Jovenel Moise from power will get the country nowhere.”

“You know how to read, you know that the system change of which you speak is not in our direction,” Bélizaire reproached André Michel.

While lawyer André Michel put the release of the former deputy for Delmas as part of the Sep. 11 agreement, it is not very clear why Bélizaire then dismissed him from his defense team on Oct. 11, 2021. “At this stage of the case, I have decided to continue with lawyers who have not signed any political agreement and who will be able to agree to define a good defense plan before the Appeals Court,” Bélizaire said.

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