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A man walks in front of a mural copying "The Last Supper" in Port-au-Prince, Haiti (file photo) A man walks in front of a mural copying "The Last Supper" in Port-au-Prince, Haiti (file photo)  (ANSA)

Haiti bishops oppose proposed changes to Constitution

The Bishops of Haiti have sent a message asking authorities to rethink their proposed changes to the nation's constitution, amid social and political tensions.

By Vatican News staff writer

The Bishops' Conference of Haiti has written a message to speak up against the authorities' decision to reform the Constitution. The bishops stress that such a measure cannot be taken in the midst of a national socio-political crisis, due to which it is difficult to obtain the consent of the entire population.

A referendum on the Fundamental Charter is scheduled for 27 June, but modifications have encountered consternation from both opposition forces and those close to the Head of State, President Jovanel Moise.

The reform would enhance the powers of the president, who has been the subject of numerous popular protests since October 2019, and has been accused of corruption. Riots have forced the postponement of legislative elections set for January 2020, leading the government to act through continuous decrees.

The Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the ongoing social crisis, causing nearly 15,000 infections and more than 300 deaths. At the same time the island's inhabitants are victim to terrible violence, due to armed gangs, so-called "death squads" that sow terror everywhere, in a context of almost total impunity.

The Bishops' message

In their message, the bishops write that "in these difficult times in our history as a people, we hear the cries of our brothers and sisters, cries provoked by such terrible evils as the multiplication of heavily armed gangs that make the law and impose their diktats; violence in all its forms; kidnappings; insecurity that prevents free movement on the national territory; criminality; impunity; political instability; the deterioration of state structures; the high cost of living; the Covid-19 pandemic."

For this reason, the Bishops Conference of Haiti calls on politicians of all parties to "avoid placing heavy burdens on the shoulders of the people that will have the consequence of slowing down or even blocking its path to full development."

Burden of a new Constitution

Among these burdens the bishops cite precisely "the desire to provide the country, at all costs, with a new Constitution, through a referendum."

What is needed, first and foremost, they say, is "to seek the right and consensual way to achieve this goal", and "this is not the case at the moment". Deciding to replace the Fundamental Charter, the bishops stress, is not possible "in the midst of a political crisis in which it is difficult to reach an agreement," and "persevering on this point will plunge the country into an even more serious crisis."

They allege that the current social and political situation, made up of "division, mistrust and violence of all kinds," is not at all conducive "to a project of this magnitude, which would rather imply collaboration between all national forces."

The bishops state that "to renounce the project of a referendum would therefore be the wise decision to take."

"We implore you to prevent the country from knowing even darker and even worse days than those we are currently experiencing,." they appeal.

The thoughts of the Haitian bishops then extend to the population that "can no longer wait to see the nation emerge from misery, insecurity, instability and chronic lawlessness." Hence, they call on all Haitian politicians to "work urgently, immediately, for peace and profound change," relaunching "without delay the democratic process that allows citizens to choose their legitimate leaders through free and transparent elections."

To all Haitians

Finally, the country's bishops urge all Haitians "not to let themselves steal the hope of a future of peace and participation in the construction of democracy."

"Haiti will live!" concludes the bishops' message, which finally entrusts the country to the intercession of its Patroness, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

02 June 2021, 10:31