Haiti leader suffers another set back
By TRENTON DANIEL
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haitian lawmakers rejected President Michel Martelly’s second pick for prime minister Tuesday, delivering a major blow to the new leader as he struggles to get a government in place almost three months after taking office.
In a sometime raucous debate that began in the afternoon and lasted into the night, 16 senators voted against the nomination of Bernard Gousse, a controversial former justice minister. The rest of the 30-member Senate refrained from voting.
The rejection of Gousse as Martelly’s second choice for Haiti’s No. 2 official means the president will begin the selection process all over again, which stands to push back the potential installation of a Cabinet by several weeks if not longer.
The hold up has hampered the Martelly administration’s efforts to make headway on implementing policies that would help Haitians recover from last year’s crippling earthquake.
Martelly’s first pick as prime minister, businessman Daniel-Gerard Rouzier, was turned down by the Chamber of Deputies because of questions over his citizenship and taxes. But Gousse, an attorney, seemed like a candidate who would meet even more opposition because he was so controversial.
A local law firm filed a petition last month for the legislature to investigate Gousse. The lawyers alleged he was guilty of false imprisonment and being an accomplice to murder during his time as justice minister in the interim government that took office after a violent rebellion in 2004 drove then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile.
Gousse resigned back then amid charges that he was persecuting Aristide supporters.
Despite Gousse’s record, Martelly expressed confidence that lawmakers would approve his choice for prime minister but it wasn’t clear why.
After Martelly submitted Gousse as a nominee, senators from different political parties got together and called themselves the Group of 16. They united over their opposition of Gousse as a potential prime minister.
That same sentiment played out in the Senate debate Tuesday as lawmakers debated Gousse’s papers, qualifications, and whether he obtained a certificate showing he had a clean record as a public official from his time as justice minister.
Before the vote late Tuesday night, it was clear how many of the senators felt.
“The Group of 16 is going to vote against Gousse no matter what,” said Evalliere Beauplan, a member of the Group of 16. “He’s not going to make it through.”
Sen. Youri Latortue who fought for Gousse to be approved said he couldn’t understand why the nominee was turned down. Gousse’s paperwork was in order, Latortue said