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Haitian Diaspora Expresses Frustrations With U.S. Haiti Policy at Congressional Hearing

Miami Haitian-American community leader Leonie Hermantin speaks to the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere in Washington Tuesday morning during a hearing on the Haiti crisis.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington held a hearing Tuesday on the worsening crisis in Haiti. Haitian expats, some from Miami, expressed frustrations with Trump Administration policy towards Haiti.

The U.S. House’s Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere called the hearing “Haiti on the Brink.” The country is facing one of its worst political and humanitarian crises in decades.

Millions of Haitians are calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse, who is widely accused of corruption and human rights violations. Through a translator, Haitian human rights activist Pierre Espérance, who heads the independent National Human Rights Defense Network, described what he called the growing scope of state brutality.

"Since 2018," he told the committe, "the current administration in Haiti has used armed gangs to repress political dissent in Haiti.”

Espérance charged there have been at least five massacres of civilians since last year killing 127 people. Moïse has denied government involvement in the violence. But his police are also accused of killing almost 200 protesters in the past 18 months.

As a result, Haitian-American activists like Leonie Hermantin, a director at the Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center in North Miami, asked why U.S. policy still supports Moïse when, for example, it calls for democracy in Hong Kong.

“When it comes to Haiti," said Hermantin, "the U.S. has made it clear that it believes in elections and democratic process, but has ignored the Haitian people’s relentless demands for change.”

Speakers at the hearing argued Haiti’s crisis means the Trump Administration should extend TPS, or Temporary Protected Status, to Haitians in the U.S.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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