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Cablegate: Senator Youri Latortue On Haiti's Political Impasse

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8527
INFO RUEHZH/HAITI COLLECTIVE
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 1990
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 0197
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA 1770
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PORT AU PRINCE 001024

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STATE FOR WHA/CAR, DRL, S/CRS, INR/IAA
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
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TREASURY FOR MAUREEN WAFER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/17/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL HA
SUBJECT: SENATOR YOURI LATORTUE ON HAITI'S POLITICAL IMPASSE

REF: 07 PORT AU PRINCE 01138

PORT AU PR 00001024 001.4 OF 003


Classified By: Ambassador Janet Sanderson. Reason: E.O. 12958 1.4 (b) , (d)

Summary
-------

1. (C) Senator Youri Latortue supports the current Prime
Minister-designate but anticipates a tough fight over the
confirmation of her cabinet and government program, which he
believes should focus on bolstering internal security,
domestic production, and local government. He puts the blame
for the April food riots on Fanmi Lavalas elements, and says
Prime Minister Alexis deserved to be ousted for failing to
deliver on key social and economic promises. Latortue
believes that besides the Haitian National Police, Haiti
needs at least a gendarmerie, or better yet an army, to
assure security along the maritime and land borders. He
wants government efforts at boosting domestic production to
focus on agriculture, particularly in his home region of the
Artibonite. He sees President Preval scheming to amend the
constitution to allow himself a third term. With a shady and
possibly criminal past, Latortue is an unavoidable presence
in the Senate, a key player in judicial reform and the
confirmation of a new government, and a likely Presidential
contender in 2011. End Summary.

Supports PM-Designate, But Will Press His Issues
--------------------------------------------- ---

2. (C) PolCouns on July 11 called on Senator Youri Latortue,
first Senator from the Artibonite Department, who represents
the party he founded, Artibonite in Action (LAAA). Latortue
said he would vote to confirm Michele Pierre-Louis as Prime
Minister. Reacting to controversy over allegations she is in
a homosexual relationship, he said he had asked her directly
whether she was living with another woman, and she replied,
no, she lived in her own apartment. Latortue said that was
enough for him, although he hoped she would say that
publicly. (Note: Latortue has since affirmed his support
for Pierre-Louis in public. End Note) He was fairly
confident there was a majority of 10 Senators for the first
stage of her confirmation process, in which both houses of
Parliament vote on whether she satisfies constitutional
eligibility requirements.

3. (C) He predicted however, that the subsequent vote on her
cabinet and political program would be more difficult. For
that, she will need 16 votes in the Senate. Latortue said
that Senator Edmonde Supplice Beauzile is firmly determined
to vote against Pierre Louis, seeing her as a political
rival. (Note: Beauzile has since said in public she will
either abstain or vote against Pierre-Louis. End Note)
Senate President Bastien cannot vote except to break a tie.
Thus all 16 remaining Senators must vote yes if her cabinet
and program are to pass. (Note: twelve Senate seats are
vacant, ten because elections for one-third of the Senate
have not been held, one because of a death in office, and one
Senator expelled for allegedly having dual nationality. The
vote of confidence in a new Prime Minister's cabinet and
policy declaration requires a majority of all Senators,
whether their seats are filled nor not, i.e., 16 of 30. End
Note).

4. (C) The Senator confided that he has told Pierre-Louis
directly that, for him to support her on the later vote on
her cabinet and government program, he wants her to address
''national production,'' decentralization, and security. He
is seeking only general agreement with the PM-designate on
priorities, not a detailed policy outline or promises of
specific projects. Although Latortue has stated publicly his
support for reestablishing Haiti's army, he told PolCouns he
is not seeking a commitment from the PM-designate to
re-establish an army. He opposes deputies, demands for
ministerial and other posts as a condition for ratification,
as no government could ever satisfy all these demands.

Latortue's Role in April
------------------------

5. (C) When PolCouns inquired about the origin of the April
riots, Latortue blamed ''certain elements'' in Fanmi Lavalas
for organizing the violence. He claimed that four people
arrested in connection with those disorders were Fanmi
Lavalas people. Asked why he marshaled his Senate colleagues
into a vote to oust the government of Prime Minister Alexis,
he claimed that Alexis had failed to deliver on his original
program centered on increasing security, stimulating domestic
production, and enacting social programs. He said Alexis had
used the "Cooperative of Progressive Parliamentarians" (CPP -
the informal majority bloc in the Chamber of Deputies) to
block Preval,s first two PM nominations. He accused Alexis
of in effect bribing deputies with checks for
school-reopening programs -- although the checks were handed
out in April and school does not begin until September.
Alexis also had failed to bring any improvements to his home
department, the Artibonite. Latortue brushed aside PolCouns'
reference to the widespread belief that he and Alexis are
rivals based on competition for dominance in their home
territory of Artibonite.

The Latortue Political Program
------------------------------

7. (C) Latortue outlined the three pillars of his political
program: bolstering domestic security, stimulating domestic
production, and strengthening local government. Latortue's
security program centers on 1) expanding Haitian National
Police (HNP) coverage of the country. Most HNP forces are
now concentrated in the capital. He advocated 1) posting the
next two HNP graduating classes in rural areas, which
currently have virtually no police presence; 2) creating a
coordinated national intelligence institution; and 3)
establishing an army or a gendarmerie. Although he would
prefer an army, when President Preval told him he preferred a
gendarmerie, Lartortue said that would be okay. The Senator
thought a gendarmerie should be 3-5,000 strong, and that its
primary task should be coastal and border security.

8. (C) Recalling that his home department of the Artibonite
had once been Haiti's breadbasket, Latortue claimed that only
20,000 out of 80,000 hectares of arable land in that region
now was cultivated. A generation ago, Haiti had produced
400,000 tons of rice annually and consumed 320,000, leaving
80,000 tons for export. Now, Haiti produced only 90,000
tons. Government help with credit and fertilizer could
quickly up that figure to 200,000. The next government
should take these easy steps.

9. (C) The Senator declared that he strongly supports
decentralization. The central government should give
municipalities the money they need at the beginning of every
budget year to run their operations. Currently, they are fed
money in intermittent dribbles throughout the year, which
makes rational municipal management and budgeting impossible.


The Constitution, Presidential Ambitions
----------------------------------------

10. (C) Latortue says that he and many other politicians
believe that Preval,s motive for wanting to change the
constitution is to allow him to run again. He claimed Preval
asked him directly why he should not be allowed to run for a
third term if he remained popular. The Senator was coy about
his own intentions on running in 2011. If people showed him
their support, he said, he would run. If not, he would
support someone else.

Comment
-------

11. (C) Latortue is an unavoidable presence in the Senate
and one of that body's most active members. He was the prime
mover behind the April 12 Senate vote that brought down the
government of PM Alexis. He has been an active collaborator
on Senate efforts on judicial reform, a frequent interlocutor
of President Preval, and in the vortex of the Senate debate
on confirming the next Prime Minister. He could well be a
formidable Presidential candidate in 2011, despite his
professed lack of serious interest. Embassy nevertheless
remains conscious of Latortue's shady past (which may well
continue into the present) and of his possible drug
associations. While Latortue is the most articulate and
media-savvy of Senators, his messages to foreign diplomatic
interlocutors are carefully tailored around his political
agenda. Embassy will continue to maintain discreet, working
level contact with Latortue in the interest of gathering
information.
SANDERSON

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