Cablegate: Prime Minister Forms Cabinet
O 172229Z MAR 04 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5750
INFO AMEMBASSY BERLIN
AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
AMEMBASSY PORT OF SPAIN
AMEMBASSY SANTO DOMINGO
DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
HQ USSOUTHCOM J2 MIAMI FL
C O N F I D E N T I A L PORT AU PRINCE 000520
STATE FOR SES-O/HMG, WHA/CAR AND P
WHA/EX PASS TO USOAS
NSC FOR SHANNON
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/16/2009
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR PREL HA
SUBJECT: PRIME MINISTER FORMS CABINET
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JAMES B. FOLEY. REASONS 1.5(B) AND (D)
1. (C) Summary. Prime Minister Latortue finalized his
cabinet choices on the afternoon of March 16, following
consultations with President Alexandre. The cabinet was
installed at 14:00 on March 17. Latortue chose to
consolidate several existing ministries as a cost-cutting
measure, naming only 13 ministers and five secretaries of
state. He also opted for a non-partisan, technocratic
government; while three of his cabinet choices worked
previously in Lavalas administrations, none of the eighteen
have strong ties to either Lavalas or the "opposition"
parties. In reaction, the Convergence Democratique (CD)
issued a March 17 statement protesting their "exclusion" from
the "government of national unity," but acknowledged that
Latortue's choices were good ones. Though President
Alexandre agreed to name only one -- rather than his desired
two -- ministers (the Minister of Social Affairs), Latortue
told Ambassador that he sees growing problems with the
President, and particularly with the latter's ambitious,
potentially corrupt personal staff. End Summary.
2. (C) The following individuals were named to Latortue's
government, and will be formally sworn into office on the
afternoon of March 17. Biographic information includes
Post's information and, where noted, Latortue's commentary to
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Yvon Simeon. Former diplomat,
Minister Counselor at Haitian Embassy in Paris.
MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR, LOCAL GOVERNMENT, and NATIONAL
SECURITY: Herard Abraham. Former Commander in Chief of
Haitian Army, Minister of Information, and Minister of
MINISTER OF JUSTICE: Bernard Gousse. University professor and
lawyer. Senior Legal Advisor to IFES Judicial Reform Sector.
Former USAID justice specialist. Worked with civil society
"Group of 184."
MINISTER OF FINANCE: Henri Bazin. President of Association
of Haitian Economists, twenty years of UN experience,
primarily with the UN Economic Commission for Africa (Addis
Ababa). Brother of Marc Bazin.
MINISTER OF HEALTH: Dr. Josette Bijoux. A senior public
health physician and long-term consultant to PAHO
(Pan-American Health Organization). Former Southern
Departmental Director of the Ministry of Health.
MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE: Philippe Mathieu, agronomist.
Latortue told Ambassador that the Council of Eminent Persons
had rejected his candidate and lobbied for Mathieu instead.
Latortue said he did not know Mathieu personally, but that
Mathieu had a "top-notch C.V."
MINISTER OF EDUCATION and CULTURE: Pierre Buteau. University
professor, choice of the National Teacher's Union. Latortue
described Buteau as "widely respected," and capable of
"bringing peace" to an education sector in turmoil after
repeated disruptions to the school year. May lack experience
MINISTER OF PLANNING, ENVIRONMENT, and EXTERIOR COOPERATION:
Roland Pierre, former Vice-Governor of the Central Bank;
former member of CMEP (Council for
Modernization/Privatization of Public Enterprise); former
Director of Industrial Development, Ministry of Finance; and
MINISTER OF COMMERCE, INDUSTRY, and TOURISM: Danielle St.
Lot. Current CCIH (Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Industry)
Executive Director; former member of Latortue's staff
(Foreign Ministry, 1988) and staff member of the Ministry of
Commerce and Industry (1981-88).
MINISTER OF SOCIAL AFFAIRS: Pierre Claude Calixte, lawyer.
President Alexandre's choice; Latortue explained to Council
of Eminent Persons that he had made this appointment solely
based on the President's recommendation. Latortue told
Ambassador that he is worried about this choice, but saw the
necessity of placating Alexandre.
MINISTER OF PUBLIC WORKS: Jean-Paul Toussaint, a former
Public Works Ministry engineer. Latortue described him as
the "private sector" nominee.
MINISTER OF WOMEN'S ISSUES: Adeline Magloire Chancy, a former
Minister of Literacy under Preval and a former law school
classmate of Latortue's.
MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO: Robert Ulysse. Ulysse is a close
friend of Latortue and will work within the Prime Minister's
Office, also serving as government spokesman. Elected
Senator in 1990, lived the last 5-6 years near Latortue in
Boca Raton, working on a Ph.D. in international relations. A
SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FINANCE: Andre Lemercier Georges.
Long-term employee of the Ministry of Finance.
SECRETARY OF STATE FOR CULTURE: Magalie Comeau Denis.
Women's rights advocate, widow of political figure (and Prime
Minister nominee) and playwright, Herve Denis.
SECRETARY OF STATE FOR YOUTH, SPORTS, and CIVIC EDUCATION:
Frantz Leandre. Latortue told Ambassador he had picked
Leandre "against the advice of the Council." (The Council
wanted Evans Lescouflair, who held this post in the Preval
administration.) Latortue described Leandre as "dynamic, a
man of the people," but admitted he was "taking a chance"
with this choice.
SECRETARY OF STATE FOR HAITIANS LIVING ABROAD: Alix Baptiste.
Previous Director General of the MFA, well-known Embassy
contact. A strong supporter of NOAH. Latortue told
Ambassador he envisioned this choice as a way of building
stronger relations with NOAH, which had been previously
supportive of Aristide.
SECRETARY OF STATE FOR ENVIRONMENT: Yves Andre Wainright.
Agronomist, former Preval Minister of Environment.
Latortue Favors Technocrats
3. (C) Latortue told Ambassador that he had made a choice to
exclude "all political parties" from the cabinet, in an
effort to construct a non-partisan, hard-working,
technocratic government. While three cabinet members
(Wainright, Chancy, and Baptiste) had served previously in
Lavalas governments, Latortue explained, they were not
Convergence Feels Snubbed
4. (C) CD reacted to the cabinet choices on March 17, hailing
the formation of a new government "of great competence and
quality." However, CD members "wanted it to be known that
the Prime Minister and Council of Wise Men had decided to
exclude the CD in creating a government of National Union" --
despite that fact that Latortue had included members of the
Lavalas regime (notably, in their eyes, Alex Baptiste.
Comment: Baptiste however, though he was appointed by
Aristide, is not a member of Lavalas and is apolitical. End
Comment.) CD wished the government "good luck," and vowed to
continue to "accompany the population" in monitoring and
observing the government. CD spokesperson Micha Gaillard was
careful to note, however, the CD was not "in opposition" to
5. (C) Gaillard told Poloff privately that "CD's feelings had
been hurt," that Latortue had not chosen one of several men
the coalition had nominated for posts: Alex Larson, Henold
Joseph, Jose Nicholas, or Edgard Leblanc. (Note: Latortue
confirmed to Ambassador that Gerard Pierre-Charles had
pressed him to accept a CD member as Minister of the Interior
-- likely OPL's Leblanc. End Note.) After all CD had done
to fight for Aristide's departure, Gaillard said, "after all
the risks we took, suddenly we have nothing. We wanted to be
present to have our know-how represented in the transition."
Gaillard noted that, "in protest," the CD would not attend
the March 17 installation ceremony.
Prime Minister Worried About President's Men
6. (C) Latortue told Ambassador on March 16 that he was increasingly
troubled by the influence of Chief of Staff Osner Fevry on
President Alexandre, as well as by signs that Alexandre might
be reaching for more than his constitutional powers. He had
met with the President on March 16 to discuss his cabinet
choices, Latortue told Ambassador, and things had gone
smoothly until Alexandre left the room and Fevry entered.
Fevry had pressed him to create a new Ministry of Religious
Affairs, Latortue said, and then argued that Latortue had not
given the political parties enough representation. Latortue
reported to Ambassador that he had told Fevry sharply "I am
here to see the President, not his staff." (In the end,
Alexandre blessed the Cabinet, accepting to name only one
minister rather than the two he had originally requested.)
7. (C) Latortue told Ambassador that he was already
concerned about "shady dealings" in the President's cabinet,
centered around Fevry. Earlier in the week, Latortue
informed Ambassador that Fevry had engineered a purchase of
oil for the GOH at above-market price -- implying that Fevry
might have engineered a kickback. (Comment: Fevry has a
dubious reputation as a lawyer, and recently served time in
jail -- Latortue thinks for forging documents. End Comment.)
8. (C) Latortue told Ambassador that he was also concerned
that Alexandre would try to usurp the Prime Minister's
constitutional powers. In a speech he had given at
Latortue's investiture, the President had mentioned that he
would "give guidance" to the ministries in the development of
their national plans -- a sign, Latortue said, that the
President intended to interfere in the government's agenda.
More worrisome still would be the President's nominations of
Directors General, and a looming battle over control of the
budget. In both instances, Latortue said, he would need
Ambassador's assistance to make sure that Alexandre did not
encroach on the government's prerogatives. (Note:
Ambassador will see President Alexandre on this subject later
in the week.)
Moving Ahead on the CEP?
9. (C) Latortue told Ambassador that he intended to form the
CEP (Provisional Electoral Council) "next week." When
Ambassador expressed surprise that Latortue would move so
quickly on the elections front, Latortue laughed and replied
that the CEP would invariably move slowly to set itself up.
"There is so much work to be done," he concluded, it was best
to launch the process.
10. (C) Comment. Convergence's acknowledgment, even while in
a fit of pique, that Latortue's choices are "of great
competence and quality" is telling. In our opinion, Latortue
did an admirable job of managing the complex array of actors
in this process and mounting a government of experts. While
Latortue's choices may deny him a degree of vocal and
enthusiastic support from the established "opposition"
actors, they bode well for good governance and oversight of a
truly neutral, credible electoral process.