PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti — Haiti’s embattled Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe says he is ready for a new chapter, one away from his country’s high-stakes, unforgiving political trenches.
“Having been in office for 31 months, I always said I was going to be part of the solution, never part of the problem,” Lamothe said in a Miami Herald interview in the courtyard of his home in Port-au-Prince’s Turgeau neighborhood.
“Now I am moving on to the next chapter. For now, the immediate chapter is to take some rest and spend some time with my kids,” he added – “do some lectures and seminars at Harvard, and that’s it for now.”
Two days after his resignation from office at the request of President Michel Martelly, Lamothe is still in charge but in a caretaker role until Martelly names an interim prime minister.
On Monday, Martelly spent part of the day meeting with lawmakers, members of the electoral council and the head of the Supreme Court but did not announce who would temporarily replace Lamothe, his best friend and confidante. Despite their closeness, Martelly requested Lamothe’s resignation Friday as part of his decision to agree to a series of concessions recommended by an 11-member presidential commission that he appointed to help unblock the worsening crisis.
“By giving 95 percent of what they were asking for, there shouldn’t be now any more reasons not to go to elections, not to participate in inclusive elections,” Lamothe said of the commission’s report, which not only called for his resignation but that of the controversial head of the Supreme Court and a new provisional electoral council.
He described his offer to resign to end the crisis as the “ultimate sacrifice,” and “a leap of faith.”
“I put it all on the line. I gave it my soul, my heart, everything I could for this country to get better,” he said.
Whether the sacrifice will be worth it is unclear. Opposition leaders, who had demanded Lamothe’s and Martelly’s resignations in growing protests, announced another anti-government demonstration for Tuesday, and vowed to keep up mobilizations on the streets until Martelly resigns. They accuse him of dragging his feet on long-overdue local and legislative elections so that he could rule by decree on Jan. 12. On that date, the terms of the entire lower chamber, and another one-third of the Senate will expire and parliament will be nonfunctional.
On Monday, Presidential Palace spokesman Lucien Jura reiterated that “no sacrifice was too great” for Martelly to make on behalf of Haiti, and called on the country’s opposition to show the same kind of “wisdom” to help Haiti. Lamothe also did the same.
“We have to focus on every step of this report and making sure that the opposition also participates in it so that you can have a comprehensive package to get out of the situation,” he said. “I think it’s time to engage in a direct dialogue also with the institutions, with the parliament, with the Senate … and listen to their issues.
“Have a last-ditch effort, if you will, between all of us to pull the country out of the impasse,” he added.
Like others, he points out that the commendations in the report are the same measures that the opposition parties asked for with one exception: It does not call for the resignation of Martelly.
Instead, the report asks Martelly to make certain concessions including negotiating with the opposition to form a new consensus government, more representative of the political parties in parliament, and tapping a prime minister who could lead Haiti into inclusive, fair and credible elections.
Who that person should be or what profile he or she should possess isn’t up to him, Lamothe said; It’s for the president to decide, he added.
Lamothe continued to defend his record, reiterating that when Martelly was elected in 2011, they found a country that had been destroyed by an earthquake; where donors were slow to make good on pledges; and one that until then, had always depended on others to speak on its behalf.
“I always tried to take decisions I felt were good for the community, for the greater good and tried to put aside all personal interests as well as I could, and giving it my all,” he said.
But giving it his all often triggered criticism over how he and Martelly’s penchant for travel, often flying private or business class, and enlarging the country’s foreign debt after it had been forgiven following the quake.
“If you compare the trips the president took and that I took, and then you put into balance the one agreement that Haiti got, for example … just take the Carnival Cruise Lines for example $70 million, that offsets any trips that are done,” he said.
And as for accusations that he used his role as prime minister to launch a presidential bid, no such thing, he said.
“We wanted to show people what progress was happening in the country and of course that led to a misperception that I am trying to run for president,” he said. “I always said it, I told that to the president, I told that to the press, I was always clear I was not a presidential candidate.”