PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haitian President Jovenel Moïse broke with tradition on Wednesday and celebrated the country’s independence day in the capital for security reasons following months of political turmoil.
Moïse, whose government has been accused of corruption, denounced graft during his speech at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince and urged Haiti’s elite to work with the government and help create employment.
“We’re still extremely poor,” he said. “Those who continue to get rich find it normal that they do not pay taxes, find it normal that there can be no competition, find it normal that they set prices for consumers, especially when this consumer is the state itself.”
Moïse also apologized for the country’s ongoing power outages and renewed his 2016 campaign pledge to provide electricity 24 hours a day, saying it was harder to accomplish than he imagined.
The speech that marked the 216th anniversary of the world’s first black republic was originally slated to take place in the northern coastal town of Gonaives, where Jean-Jacques Dessalines declared Haiti’s independence. But the celebration was moved to the capital, Port-Au-Prince because of the destruction caused by protests in Gonaives. Opposition parties also warned the President not visit the town on Independence Day.
On Monday, Jules Charles Faustin, the Political Advisor to the Head of State made the announcement, stressing “January 1 is a national holiday that deserves to be celebrated throughout solemnity required. This is not the time to enter into confrontations.”
He explained that nothing forces the President in the Constitution to celebrate the independence of Haiti in historical sites recalling that during his 2nd term, President Préval did not go to Vertières.
Responding to threats from the opposition to prevent Moïse from going to Gonaïves, Faustin recalled that the Head of State had made two visits to Gonaïves on December 14 and 28.
For his part, the senator of the radical opposition Youri Latortue welcomed the absence of the Head of State in Gonaïves. The opposition will celebrate Independence Day with a patriotic vigil and a ceremony in memory of activists who fell during anti-government protests in the ArtiboniteE