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Haiti leader speaks of more power for diaspora amid strife

February 1, 2021 GMT
People walk in a street left empty by a nationwide strike demanding the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moise in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
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People walk in a street left empty by a nationwide strike demanding the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moise in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
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People walk in a street left empty by a nationwide strike demanding the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moise in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haitian President Jovenel Moïse said Monday that proposed constitutional amendments would allow members of the country’s diaspora to run for the presidency and other high-ranking offices.

The announcement came during an online public address during which Moïse reiterated that he would not step down until February 2022 and urged Haitians to support the creation of a new constitution, which is due to be voted upon in April.

“It’s time to change it,” he said. “We can’t continue like this. The country is paralyzed.”

Moïse spoke on the first day of a two-day transportation strike that paralyzed parts of Haiti and forced the closure of banks, schools and businesses. Haiti also has been hit by ongoing, often violent protests in recent years against corruption and for better living conditions.

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The proposed constitutional changes are expected to be made public this week as opposition leaders step up their demands that Moïse relinquish power on Sunday, arguing that his five-year term began when that of former President Michel Martelly expired in February 2016.

However, a chaotic election process led to the appointment of a provisional president for a year until Moïse was sworn in a year later.

Moïse also pledged to keep fighting a rise in kidnapping, saying he won’t allow gang members to scare people into not participating in the upcoming constitutional referendum or the general elections scheduled for later this year.