By: Yves Pierre-Louis & Kim Ives - Haiti Liberté

On June 23, President Rene Preval nominated Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis, executive director of the Knowledge and Freedom Foundation (FOKAL), to be Haiti's next Prime Minister. Haiti's Chamber of Deputies rejected Preval's two previous nominees, Inter-American Development Bank economist Ericq Pierre and close political advisor Robert Manuel, on May 12 and June 12 respectively (see Haiti Liberte, Vol. 1, No. 48, 6/18/2008).

The nominees are to replace Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis, whom the Haitian Senate voted out of office on April 12 following nationwide food riots.

Preval chose Pierre-Louis after consultation with Senate president Kelly Bastien and Chamber of Deputies president Pierre Eric Jean-Jacques. "It is a good choice," said Bastien. "In the upper house, the Senators support the ratification of Madame Pierre-Louis. The papers of the Prime Minister-designate are in order, and she has a good knowledge of the socio-economic realities of the country."

Port-de-Paix deputy Lucas St-Vil, the president of the largest parliamentary block, the Coalition of Progressive Parliamentarians (CPP), welcomed Pierre-Louis' appointment. He said the CPP will review her papers as quickly as possible and that, barring any irregularities, she would be ratified. St. Vil's benediction augurs well for Pierre-Louis, since the CPP's opposition defeated the two previous nominations.

Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis, 60, was born in the southwestern city of Jeremie on October 5, 1947. She received her primary education in Haiti and then earned a Masters in economics from Queens College (NY) in 1976 and a Doctorate in Humanities in 2004 from St. Michael's College in Burlington, Vermont.

From 1979 to1982, she was Assistant Director-General of the National Airport Authority (AAN), responsible for AAN administration and relations with the government, national agencies and international users. From 1986 to 1988, she was a national trainer in Mission Alpha, a national literacy program sponsored by the Catholic Church in Haiti. In 1991, she was a member of President Jean Bertrand Aristide's Cabinet in charge of redefining state missions and coordinating between the president and ministers addressing the demands of peasant organizations for an agrarian reform.

Pierre-Louis was also director of the Karl Leveque Institute, a human rights center. There she organized seminars and workshops with popular organizations working to rebuild civil society after the Duvalier dictatorship fell in 1986. She was a management consultant at the Haitian Development Foundation, and co-director and co-owner (with Rene Preval) of the Bakery of the Center in the capital. She has also served as executive director of the Haitian Financial Company of Development (SOFIHDES), overseeing the administration, staff and relations with the board of directors, and head of the Credit Bank of Nova Scotia in Delmas.

Since 1995, Pierre-Louis has been executive director of FOKAL; a non-governmental organization supported by financier George Soros' Open Society Institute. FOKAL sponsors diverse educational programs, library developments, cultural events, books and CDs, community development projects, environmental campaigns and women's rights programs. She is currently a professor at Quisqueya University, in the Educational Sciences department.

Pierre-Louis was previously considered for the post of Prime Minister by President Aristide in 1993, although he chose instead publisher Robert Malval.

Politically, Pierre-Louis became alienated from Aristide and his Lavalas Family party in recent years. In league with the bourgeoisie's "civil" opposition front Group of 184, FOKAL played a small but visible role in late 2003 and early 2004 in characterizing the Constitutional government as repressive and intimidating. In a Dec. 11, 2003 press release, Pierre-Louis denounced what she viewed as the Aristide "government's hostility to higher education and to basic human rights, including the right to demonstrate peacefully" following a Dec. 5, 2003 skirmish between college students and pro-government popular organizations at the State University. "FOKAL is appalled by the government's apparent emphasis on teaching young people violence and hatred instead of trying to instill a love of learning and tolerance," Pierre-Louis wrote in her release at the time.

However, Pierre-Louis has remained close to President Preval, her former business partner. She oversaw the organizing of the funeral for assassinated radio journalist Jean Dominique in April 2000.

Born Michele Duvivier, she was married to, but then divorced, businessman Edouard Pierre-Louis with whom she had a daughter, Elizabeth, in 1972.