No decision yet on replacing Philippe in Haitian Senate

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PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, Apr 29, CMC – The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) says it is yet to decide on the political future of former rebel leader turned politician, Guy Philippe, who pleaded guilty earlier this week to a drug money-laundering charge in the United States.
The deal between US law enforcement authorities and Philippe could result in the former police officer avoiding a potential sentence of life in prison for cocaine trafficking.
Under the plea deal, the recommended prison sentence for Guy Philippe is nine years and the drug trafficking charge would be dropped. He also faces a US$1.5 million fine at a sentencing hearing July 5.
CEP Executive Director Uder Antoine said that the Council has not yet decided what decision to take regarding Philippe, who was elected as a senator in last Novembers elections in Haiti.
The electoral decree is silent on the procedures cancelling the election of an elected senator who has not yet taken an oath, Antoine said.
He said while the CEP does not intend to leave the seat vacant, there are several alternatives that could be looked at including a new by-election in Grand’Anse, which will entail costs or replacing Phlippe with Sorel Jacinthe, the second person with the highest votes in the area.
But he made it clear that in all cases the CEP must await the verdict of the American justice system before acting.
Philippe admitted Monday in court that, as a high-ranking Haitian police commander in the city of Cap-Haitien, he accepted between $1.5 million and $3.5 million from drug smugglers from 1999 to 2003. Prosecutors say Philippe and other police officers took the money in exchange for ensuring safe passage for cocaine shipments from Colombia and other countries that went through Haiti on their way to Miami and other U.S. destinations.

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