11 July 2021
Allegedly, the assassination of Haitian ex-president Jovenel Moïse was carried out by a group of foreign actors, the majority of them ex-members of the Colombian army and some U.S. citizens. At least this is the version told by local authorities. But there are still missing pieces to the puzzle in this assassination that has rocked the Caribbean country, one of the poorest in Latin American.
By Daniel Sugasti, translated to English by Rita Brown
Thus far the police have killed three Colombians and detained 17 other suspects. Investigators have indicated there were at least 28 people involved in the plot. A large group of Haitians congregated in the immediate area of police operations in Port-au-Prince where they burned cars and a residence that served as the safe house for the suspected assassins who were denounced as foreign aggressors.
There is no information about the motivation behind the attempt or those who were involved. The Colombian government acknowledged that six of those detained are ex-members of the armed forces and offered their collaboration in solving the case. In fact, experienced and highly trained Colombian ex-military are considered desirable by private military contractors that operate in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
The worsening situation in Haiti has an uncertain international dimension. The United States fears a migratory crisis. The Dominican Republic, the neighboring country of Haiti since 1821, fears the same. Colombia can’t ignore the origin of the mercenaries involved. All are concerned about the possibility of a violent social uprising. At the domestic level, the political consequences are impossible to anticipate. The last assassination of a president occurred in 1915, a situation which lead to the U.S. occupation of the island nation.
The assassination of Moïse has opened a serious institutional crisis. Prime minister Claude Joseph took the initiative and declared a state of siege within the whole territory, thus granting expanded powers to the army. However, neurologist Ariel Henry has claimed Joseph’s position for himself. Henry had been named by the deceased president two days before his assassination, but he wasn’t yet able to assume his duties. He would have been the Moïse government’s seventh prime minister, a fact that is better understood in light of the fact that Haiti has had 20 presidents in 35 years. To complicate things further, on Friday a group of senators accused Joseph of “instigating a coup d’état” and they demanded that Joseph Lambert, president of the Senate, assume power. A constitutional solution for this impasse could be the assumption of control by the president of the supreme court. But René Sylvestre, the last man who occupied that position, died from Covid last month.
In addition, the presidential and legislative elections which had been scheduled for the end of September have been cast into doubt. The legal succession of Moïse is anticipated to be turbulent, above all if we consider the context of a country that has been devastated by imperial plunder, the bloody oppression of dictatorships, the actions of paramilitary organizations that have sown fear among the masses, natural disasters, and a dire humanitarian crisis. The political instability has sharpened in the midst of a desperate situation for working people. To give an idea, UNICEF has declared the country to be experiencing “the worst humanitarian crisis in recent years.”
The first thing that should be said is that the Haitian people have no reason to mourn the death of Moïse who is a representative of the native bourgeoisie: a corrupt ruling class that has been ruthless with the Haitian people but servile to imperialism while they have governed with the methods of dictatorship.
The ex-president rose to power with his credentials as a successful businessmen. His primary business activity was the production of organic bananas. In 2012 he created the company Agritrans, located in the first customs-free agricultural zone in the country on a plantation of nearly one thousand hectares. His agricultural products were exported to Europe, principally Germany. With his fame of being “the banana man,” he was chosen as the candidate for the Tèt Kale party by president at the time Michel Martelly who prepared his succession. He won the November 2016 elections and began his mandate February 7, 2017.
Moïse’s government was marked by grave accusations of corruption and successive waves of social protest. The peak of popular mobilizations was in 2019 when thousands of people in the streets nearly paralyzed the country. The spark that set off protest was the dramatic humanitarian crisis aggravated by a corruption scandal that implicated the leading heads of government who were accused of embezzling $3.8 million dollars from the program for petroleum assistance PetroCaribe. The slogan in the streets was “Out Moïse!”
But Moïse never considered resigning and instead responded with brutal repression. In October 2019 he suspended the parliamentary elections. In January 2020 he dissolved parliament and regional governments and turned to governance by decree. Because Moïse could not have presented himself as a candidate in September elections, he called for a constitutional referendum on the same day. He said the referendum would serve to “modernize” the constitution, but the opposition denounced that his real objective was to eliminate the article that impeded his reelection.
The acting prime minister and the “international community”—Washington, the Security Council, the UN, and the European Union—are concerned that this new crisis could encourage new popular mobilizations that challenge imperialist business and their ties to the Haitian bourgeoisie. They know that Haiti is a time bomb and the specter of “social chaos” might reappear in the palace halls. Foreign governments have demanded that the elections continue as scheduled on September 26. In the meantime the Biden government has recognized Joseph as head of government.
It is likely that the assassination of Moïse was an act of settling the score among the bourgeois sectors. He had plenty of political enemies, above all in the oligarchic sectors who had been ousted from the more lucrative businesses. The possibility that the crisis might precipitate imperialist military intervention cannot be ruled out. Using the excuse of “social and institutional chaos” the Haitian authorities requested the United States and the United Nations send troops to protect the port, airport, gas reserves and key infrastructure. The State Department and the Pentagon confirmed the request but have not yet confirmed if the military will in fact be deployed. This is a grave situation and should be denounced.
Haiti was occupied by the U.S on various occasions. The last occupation occurred between 2004 and 2007 under the auspices of the “humanitarian mission” of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (known by its French acronym MINUSTAH). It was led by Brazilian troops sent by then-president Lula in common agreement with George W. Bush, and integrated by troops of various Latin American militaries, many of them governed by “progressive” presidents. This mission had nothing to do with keeping the “peace” in Haiti but rather with protecting imperialist investments and maintaining the flow of legal and illegal business. It is evident that this imperialist intervention, covered by the UN, did not solve any of the problems affecting the Haitian people. On the contrary, it left a legacy of oppression and violence including numerous accusations of sexual abuse and the propagation of cholera. It is no coincidence that many high-ranking Brazilian officials who led the shameful occupation now head important offices in the Bolsonaro government.
It isn’t hard to understand the hatred reflected on the walls of the old headquarters of MINUSTAH, which has been stoned time and again by the Haitian people.
Haiti is an extremely poor country, but its people are courageous. They are conscious of their history. It is the only country that guaranteed its independence with a revolution led by enslaved blacks who defeated the French, Spanish, and English empire in the nineteenth century. In order to consolidate itself, the Haitian revolution physically exterminated white populations, the majority of whom were slave owners.
Imperialism never forgave the audacity of the Haitian people and has since submitted them to all manner of sanctions, heavy debts, and military occupations. Haiti paid a very high price for its rebelliousness. In 2021, 60% of the population was living in poverty. The UN estimates that nearly four million Haitians in a population of 11.5 million suffer from food insecurity. A fifth of their inhabitants have been forced to immigrate. The shoddy infrastructure reinforces the destructive power of natural disasters. The 2010 earthquake, for example, killed 300,000 people and left 1,500,000 people homeless. In 2016, hurricane Matthew swept the Southeastern part of the country causing 573 deaths and leaving two million people affected. Hurricane Laura hit the country in August 2020 in the middle of the pandemic, leaving in its wake dozens of deaths and material destruction. Without a public health system, epidemics take a toll on the population. The cholera epidemic in 2010 affected 520,00 people and killed at least 7,000. Thus far there have been 19,220 documented cases of COVID-19 and the number of deaths has reached 471, although specialists agree that the numbers are probably much higher due to the lack of proper reporting. Haiti has not received a single dose of COVID vaccines.
For the time being, the White House has announced they will send FBI and national security to investigate the assassination and protect public order. The United States has also donated 5 million dollars to strengthen Haitian police forces and an unspecified lot of COVID vaccines. But the situation might make imperialism decide to intervene in a more forceful way.
It is necessary for the working class and the Haitian people organize and mobilize. No confidence in acting governments or imperialism. Any and all types of foreign intervention should be categorically rejected. It is only possible to accept humanitarian air offered unconditionally. The people of the world should pay attention to the crisis in Haiti and demonstrate active solidarity.
Revolutionaries should oppose any attempt imperialist intervention. Beyond the impasse supposed by succession and to the extent that there is no popular mobilization, the next best option is to demand an immediate calling of free and sovereign general elections. The working class and the people have taken the streets innumerable times to defeat Moïse. Now that he’s dead, it is unacceptable that members of his corrupt and repressive faction, who have completely sold out the country continue to govern it. The struggle against the interim government, repressive local forces, paramilitary groups, and imperialism should be confronted from a socialist and working class perspective.
The original article can be found in Spanish here