Jovenel Moïse, Haiti’s President was assassinated. Nine brand-new Nissan big 4x4 vehicles, full of armed mercenaries, just drove into his garden, the men jumped out and ran into his house, situated just outside of Port-au-Prince on July 7 pretending to be US Drug Enforcement Agency men, and shot him with machine guns at close range. His wife Martine was also injured.
Four of the mercenaries were killed and dozens arrested. Most were Columbians, a few Haitians with US citizenship. The police afterwards arrested an American pastor, Christian Sanon, who may turn out to be the pre-installed “fall-guy”.
The question remains, “Who paid the mercenaries?” And what should happen now? Is it like the days from 1975 to 95 or so, when a band of mercenaries around Frenchman Bob Denard or British-South African Mike Hoare would land in Comoros or Seychelles, and the “pay master” of the mercenaries would never be exposed or even really sought, though everyone knew it was France or Apartheid South Africa or both?
It seems that the Haitian bourgeoisie, perhaps led by Reginald Boulos, one of Haiti’s oligarchs already in conflict with the late President Moïse, who had an arrest warrant out against him, wanted to get rid of Moïse for a deeper reason as well as to get out of his immediate predicament: as President of Haiti, Moïse was not able to quell a rising revolutionary movement in the shanty towns of the cities of Haiti, and this endangers the oligarchy that runs Haiti. The rebellion of the dispossessed is indeed increasingly expressing itself as a revolution against the entire system, and was getting support now not just from sections of the bourgeoisie that opposed Moïse, but from the broad masses of the people of Haiti faced with literal starvation, what with the entire agricultural economy of Haiti having been destroyed, mainly by neo-liberalism.
The United States Embassy seems to have blatantly stood back and stood by, allowing this coup attempt to take place. The US Embassy would have had all the intelligence information at hand. It would have monitored the 30 or so Columbians being flown in, been aware of them hanging around for weeks, and then driving up and attacking the President by band. They will have been aware, too, of the cash been expended on such a huge operation. Such an attack might provide a pretext, the US Embassy no doubt calculated, for the USA to enter with troops, once again, should need arise to prevent any revolution from erupting.
The coup succeeded in getting all the mercenaries involved either dead, arrested or wanted. The President is dead. And there is a power vacuum of sorts. After two Prime Ministers vying for the place, a new one, Ariel Henri, has been appointed on 20 July, with the previous one, Claude Joseph, moved to Foreign Minister.
Here, in this article, we attempt to describe what may have happened, and to put it in a longer historical context. We have relied, for the recent events, on analyses by journalists of the newspaper Haiti Liberté.
Meanwhile, the rich man believed to have financed the coup, Reginald Boulos is believed to have fled the country since then. His own family, though one of the richest in Haiti, could not have, alone, mounted so big an operation. He would have needed financial contributions from other oligarchs in order to mount an armed challenge involving as many as 30 mercenaries from Columbia, each estimated to earn around a million Mauritian Rupees a month, and what with their air tickets, vehicles, hotels, drinks and armaments all paid for. Amongst those involved in funding was probably another Haitian businessman Dimitry Vorbe, who had fled to the US, less than a year ago, when he fell afoul of Moïse. So, the assassination and foiled coup was likely to have been a joint venture of a few of the rich families, with the US giving tacit support, and with Columbian paid mercenaries pulling the triggers of machine guns.
This is what has been the pattern in previous coups, like the one against Aristide in 2004, when that time, the USA flew the President being deposed out to the USA. Another failed attempt to steal $80 million from the Central Bank a couple of years ago, was also foiled. The mercenaries in that attempt, being American, were escorted in and out of the country – without ever being brought to trial anywhere afterwards.
This time, the Colombian mercenaries will be brought to trial, it seems. The Guardian of 9 July says that Columbian mercenaries “have been turning up in war zones around the world, including Yemen, Iraq, Israel and Afghanistan, for years now”. Columbia seems to export them. They were mostly trained by US military to fight against insurgents in Columbia, and when disbanded after the agreement with the FARC rebels, joined up with private US-based military contractors. Everything has been privatized under neo-liberalism, even war.
The timing of the 7 July coup in Haiti was triggered this time, however, as we have seen, by the fear in the Haitian bourgeoisie of an imminent uprising of the broad masses against the ruling oligarchy. The uprising was beginning to take a revolutionary form, and the Moïse government was too weak to do anything to protect the bourgeoisie.
And human memory is sometimes long. All over the world this memory remains of Haiti: it was the place where there was the very first major slave rebellion that succeeded. Everyone with a bit of knowledge of history knows it took place in Haiti. It began in 1791 inspired by the French Revolution and led to a successful slave rebellion led by Toussaint Louverture taking actual power in 1804. So, the bourgeoisie in Haiti not only remembers this, but to them it is a “spectre”.
However, for this revolutionary success over 200 years ago, the Haitian people were made to pay a high price by the French colonizers. Haiti was forced to pay a “debt” to France. Why? Because, if you can believe such a thing, Haiti put an end to slavery. Slavery, the French had argued was an institution that was lucrative to France, thus the money was owed for Haiti stopping it. The sum due, the French said, after some bargaining downwards, was US $ 22 billion (twenty-two billion dollars in today’s money), and France extorted it from poor Haiti from the year 1825 to the year 1947. Not that long ago.
The memory of this odious debt is so strong, that, in 2004, at the time of the earthquake, there was an international “Appeal” made to France to go ahead, take its responsibility, and repay this money to Haiti, as having been an immoral debt. The argument of those who signed the Appeal was that slavery was illegal in France at the very moment of the Haitian uprising at the time of the Revolution in 1791. Which is true. Only later, did slavery get re-introduced by Bonaparte in 1802. But, the exact dates are frankly insignificant. Imagine France taking the low moral ground of claiming damages from Haiti for having ended slavery, and extorting it on threat of starvation.
Anyway, France did it. And France refuses to undo it.
Less than 100 years into the debt-paying-off time, Haiti was over-run by USA marines. That was in 1915. The country was then literally run by US Marines for 20 years, again we need to say “if you can believe such a thing”, until 1934. In fact, the USA has meddled non-stop in Haiti for a hundred years, increasing the weakness of the country’s already dysfunctional state.
After that, we had the notorious reign of the US-French puppets, the bloody Duvaliers.
“Papa Doc” Francois Duvalier ruled Haiti as a dictatorship from 1957 to 1971. Elected on a populist, black nationalist ticket, within a year of his election and after quelling a coup attempt, he began to set up his Tonton Makout reign of terror. The USA loved his outright anti-communist stance, so he would remain dictator, with US backing in terms of huge amounts of money, for 30 years. It was a reign of fear and torture, with over 50,000 murders, all in a cloak of superstition and religion, anti-communism and sheer brutality.
When Papa Doc died in 1971, his son, “Baby Doc” Jean-Claude Duvalier continued his reign until he fled to France in 1986, with US assistance, when faced with a popular uprising against his perpetuation of the Duvalier reign of terror.
In 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a Catholic priest, won the presidential elections by a landslide in what were widely reported to be the first free elections in Haiti’s history. He was ousted by a first coup the same year, and later returned as President, until another coup against him in 2004. After that, a US-led UN supposedly “stabilizing force” was in power. In 2006, Rene Preval was elected, served his term, and then handed over to his successor, the recently assassinated Moïse.
Meanwhile, over the past 30 years or so, neo-liberalism has completed the destruction that external forces, and a pitiless oligarchy, have wreaked on Haiti. In, say the 1970s, Haiti was an agricultural society, feeding itself relatively well. But since the USA’s dumping of US excess production of things like rice, flour, oil and more, and since neo-liberal policies in general, the Haitian peasant economy has been destroyed. Millions of peasants were forced to abandon their land, and come and live in the cities. From amongst the uprooted peasants, living in cities with no jobs and just eking out a living, gangs emerged that often lived off kidnappings. The huge 2010 earthquake did not help.
Washington hoped in 2010-2011 to set up a kind of neo-Duvalier group in power. Hilary Clinton thus ushered in Michel Martelly, a musician-politician, followed four years later by Jovenel Moïse. They plundered first the earthquake fund then the 2 billion dollar revenue from Venezuela oil. So, the broad masses of dispossessed Haitians have been without any proper means of survival. No longer producing. And, once the funds were plundered, no longer consuming. People are quite rightly more than fed up.
“Life is hell,” the English editor of Haiti Liberté, Kim Ives said, as the underlying reason for the uprising.
In fact, the gangs have now grouped together to organize people “against crime”, and to develop a political voice and bring about “a revolution”, as well as they can. This, too, like the Louverture-led slave revolution, would be a first-ever, this time the first-ever revolution led by the lumpen-proletariat class. At its helm at the moment is a man called Jimmy “Barbeque” Cherizier, a former policeman, turned gang leader, turned political grassroots leaders. It is unlikely to succeed. But, the bourgeoisie was not prepared to “test” it. Nor is the US Embassy.
In an introductory comment by the site www.jacobinmag.com to a Liberté editor Kim Ives’ interview, we read, “Moïse’s assassination comes amid increasingly revolutionary fervor in Haiti. The popular demonstrations against corruption, which were supported by bourgeois opponents of the former president, have more recently given way to openly radical forces, such as those around Jimmy ‘Barbecue’ Cherizier. A former cop turned vigilante leader, Cherizier has sought to unite Haiti’s many armed community defense groups, and even criminal gangs, under the banner of the ‘Revolutionary Forces of the G-9 Family and Allies’ in order to topple the state altogether. His base is in Haiti’s shantytowns, where millions of former peasants now comprise a ‘lumpen-proletariat’ of unemployed workers.” One week before the coup, Cherizier threatened: “We are going to come and enter your banks, your car dealership, your grocery stores, and take what is ours.”
Haiti Liberté’s working hypothesis is that the mercenaries, more than likely, were hired by one family, or by a consortium of bourgeois families opposed to Moïse. Reginald Boulos is one. Dimitry Vorbe is another. There are several others who were unhappy with Moïse.
By the time of this threatened uprising, the bourgeoisie no longer had any protection from Moïse. He was isolated, the State was weak to handle the rising rebellion, and he, Moïse, refused to resign. So, they needed to take him out.
“We see today that President Iván Duque of Colombia – perhaps the most reactionary president on the South American continent – is proposing that the Organization of American States (OAS) intervene in Haiti, much the same way that it intervened in the Dominican Republic, Haiti’s neighbor, in 1965. The OAS can get reactionary presidents, like Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and Duque and in a few other countries like Honduras, to give some soldiers. But just as it was for the Dominican Republic in 1965, the principal backbone of such an OAS force would be US Marines,” says Kim Ives of Haiti Liberté.
At the same time as Colombian President makes this call, the Prime Minister of Haiti (until yesterday), Claude Joseph called directly for the US to send troops in. When asked what he made of the Haiti’s then Prime Minister’s demand for US troops, Kim Ives had this comment on an online video interview: “This guy is a creature of the National Endowment for Democracy, which we know is a cut-out of the CIA which, as we know, back in 1983, [President] Reagan formed to do the political work above ground that the CIA did underground. So, he was recruited and funded etc., back in the 2000s for the coup against Aristide. He was one of the so-called ‘student leaders’ and in a human rights group, etc. So, it’s no surprise for the puppet to be calling on the puppeteer to come and save his country.” True.
Now, elections are due. The new Prime Minister, Ariel Henri, named yesterday in a power-share with previous Prime Minister Claude Joseph, now Foreign Minister, must go towards them.
In LALIT, we believe that there should not be any US military intervention. Like the Liberté, and like the Black Alliance for Peace and Code Pink in the USA, we are against the USA meddling in Haiti. Its constant interference is a cause of Haiti’s problems, not the solution. Thinly disguised US intervention via the UN or via OAS, are not any good either. Often France, and to some extent Canada, collude with the USA. We in LALIT call for an “End US and OAS Interference in Haiti!” France must pay back the money it extorted from Haiti. We, in the rest of the world must give the Haitian people a chance.