After the presidential murder in Haiti, there is great skepticism about the official portrayal of the events. These points are hotly debated by experts in the crisis-ridden country.
For two days the usually congested, noisy streets of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince were empty. There was paralysis. In the hilly suburb of Pelerin, where President Jovenel Moïse was shot in his residence on Wednesday night and the police were now looking for the perpetrators, shots repeatedly broke the eerie silence.
Now something like normality has returned – as far as one can say of a city that is one third under the control of brutal gangs. The banks and grocery stores have opened again, reports the country director of Welthungerhilfe, Annalisa Lombardo. As a foreigner, she doesn’t dare to go outside yet. There are angry crowds and the government has declared that the attackers were foreigners.
Five of the 28 members of the commando that Moïse allegedly murdered and injured his wife are still on the run, according to the police. 20 were arrested, three killed. A total of 26 of the perpetrators are said to have been Colombian mercenaries; the remaining two Americans of Haitian descent. They are said to have posed as agents of the US anti-drug agency DEA. Colombia’s leadership has identified 13 ex-soldiers from the South American country as suspected participants.
Who are the masterminds?
The two biggest questions remain, however: Who commissioned the murder? And why? Much remains unclear about the course of events. For example, why didn’t the security guards guarding Moïse’s residence seem to offer any resistance? You were unharmed.
It is also puzzling, says Lombardo, that the supposedly well-trained commando apparently had no escape plan. “And then they were caught with their bare hands by the angry mob.” More and more Haitians doubted that the Colombian mercenaries were behind the attack, she says. “There is a clear feeling that something has been staged.”
Colombians as a scapegoat?
Richard Widmaier thinks it’s ridiculous that the otherwise incompetent police want to have caught 20 professional killers in a short time. “Nobody buys that from them,” says the head of Radio Métropole. There is also information that the Colombians were actually hired by the government to fight the gangs in June, called for help on Wednesday night and found the president dead on arrival. “It seems as if they were the ones who took you to the hospital,” he emphasizes, referring to the first lady.
Widmaier says that the finger is now pointing to different people as possible backers. Moïse had many enemies. The president had appointed neurosurgeon Ariel Henry as the new interim prime minister on Monday. His swearing-in, planned for Wednesday, was canceled because of the attack the night before, and his predecessor, Foreign Minister Claude Joseph, declared himself incumbent head of government. Some Haitians, including prominent activists and politicians, suspect a coup, not least because of this chronological sequence.
Impending power struggle
Joseph is accepted as a point of contact by the international community, but Henry sees himself as the real prime minister. Because Haiti has not had a quorum parliament for a good year and a half, neither of them can be constitutionally confirmed. The ten remaining senators have now elected the previous Senate President Joseph Lambert as interim president. A power struggle is looming.
The first ruler of independent Haiti after the slave revolt, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, was assassinated in 1806. Before Moïse, Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, a Haitian president, last met this fate in 1915. This was followed shortly thereafter by an almost 20 year long occupation of Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, through the nearby United States.
Even after the 2004 coup against Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, US soldiers came together with UN peacekeepers to calm the situation. Now there are again calls for stabilizing US intervention. Joseph’s government has asked the ex-occupying power to send troops to protect infrastructure, as election minister Mathias Pierre told CNN.
“We don’t want US troops”
Many Haitians are strongly against it. “We don’t want US troops on Haitian soil,” tweeted activist and writer Monique Clesca. Others see this as the only possibility that the presidential and parliamentary elections planned for September 26 can take place – also because gangs with their fighting over areas recently drove thousands of people to flight, partially paralyzed the movement of goods and practically removed the south of the country the capital.
In view of the gang violence and an angry and hungry population, Widmaier fears that there could be devastating riots like those at the end of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986. If so, he says he would be welcoming US troops. “We all feel that something is going to happen – that it’s not over yet.”