The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, leaves Haiti in turmoil and with the possibility of yet another U.S. intervention in the hemisphere’s poorest country. Haiti Liberté editor and writer Kim Ives talks about the possible motivations behind the assassination, revealing developments about a possible uprising that the U.S. press rarely reports.
Welcome to theAnalysis.news, I’m Greg Wilpert.
Last Wednesday, a group of 26 mercenaries broke into the residence of Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moïse, and assassinated him in a hail of bullets. The mercenaries appear to have consisted mostly of Colombians and two Haitian Americans. The assassination has left the country in shock and upheaval. Meanwhile, Haiti’s interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, has declared a state of siege and a second Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, is claiming to be the actual prime minister because he had been appointed by Moïse a mere two days before his assassination.
Uncertainty over Haiti’s future now looms larger than ever. Joining me to help make sense of what is happening in Haiti is Kim Ives. He’s a long time editor and writer for the publication Haiti Liberte. Thanks for joining me today, Kim.
Kim Ives: Thank you, Greg. It’s an honor to be with you.
Greg Wilpert: So from the outside and based on most mainstream news reports, it would seem that Haiti is in the process of descending into a spiral of chaos and violence at the moment, which, if true, does not seem like it would benefit anyone. So why do you think then that Moïse was assassinated? And what sectors stand to benefit from his assassination?
Kim Ives: It appears to be becoming more and more clear that the infamous bourgeois figure, Reginald Boulos, who backed coup d’etats against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991 and 2004, is the intellectual author and probably the principal financial backer of this assassination team. We suspected this from the very start because the assailants arrived at the home of Jovenel Moïse in nine brand new Nissan patrol vehicles without license plates. Where would they have gotten those except from a dealership. And who owns the dealership? Reginald Boulos.
Furthermore, the week before the assassination, Reginald Boulos had an arrest warrant put out against him by President Jovenel Moïse. And apparently Moïse was on the verge of seizing many of his assets, which are quite extensive in Haiti. He was at great odds and was a big supporter of the mobilizations against Moïse. He was becoming a presidential candidate and had founded a party called the Movement for the Third Way. And so it seems to be becoming very apparent that his hand plays heavily in this. And already the Haitian people have come to that conclusion. They have uprooted his dealership in Haiti called Automeca, which sold Nissan patrol vehicles. And really the big question is, to some extent, the U.S. embassy had to be aware of these people. They’re monitoring cell phone traffic and Internet traffic and texting and so forth. It seems almost impossible that they couldn’t have been aware that this was going to go down. And so now you have to think what interests would the U.S. have in not flagging this and giving somebody a warning.
Now, there has been a report that the chief of police was asked at one point, a guy called Léon Charles, who was a close collaborator of the U.S. and headed the police department back in 2004 and 2005, during the third intervention after the coup d’etat against John Bertrand Aristide. He was the police chief, and we detailed this in Haiti Liberté about his role as police chief, WikiLeaks documents laid it out pretty clearly, but he was brought back last fall and has become really an agent of the U.S. So he reportedly gave the green light for the mercenaries to go up the hill to Jovenel Moïse’s house because they were stopped apparently by a satellite USGPN, that means the presidential guard special unit, at a checkpoint prior to going up the hill to the house. So we haven’t confirmed that, but this seems to be also a report that is being repeated often. So in any case, the U.S. embassy must have known it was going down and what we’re wondering at Haiti. Liberté was whether they wanted it to go down precisely to provide the pretext for a U.S. military intervention in Haiti? Because 100 years ago, in 1915, during the first U.S. military intervention, the pretext was because President Guillaume Sam had been torn limb from limb by an enraged mob when he tried to go hide in the French embassy. And that was the pretext for soldiers coming in then. In 1994, for the second intervention, it was the machine gunning of a liberation theologian priest, which provided the pretext for Bill Clinton to send in 20,000 troops to bring back Aristide.
So now we’re wondering if this isn’t once again another grisly murder, which can allow the U.S. to say, “Oh my God, look how incredibly savage and crazy Haiti is. And, you know, we have to go in and help them.” Now, add to this picture the fact that the guy who is now the acting head of state, a guy called Claude Joseph, a former foreign minister, and was then the interim prime minister, but as you said, has been replaced by Ariel Henry. But Claude Joseph is a creation of the National Endowment for Democracy. Back in 2003 and 2004 during the coup against Aristide or the run up to the coup against Aristide, he was the leader of a student organization which was NED backed as well as an NGO called the Citizens’ Initiative. So this guy seems also to have been a U.S. asset. So what we have right now is a U.S. asset asking the U.S. to come in to take over the country. And why do they need to take over the country? Because there’s a revolution underway, it appears.
Greg Wilpert: Before you get into that, I just want to ask a different question. You mentioned earlier that Boulos, who was potentially behind this, was also behind the efforts to overthrow Aristide. But Moïse was not an Aristide type president, was he? Who was he and who did he represent?
Kim Ives: Moïse was a representative of what’s called the Haitian Baldheaded Party, which was essentially a neo-Duvalier party after. Just to go back a little bit for the viewers on recent Haitian history, Haiti was under a dictatorship for 30 years from 1957 to 1986, when Jean-Claude Duvalier was overthrown by a popular uprising, which to some extent the U.S. acquiesced to because it was removing its tinhorn dictators like Pinochet, like Marcos, etc. during that period and replacing them with these sort of façade democracies where they would have a leader elected through an election they bought and paid for, and then they would be backed up by the “international peacekeeping force” and the armies were sent back to the barracks. Unfortunately, the formula misfired in Haiti and the wrong candidate was elected. Not the one who spent the most money like in the U.S., but the parish priest, John Bertrand Aristide, who had a flood of people, what’s called lavalas in creole, come out to hoist him to power. So it was a huge misfunction. In fact, the first big misfunction of U.S. election engineering. And in fact, it became the spark, we could say, for the pink tide that went across Latin America because Hugo Chavez saw it happen in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, etc. And pretty soon we started to see the same revolution through election formula play out in other countries.
So Reginald Boulos and other members of the bourgeoisie were absolutely horrified to have these candidates who were coming from the people, supported by the people winning the presidency. This was unheard of. And so they supported the coup in September. Aristide was first elected in December 1990 and overthrown in September 1991. And it happened the second time after his election in 2000, and he was overthrown in 2004. Both of those coups, Reginald Boulos and the bourgeoisie supported. But basically from that interregnum between 1991 when Aristide was first elected and 2011 when Michel Martelly came in, and we’ll get to Michel Martelly in a moment, there was both Lavalas and sort of Lavalas-like governments. It was Jean-Bertrand Aristide, then a fellow called René Préval, who was his first prime minister and often called his twin. They had some friction, but basically they were of the same ilk. Both had kind of social democratic governments and were somewhat resistant to the U.S. Basically a slow walking of a lot of the dictates and the U.S. wasn’t completely happy with either. They were more unhappy with Aristide, they gave him two coups, but they weren’t completely happy with Préval either, who brought in the Petrocaribe deal with Venezuela.
So basically, after the earthquake in 2010, the U.S. had a great opportunity. It had basically taken over the Haitian state with Bill Clinton as one of the sort of governor generals of the whole operation. And they carried out an election in November 2010 and in March 2011. And the candidate who they essentially shoehorned in was this fellow called Michel Martelly, a Haitian Kompa singer who was essentially a neo-Duvalier. And what this means is he represented both the old, landed oligarchy and the Comprador Bourgeoisie Alliance, which had grown against the Lavalas, against Aristide in particular. So the neo-Duvalier government of Martelly was marred by all the same things that marred the Duvalier dictatorship: corruption, repression, graft, excess, et cetera. And when he was losing power at the end of his five year term in 2016, he anointed Jovenel Moïse as his successor. Now, Jovenel Moïse had by far the best funded campaign. They hired the same election engineers that had brought Martelly into power. They were flush with money from robbing, taking 75 percent of the money out of the Petrocaribe fund because what Venezuela did, what Hugo Chavez did for Haiti was say “not only are we giving you cheap oil, about 20,000 barrels a day, but you can keep 40 percent of the revenues in an account called the Petrocaribe Fund, which is repayable after 25 years at one percent interest.” So the Martelly people went to town on this money. They basically spent almost all of it. And on what? On nothing. And that’s what’s called the big movement of where did the Petrocaribe money go?
In any case, I digress, because Jovenel Moïse was essentially brought into power thanks to this money. I mean, Hugo Chavez would be rolling in his grave. And the resulting period was now the second PHTK (Haitian Tèt Kale Party) chapter. But they had a big problem because Jovenel came in in 2017, there was a one year interim government because Martelly hadn’t held any elections and they had to work it out for a year. So he came in in 2017. But unfortunately, that’s the same year Donald Trump was coming into power. Trump upped the sanctions on Venezuela. The Petrocaribe deal sank. And now, all of a sudden, Jovenel had no money because he couldn’t even pay Venezuela for the gas he was getting because of the sanctions, which stopped bank transfers and so forth. So now Jovenel ended up having an even more difficult situation than Martelly had because he was a corrupt, repressive guy without the money. And so this is where he started to get into the problem with the bourgeoisie, because a lot of the sweetheart deals that the bourgeoisie had been getting in the party that they were having with Petrocaribe money suddenly came to a crashing halt and Jovenel Moïse was there saying “you got to give some money back.” And they were saying, “you got to get out of there.” And so that’s how we arrived at the situation we have today where they’re, in fact, backing his assassination.
Greg Wilpert: So let’s go to the next part that you were about to start before I interrupted, which is the situation on the ground now and the other motivations. It seems like there’s two motivations. On the one hand, you’ve got the bourgeoisie upset with Moïse and his inability to provide for them. But then you have other developments on the ground, so talk about those. What is happening with, particularly what are being referred to in the mainstream media, the gangs that supposedly control up to one third of Port au Prince and have become very influential.
Kim Ives: So while the bourgeoisie is having a party hearty with Petrocaribe money, the masses are starving. They are sinking deeper and deeper into poverty. And the authority of the state is also crumbling. The state has no control over these vast shanty towns. Because over the course of the past 50 years and with particular acceleration after the fall of Duvalier in 1986, the U.S. installed neoliberal policies for the Haitian economy. And this meant basically destroying Haitian agriculture, driving peasants off the land through dumping of U.S. rice, for instance, on Haiti, which used to produce 80 percent of its own rice. Now, it doesn’t have the rice growing region of the Artibonite. What used to be emerald green is now brown. This happened for sugar even, which was what Haiti was known for once. Coffee, lemons, you name it. The Haitian agriculture was destroyed and the peasants all ended up in the cities. They were driven into the cities. And for the U.S., this was good because what they needed was cheap labor. They needed people who would work for five dollars a day or three dollars a day, as the WikiLeaks cables showed that the Obama administration fought for. So the result was these huge seas of the proletariat, thousands of displaced peasants living in shanty towns with no sanitation, no electricity, no housing. The earthquake hit, many of them died. The people are pooping in plastic bags to throw them into totally plastic bag and plastic bottle clogged canals, which overflow when it rains and it floods the neighborhoods with this foul water and there is housing that is crumbling. I mean, it’s a nightmare situation.
So in this situation of no sanitation, no electricity, no housing, no roads, no services, there emerge strongmen in the shanty towns of Port au Prince and other cities. And they began as vigilance brigades. After the Duvalier regime fell, the Tonton Macoute, which were its principal paramilitary corps, the eyes, ears, and fists of the regime, went into free-agent status and started to prey on the former popular neighborhoods that they used to have license from the government to bully and take money from and do what they wanted. So the people began to organize into these vigilance brigades, which started first by hitting pots and pans when the bad guys were coming around. Then they started to take machetes to fight them. And then it went up to guns and pretty soon they started to be hired by the bourgeoisie to do things like protect their store, protect their factory, protect their land, which was always being encroached on by homeless people, and then they started to use them for even offensive purposes, like going to burn the gas station of a rival or the store of a rival. And pretty soon they used them to fight each other for political power. “Go mess up this guy who’s going to have his candidate challenge my candidate.” So pretty soon you had this almost business model that grew where gangs were used by the bourgeoisie, which would arm them to do its dirty work and to maintain power, both economic and political. So this began to reach its zenith, you could say, under Jovenel Moïse and the PHTK. And there were huge gang wars. But what really started to traumatize and terrorize the Haitian people were the kidnappings. The kidnappings started to happen on a vast scale. And in fact, the whole idea of kidnapping began, above all, with the kidnapping of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide by a U.S. SEAL team in 2004. And that’s when the people said, “oh, kidnapping is on the table.” It’s a lot like after the French kidnaped an Algerian revolutionary and then suddenly hijacking became used by the revolutionaries of the world to, for example, hijack the plane to Cuba. Well, the same thing happened in Haiti. The people started to use kidnaping against the bourgeoisie originally or well-to-do people coming in, but it started to filter down into the population.
Well, enter a guy called Jimmy Barbecue Cherizier. He was called Barbecue because he grew up the 8th child of a poor street vendor of meats and there were three Jimmys in the neighborhood, so they gave each one a nickname for what their parents did, and his mother sold barbecue meat so he became Jimmy Barbecue. Anyway, he went on to become a very stellar gung ho policeman with the Haitian police, part of a specialized unit called the Departmental Unit for the Maintenance of Order (UDMO), which had the purpose of fighting the gangs and trying to stop gang violence and crime. And he was based in Cité Soleil and he got a order in 2017 to go face off against some gangs with other units from around the city in a zone of southern Port au Prince called Grande Ravine. And at the school the operation went very badly. The police got ambushed, two cops got killed. There was firefights between the police and the gang members and there may have been some civilian casualties. And afterwards there was a pretty big death toll, nine or ten dead. And plus the two policemen who were ambushed. So Cherizier was in the middle of all that, and I can give the full story at a later time, but the long and short of it was that human rights organizations, which were funded by the National Endowment for Democracy and very close to the U.S. embassy were all over this. And this terrified the police leadership who had ordered them and it was overseen by the UN peacekeeping force, which was still in the country. And as a result, they started to disavow the operation and say it wasn’t us because they were afraid for their jobs. They said it was a rogue operation. It was Jimmy Cherizier. They were trying to pin it on him. So he became totally indignant, was outraged that here this body that he was serving in an exemplary fashion would turn on him and portray him in this way. So he didn’t even answer their summons for disciplinary action because he said “you’re not going to hang it on me.”
Now, at the same time, he’s in his neighborhood of Delmas six and there are criminal elements in the neighborhood. And he said, “I want to clean up this neighborhood.” He launched an organization called, I forget the name now, but something like the Renewal of Delmas. And he went with his UDMO colleagues and comrades to the headquarters of the gang, and they went in with their M16s and they said, “Good evening. You guys are doing bad things. You’re raping girls. You’re kidnaping people. You’re extorting money from merchants. You’re stealing things. That’s all going to stop. You’re either going to stop that or you’re going to get out of here or we’re going to kill you. Those are your choices.” And most of them fled. Most of them went to neighboring neighborhoods like La Saline or Bel Air or Cité Soleil. And so his neighborhood got sort of cleaned up, but he had a lot of people with grudges against him in the neighboring neighborhoods. And so along comes Cherizier, who is now starting to be in conflict with the police leadership. He gets in touch with some of these bourgeois opposition leaders, including Reginald Boulos and a fellow called Youri Latortue, who is a former death squad leader, allegedly, according to a testimony of a woman who spoke to the U.N. back in 2005, and became what the U.S. embassy called the poster boy for political corruption in Haiti and a mafia don.
So Cherizier was dealing with these guys and then he learned they were both scoundrels. I won’t go into all the details, but he ended up at odds with them. So he was being radicalized very rapidly and very dramatically. And he took his formula for Delmas six and he said, “we have to do this among all the neighborhoods and we have to stop fighting among each other” because this is one of the things that the bourgeois opposition was trying to have them do. They were trying to put guns in the hands of the people to fight with Jovenel and block Jovenel and do their dirty work. And he said, “you guys are dirty, rotten. Jovenel, I don’t like him either. Cherizier had supported another candidate against him, a fellow called Jude Célestin, who was the one knocked out of the ring by the U.S. So he ended up becoming a bitter enemy of both Jovenel and his bourgeois opposition. He said “a pox on both your houses. And the only thing I want is for the situation of my people in my neighborhood to improve, for them to have schools, hospitals, roads, Internet, sanitation, all the things that a healthy society needs.” And the other key element of his program was “we have to stop fighting among each other, we in the neighborhoods, we the poor.” He said, “stop using these guns to fight each other and kill each other and let’s turn our guns on the bourgeoisie because they’re the ones who are hurting us.” And so now he makes a coalition called the G9, which is a number of neighborhoods in Cité Soleil, Martissant, and the Delma region. And their thing is to stamp out crime in their neighborhoods. But he wants to make peace with the ones who even don’t join the G9. It may continue doing kidnaping like in the neighborhood of Grande Ravine, Village-De-Dieu, and an area outside Croix-des-Bouquets where a gang called 400 Mawozo was based. So even though they’re doing their crimes, they weren’t going to war with them. And so when the G9 was formed last June, in June of 2020, there was basically a truce between the gangs. There weren’t gang wars happening in Port au Prince during that past year.
But in June, according to my sources in the U.N., the opposition came and gave a lot of money to one of these kidnaping gang leaders, a guy called Ti Lapli in Grande Ravine, to attack the neighboring neighborhood of Ti Bois. And the same thing happened in Bel Air, which attacked Delma. And the same thing happened in Cité Soleil, which attacked the G9 groups out there. And so gang warfare engulfed Port au Prince. And Cherizier was shot. He was very lucky. It went right through his chest, right near his heart. But it didn’t hit anything. He was OK. So the result was he was being radicalized, pushed more and more. And now the G9 changed its name just last week to the Revolutionary Forces of the G9 Family and Allies, you mess with one, you mess with all. That’s their full official name. And they said they were formally launching a revolution to overturn the system in Haiti, this dirty, rotting system. He’d been saying this since 2020, but it really became formalized. And he said to the bourgeoisie and he was talking to Boulos and some of the others who are with him, “We are going to your grocery stores. We are going to your car dealerships. We are going to your banks. And we are going to take what is ours. Our money is in your banks. The food that we should be having is in your stores. And the cars that we never even get to see are in your lots.” And so this terrified people like Boulos. So there are two elements here. On one hand, there’s the rivalry with Jovenel Moïse, but there is this looming threat of the rising proletariat of Port-Au-Prince and other cities declaring revolution. So it became very urgent to get Jovenel Moïse’s dead hand off the tiller, to get this guy who was getting in the way out of there. And so to me, this was behind it. And to some extent, the U.S. was equally alarmed by this emergence of Cherizier and sees that they have to come with another military occupation. Now they can’t execute it themselves so that’s our big question now. The fact that this operation went so disastrously wrong at the end, that these guys have all been caught and it’s all going to be traced back to Boulos, was this the result of sheer incompetence and stupidity or was there a betrayal in the picture? And was this precisely the result the U.S. wanted to get so they could have a result like 1915, like 1994, to provide a pretext for U.S. military intervention in Haiti?
Greg Wilpert: But what I think is interesting is that the U.S. and Iván Duque in Colombia are mobilizing to send, so to speak, their own investigation, presumably to cover up their own involvement, assuming that they are involved. So there seems to be a confluence of efforts to pin the blame for all of this on the gangs and not on Colombian and U.S. involvement. This might still work out for the U.S. and for the bourgeoisie in Haiti, but especially since the Haitian government officials apparently have asked for U.S. intervention, military intervention in Haiti to protect the infrastructure and so on. And the U.S. has already said that they will send a team from the FBI to evaluate and assess what what the U.S. involvement will be. So the long game definitely seems to be pointing towards that direction of U.S. intervention. And I’m just wondering now if that is the case, what would that for Haiti, assuming that the U.S. does end up sending troops. Well, first of all, I just want to get a little bit more of what you think the likelihood is of that happening and secondly, what would that mean for Haiti?
Kim Ives: I would say it’s almost a certainty right now. The Washington Post editorial from yesterday, today’s New York Times, the meetings in the Security Council, it’s just a matter of how is it going to happen? Right now, it appears to be the U.S. going alone. In the past, and as we know across the world, the U.S. likes to go in a coalition so that it has lots of fig leaves around its bayonet going into these countries. And, of course, the best fig leaf is the UN Security Council. Now, they have a problem there because Biden has all but declared war on China and hopefully China, I don’t know what happened in the Security Council today, I think they met, but hopefully China is going to put the kibosh on any efforts by the U.S. to use the U.N. once again as its neo-colonial proxy, as it did basically from 2004 until the U.N. peacekeeping troops left Haiti completely in 2019. It was basically a 15 year operation that was supposed to be six months originally. So, we see how they work. The other option, and I think that’s why Duque, who almost immediately came out and said, “oh, we need an OAS peacekeeping force.” As we know, the OAS has this thing called the Inter-American Charter, which I believe needs two thirds of the OAS members, 33 members, to ratify. So here’s just me making a hypothesis off the cuff: Did the U.S., fully knowing what Boulos was up to and how terrible of a result that was going to be, a president executed in his home, do this to shock the conscience, not just of Haitians, but of the local region, the Caribbean countries who are quite leery of the U.S., like the Latin American countries, into action so that they will agree to help this country which has totally lost its way and is in the midst of this bloody crisis, this horrible situation that they have to come in and help remedy? I think this is not far fetched at all.
And the other element of it is that the OAS is faced with another sort of pink tide 2.0 happening. Where you see what happened in Peru. We see a victory in Bolivia. Maduro is holding on. The Sandinistas in Nicaragua are holding on. So they may end up having a harder time than they think getting this OAS Inter-American Charter through and have the first OAS intervention since the 1965 intervention in the Dominican Republic next door, which, of course, was very bloody and terrible as well.
But, in the end, they can do what they did in Grenada and make a coalition with local Caribbean countries. They only need two or three or four. They can probably get Duque. Surely they’d get Bolsonaro, maybe Honduras. A few other countries might sign on to such an adventure. And they could go in and try to basically put down this rebellion in the shanty towns. They would target Cherizier. They would target the G9. Now, just to go back to 1915, there was at that time a movement prior to the Marines’ intervention called the Cacos. And the Cacos were basically peasants who were rebelling in the countryside and joining various armies which were fighting each other. So they were kind of seen as bandits. They were kind of seen as the gangs of the day. But after the U.S. Marines came in in 1915, they were very brutal with one particular lieutenant, a guy called Charlemagne Péralte, who ended up being indignant. He went up into the mountains on the central plateau of Haiti and he organized the Cacos into a severe fighting force which gave the Marines real pushback and really fought hard against them. And the Caco resistance went on for a number of years until 1918 or 1919 when they assassinated Charlemagne Péralte. A marine put on blackface, snuck into their camp, and shot him in the camp. But he became a hero. He was the Sandino, if you will, of Haiti. And they may face a similar situation today with the shanty towns. They did get that pushback in 2004 and 2005. There were a number of resistance figures in the slums of Port au Prince, in Port au Prince, in Bel Air, in Cité Soleil a figure called Dread Wilme, another called Amaral, another called Bertone, another called Evans. They all were either killed or arrested and that was put down.
But in a way, Cherizier’s movement is more robust and maybe more difficult to put down. They have more firepower. They are more organized, even though it’s not a party. It’s not something which has a real structure. It’s really a series of allied fiefdoms, if you will. But they could pose a serious force for the U.S. to overcome, especially since the G9 and this resistance increasingly has the support of the Haitian people, despite the huge demonization campaign that has been waged by the U.S. embassy’s human rights groups like what’s called the RNDDH, which is the Haitian Network for the Defense of Human Rights, the radio stations, which all belong to the bourgeoisie by and large, which have been vilifying him, and of course all the mainstream press, Washington Post, NED outfits like Insight News, AP, etc. They’ve all done portraits which have basically demonized Cherizier much as they did demonize Aristide and will really step it up now. He’s going to become just the biggest villain we’ve ever heard of in the coming days.
Greg Wilpert: Well, we’ll definitely keep an eye on what’s happening and maybe have you back on. But it really sounds like a very serious situation at the moment. We’ll leave it there for now. I’m speaking to Kim Ives, long-time editor with the publication Haiti Liberté. Thanks again, Kim, for having been on the program.
Kim Ives: Thank you, Greg.
Greg Wilpert: And thanks to our viewers and listeners for joining theAnalysis.news. Please don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and to donate at theAnalysis.news website so we can continue to provide programing such as this.