From the moment President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti was assassinated last Wednesday, his body riddled with bullets, according to his wounded but recovering wife, a web of intrigue thickens by the day. With the arrest of most of the more than 20 assassins, many of them Colombians, and the arrest of Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a doctor/minister living in Florida who is an alleged accomplice in the murder, a bit of the fog is clearing.
But not enough information is available to determine the motives for the hit, the extent of the plot, who rules Haiti, and what’s the U.S.’s position on the turmoil.
To some extent the latter question was answered on Monday by Anthony Coley, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, who stated, “An initial assessment has been conducted in Haiti by senior U.S. officials. The department will continue to support the Haitian government in its review of the facts and circumstances surrounding this heinous attack.” He added, “The Department will also investigate whether there were any violations of U.S. criminal law in connection with this matter.”
Given the historic ties between the U.S. and the island nation, support for Haiti is something that has been in play for more than 200 years, most directly in 1915 when the U.S. military intervened and occupied the country to 1934, to say nothing of their aiding and abetting the brutal regimes of the Duvaliers. Troubling reports began occurring on Jan. 20 that Moïse was ruling by decree and had refused to organize legislative elections, thereby leaving all but 10 of the parliament seats vacant.
Stabilizing Haiti in recent years has been an impossible task, and the country has never really recovered from the earthquake of 2010 that left extensive damage from Cap Haitian to Jacumel. Walking the streets of Port-au-Prince, to say nothing of driving, was a major undertaking.
It’s still a wait-and-see policy if President Biden decides to send troops in, though if Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has her way this will not happen. Even so, there are factions on the left and right who seem to agree about hands off on Haiti. According to Haiti’s constitution, which at this point appears to be a worthless piece of paper, the prime minister takes power if the president is unable to perform his duties. But the issue at hand is, who is the prime minister? Claude Joseph, Ariel Henry, and Joseph Lambert all have claimed they are in charge.
If anyone seems to have a handle on the tumult there, it’s Haiti’s Police Chief Leon Charles, who at least is dispensing credible information, including his assertions that Sanon facilitated the assassination with the hiring of a Miami-based security firm to carry out the assignment. Sanon arrived in Haiti in June, Chief Charles said, traveling on a private jet with several of the alleged assassins. The men traveling with Sanon were there to protect Moïse, Charles told the press, but at some point the plan was changed to arresting Moïse, and then one of assassination.
No matter how things shift and take on a deeper intrigue, in the end the U.S. will be the final arbiter, as it has been in the past.