Haiti: Latest updates
- Gunfire, protests and clashes with police spread through Cap-Haitien, Jovenel Moïse’s hometown, on Friday as the late president’s body was brought there for a private funeral. Dignitaries from the United States and other countries were rushed away amid reports of shots and crowd-control gas being used nearby.
- Prime Minister Ariel Henry took over de facto leadership of Haiti earlier in the week, replacing interim prime minister Claude Joseph, who said the leadership change would clear the way for new elections. Mr. Moïse appointed Mr. Henry to his post the day before he was killed by a hit squad at his home in Port-au-Prince.
Who was Jovenel Moïse and how did he die?
Moïse’s rise to power and presidency
Mr. Moïse was a banana exporter who, in the 2010s, entered politics as a protégé of president Michel Martelly and the governing Tèt Kale party. He ran as Mr. Martelly’s successor in 2015, but fraud allegations derailed that election. Another one was held a year later, and Mr. Moïse won.
In 2019, more political gridlock prevented Haiti from holding legislative elections, leaving Mr. Moïse to govern by direct decree only. He designated certain types of street protests as terrorism, created an intelligence agency that answered directly to him and pressed for a referendum on a new constitution that would allow presidents to serve two consecutive terms. He argued that his reforms would give Haiti much-needed stability and promised he would not run for a second term at the next general election this coming September and November. But the opposition and human-rights groups said the changes would permanently cement the power of Tèt Kale and be a step back toward the autocracy of the Duvaliers, a presidential dynasty that was ousted in 1986.
Who killed Moïse?
An armed group of 28 people stormed Mr. Moïse’s house in Port-au-Prince’s affluent Petion-Ville neighbourhood around 1 a.m. on July 7, shooting him a dozen times and injuring his wife, Martine. So far, more than 20 men are in custody, several others have died in standoffs with police and police are pursuing five more fugitives. Authorities have so far given no information on their possible motive, and the allegations against the arrested suspects have not been tested in court.
- Haitian-American doctor: Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a 63-year-old medical doctor based in Florida, hired the mercenaries through a security company called CTU, Haiti’s National Police chief Léon Charles alleged on July 11. At first Dr. Sanon told them their job was to protect him, but then he assigned them to kill the president so he could seize power, Mr. Charles said, adding that he was not believed to be the only mastermind of the plot. Dr. Sanon was briefly connected to a development NGO that was registered in Laval, Que., in 2017, but dissolved a year later, corporate records show.
- Haitian-Americans mercenaries: Haitian officials identified two of the alleged hit squad as Haitian-Americans James Solages, 35, and Joseph Vincent, 55. In 2010, Mr. Solages worked for the Canadian mission’s security contractor at the time, the Canadian government confirmed to The Globe and Mail, but the contractor hasn’t worked for Canada since 2010.
- Colombian mercenaries: Initial findings suggest many of the Colombian suspects were retired military members, according to Haitian police and Colombia’s Defense Minister. Mercenaries from Colombia – where military or police service is mandatory for young men, and counterterrorism units have had 60 years of practice fighting insurgents and drug cartels – are highly sought after. Some Colombian soldiers retire as early as age 40 with modest pensions and little idea of what to do next.
Who’s in charge of Haiti now?
As of July 20, Ariel Henry is prime minister and de facto leader of Haiti until a new president can be elected.
Prime ministers, who are appointed by the president and ratified by legislators, do not normally succeed a Haitian head of state who dies in office: Under the constitution, the next in line is the chief of the supreme court (who recently died of COVID-19) or a leader selected by the National Assembly (whose current legislators have no authority because, since 2019′s election delay, their terms have all expired).
Mr. Moïse had just appointed Mr. Henry the day before the assassination, and interim prime minister Claude Joseph (who got that job in April when his predecessor, Joseph Jouthe, quit) temporarily took executive power until Mr. Henry and his allies pressed for a leadership change. Mr. Henry’s Tèt Kale supporters want Joseph Lambert, head of Haiti’s dismantled Senate, to be interim president.
Haiti’s very bad year
Haiti’s history of hardship goes back centuries, with colonialism, dictatorship and natural disaster each playing a part in making the Caribbean nation one of the poorest in the world. But 2020 and 2021 have been especially troubled for Haiti’s 11 million people as political instability, gang violence and the pandemic have layered one crisis on top of another. Here’s an overview.
Gangs and violence
Gang-related killings have become more common in Haiti over the past year. Rival groups have ransacked or burned down homes, displacing thousands of people. Some gangs have attacked police stations and killed officers. Kidnappings are also rising: In 2020, the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti reported 234 kidnappings, up from 78 a year earlier.
Critics of Mr. Moïse say the violence has not been random: Some gangs targeted areas that organized protests against the president and boosted support for certain candidates. Mr. Moïse and his allies denied any connection to the gangs, pointing to the administration’s efforts to arrest gang members and create an anti-gang task force.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas, and 60 per cent of the population makes less than US$2 a day. The United States and Canada are the two largest sources of foreign aid: Haiti gets more development assistance from Canada than any other country in the Americas, and since the 2010 earthquake, Ottawa has provided $1.5-billion to Haiti. The economy was in decline even before the pandemic hit, suffering from spiralling inflation, falling GDP and chronic shortages of fuel and food.
For more than a year after the pandemic began, Haiti reported very few COVID-19 cases and deaths, which local health officials credited to its young population (about half of Haitians are under 25, a group with a much lower risk of severe illness). But this summer, Haiti’s first serious outbreak filled Port-au-Prince’s main hospitals to capacity. Testing rates are so low that there’s limited data on how COVID-19 variants, some of which can cause more serious symptoms among young people than the original virus, are spreading in the country. But the conditions are ripe for serious outbreaks: Haiti has not vaccinated anyone – it has no doses to administer – and poor sanitation and dense housing offer the virus plenty of room to spread among the unprotected population.
What will the U.S. and Canada do?
U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau swiftly condemned the assassination and said their countries would be willing to help, but when Haiti asked for U.S. troops to re-establish security and protect key infrastructure, Washington turned them down. The Biden administration is under conflicting pressures to avoid a risky entanglement in Haiti and possibly intervene on behalf of anti-government demonstrators in another Caribbean state, Cuba, where protests erupted around the same time as the Haiti crisis.
For now, the State Department is assisting Haitian authorities in its investigation of the killing, and Washington has appointed a special envoy to Haiti, veteran diplomat Daniel Foote, to assist ambassador Michele Sison. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also voiced support for Mr. Henry’s interim government.
The Globe in Haiti
Compiled by Globe staff
Reports from Adrian Morrow, Associated Press, Reuters and The Canadian Press
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