TThe assassination of Jovenel Moïse, the president of Haiti, marks another point in the years-long power struggle he faced his loyalists against working-class activists and families, exhausted by years of social strife and gang violence. On Saturday, his wife Martine Moïse, injured in the attack, returned home to the Caribbean state to confront speculations about his own political career. Meanwhile, the authorities are still looking for the reason for the murder of her husband.
At least 20 people have been arrested in connection with the murder, including Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a self-proclaimed Haitian-American pastor living in South Florida, who allegedly issued the murder order. According to a Washington Post report, Sanon had ambitions to become president from his homeland. He had promised to transform the country into a “free and open society” with an ambitious $ 83 billion redevelopment plan for Haiti. However, its defenders say that a plot to kill Moïse was never part of the master plan.
On July 7, Moïse was shot 16 times after a robbery at his home. The attack was allegedly carried out by former Colombian military personnel and two Haitian-Americans. However, reports suggest that the two Haitian-Americans (one of whom was a former DEA informant) were unaware that Joseph Felix Badio, a former Haitian Ministry of Justice official and named by the police as another suspect, supposedly had given an order kill President Moïse. Badio’s whereabouts are currently unknown.
However, the perpetrators of crimes committed in the past in Haiti remain hidden from view. As Michel-Rolph Trouillot, a Haitian anthropologist, wrote: “History is the fruit of power, but power itself is never so transparent that its analysis is superfluous. The last mark of power may be its invisibility; the final challenge, the exposition of its roots ”. These words speak to me on a deeply personal level. My parents immigrated to the United States from Jamaica and Montserrat, and I have traveled to the Caribbean for most of my life. The cultures of the Caribbean islands are different, but I have also noticed the different expressions of neocolonialism over time.
Haiti has been a place of conflict for centuries. Colonized first by Spain and then France, which was in charge of establishing a three-tier caste system: the great whites (white elites), the freedmen (freed blacks), and the bossales (the captive African population). The Haitian population defeated Napoleon’s army in 1804, and with this achievement Haiti became a unique country in the world: a free black state. Despite the successful Haitian revolution, orchestrated by the African population, the majority struggled to advance economically.
Code Noirs, as it was known, it remained after the flight of its white creators. John D Garrigus wrote that caste systems caused “tension” that “it was more a matter of social and political conflict than of racial prejudice.” Furthermore, the governments of France and the United States, who did not want Haiti to be a beacon of possibility, did everything possible to undermine the legitimacy of the new nation. In 1825, France demanded “compensation”: $ 21 billion by today’s standards. To subsidize the payment, Haiti closed its public schools; now, more than a third of the population is illiterate.
The murder of Moïse is the latest crisis for the country with the greatest wealth disparity in Latin America and the Caribbean. The nation’s political future hangs in the balance, but beneath this most recent dramatic expression of underlying tensions lies the elitism that stifles social mobility.
Haiti’s economy is controlled by a handful of elite families who thrived under the Duvalier regime. Before Moïse was assassinated, the gangs that supported him cordoned off some of Haiti’s most fertile land owned by profiting elites while the working class starves. According to the World Bank, “The richest 20% of its population has more than 64% of their total wealth, while the poorest 20% barely own 1%. “
The investigation into the murder of Moïse is being carried out by an international team from Colombia, the United States and Haiti. Claude Joseph, as acting prime minister in the days immediately following Moïse’s assassination, called on the United States to send military aid to secure borders and deter gang violence. The United States rejected the request, but whatever future course you decide to take, you must act delicately at the risk of undermining Haiti’s fragile democracy.
Since then, Joseph has stepped aside in favor of Ariel Henry, whom Moïse had named his new prime minister shortly before he was assassinated, and who has the backing of foreign governments, including the United States.
An American official once said that they worked closely with Haiti’s wealthy elite because it was “pragmaticBut now the elite must be held accountable. While the investigation is ongoing, the US government must also help democratize Haiti’s economy and redistribute power. More fundamentally, the United States needs to reassess its interests in Haiti and the elites that live there; it is not too late to improve relationships in your “third edge”.
One hopes that Kamala Harris, the vice president of the United States, whose father was born in Jamaica, will be an empathetic voice for diplomatic relations with her Caribbean relatives. Otherwise, the region’s leaders, many of them as corrupt, albeit less visibly, as their counterparts in Haiti, will continue to act with impunity.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism