Who Killed Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse? Speculation Swirls Around Haiti’s Elite

Interview with Kim Ives, an editor with the Haiti Liberté newspaper, conducted by Scott Harris

In the early morning hours of July 7, a group of foreign mercenaries, including suspected retired Colombian soldiers, brutally shot and killed Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse in the bedroom of his private home. The gunmen seriously wounded the president’s wife Martine Moïse, who was airlifted to Florida for emergency treatment.

After the murder, police engaged in a shootout with suspects in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Seventeen men were arrested, three were killed by police, and eight are still at large. While it is unknown who was behind this apparently well-financed assassination plot, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Haitian-born evangelical pastor who lives in Florida was arrested on suspicion of helping recruit the group who murdered the president. A Haitian-American identified in news reports as Joseph Gertand Vincent, was also arrested in connection with the assassination – a man who had worked as an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Reginald Boulos, a member of one of Haiti’s wealthiest families who opposed Moïse, may have also played a role.

Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Kim Ives, a journalist and an editor at the weekly newspaper Haïti Liberté. Here he talks about the forces in Haiti who may have been behind the assassination of Moïse, and the possibility that U.S. troops could be deployed to the island nation in the midst of the political crisis and intense power struggle to succeed the slain president.

KIM IVES: Haiti had reached a breaking point, and unfortunately it was the very dastardly murder of President Jovenel Moïse by these foreign mercenaries. That was how it broke. But the question is, Who paid for it? Who organized it?

We were pretty sure at the start and more and more, it appears that it’s the case, that it was the bourgeois sector. The sector of Haiti’s tiny, tiny bourgeois that Jovenel Moïse was feuding with who paid for it, organized the mercenaries and ended up killing the president. And they had to kill him for two reasons. One was, he was at odds with, in particular, Reginald Boulos who is one of Haiti’s largest capitalists. He’s really almost bigger than Haiti, really almost a transnational capitalist because he has holdings in other countries as well, and a real power broker in Haiti.

And also another fellow called Dimitri Vorbe, who ended up having a very bitter feud with Jovenel over the energy grid. He ran a company called Sogener which was a power production plant, which contributed to the grid. And he’d gotten a sweetheart deal, actually, from Rene Preval years before.

In the midst of all this, you have this festering movement in Port-au-Prince in the shanty towns. They are neglected. These are places without electricity, without running water. There’s no Internet. The roads are disintegrating, if they exist at all. And the people are living in absolute horrible conditions, absolutely horrible conditions. So what began to happen, left to their own devices is strong men would emerge in these neighborhoods and they began to be formed into a coalition, which is called today called the Revolutionary Forces of the G9 Family and the Allies — “Mess with one, you mess with all. ” And this group declared a revolution the week before Jovenel’s death, saying that they were going to seize the grocery stores, the gas stations, the banks, the car dealerships of the bourgeois.

So they were facing an existential threat. They saw these hordes, these millions of people coming up the hill from Port-au-Prince up into the mountain heights and already it had started. There had been battles in the area of Laboule, which is a bourgeois zone, where they’d started to come in. And they said, you know, we had better act. Jovenel was feuding with them. He wasn’t really doing anything to tamp down this movement of the lumpenproletariat. They were feuding with him.

He had issued an arrest warrant a week before against Reginald Boulos. He was about to seize the facilities, the ports, the factories, the land, the hospitals of Reginald Boulos. So I think that they said, “We got to take this guy out.” So they hired these guys and they went up the hill that night. This is the over-arching picture that people need to keep in mind. These bourgeois basically hired these people. They had resources because it was obviously very expensive, well-financed, well-orchestrated, except they didn’t have an exit plan.

SCOTT HARRIS: Early on after this assassination, Haitian officials were calling for the deployment of U.S. troops. What’s your view of that? It seemed like a dead end in Washington, but what are you hearing?

KIM IVES: Well, I think they’re just playing hard to get. You know, I think in the end we can’t change the nature of the beast. Basically the U.S. Is a hammer and everything looks like a nail. The only way they know how to solve problems is with military force. And I do believe that sooner or later, we’re going to see at least the attempt of a foreign military intervention and occupation in Haiti.

So I don’t think people should be lulled into acquiescence. We have to fight that because this is not going to be good for Haiti. Haitians are universally opposed to yet another — it would be the fourth occupation. There was one in 1915, one in 1994. And one in 2004 and each one has helped push the country deeper and deeper into the dysfunction that it is experiencing today. So I think Haitians everywhere do not want it. And the region doesn’t want it. The, Caribbean countries don’t want it. And the Latin American countries don’t want it. I think that’s why the U.S. might’ve looked the other way. They must surely have known through their intelligence agencies that this type of crime might have been committed, but they let it happen precisely to try to shock the conscience of the world and provide the justification for the military intervention that they sooner or later want to do.

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