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Let the People Decide: Former Haitian Gov’t Minister on Political Chaos After President Assassinated

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Political turmoil continues in Haiti following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, with multiple people claiming leadership of the country and gangs unleashing a new wave of violence in the streets. Haitian police say they have arrested a key figure in the assassination, 63-year-old Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Haitian-born doctor based in Florida who arrived in Haiti in June with “political objectives.” Sanon is one of three Haitian Americans now arrested in the attack, along with 18 Colombians. Five Colombians are still at large, and three were reportedly killed. The United States, meanwhile, has sent Homeland Security and FBI officials to Haiti to aid in the investigation but has so far declined a request to send military forces to the country. “We are in an extraconstitutional situation,” says Magali Comeau Denis, a former Haitian minister of culture and communication who acts as coordinator for the Commission to Find a Haitian Solution, a civil society group to resolve the ongoing political crisis. She says none of the people claiming authority in the country right now has any legitimacy, and that political actors and civil society groups need to come together to create a broad consensus on how to move forward. “There is no other legal answer to that situation of exception.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show in Haiti, where police said Sunday they arrested a key figure in last Wednesday’s assassination of President Jovenel Moïse at his home in Port-au-Prince. Haiti’s National Police Chief Leon Charles said they arrested 63-year-old Dr. Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Haitian-born doctor based in Florida, and that he arrived in Haiti last month with, quote, “political objectives.” Police said Sanon is one of three Haitian Americans now arrested in the attack, along with 18 Colombians. Five Colombians are still at large, and three were reportedly killed. The Miami Herald reports the detained Colombians said they were hired to work in Haiti by the Miami-based company CTU Security, which is run by a Venezuelan man named Antonio Emmanuel Intriago Valera, who is anti-President Maduro, the president of Venezuela.

This is the sister of a Colombian former soldier accused of participating in Moïse’s assassination who was killed during a gun battle with Haitian police. Jenny Capador said her brother had been hired as a bodyguard.

JENNY CAPADOR: [translated] There is something that doesn’t add up. Something is wrong. Something happened. What I do know, and what I will assure the world of, is that my brother was a correct person, and my brother did not do what they are accusing him of. … In the last conversation I had with my brother, he told me, “We got here too late. Unfortunately, the person we are going to guard, we couldn’t do anything.”

AMY GOODMAN: On Saturday, one of Haiti’s top gang leaders, Jimmy Cherizier, a former police officer known as “Barbecue,” said his men would take to the streets to protest the assassination.

JIMMY CHERIZIER: [translated] Many people from the opposition and stinking bourgeoisie joined together to betray the president. It is a national and international conspiracy against the Haitian people. I ask all groups, gangs to mobilize, take to the streets. We demand explanations about the assassination of the president. We had a problem with the president, but we have never said that foreigners can enter our territory to kill the president.

AMY GOODMAN: This comes as Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told Fox News Sunday the United States sent an inter-agency team from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to, quote, “see what we can to do help in the investigative process.” The U.S. said they are also upping military aid to Haiti. And the interim government has called for both U.N. and U.S. troops to come into Haiti.

For more, we go to Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, to speak with Magali Comeau Denis, a former minister of culture in Haiti. She’s the coordinator of the civil society Commission to Find a Haitian Solution to the ongoing political crisis.

Welcome to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. Can you tell us what you understand at this point took place over this past week, this historic, unprecedented assassination of the president, what you know so far? Magali Comeau Denis, are you able —

MAGALI COMEAU DENIS: Yes?

AMY GOODMAN: — to hear me?

MAGALI COMEAU DENIS: Yes. Now, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Excellent. Can you talk about what you understand has happened since this unprecedented assassination of the president of Haiti? Who was involved? Who has been arrested? And who you think is behind this historic attack?

MAGALI COMEAU DENIS: First of all, let me say that we are very, very, very sorry for what happened to the president. This is not what the population was asking for. We are very shocked. That makes three, four years that we are asking him to go, to leave the power. And he didn’t. But this is certainly not what we wanted.

Who did it? There are so many scenarios. I don’t think that — I don’t think that this is the — what it is important now for us. We want justice. We want the investigators to identify the authors of that crime and to punish them according to the law, exactly the same way as we ask justice for Marie Antoinette Duclair, my young friend, political comrade, who had been assassinated five days before the assassination of the president. All those anonymous victims in the capital, hundreds of hundreds of victims, people being killed, kidnapped, we are asking justice for them. Let justice do its job.

What is important, really important, now is that we are in a catastrophic situation, and we have to do all we can do to stabilize the situation and help people live. So, let’s — the investigators will be able to answer those questions better than I can do. Those questions will have answer on proper time.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you talk about this whole issue of where were the president’s guards? There was no shooting between the assassins and the supposed guards of the president at the time. Has anyone been able to figure out or question his own security?

MAGALI COMEAU DENIS: I’ll give you the same answer: The investigators will answer that. I wasn’t in the house. I don’t know. I can’t answer you seriously where were the guards.

You see, you know, since three, four years, there was a reign of crime in the country, and the international trivialization of the crime and of the life. And this is in that atmosphere that made possible that kind of crime to assassinate a president in his home. So, that assassination is related to all of the assassinations that we had in the country during those two, three years. Remember that the chief of the Port-au-Prince Bar Association has been killed in his house, very, very close to the president’s house. So, this is not a — it is very, very a special situation because it is a president, but it is not as related. This is a reign of crime. That regime, that regime of PHTK, installed the reign of crime. And now the president has been victim of his own reign. So, we are sorry for that. But that’s not — let’s let the investigators do their job, again.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I wanted to ask you also: What’s your response to the interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, asking the United States and the U.N. to send troops and security into the country?

MAGALI COMEAU DENIS: It’s only for him, because he knows that he took the power without any mandate, without any agreement. So that’s why he needs the protection of the military.

But there is no situation who could explain an intervention of the U.S. We don’t want that. We already had that. And we know what that left for us. We don’t want the boots. We have — we already have the boots on our knees now, on our necks. That’s not physically, but we cannot breathe now in Haiti. We don’t want them to come. We welcome the international commission of investigation, including the FBI. But we really don’t want that.

And what we have to recognize, if the majority of the population — this population had been in the street almost each day during that last years. And when that happened, there was no manifestation of joy. There was no riot. There was no people in the street burning, etc., etc. The people, the population is very calm, very, very calm, and doesn’t want to give any pretext to that government to ask for any intervention. That is for its own interests, in person — for its personal protection, that it is asking for that.

AMY GOODMAN: Magali Comeau Denis, who do you believe right now is in charge of Haiti? And according to The New York Times, Haiti’s interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, says he’s taking command of the police and the army, declaring a state of siege, that essentially puts the country under martial law. But constitutional experts question his right to impose it, and his claim to power was quickly challenged by a rival, Dr. Henry, who was named to be the next prime minister under Moïse but not sworn in. You have the president of the Supreme Court, who just died of COVID, who constitutionally would have been next in succession. What do you think — what entity should be in charge of Haiti right now? And your concerns about the calls for U.S. and U.N. troops?

MAGALI COMEAU DENIS: None of them — Ariel, or Henry — is legitimate to be in power. There is no provision in the Constitution for that situation. We are in an extraconstitutional situation. We have to look for a solution of exception.

I’m here working for the commission that has been created by the civil society, the Commission to Find a Haitian Solution to the crisis. This is — we knew we were in a crisis. And that makes four months that we are working with all the political groups, all the civil society groups, from the peasants to the unions, from the human rights organizations, feminist organizations, the diaspora, etc., etc., to create a broad consensus between all the sectors of the population to propose a Haitian solution. There is no other legal answer to that situation of exception.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Going back to President Moïse, could you talk about his role in the Petrocaribe scandal, where billions of dollars from Venezuela marked for Haiti disappeared?

MAGALI COMEAU DENIS: That’s what the people, the population was asking for: Where is the money from the Petrocaribe? Where are the jobs? Where are the hospitals that were supposed to be created with that money? And the answer of the government was killing people, was gas-tearing during the march. And beside that, all the gangs that he has armed, all the gangs that he had affiliated, were — can be able to protest with the protection of the police. This is a vast system of corruption that has been reinforced. And I don’t say that they created the corruption in the state, but we have reached a level of corruption that we never knew before. So, this is what has to be done: investigation for all the kind of crime, the financial crimes also.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about Pierre Reginald Boulos, one of the Haitian oligarchs? I believe now there has been an arrest warrant issued for him — this was before, under Moïse — which could have extremely, to say the least, angered him, but being in Washington, hiring lobbyists. What his role in Haiti is right now? And then, what you believe the U.S. could do, should do?

MAGALI COMEAU DENIS: The role of Reginald Boulos, he’s one of the candidates, as many other candidates. He has a special position because he comes from the private sector, and he was one of the main support of the President Jovenel. He helped him to reach the power. But I have no special — for now, he’s a candidate like the other ones. I don’t think that he deserves any special attention, because there are 10, 20.

But what the international, the U.S. can do, for once — for once, we are asking them to listen to us. We are in a process — I mean, meeting and meetings every day this week. We are in the process to have large consensus between all the sectors of the population. For once, please, I am asking them to listen to our voice. They always say that the problem has to be solved by the Haitians. I would like — we would like them to respect their words and, in fact — and, in fact, let the Haitians solve their problems, and bring their solidarity to that solution that we are creating now. They are keeping —

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And there are — there are elections scheduled to be held —

MAGALI COMEAU DENIS: They are —

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Are there elections scheduled to be held in September? Or do you believe —

MAGALI COMEAU DENIS: OK, listen.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — that they should go forward?

MAGALI COMEAU DENIS: Listen. Listen. Since three years, it was — there was one speech. People are killed, election. People are being kidnapped, election. The day before the assassination, election — of the president, election. The day after the assassination of the president, election — as if nothing had happened. It’s an insult to our intelligence. They cannot keep doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. That’s Einstein’s definition of insanity.

We have to reset. We have — the car is broken. All the tires are flat. And you still want to go to the beach. Let’s repair it. Let’s talk. Listen to us. We know what to do. And we know also what not to do. The body, the bullet-riddled body, corpse, of the president was barely cold, that the State Department was still insisting to have election in two months. We know the all the political crises during those 20 or 30 years came from bad election. We don’t want a cheap democracy.

We were shocked when there was that violent riot on the symbolic and democratic institution of the United States, the parliament. We were shocked, as you people in the America were shocked. We know we want election, but we want an election that is not only transparent, but one that favors the participation of the nation. Since the international community took charge of the election in Haiti, we went from 75% of participation of the population to today at less than 15%. That’s the result of the organization of the election by the international community. We are asking them for humanity, for modesty, to recognize their part, their part of responsibility in that failures, and come and talk to us.

AMY GOODMAN: Magali Comeau Denis, we want to thank you so much for being with us, former minister of culture in Haiti, speaking to us from Port-au-Prince, now coordinator of the civil society Commission to Find a Haitian Solution to the ongoing political crisis, this after last week’s unprecedented assassination of the president of Haiti.

When we come back, we speak with New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about Haiti, about the infrastructure deal, about the Green New Deal, about New York City’s mayoral election. Eric Adams will be meeting with President Biden today. Stay with us.

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No U.S. Troops in Haiti: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Says Military Mission Would Not Help Country

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