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Jovenel Moïse Dead: Haitian President Assassinated, Plunging Country into New Political Crisis

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Haiti is reeling from a new crisis after President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in an attack on his home in the outskirts of Port-au-Prince early Wednesday. In a statement, Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph said “a group of unidentified individuals” attacked the private residence of the president, killing him and injuring the first lady. Moïse, who had led Haiti since 2017, was accused of orchestrating a coup to stay in power beyond February 7, when his term officially ended. For months Haitians have staged large protests against Moïse demanding he leave office, but Moïse clung to power with support from the Biden administration, which backed his claims that his term should end next year. Dahoud Andre, a longtime Haitian community activist and member of the Committee to Mobilize Against Dictatorship in Haiti, says rumors are flying about who could be behind the killing. “As of now, we have no clue where this assassination came from,” Andre says, adding that “the Haitian people loathed Jovenel Moïse” and describing him as a “tool” of the United States. We also speak with Kim Ives, editor of Haiti Liberté, who says the assailants appear to have been well resourced in their attack. “Clearly this was a fairly sophisticated operation,” Ives says.

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

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show with breaking news. Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated early today after an attack on his home in the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Moïse’s wife was also shot in the attack; she has been hospitalized. In a statement, the Haitian prime minister, Claude Joseph, said, quote, “A group of unidentified individuals, some of them speaking Spanish, attacked the private residence of the president of the republic and thus fatally wounded the head of state,” unquote.

Moïse had led Haiti since 2017. Earlier this year, critics of Moïse accused of him of orchestrating a coup to stay in power beyond February 7th, when his term officially ended. For months Haitians have staged large protests against Moïse demanding he leave office. But Moïse clung to power with support from the Biden administration, which backed Moïse’s claim that his term should end next year. Human rights groups report — had accused Moïse of sanctioning attacks against civilians in impoverished neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, the capital, with targeted assassinations and threats against government critics carried out with impunity.

We’re joined now, dealing with this breaking news, by two guests. Dahoud Andre is a longtime Haitian community activist and member of the Committee to Mobilize Against Dictatorship in Haiti. And Kim Ives is with us, the editor of Haiti Liberté.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s begin with Dahoud Andre. Can you tell us what you have heard? Who is responsible for this assassination? And then give us what has been happening — talk about what has been happening in Haiti.

DAHOUD ANDRE: Well, thank you very much, Amy and Juan, for inviting us to speak about what’s happening in Haiti.

We got the call — a call about 5:30 this morning to say that radio in Haiti had reported that, overnight, Jovenel Moïse had been assassinated. I should say that right now, as of now, we have no clue where this assassination came from — certainly not the street gangs, such as the G9; Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, who has been going around recently, after years of demonstrating with an American flag behind his back, and right now purporting to be fighting for a revolution to liberate the Haitian people, so we know it did not come from there.

We know that it could have come from the oligarchy, such people as Reginald Boulos, maybe, you know, Dimitri Vorbe, that at present it appears that Jovenel Moïse has some difficulty with them, because we can imagine that it would take a lot of money to do — and resources, to do an operation such as this.

But a lot of people that I’ve spoken to this morning are saying it’s probably the U.S. government, again, not just affirming their domination over Haiti right now, but maybe to mask the shame of their defeat and running away from Afghanistan in the middle of the night.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Kim Ives, I wanted to get your perspective on this. Clearly, there was a popular opposition and questions, deep questions, about any kind of legitimacy for Jovenel Moïse. So, was this potentially a falling out among the elites, or was there foreign involvement, as well, other than the possible mercenaries themselves being hired from abroad?

KIM IVES: Well, it definitely seems there was foreign involvement. My sources in Haiti this morning tell me that the assailants, the killers, arrived in nine brand-new Nissan patrol pickups. They had a complete understanding of the household of Jovenel Moïse, so apparently they had some inside information. They knew what they were doing. They pretended to be the DEA. So, clearly, this was a fairly sophisticated operation.

Was it Boulos? Was it one of the other members of the bourgeoisie who have had problems with Jovenel? It’s difficult to know. It seems he was also recently in Turkey making some deals, and the Colombians may have not been happy about that. That’s one of the rumors going around. So, we have to wait and see who was behind it.

But definitely, on the street, things have been very hot. The revolutionary forces of the G9 Family and Allies have basically been also calling for Jovenel to go. So I don’t think there’s anybody that is going to be unhappy with this outcome. It was a time when he was very isolated, even within his own circles.

AMY GOODMAN: And the fact that they were speaking Spanish?

KIM IVES: Yeah, and that’s the big question. Yeah, I’m trying to find out why they think it was Colombians involved. I don’t know if it’s an accent question. I haven’t gotten an answer back. But I believe that, you know, it was definitely some fairly sophisticated mercenary operation involved.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Dahoud, I wanted to ask you, in terms of — for those listeners and viewers of Democracy Now! who have not been closely following what’s been going on in Haiti in recent years, could you talk about the connections of Moïse to the previous president and the involvement of the Clintons in the continuing, persistent political crises that have occurred in Haiti in recent years?

DAHOUD ANDRE: Yeah. I want to point out first that this is exactly three years since the major uprisings that happened in the country in 2018, July 6, 7th, when the IMF had demanded that Haiti, the government of Haiti, raise fuel prices. And some of these prices were doubled. And the puppet government that Jovenel Moïse headed, they did this in the middle of a soccer game between Brazil and Belgium. And the idea was that Brazil would win and that it would be euphoria, and the people wouldn’t mind. They wouldn’t notice. They wouldn’t be — they would be celebrating Brazil’s victory. And fate had it that Brazil lost shamefully. And immediately after the game ended, uprisings all over the country. So, it’s important to note this date, this anniversary, and that Jovenel Moïse would be killed on this anniversary.

But also, I want to point out what Kim Ives is calling the revolutionary forces of the G9 and Jimmy Cherizier, these are criminals. These are people that are responsible for killing, massacres in poor neighborhoods in the country. These are people — and a lot of people find it amazing, unbelievable, that Kim Ives and his newspaper, Haiti Liberté, would be defending, trying to make people believe that these are revolutionaries — these are the people who are throwing 78-year-old elderly folks off of buildings, burning them alive — that these are the people who are going to save us.

The audience should understand, yes, Martelly was handpicked by the Clintons as a puppet, as someone who would do their bidding and join the campaign. It was obvious that the Clintons, Bill Clinton, who was running the CIRH to supposedly rebuild Haiti “back better” — same slogan that Joe Biden used in his recent campaign — that they would find that this is the person who would be — a degenerate, someone — I know that this program has done much about Martelly, so I don’t want to even go there. But what is important is that Martelly handpicked Jovenel Moïse.

And Jovenel Moïse, who was a crook, an indicted, fake entrepreneur, was put in directly by the U.S. government again. And in that position, he was a reliable puppet to, first, Donald Trump, to the point that he betrayed Haiti’s historic relationship with Venezuela in recognizing Juan Guaidó as legitimate head of Venezuela. And Jovenel Moïse had the nerve to say that with the most recent legislative elections in Venezuela, he would not recognize them because there was not enough popular participation. And this is someone who, by their own numbers, got about 500,000 votes in a country of 12 million people.

So, I need to say that the Haitian people loathed Jovenel Moïse and Martelly, the PHTK government, because they are the tools of the United States, to impose the will of the United States on the people. And they arm these street gangs. They finance these massacres in the poor neighborhoods, that are supportive of, I should say, President Aristide, the Lavalas government. And they just felt — and this was Martelly’s position — he clearly said, so long as the heavyweights — meaning the United States, the U.N., the OAS, the Core Group — supported him and Jovenel Moïse, nothing could happen to them. And this is what we have seen: the support, the unequivocal support, of the United States to the PHTK government, who was killing the Haitian people and stealing the resources of the country.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to get Kim Ives’ response to this clip. One of Haiti’s most powerful gang leaders warned this week he was launching a revolution against the country’s business and political elites. This is Jimmy Cherizier, who Dahoud just referred to, a.k.a. “Barbecue,” a former police officer who heads the so-called G9 federation of nine gangs formed last year.

JIMMY CHERIZIER: [translated] I’m telling people to keep looking for what belongs to them by right. It is your money which is in the banks, stores, supermarkets and dealerships. So go and get what is rightfully yours. Continue looking for what belongs to us, because it is ours.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us who “Barbecue” Jimmy Cherizier is, Kim Ives, and respond to Dahoud’s criticism of your paper, Haiti Liberté?

KIM IVES: Yes, I can. Haiti Liberté, of which, by the way, I’m just the English-language section editor, has been following, with very great interest, the emergence of the G9. Unlike Dahoud Andre, I have met with Jimmy Cherizier and a number of the organizations on the ground in Haiti.

The massacres that he’s describing are really the product, principally, of an outfit called the RNDDH, the Haitian Network for the Defense of Human Rights in Haiti, headed by a guy called Pierre Espérance, who also issued fallacious reports against the Aristide government after the 2004 coup d’état. He has basically waged some kind of holy war against Jimmy Cherizier, who, according to Cherizier, he asked to bump off, to rub out a rival human rights group head.

So, Jimmy Cherizier was a stellar policeman who was basically radicalized by his betrayal by the Haitian police leadership, who hung him out to dry after an operation went badly in Grande Ravine in 2017. And he was dealing with some of the leading lights of the opposition — Reginald Boulos, previously mentioned, a guy called Youri Latortue, who is also an alleged former death squad leader and was called “the poster-boy for political corruption” by the U.S. Embassy itself in the WikiLeaks cables that we released a decade ago. So he soured on them, too, and he saw that both the government of Jovenel Moïse and the opposition, the bourgeois opposition, with which Dahoud is aligned, were rotten. And he said, “We need a revolution, because the people need schools. They need clinics. They need sanitation.”

He took me around the neighborhoods of Delmas 4, Delmas 2, Delmas 6, where he grew up. He’s a street — the son of a poor street vendor. And he showed me how people had to do their toilet in a plastic bag and throw it in a canal. And he said, you know, “People can’t live like this.” So he has been calling for a revolution against the system in Haiti and is being radicalized really by the day and by these events.

So, the portrayal of him in the mainstream press, you know, by the AP, The Washington Post, is he’s this gang leader. He’s the bogeyman. But the reality is, on the ground, that this is an uprising really of Haiti’s lumpenproletariat, which has been crushed over the past decades. And Jovenel Moïse was no different than Martelly. And the people, the masses in Haiti, in Port-au-Prince, now some 3 million, 4 million people, have had enough and are rising up.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Dahoud, your response on the issue of Kim saying that you are representing more of the bourgeois opposition?

DAHOUD ANDRE: Kim Ives is a joke, and it’s sad that your program is giving him this platform to, again, push this garbage that Jimmy Cherizier, who — and this is not the RNDDH who’s saying that Cherizier, that Barbecue, is an assassin, a criminal, like someone who is responsible for all of these massacres, and despite the denunciations of the people of La Saline, of all of these poor neighborhoods in Bel Air, who themselves they say that it is Jimmy Cherizier. This is RNDDH. This is Fondasyon Je Klere. This is the CARDH and the people in the streets and any radio station in the country that you turn on. And people who are massacred are speaking directly about who they saw came with guns, with gasoline and fire to burn down their homes.

So, now to say that Dahoud Andre is aligned with the bourgeoisie opposition, [laughs]. There is a former ally of Kim Ives and his newspaper, Haiti Liberté, that he owns. But Kim is a white man, an American. And so, he cannot come to this program or anywhere else and say that he is the owner, the puppet master of this newspaper, so he’s pretending that he is just — but I’m sure that Amy Goodman, Juan González and everyone else who knows about this newspaper knows who owns this newspaper and knows that this is just another wannabe white savior for the people.

And it’s beautiful, the song that you started this segment with, Amy, because this is a song called “Ki Sa Pou-N Fe?” “What Is to Be Done?” as you said. And the song, if you continued to play it, it would say it’s a revolution. And who’s going to make this revolution? The Haitian people. It is not our neighbors. It is not wannabe white saviors, like Kim Ives, who are going to liberate the Haitian people.

I want to speak a little bit about, like, this thing, the Jovenel Moïse. This is what this is about. And I should say, if I knew that I was going to be put in this program together with Kim Ives, I wouldn’t even come on. And you should go to Haiti. You’ve been to Haiti, Amy, Juan. And go speak to someone like Oxygène David, who worked for years with Kim Ives. Go speak to Mario Joseph, who was close collaborator of Kim Ives, who are both denouncing him and his newspaper in Haiti for pushing this garbage that a scum like Jimmy Cherizier, who are — he is not going to Pétion-Ville, to Thomassin, to kill the rich people, to steal from them. The people he has massacred for the government. And this is why for three years the Jovenel government has never executed their warrants against Cherizier, because he is in their pocket. He is someone who’s working for them. And find his previous messages on social media, where he has, this same Jimmy Cherizier, an American flag behind his back to show the world who he stands with. And now that he has some little trouble with his people —

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Dahoud, Dahoud, if we can — Dahoud, if we can, we have only a couple of more minutes —

DAHOUD ANDRE: — he’s pretending that he’s leading revolution. Yeah, the —

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Dahoud, we have only a couple more minutes to go. I wanted to get —


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to get Kim Ives in for — to respond, briefly, Kim. And also, if you could mention, talk about how the Biden administration has been dealing with Haiti since it’s come into office?

KIM IVES: Yes. Well, just to finish with Dahoud, he’s had a longtime bugaboo with Haiti Liberté. I imagined he might explode on the show if coupled with me. His belief that I’m the owner of Haiti Liberté is as unfounded as his rumors that he’s saying about the G9 and Jimmy Cherizier or my relationship with Oxygène David and Mario Joseph, who I have only recently spoken to, as well. So, this is, you know, just typical.

But as for the Biden administration, the administration has, according to my sources in Haiti, been totally supporting Jovenel up until now. But Helen La Lime, who heads the BINUH, which is the U.N. office in Haiti, has been very much on the fence, really, about whether to go over to the bourgeois opposition and use them for a transition. Well, obviously, that probably is going to happen now, because the president no longer is living. But so, the Biden administration has been having this slightly contradictory sort of message, where on the one hand they say, you know, “We’re going to support Jovenel, and he can be in office until February 7th, 2022,” but at the same time they’re saying, “We’re alarmed by authoritarianism and the decrees that he’s passing.”

So, right now we’ll see which way they go. Will they move over to the opposition, which basically is headed by this fellow Youri Latortue, who we have done WikiLeaks articles on, on Haiti Liberté — people can check those out — a decade ago? And I expect that, you know, they may try to find some sort of compromise candidate, somebody with a slight Lavalas color, a slight progressive color, to be the figurehead of this transitional government. But I don’t think they’ll be able to go forward with the remnants of the crew that Jovenel had working with him now. They just appointed a new prime minister on Monday, a guy called Dr. Ariel Henry, who is an old, basically, collaborator of the U.S. in Haiti. He sat on the Council of the Wise, which facilitated the transfer to the de facto government after the coup d’état against Aristide on February 29th, 2004. And so, he was basically named on Monday, but I see that it’s Claude Joseph, the interim prime minister, who is doing all the talking after this assassination of Jovenel.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to leave it there. And, of course, these are just the first few hours after the assassination of the Haitian president, and we will continue to cover what develops since, from this time. Kim Ives, editor of Haiti Liberté, and Dahoud Andre, longtime Haitian community activist and member of the Committee to Mobilize Against Dictatorship in Haiti.

Next up, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones has rejected the tenure offer from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill after major controversy. She’s joining the faculty of Howard University, after a prominent right-wing donor at UNC opposed giving her tenure. Stay with us.

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