Caribbean Matters: Untenable political situation in Haiti worsens amid new assassination revelations

Caribbean Matters: Untenable political situation in Haiti worsens amid new assassination revelations

As we mark the anniversary of the catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010—a natural disaster from which the island nation has never recovered—Haitians are now confronting more issues that will continue to destabilize them. These shockwaves emanate not from geology, but from the increasingly disastrous realm of politics.

Anyone following Haitian politics is well aware that historically, the United States has played an oversized role in Haiti. Though not Haiti’s original oppressor—that dubious title goes to the French, from whom Haitians wrenched their freedom in the first successful revolution of enslaved people in the New World, becoming the first country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery in 1804—the U.S. has invaded and occupied Haiti in the past, and supported successive oppressive dictatorial regimes.  

Now, as Haiti attempts to cope with the aftermath of last summer’s earthquake, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, current Prime Minister Ariel Henry (who is supported by the U.S.) is being outed in news reports as having been complicit in that assassination.

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The New York Times‘ Anatoly Kurmanaev broke the story on Monday.

New evidence suggests the man who took over from Haiti’s murdered president had close links to a prime suspect in the assassination — and that the two stayed in contact even after the crime.

— Anatoly Kurmanaev (@AKurmanaev) January 10, 2022

These revelations reported in the Times are based on conversations with Rodolphe Jaar, who is identified as “a Haitian businessman and former drug trafficker [who] admitted helping finance and plan the plot.”

The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July plunged an already troubled nation further into disarray, with many of its public institutions in tatters, a capital under siege by gangs, a collapsing economy and the few elected leaders left in the country sparring for control of the government.

Mr. Henry’s ascension to prime minister promised to smooth some of the rifts, earning pledges of support from overseas and potentially paving the way toward elections. He pledged to bring the assassins to justice, curb the violence and usher in a period of political unity.

But the investigation into the assassination stalled, and concerns about Mr. Henry’s commitment to solving the murder emerged soon after. They center on his connection to Joseph Felix Badio, a former justice ministry official wanted by the Haitian authorities on suspicion of organizing the attack that killed Mr. Moïse.

The Times report asserts that, according to Jaar, Badio was in contact with Henry both before and after the assassination. Jaar was just reportedly arrested in the Dominican Republic.

Authorities in the Dominican Republic tell AP they have detained a key suspect in the killing of Haiti’s president with help from the U.S. government. They said he was being handled as a U.S. prisoner and was arrested under instruction by U.S. authorities:

— Dánica Coto (@danicacoto) January 10, 2022


An official not allowed to speak publicly about the case said Rodolphe Jaar was being handled as a U.S. prisoner and was arrested under instruction by U.S. authorities.

The official said Jaar was arrested Friday when he tried to enter the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

Jaar has not been formally charged. It wasn’t immediately clear if he had an attorney or would be extradited to another country.

U.S. officials declined to comment, saying the investigation is continuing. Haitian authorities could not be reached for comment.

The Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was waiting for authorization to speak on the case.

Daniel Foote was the former Biden-appointed United States special envoy for Haiti. He resigned in September, citing the Biden administration’s inhumane Haitian deportation policies, and has called out the administration for continuing to engage with Henry.

U.S. support for Henry irked many Haiti observers, including Foote, who saw in the move reflections of past instances of failed American diplomacy in the country.

“It became clear to me that the United States was just going to back Ariel Henry unless he died or something. That they were just behind him and they had put all their chips behind him,” Foote said.

“And so I was like, you know what, I am not going to change this from the inside. Nobody’s listening. The only way — and probably even this won’t change it — but I can keep the dream alive. The only way I can keep alive is if I just go nuclear. You know, make the world see what’s going on,” he added.

Foote makes some important points.

Brian, respectfully – NO! Can you not see that by imposing Henry on the people, the U.S. is calling the shots. He’s done zero to win the people’s trust. Oh, and he might have been part of the assassination. Poor choice.

— Dan Foote (@AmbDanFoote) January 10, 2022

Sadly, it does not look like the Biden administration has any plans to change its current toxic Haitian policy. This is not a surprise given the history of both parties when it comes to interference in Haiti.

Join me in the comments section below for more on Haiti, and for the Caribbean Matters weekly Twitter roundup.

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