Amid the ever-worsening health situation in Haiti prompted by COVID-19 and the country’s limited medical resources, a group of armed and highly trained perpetrators broke in and assassinated President Jovenel Moise on Wednesday at 1 in the morning, according to acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph.
It was not just Haiti’s head of state they assaulted, reports Joseph, but the group of armed killers also gravely attacked First Lady Martine Moise, who is now under treatment at a hospital in Miami. In a statement, Joseph described the killing as a “heinous, inhumane, and barbaric act,” soliciting prayers and similarly critical remarks from leaders of other countries, including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, US President Joe Biden, and Chilean President Sebastian Piñera. To the surprise of many, Nou Pap Dómi (NPD), one of Moise’s fiercest opposition groups, condemned the attack, stating that the assassination is a call for unity and de-escalation among division groups. Although the identity of the killers remains to be obscure, one thing is for certain: Moise upset different groups of people in different ways, let alone lead them in the direction of democracy.
So where did it all begin?
To be sure, Haiti has not been one for a smooth sail towards democratic developments. Since its independence in 1804 the country has faced a succession of crises such as the assassination of Jean-Jacques Dessalines in 1806, then the Cacos revolt in mid 1800s, U.S. occupation in the years 1915 to 1934, and finally the crisis of 1986 involving the ousting of the Duvalier regime.
A continuation of the succession of crises in Haitian history, the people’s enragement against the Moise administration involves fiscal non transparency regarding funds received via PetroCaribe, an economic aid program sponsored by the Venezuelan government. The program operates on the loaning of oil rather than money by Venezuela, which Haiti then sells to the growing international market and uses that money to fund social programs and infrastructure.
With the $4 billion that was raised by PetroCaribe between 2008 and 2016, the Haitian government created 400 social programs and improved urban infrastructure. Suspicious of the management of this incredibly large sum of money, a five person commission in November of 2017 investigated government allocation of CaribePetro money and reported statistical evidence of widespread corruption under three successive governments, including misreported checks and adjusted exchange rates.
Though this scandal was publicized in the media and condemned at every angle of interpretation, nothing substantive was done to the government: initial anger simmered down and people focused on the next headline issue, whether by steamrolling or insouciance. It wasn’t until the summer of 2018 that protests began following the federal decision to, among other things, raise gas money to mitigate spiraling inflation.
Questions about where the PetroCaribe funds had disappeared was in the air once again and infuriated citizens began taking action in factions – and in the end, Moise was simply the sacrifice of the two administrations that preceded his place.
Haiti officials have requested the U.S. forces to station and stabilize the country.
Sources:"Fighting for Survival, Building for Power"