Propaganda or principle? Trudeau on Venezuela and Haiti

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Haitian president Jovenel Moïse and Trudeau

Propaganda or principle? In the world of foreign affairs the latter is often claimed but the former is much more common.

One way to evaluate the seriousness of the Trudeau government’s stated objectives in seeking to oust Venezuela’s government is to examine their policy elsewhere in the Caribbean. While they talk about the constitution, democracy and human rights there, the Liberals ignore their stated ideals in Haiti.

The only reason corrupt repressive and illegitimate president Jovenel Moïse remains in office is due to the support of Ottawa and Washington. Since July 2018 there have been massive protests and strikes, including one that shuttered Port-au-Prince for six weeks, calling for Moïse’s removal. But, the US and Canada have continued to offer decisive diplomatic, financial and policing support. (A by-product of US/Canadian policy, Moïse benefited from the destruction of Haiti’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas, in the 2004 coup and aggressive interference in the 2010 presidential election in favor of Michel Martelly, who is Moïse’s mentor.)

The constitutional and human rights situation in Haiti is deteriorating. Since the start of the year Moïse has governed by decree and has recently begun appointing local level officials. There haven’t been elections during Moïse time in office, so the mandates of most officials have expired.

Plunging the country into a greater constitutional morass, eight members of the provisional electoral council resigned last week (the other member stepped aside a few weeks earlier). They resigned in response to a letter from Moïse giving different social sectors four days to either confirm or replace their representatives on the electoral council.

Two months ago, nine gangs in Port-au-Prince brokered an alliance. Backed by Moïse, the “G9 and Family” accord is largely designed to deter protests and election organizing. InSight Crime writer Parker Asmann explains, “the G9 alliance has reportedly benefited from strong ties to the government of President Jovenel Moïse. The gang leaders are seemingly free from persecution so long as they help keep the peace in the neighborhoods they control. In exchange, Moïse’s government has found in them loyal foot soldiers quelling insecurity, stamping out opposition voices and shoring up political support across the capital.”

The mastermind of the G9 is Jimmy Chérizier, alias “Barbecue”. A former police officer, Chérizier was involved in a November 2017 police operation that left at least 14 innocent civilians dead in the neighborhood of Grand Ravine. Chérizier has also been accused of leading a four day killing spree that left as many as 71 dead in La Saline in November 2018 and a recent United Nations report named Chérizier in killings in the neighborhood of Bel-Air last November. After the La Saline massacre he was dismissed from the police and a warrant was put out for Chérizier’s arrest. But, the 14-year veteran of the force was recently photographed smiling next to a group of police.

Chérizier likely joined the police with a host of other thugs after Canada and the US took over the force following the 2004 coup against Jean Bertrand Aristide and other elected officials. Since then Ottawa has financed police facilities and Canadian police have trained their Haitian counterparts. Canadian diplomats regularly attend Haitian police ceremonies and praise the force. But, they rarely criticize their abundant abuses. In a Le Nouveliste interview last month Canadian ambassador Stuart Savage refused to answer a direct question about police repression. The reporter asked on “June 29 there was a demonstration that was suppressed by the police in Haiti. How does Canada, which works for human rights, which funds the National Police of Haiti, which helps the Haitian government, understand what happened that Monday?” Savage responded, “I am not aware of all the facts of this specific event. But I can tell you that in a democracy, the right to organize peaceful demonstrations is a given and must be respected. I hope that here and elsewhere this right will continue to be upheld, because it is necessary that people who have perspectives to share, to communicate, to convey, have a peaceful means to do so.”

Did Savage seek out information about the repression of a Nou pap dòmi rally, reported on by Le Nouveliste, and subsequently express Canada’s opposition to the police suppressing a protest? Not from what I could find. I searched in vain for anything critical of police actions on the embassy or ambassador’s twitter accounts. Similarly, there’s nothing about the widely discussed G9 gang alliance or the electoral council resigning. But, the Canadian ambassador in Haiti has taken the time to criticize the Venezuelan government. Savage’s last two tweets were about the Canadian government’s campaign to oust Nicolás Maduro’s government.

As respect for the constitution, democracy and human rights go from bad to worse in Haiti there is barely a murmur of criticism from Canadian officials. At the same time the Trudeau government claims it is defending said ideals in Venezuela.

 

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