Tag Archives: Michel Martelly

The assassination of Jovenel Moïse

Jovenel Moïse was a violent and corrupt tyrant. While his passing may not elicit much sympathy, the Haitian president’s assassination should not be celebrated.

Backed by Washington and Ottawa, Moïse appears to have been killed by elements within his own violent PHTK political party. The well-organized operation was probably bankrolled by one of the country’s light skinned oligarchs and almost certainly carried out with support from inside the government. Police controlled the road to his house yet this video shows a convoy of armed men moving methodically up the hill towards the president’s residence. The presumed assassins announced that they were part of a US Drug Enforcement Agency operation.

Incredibly, the president and his wife were the only individuals hurt in the operation. None of Moïse’s direct security were harmed. Nor were any police. Reportedly, a dozen bullets riddled his body.

Moïse was extremely unpopular. Little known before former president Michel Martelly anointed him PHTK presidential candidate, important segments of the oligarchy had turned against Moïse. So had most of the right wing Haitian political establishment. During his mandate Moïse appointed seven different prime ministers, including a new one on Monday. Previous interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, now claims he is in charge of the government, which is disputed by recently appointed (though not sworn in) prime minister Ariel Henry. The day after the assassination Joseph met the “Core Group”, which is a collection of foreign ambassadors (US, Canada, Spain, France, Germany, Brazil, UN and OAS) that wields immense power in Haiti. Afterwards the UN special envoy for Haiti, Helen La Lime, a former US State Department official, said Joseph will lead the country until a planned September election.

While much of the establishment had turned against Moïse, few among the impoverished masses ever supported him. Since massive anticorruption protests began in July 2018 a strong majority of Haitians have wanted Moïse to go. Protesters were enraged by the Petrocaribe corruption scandal in which the Moïse and Martelly administrations pilfered hundreds of millions of dollars. Between mid 2018 and late 2019 Moïse faced multiple general strikes, including one that shuttered Port-au-Prince for a month.

For a year and a half Moïse has been ruling by decree and his already limited constitutional legitimacy expired February 7. In response a new wave of mass protests began.

During his mandate there have been a number of horrific state-backed massacres. At the end of April Harvard’s International Human Rights Clinic and L’Observatoire Haïtien des crimes contre l’humanité published a report titled “Killing with Impunity: State-Sanctioned Massacres in Haiti”. It documents three “brutal attacks” by government-backed gangs that left 240 dead in neighborhoods known for resistance to Moïse.

The scope of the violence and lawlessness has worsened in recent weeks. Gang violence has engulfed entire neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, displacing thousands of women and children. On June 29 reporter Diego Charles, activist Antoinette Duclair and 13 others were killed in a violent attack.

It’s unlikely Canada had a direct hand in Moïse’s assassination. In fact, Canadian officials were likely unhappy about the killing. But, that doesn’t mean Canadian hands aren’t all-around the crime scene.

Ottawa has strengthened the most regressive and murderous elements of Haitian society. In 2004 the Canadian government helped sabotage the most democratic election in Haitian history. 7000 elected officials were overthrown when the US, France and Canada destabilized and then ousted the elected president.

After backing a 26-month coup government that killed thousands, the US and Canada tried to block social democratic candidate René Préval from becoming president. That failed. But they undercut Préval when he attempted to raise the minimum wage and joined the subsidized Venezuelan oil program Petrocaribe. After the terrible 2010 earthquake they took advantage of the government’s weakness to sideline Préval and impose the PHTK in a rushed ‘election’.

In February I wrote about Canada’s role in enabling Haitian corruption and violence after it came to light that PHTK senator Rony Célestin stashed nearly $5 million in Montréal property. The story quoted Haitian-Canadian author Jean “Jafrikayiti” Saint-Vil who explained: “The PHTK regime headed by Michel Martelly and his self-described ‘bandi legal’ (legal bandits), came to power thanks to fraudulent elections organized, financed and controlled by the foreign occupation force established in Haiti since the coup d’état of February 2004. The planning meeting for the coup d’etat and putting Haiti under trusteeship was organized by Canadian Minister for La Francophonie Denis Paradis. The Ottawa Initiative on Haiti [January 31-February 1, 2003] succeeded in overthrowing the legitimate President as well as 7,000 elected officials from the region’s most impoverished country. The elected officials were replaced by bandits such as ‘Senator’ Rony Célestin.”

Offering an even more stark way of understanding Canada’s relationship to violence in Haiti Saint-Vil asked, “Can you imagine [Hells Angels leader] Maurice ‘Mom’ Boucher and [serial killer] Carla Homolka installed as Senators in Canada by fraudulent elections led by a coalition of Haitian, Jamaican, Ethiopian diplomats in Ottawa?” Few Canadians would be happy with such an outcome, but it’s a troublingly apt description of US, Canadian and French policy in Haiti.

It may turn out that the CIA or another arm of the US government had a hand in Moïse’s assassination. But, it’s more likely Moïse was killed in an internal PHTK struggle over political power, drug routes, pillaging state resources, etc. Or maybe there was a dispute over some gang alliance or act of violence.

A presidential assassination in the middle of the night with the probable involvement of other elements of the government reflects that deterioration and criminal nature of the Haitian state. It’s the outgrowth of the US and Canada empowering the most corrupt and violent actors in Haiti.

Washington and Ottawa support the most retrograde elements of Haitian society largely out of fear of the alternative: a reformist, pro-poor, government that seeks out alternative regional arrangements.

Canadian officials “knowingly support drug traffickers, money-launderers and assassins in Haiti”, tweeted Madame Boukman in February. “That is the only way Canadian mining vultures can loot Haiti’s massive gold reserves.”

It may be hard to believe, but that description is not far from the mark.

 

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Canada backs revival of Duvalierism in Haiti

 

 

Jean-Claude Duvalier’s son Nicolas with President Jovenel Moïse

The ghosts of dictators “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” Duvalier still haunt Haiti. Canada seems willing to support a return of their methods in the Caribbean nation.

Sunday will be bittersweet for many Haitians. February 7 is usually a day to commemorate the defeat of the Duvalier dictatorship, but this year the date portends the revival of Duvalierism.

After a multi month popular revolt the three decade-long Duvalier dictatorship fell on February 7, 1986. “President for life” Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier, who took over from his father at 19, was chased out of the country after 15 years.

Thirty-five years to the day Baby Doc fell a Duvalierist president who should be leaving office is extending his term against the wishes of most Haitians and constitutional experts. In his time in office Jovenel Moïse has restored many aspects of the brutal regime. He suppressed popular protests and instigated a gang alliance to instill fear in the slums. He has ruled by decree and criminalized protests as “terrorism”. Shortly after parliament was disbanded because Moïse failed to hold elections, the president selected individuals to rewrite the constitution in flagrant violation of the law. In November Moïse unilaterally decreed the creation of a new National Intelligence Agency with anonymous, legally untouchable, officers who, notes Kim Ives, “have the power not just to spy and infiltrate but to arrest anybody engaged in ‘subversive’ acts (Article 29) or threatening ‘state security’ i.e. the power of President Jovenel Moïse.” The agency may become analogous to Duvalier’s feared Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale (Ton Ton Macoutes).

Moïse is the hand-picked successor of Michel Martelly. A supporter of the 1991 and 2004 coups against elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Martelly was a member of the Ton Ton Macoutes. As president, Martelly surrounded himself with former Duvalierists and death squad leaders who’d been arrested for rape, murder, kidnapping and drug trafficking. When Jean-Claude Duvalier returned to Haiti after 25 years, Martelly told the New York Times no one wanted him prosecuted except for “certain institutions and governments” abroad.

In fact Martelly was put in put in place by Washington and Ottawa not long after the deadly 2010 earthquake. In the 2010 election Ottawa intervened to bring far-right president Martelly to power (with about 16 per cent of the votes, since the election was largely boycotted). Canada put up $6 million for elections that excluded Fanmi Lavalas from participating. After the first round, Canadian representatives on an Organization of American States mission helped force the candidate the electoral council had in second place, Jude Celestin, out of the runoff.

Ottawa backed Martelly diplomatically and financially throughout his presidency, including when he sought to ensure arelatively obscure businessman replaced him. Since then, Canada has provided almost unquestioned support for Moïse. Canada has ploughed tens of millions of dollars into the Haitian police and prison system in recent years. They promoted a police force that violently repressed anti-Moïse protests.

It may be hard to imagine that Ottawa would promote the revival of such a notorious dictatorship. But it shouldn’t. Ottawa enabled a young Jean-Claude to take over after François Duvalier died. Canada was among the leading financial contributors to Haiti throughout Baby Doc’s 15-year rule. The aid supported the dictatorship. In “Canadian Development Assistance to Haiti: An Independent Study”, a 1984 report by the semi-official North South Institute, Edward Philip English writes: “It would be naive to pretend that this aid does not contribute to the support of the existing regime, at least in the short-run. It helps to legitimize the regime in the eyes of Haitians by demonstrating international approval and it generates projects and jobs, which the regime is careful to associate with itself as much as possible.”

English adds, “CIDA has placed Canadian advisors as ‘experts’ in several Haitian ministries.” In Spy Wars David Stafford and Jack Granatstein describe one of the individuals leading the CIDA program: “[Hugh] Hambleton lived in true grandeur in the capital, Port-au-Prince, working closely with officials of the notoriously corrupt and brutal government of its dictator, ‘Baby Doc’ Jean-Claude Duvalier.” Canadian officials even influenced who Baby Doc appointed finance minister. Three days before Baby Doc fled, Québec Premier Robert Bourassa refused to comment on whether Prime Minister Brian Mulroney should seek the dictator for life’s exclusion from an upcoming summit of the Francophonie.

Ottawa was even more openly supportive of maintaining ‘Duvalierism without Duvalier’ after the young dictator fell. In the four years after Duvalier fled Canada provided significant assistance to a series of military lead regimes. In November 1986 External Minister Monique Landry visited Haiti to meet government head General Henri Namphy. Canada announced $80 million in assistance over five years and Landry also invited Namphy to the Summit of la Francophonie in Quebec City the next year. As the violent, anti-democratic, nature of the military regime became undeniable Ottawa resisted shifting gears. In the face of significant criticism from the Haitian community and Québec left, Ottawa largely maintained its various forms of support to the military regimes.

Thirty-five years later not much has changed. After forcing Jean-Claude out Haitians struggling for a more just and democratic society face a similar predicament. They not only have to contend with the power of their own ruling elite but are also up against Canada and the US.

Canadians of conscience should support those mobilizing in Haiti today against creeping Duvalierism. It is the least we can do to make up for the shameful role this country has played in that impoverished nation.

 

Please email new Foreign Minister Marc Garneau to call on Ottawa to stop supporting president Jovenel Moïse who is reviving the spectre of the brutal Duvalier dictatorship.

 

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Filed under Canada in Haiti, Haiti, Justin Trudeau

Trudeau government’s blackface in Haiti

_108872197_trudeau_blackface_3_compJustin Trudeau recently apologized for dressing up in blackface. He acknowledged that it was a racist act. But he has continued the much more significant racism of his government’s actions towards Haiti, the country that delivered the greatest ever blow to anti-blackness.

In an example of racist double standards, the government recently put out a travel advisory warning Canadians that Haitian “police have used tear gas and live ammunition to disperse crowds.” Apart from this message to (white?) Canadians, the government has yet to directly criticize the killing of Haitian demonstrators by a police force that Canada funds and trains.

Beyond its involvement with a repressive police force, the Trudeau government has provided financial and diplomatic backing to a band of neo-Duvalerist criminals subjugating Haiti’s impoverished black masses. Despite a popular revolt against President Jovenel Moïse, Canada continues to prop up a corrupt clique of politicians who’ve recently fired bullets at protesters outside the Senate and admitted to receiving payments for votes in parliament. A Miami Herald headline explained: “That there is corruption in Haiti isn’t a surprise. But then a senator admitted it openly.” An investigation by Haiti’s Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes details the scope of Canadian-backed corruption. It concluded that Moïse’s companies swindled $2 million as part of $2 billion embezzled from a discounted oil program set up by Venezuela under Moïse’s mentor Michel Martelly. A vulgar, clownish, musician, Martelly was put in place by Washington and Ottawa not long after the deadly 2010 earthquake.

Previous Canadian governments have acted as if Haitians were incapable of running their own affairs. This has been motivated by racism, corporate interests and loyalty to the US empire.

Early in the morning on February 29, 2004, US Marines flew the learned, polyglot and popular President Jean-Bertrand Aristide out of the country. For over two years the US, France and Canada imposed an “illegal” interim government headed by a man, Gérard Latortue, who had been living in the US for 15 years.

The effort to oust Aristide began in earnest as Haiti prepared to celebrate its bicentennial. To get a sense of Washington’s thinking, then Assistant Secretary General of the OAS Luigi Einaudi told journalist/activist Jean Saint-Vil and others at Hotel Montana in Port au Prince on December 31, 2003: “The real problem with Haiti is that the ‘International Community’ is so screwed up and divided that they are actually letting Haitians run Haiti.” Eleven months before Haiti’s bicentennial Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government took a major step to ensure Haitians weren’t running Haiti. They organized the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” to discuss that country’s future. No Haitian officials were invited to this assembly where high-level US, Canadian and French officials decided that Haiti’s elected president “must go”, the dreaded army should be recreated and that the country would be put under a UN trusteeship. Thirteen months after the Ottawa Initiative meeting President Aristide and most other elected officials were pushed out and a quasi UN trusteeship had begun. The Haitian military has been partially re-created.

The bicentennial independence celebration heightened the racist contempt directed at Haiti since the country’s 1791-1804 revolution dealt a crushing blow to slavery, colonialism and white supremacy. From the grips of the most barbaric form of plantation economy, the largely African-born slaves led maybe the greatest example of liberation in the history of humanity. Their revolt rippled through the region and compelled the post-French Revolution government in Paris to abolish slavery in its Caribbean colonies. It also contributed to Britain’s move to abolish the trans-Atlantic slave trade in 1807.

The Haitian Revolution led to freedom for all people regardless of color, decades before this idea found traction in Europe or North America. But, within three years of independence the lighter-skinned plantation owners overthrew and murdered the country’s liberation hero Jean-Jacques Dessalines (the French having killed famous revolutionary, Tousaint Louverture, prior to independence). In a remarkable act of imperial humiliation, two decades after independence Haiti was compelled to begin paying $21 billion (in 2004 dollars) to compensate French slaveholders for their loss of property (land and now free Haitians). Haiti promised to repay its former exploiters under threat of military invasion and the restoration of slavery. Additionally, the light skinned elite wanted an end to the embargo against the country so they could access international markets. Haiti’s independence debt took 122 years to pay off.

For over half a century Haitian politics were shaped by the “politique de doublure”. Basically, the light skinned elite chose an ignorant/old black general as figurehead president. The “politique de doublure” largely ended with the US occupation of 1915– 34 (Washington kept control of the country’s treasury until 1947). For the most part the Marines simply chose a member of the light skinned elite to ‘lead’ Haiti.

A look at the individuals who dominate Haiti’s economy today highlight ongoing racial exclusion. These wealthy, light skinned Haitians generally work with North American and Dominican sweatshop, mining and other capitalists with even paler complexions.

Trudeau is likely ignorant of the history/social reality his policies in Haiti are entrenching. But, it’s unlikely he understood that blackening his face for a laugh at a party also flowed from/contributed to centuries of racial subjugation. It was just popular in the elite social circles he operated in. The same can be said of his humiliation of the impoverished black masses in Haiti today.

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Filed under Haiti, Justin Trudeau

Canadian policy on Venezuela, Haiti reveals hypocrisy that media ignores

Haitian protester waves Venezuela flag in solidarity with Maduro

If the dominant media was serious about holding the Canadian government to account for its foreign policy decisions, there would be numerous stories pointing out the hypocrisy of Ottawa’s response to recent political developments in Haiti and Venezuela.

Instead silence, or worse, cheer-leading.

Venezuela is a deeply divided society. Maybe a quarter of Venezuelans want the president removed by (almost) any means. A similar proportion backs Nicolas Maduro. A larger share of the population oscillates between these two poles, though they generally prefer the president to opposition forces that support economic sanctions and a possible invasion.

There are many legitimate criticisms of Maduro, including questions about his electoral bonafides after a presidential recall referendum was scuttled and the Constituent Assembly usurped the power of the opposition dominated National Assembly (of course many opposition actors’ democratic credentials are far more tainted). But, the presidential election in May demonstrates that Maduro and his PSUV party maintain considerable support. Despite the opposition boycott, the turnout was over 40% and Maduro received a higher proportion of the overall vote than leaders in the US, Canada and elsewhere. Additionally, Venezuela has an efficient and transparent electoral system — “best in the world” according to Jimmy Carter in 2012 — and it was the government that requested more international electoral observers.

Unlike Venezuela, Haiti is not divided. Basically, everyone wants the current “president” to go. While the slums have made that clear for months, important segments of the establishment (Reginald Boulos, Youri Latortue, Chamber of Commerce, etc) have turned on Jovenel Moïse. Reliable polling is limited, but it’s possible 9 in 10 Haitians want President Moïse to leave immediately. Many of them are strongly committed to that view, which is why the country’s urban areas have been largely paralyzed since February 7.

In a bid to squelch the protests, government forces (and their allies) have killed dozens in recent months. If you include the terrible massacre reported here and here in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of La Saline on November 11-13 that number rises far above 100.

Even prior to recent protests the president’s claim to legitimacy was paper-thin. Moïse assumed the job through voter suppression and electoral  fraud. Voter turnout was 18%. His predecessor and sponsor, Michel Martelly, only held elections after significant protests. For his part, Martelly took office with about 16 per cent of the vote, since the election was largely boycotted. After the first round, US and Canadian representatives pressured the electoral council to replace the second-place candidate, Jude Celestin, with Martelly in the runoff.

While you won’t have read about it in the mainstream media, recent protests in Haiti are connected to Venezuela. The protesters’ main demand is accountability for the billions of dollars pilfered from Petrocaribe, a discounted oil program set up by Venezuela in 2006. In the summer demonstrators forced out Moïse’s prime minister over an effort to eliminate fuel subsidies and calls for the president to go have swelled since then. Adding to popular disgust with Moïse, his government succumbed to US/Canadian pressure to vote against Venezuela at the OAS last month.

So what has been Ottawa’s response to the popular protests in Haiti? Has Global Affairs Canada released a statement supporting the will of the people? Has Canada built a regional coalition to remove the president? Has Canada’s PM called other international leaders to lobby them to join his effort to remove Haiti’s President? Have they made a major aid announcement designed to elicit regime change? Have they asked the International Criminal Court to investigate the Haitian government? Has Justin Trudeau called the Haitian President a “brutal dictator”?

In fact, it’s the exact opposite to the situation in Venezuela. The only reason the Haitian president is hanging on is because of support from the so-called “Core Group” of “Friends of Haiti”. Comprising the ambassadors of Canada, France, Brazil, Germany and the US, as well as representatives of Spain, EU and OAS, the “Core Group” released a statement  last week “acknowledging the professionalism shown by the Haitian National Police.” The statement condescendingly “reiterated the fact that in a democracy change must come through the ballot box, and not through violence.” The “Core Group’s” previous responses  to the protests expressed stronger support of the unpopular government. As I detailed  10 weeks ago in a story headlined “Canada backs Haitian government, even as police force kills demonstrators”, Ottawa has provided countless forms of support to Moïse’s unpopular government. Since then Justin Trudeau had a “very productive meeting” with Haitian Prime Minister Jean Henry Ceant, International development minister Marie-Claude Bibeau‏ declared a desire to “come to the aid” of the Haitian government and Global Affairs Canada released a statement declaring that “acts of political violence have no place in the democratic process.” Trudeau’s government has provided various forms of support to the repressive police that maintains Moïse’s rule. Since Paul Martin’s Liberals played an important role  in violently ousting Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government in 2004 Canada has financed, trained and overseen the Haitian National Police. As took place  the night Aristide was forced out of the country by US Marines, Canadian troops  were recently photographed  patrolling the Port-au-Prince airport.

Taking their cue from Ottawa, the dominant media have downplayed the scope of the recent protests and repression in Haiti. There have been few (any?) stories about protesters putting their bodies on the line for freedom and the greater good. Instead the media has focused on the difficulties faced by a small number of Canadian tourists, missionaries and aid workers. While the long-impoverished country of 12 million people is going through a very important political moment, Canada’s racist/nationalist media is engrossed in the plight of Canucks stuck at an all-inclusive resort!

The incredible hypocrisy in Ottawa’s response to recent political developments in Haiti and Venezuela is shameful. Why has no major media dared contrast the two?

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Left Right