Port-au-Prince, Haiti – Following the murder of President Jovenel Moise in the early hours of Wednesday, the Haitian government urged the United States send their military protect infrastructure and establish security so that the Caribbean nation can hold elections in September.
But Haitian civil society activists say gang violence and increased political instability after the assassination of Moses make real elections impossible.
Gang violence has displaced more than 15,000 people since early June from populated neighborhoods of the capital. Houses and businesses have been burned and destroyed and the main band connecting Port-au-Prince with the south of the peninsula has been blocked by armed gangs.
Only the insecurity of the last two weeks has not only seen the murder of Moses, but the murder of a nurse while crossing Martissant, a neighborhood of thousands of people near the southern exit of the capital, and the massacre of 15 people, including activist Antoinette Duclair and journalist Diego Charles.
The National Network for the Defense of Human Rights Found that between 2018 and 2020 at least 10 massacres were perpetrated in Port-al-Prince, while in 2020 alone 1,085 people died.
But the international community does he continued instantly the first round of parliamentary and presidential elections will be held on 26 September.
“Haitians know that too often the international community is pushing Haiti to go to the polls,” Velina Charlier, a prominent anti-corruption activist affiliated with the New Pap Domi movement, told Al Jazeera. “But no one will go out to vote when you can’t even cross Martissant.”
Theories surrounding the attack that killed Moses and critically wounded him his wife, Martine Moise, continue to develop, as authorities have not confirmed any motive behind the murder.
Haitian authorities have said 26 Colombian mercenaries and two Haitian-Americans were involved. The Minister of Defense of Colombia, Diego Molano dit 13 of the Colombian men had ties to the country’s military.
Martine Moise, in her first comments since the attack, said the mercenaries were sent to kill her husband because of his policy. “In the blink of an eye, the mercenaries came into my house and wrapped bullets in my husband … without even giving him a chance to say a word,” he said in a audio message shared on social media on Saturday.
No security personnel at Moise’s residence were reportedly injured during the incident, and Haitian officials have said they plan to interrogate security officials close to the assassinated president, the Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported.
Colombian media dit the head of the General Security Unit of the National Palace (USPGN), Dimitri Herard, also reportedly visited Colombia a few weeks before the assassination. Herard is being investigated by US police for involvement in arms trafficking, the Center for Economic and Political Research reported.
Despite the Haitian government application for the deployment of U.S. soldiers, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday at a news conference that no U.S. troops were being sent to Haiti, but the U.S. would send senior FBI and U.S. officials Department of Homeland Security in Port-au-Prince as soon as possible.
“We continue to call for elections this year,” Psaki said. “Strengthening Haiti’s law enforcement capacity is a top priority for the United States; before the assassination a few days ago, it still was.”
Moise had won strong opposition since 2017, when he took office, personally accused of being involved in a $ 2 billion embezzlement scheme linked to Petrocaribe, a Venezuelan oil price reduction program, along with dozens of other governmental and private entities.
He also ruled by decree since January 2020, when the legislatures were no longer won and spurred a constitutional crisis when many civil society leaders, lawyers and opposition political leaders said their five-year term ended in February. Moses had insisted that his term would expire next year.
The political vacuum left by Moise has also given rise to two prime ministers.
Ariel Henry was appointed prime minister on Monday, just two days before Moise’s death, but Claude Joseph, who previously held the post, has been recognized by the international community as interim prime minister. Joseph announced a “state of siege” and 15 days of national mourning.
Haitian Election Minister Mathias Pierre said that since Moise was assassinated less than 72 hours after Henry’s appointment, Joseph was still legally prime minister. He rejected arguments that a coup was taking place, saying the idea “was created to instill doubt and division”.
Joseph Lambert, the head of the remaining Haitian Senate, has also been named “interim president” with the support of ten senators, Reuters news agency reported. reported; the other 20 senators saw their terms expire last year and have not been replaced.
Lambert has been linked to gang activities and crime since 1999, according to Sherlson Sanon’s personal testimony in 2013 on the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH). Sanon said Lambert had recruited child soldiers like him when they were just eleven years old to join armed gangs, an accusation Lambert rejected at the time as a defamation campaign.
“We can’t rush into the election because the same people will be elected with the money, the gangs and that monopoly of insecurity,” Charlier told Al Jazeera.
Murders are not common in Haiti; the last happened more than 100 years ago in 1915 and began a U.S. military occupation that lasted until 1934.
Georges Michel, a Haitian historian who helped write the 1987 constitution, said Haiti is witnessing “somalization” – a term used to describe a state of illegality created in the midst of a political vacuum – and that external intervention is inevitable.
“The United States will not tolerate another Somali taking just a two-hour flight from Miami International Airport,” Michel said.
He said Haiti could have crossed a threshold that opens up the risk of future assassinations as long as there is an unpopular president. Michel emphasized, however, that the solution to the current crisis is a Haitian decision – not a foreign one.
This was echoed by Charlier, who said that Haiti had reached a breaking point. “And we need to break with corruption, impunity and these anti-democratic situations.”