After the tragic assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse there’s been a call for the United States to bring U.S. troops on the ground in the midst of this political chaos. Haiti remains without an elected leader, and the country faces poverty and violence. But due to the historical backdrop of American meddling in Haitian affairs and charges of American agencies involved in an apparent coup attempt, many are calling for America to take its hands out of Haiti’s affairs … and stay out.
President Joe Biden announced July 15 he would not honor Haiti’s interim government’s request for U.S. troops at this time.
“We’re only sending American Marines to our embassy,“ Mr. Biden said during a news conference. The idea of sending American forces to Haiti is not on the agenda.”
Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s elections minister, told The Associated Press that he believes the request for U.S. troops is relevant due to the country’s “fragile situation” and the need to create a secure environment for elections scheduled to happen in less than 120 days. He also said Mr. Biden’s comment that sending U.S. troops was “not on the agenda” still leaves the option open.
“This is not a closed door. The evolution of the situation will determine the outcome,” Mr. Pierre told The Associated Press. “In the meantime, the government is doing everything we can to stabilize the country, return to a normal environment and organize elections while trying to come to a political agreement with most political parties.”
But as the crisis unfolds, one thing has been consistent: Charges of U.S. involvement and acknowledgement of American ties, in different ways, with some of those accused of killing a president. Among the reports:
Reporter Matt Rivers said on Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN July 15 that Columbian officials at a press conference said alleged Colombian mercenaries’ mission was to arrest the president and “put him on display for the DEA.” The night of Mr. Moises’ killing, video captured an English voice saying it was a DEA raid and called for anyone at the president’s Port-Au-Prince home to stand down. Thirty-nine people have reportedly been implicated in the murder plot, including 23 ex-Colombian military men and two Haitian-Americans.
CNN disclosed several men arrested in connection with the assassination of President Moise were previously U.S. law enforcement informants. At least one of the men arrested in connection with the assassination worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration, the DEA told CNN. “At times, one of the suspects in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise was a confidential source to the DEA,” the agency said in a statement. “Following the assassination of President Moise, the suspect reached out to his contacts at the DEA. A DEA official assigned to Haiti urged the suspect to surrender to local authorities and, along with a U.S. State Department official, provided information to the Haitian government that assisted in the surrender and arrest of the suspect and one other individual,” the DEA said.
Other suspects also had U.S. ties, including working as informants for the FBI, sources briefed on the matter said. The FBI said in response to CNN’s reporting that it doesn’t comment on informants, except to say that it uses “lawful sources to collect intelligence” as part of its investigations, CNN said.
According to Al Jazeera, some of the ex-Colombian soldiers arrested in Haiti received United States military training in the past. “A review of our training databases indicates that a small number of the Colombian individuals detained as part of this investigation had participated in past U.S. military training and education programs, while serving as active members of the Colombian Military Forces,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ken Hoffman said in a statement.
Word of possible U.S. involvement surfaced July 12 with the arrest of a Haitian businessman from Florida, allegedly in connection with the July 7 murder of the president. Haitian authorities announced the arrest of Christian Emmanuel Sanon, 62, who previously expressed a desire to lead Haiti. According to media reports, Mr. Sanon said he was approached by officials from the State Dept. and Justice Dept. who wanted to apprehend President Moise and make him president. A New York Times article reported that a group met in Florida to discuss the change and work on forming a government for Mr. Sanon. Those who spoke to the Times denied any knowledge of or part in any plot to kill the president. Another source said Mr. Sanon had hired Colombians as security for a trip back to Haiti.
CNN said Mr. Sanon had held Zoom and in-person meetings “through early this year with academics and business leaders, and at one point meeting with the man who allegedly supplied the mercenaries behind the killing, according to a person at the meeting.”
“But according to authorities in Colombia and Haiti, Sanon had a secret plan B. Haitian police allege Sanon recruited the more than two dozen men who stormed the residence of Jovenel Moise, the assassinated President, in an attempt to seize power,“ said CNN.
Mr. Sanon was arrested in Haiti “in a raid on a house where, according to a source close to the investigation who is not authorized to discuss the incident, police recovered boxes of ammunition, 24 unused shooting targets and a cap labeled ‘DEA.‘ Sanon has told police he had no knowledge of the attack,“ CNN reported.
An “associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of safety concerns, said Sanon told him he was approached by people claiming to represent the U.S. State and Justice departments who wanted to install him as president,” reported the Associated Press.
Jemima Pierre, the Haitian/American coordinator for The Black Alliance for Peace, was concerned Mr. Biden left room for future occupation. Despite his announcement, she said, America is still very much involved.
“The FBI is there, the NSA is there, the DHS is there, and we‘ve heard quite a large number of plainclothes U.S. officials are there also,” Ms. Pierre said.
The Black Alliance for Peace hosted a July 15 protest in front of the State Department in Washington, D.C., to show solidarity with the Haitian people and to oppose intervention in Haiti by the U.S. and the United Nations. The UN special envoy for Haiti said Prime Minister Claude Joseph will lead the nation until an election is held.
However, at Final Call presstime several media outlets reported that Mr. Joseph announced he was stepping down. Haiti’s designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry will replace him which was reportedly Mr. Moise’s decision prior to his death. It is unclear when Mr. Joseph will officially step down and when Mr. Henry will assume power.
Ms. Pierre pointed to longtime U.S. intervention in Haiti‘s affairs.
“Nothing happens in Haiti without the knowledge, funding, and media coverage of the U.S.,” she said. “One thing I want people to really understand is that Haiti would not be where it is without continuous U.S. meddling. And the thing is, Moïse is actually the second fake president that [Haiti] has had. In the past 10 years, the U.S. forced the last two presidents on us and Moïse was handpicked by the previous president who was forced onto the ballot by Hillary Clinton, the Obama administration, back in 2011 against everyone’s wishes. And so part of that is like the reason we’re in the situation is because of the forceful imposition of this political party and president, and then his successor, on the Haitian people for the past 10 years.”
Historically, the United States has not been a friend of Haiti, despite the guise of friendship it has acted under. Even with this latest tragedy to strike the resilient island nation, U.S. involvement appears to be more and more likely.
“We are not in favor of international military intervention in Haiti,” said Paul Namphy, lead organizer of the Family Action Network Movement in Miami, Fla. “We applaud the Biden-Harris administration for their decision not to intervene militarily in Haiti. We are in favor of the decision makers inside and outside of Haiti respecting the will of the Haitian people. We have to have a Haitian-leading solution to the crisis.”
As far as leaders outside of Haiti, he cited Haitian-American lawmakers assisting with the crisis. But the first thing that needs to be done, he said, is to listen to the wants and needs of the Haitian people.
“The people inside Haiti are the ones that need to be defining the terms of what needs to happen next,” Mr. Namphy said.
But this would, of course, not be the first time the U.S. has meddled in Haiti’s affairs, or taken advantage of the country.
According to World Atlas, Haiti has some of the largest oil reserves in the world, even larger than that of Venezuela. Prior to 1791, while enslaved Africans fought for independence on the island, the U.S. and Europe took advantage of several exports, including sugar, gold, copper and iron. After the assassination of Haitian President Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam in 1915, President Woodrow Wilson ordered U.S. marines to occupy Haiti to “restore order and maintain political and economic stability in the Caribbean,” according to the U.S. Department of State archive.
“The Europeans don‘t like Haiti because of the Haitian revolution,” Ms. Pierre said. “But the U.S. has very clear, neo-colonial economic and geo-geopolitical goals in Haiti.”
“The last time a Haitian president was assassinated in 1915, the U.S. used that as a pretext to invade and occupy the country for two decades,” she went on to say. “It brought its racist Marines and created forced labor. The U.S. never recognized Haiti when it became independent for 60 years.”
At the end of this period, more than 15,000 Haitians had been killed. The U.S. went on to back the Duvalier regime, which killed an estimated 60,000 Haitians in the name of preventing the spread of communism.
With U.S. interference for decades, the Haitian people have not benefited from any of it. No matter who is elected, nothing seems to change for Haitians, who are often dependent on remittances from the Haitian Diaspora, and living on less than $2 a day. Largely untapped billions in gold, the rare mineral iridium, oil and other natural resources are in Haiti—but not in the service of the nation and her resilient people.
The December 12th Movement, a Black human rights group based in New York, expressed concern over the assassination of President Moïse.
“The December 12th Movement is concerned that the recent assassination of the president of Haiti is a pretext for the ongoing interference with the internal affairs of Haiti,” said Colette Pean, member of the December 12th Movement.
“The assassination of President Moïse only benefits those who support the U.S. coming in more directly to interfere in the internal affairs of Haiti,” Ms. Pean went on to say.
Some U.S. lawmakers also oppose U.S. troops on the ground. In an interview with “Democracy Now,” U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made her position known.
“This situation is extraordinarily delicate and extremely fragile. And I do not believe right now that the introduction of U.S. troops, without—particularly without any sort of plan, sets any community, whether it’s the U.S. or whether it is Haitians, up for success,” she said. “I do believe that with the assassination, the people of Haiti and the country is in a very delicate moment, and our role should be in supporting a peaceful transition and a peaceful democratic process for selecting a new leader, and avoiding any sort of violence, but particularly in really carrying any—supporting any due process for justice here in the United States for any actors that may have been complicit on U.S. soil.”
Ms. Pierre said the best thing for Haiti would be for the U.S. to stop its intervention.
“The truth is, Haiti is in the situation that it is, precisely because the U.S. has meddled, has not allowed local people to decide their own fate and the U.S. has been meddling in Haitian affairs since at least 1915, but especially since the 2004 coup d‘etat against our first elected president,” she said. “We don‘t want the further intervention of the U.S. in Haiti, especially when the U.S. has its hands full. It can‘t even control its own democracy, I mean, look at January 6. The nerve to say that you‘re going to bring democracy when you can‘t control your own.”
(Final Call staff contributed to this report.)