The Haitian People and Haiti Are at a Crossroads
– Interview, Frantz André, Solidarité Québec-Haïti –
Demonstration April 1, 2021 as Haitian people continue months of actions for freedom, democracy and human rights and to end the death-squad democracy imposed on them by the U.S. and its allies.
This interview was conducted during the week following the assassination on July 7 of Haiti’s President, Jovenel Moïse. Since then, on July 20, Ariel Henry was sworn in as Haiti’s Prime Minister. Henry had been a cabinet minister in previous governments, including that of President Michel Martelly in 2015 and 2016. His appointment follows an agreement with acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph who resigned on July 19 to make way for Henry to assume the position.
The Marxist-Leninist: Frantz, can you give us your assessment of the situation that the Haitian people and Haiti are facing following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on July 7? Please first explain the context in which this assassination took place.
Frantz André: One has to understand that what is happening now in Haiti, since the arrival of Jovenel Moïse and before, during the presidency of Michel Martelly, is a civil war by proxy, which is being waged through armed gangs that have recently federated, under the name of “G9,” and with whom Jovenel Moïse had agreed to hold an official dialogue. He did so hoping to control insecurity, but unfortunately these gangs have also been terrorizing the population, serving the interests of those who arm them and pay them. The Haitian oligarchy and the political elite are at war with each other through these armed gangs. These groups are also linked internationally, notably to the Core Group , and it is with this international support that members of these oligarchic groups have become multimillionaires over the decades. They have done so and do so through corruption, including the misappropriation of funds from Venezuela’s PetroCaribe program, which was supposed to be used to finance public infrastructure and social programs. 
The Core Group, which supports this business elite, has contributed to “select” the country’s presidents or future presidents. This elite, together with opposition parties, have armed and are arming various gangs to defend their interests, just as the government of Jovenel Moïse also armed gangs to thwart what could be seen as a coup attempt. When President Michel Martelly reached the end of his term, he chose a successor, Jovenel Moïse. Moïse was elected in 2016 under the banner of outgoing president Martelly’s Tèt Kale Party (PHTK) in a sham election with a voter turnout of about 21 per cent. Only about 500,000 people voted although millions of people were eligible. At the beginning of his mandate, Jovenel Moïse was supported by Martelly and the oligarchy.
They thought they could manipulate him so that Martelly would eventually return as president in the next election, which is supposed to take place this year. The 1987 Haitian constitution does not allow a president to serve two consecutive terms. I believe that Jovenel Moïse was given enough rope to hang himself and facilitate Martelly’s return as the so-called saviour of the situation. I believe that when Jovenel Moïse realized that he was being dumped by his promoters, he decided to do things his way.
The people who are starving decided that it was no longer sustainable and they began to demand the departure of Jovenel Moïse. The year 2018 was significant in this sense. Groups of mostly young people created the group of “PetroChallengers,” a group that demanded to know where the money from PetroCaribe went (Kote Kob Petwo Karibe ya), that demanded an accounting to know what was done with that money. The representatives of the elite and those who benefited from this corruption could not reveal these things, which involved Michel Martelly among others, as well as Jovenel Moïse, who benefited from juicy contracts before his presidency.
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The year 2018 was a turning point. Young people mobilized the people and there were many demonstrations, some of which resulted in riots. To deter protesters, snipers were hired by the government to shoot at people during demonstrations. Also, police officers turned mercenaries sold their services to the highest bidders and participated in this deterrence program. Hundreds of people have been killed since Jovenel Moïse came to power. According to investigations by human rights organizations, it is reported that the government of Jovenel Moïse was involved in several massacres perpetrated by gangs.
Dumped by those who had put him in place, Jovenel Moïse wanted to change the constitution. In particular, he wanted to include the diaspora in the governance of the country, to give voice and votes to Haitian nationals abroad to participate in the development of the country. However, when we read the wording of this constitution, we see that it is a trap. The main goal is to charm Haitian nationals living abroad to come and spend their money in Haiti. He also wanted to change the constitution to allow the president to serve two consecutive terms. It is likely that if the amended constitution had been adopted he would have run again in the next election.
His opponents among the political parties and within the oligarchy did not want him to change the constitution, being afraid of losing their privileges, and therefore many people had an interest in eliminating him or sending him abroad, as was done with President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004.
As for the assassination itself, we must be careful about conjecture and not draw too many conclusions.
According to my analysis, we had a president who could no longer be controlled by the international interests, such as the Core Group, or by domestic interests, who no longer wanted to follow the instructions of those who brought him to power. Jovenel Moïse’s desire to change the constitution is in fact a project of Michel Martelly’s PHTK party, which also seeks re-election and several consecutive terms. Jovenel Moïse had refused some of the instructions given to him, for example refusing to give certain very lucrative contracts to private interests or even cancelling others, including to families that control electricity companies. He was trying to demonstrate that he was the president of the people, not of the elite. Among the promises he made were 24-hour electricity and putting food on the table, which has not been done. People are still starving.
The Superior Court of Accounts and Administrative Litigation, which investigated the squandering of PetroCaribe funds, as well as those donated for the reconstruction of Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, also pointed the finger at Jovenel Moïse in this corruption. In the last weeks before his assassination Jovenel Moïse said that if he were to fall, others would fall with him. He was ready to denounce all those who participated in this squandering. I believe that in order to thwart this coup, Jovenel Moïse, by decree, gave amnesty to all former presidents and ministers so that they could not be prosecuted for corruption, and that included him. He would not have been legally liable if he ran for re-election.
Right now, there is so much uncertainty that the Haitian people, including the diaspora, are not sure what to expect. It is possible that the situation could get even worse. It is important to be aware that the interim Prime Minister, Claude Joseph, who would have been out of office the day Jovenel Moïse was assassinated, has assumed the power of the presidency, and one of his first interventions was to ask the United States to send troops to Haiti. The United States, for strategic reasons, decided not to send troops, but rather FBI agents, who will investigate the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. The President of Colombia has also sent an investigation team, because 26 of the mercenaries suspected of killing the president are of Colombian origin, many former military. My research revealed that the Venezuelan owner of the Florida-based security company (CTU Security) that recruited the mercenaries for a third party is a personal friend of the Colombian president and of Juan Guaidó, the self-proclaimed president of Venezuela. This should worry us. Of the two mercenaries of Haitian origin, one is an informant of the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration.
For the Haitian people and the diaspora, the question is “what’s next?” I don’t think there was a “next,” a plan of what to do next. The fact that Claude Joseph called in the Americans shows that he does not have a plan, he does not have a plan B.
The assassination looks like a planned coup gone wrong. It was perhaps intended to make him resign and drive him out of the country but ended in assassination. It should be remembered that in 2004, a forced resignation was imposed on Jean-Bertrand Aristide, only to send him into exile in Central Africa. What we hope to learn from the FBI investigation is the role played by the mercenaries who served those who ordered the coup.
TML: What is the political climate in the country now and what are the prospects for the people to develop their struggle for their rights and for a Haiti that belongs to them?
FA: Right now there is total insecurity. To have a president who is assassinated in his own home, when he is the person who should be the most protected person in the country, and when no one among the security personnel has been killed or even injured, it makes the population feel threatened — they consider themselves to be at greater risk of being assassinated or kidnapped, etc.
|Haitians displaced to sports centres by ongoing gang violence|
Peoples’ lives at the moment are shaped by what is said and not said, by the federated gangs which continue to commit violent acts, to burn down their houses, to kill people. Entire neighbourhoods have been emptied of their population and people are housed in stadiums and in gymnasiums.
Systematic corruption reigns in institutions, in the private sector, in money transfer houses that have internal bandits who activate an accomplice outside when they know that someone is going to come to get money so as to terrorize them and steal their money. This kind of things also happens in banks.
On the other hand, there are currently grassroots groups which have been organized to deal with various issues including the issue of PetroCaribe, the PetroChallengers. There is also the group Ayiti Nouvleya and several others, including some of the opposition parties, people from civil society, who decided to form a common front to denounce what is happening in Haiti, under the eyes of the so-called friends of Haiti, the Core Group. These groups have not always been cooperative or in agreement with each other, and they decided to unite. They did so through an open letter that denounces what is going on in Haiti. This is the first time in decades that such a large group including grassroots organizations, opposition parties, etc. have come together to do things differently. One of the demands put forward in this letter, something everyone, including myself and Solidarité Québec-Haïti, is asking for, is that the Core Group withdraw completely from Haitian affairs. It is this Core Group that chooses our presidents, that dictates what is done in the country. This coalition that has been formed is asking for the respect of Haiti’s sovereignty and the right to self-determination of the Haitian people. I remain optimistic about the future. I believe that Haiti is at a crossroads, where something positive can come out of all this.
Also, we know that geopolitically Haiti occupies an important place between Cuba and Venezuela, an important place in terms of what is being done in South America, where several countries seem to be moving to the left. The U.S. does not want this. Haiti is an observation point, has the 4th largest U.S embassy in the world. Haiti is used as a springboard to monitor what is happening in the Caribbean, Central and South America.
We have seen in recent weeks that the United States blames Cuba for what it considers crimes. They consider the Cuban revolution a crime, and have done so for over sixty years. It is the same thing they do with Haiti, because in their eyes the fact that Haiti freed itself from slavery, from the colonizers, and proclaimed itself an independent republic in 1804, is a crime for which they have never forgiven the Haitian people, and for which they are still taking revenge today. It is the same revenge against Haiti as against Cuba.
We must all stand together. That is where my Haitian flag will be with me, wherever we can fight the common enemy which is imperialism, mainly led by U.S. imperialism. The flag when it was sewn, came with the words: Liberty – Equality – Fraternity. Now I add SOLIDARITY.
In closing, I want to say that the people and the country of Haiti deserve better. The international forces, including the Core Group, must keep out of our internal affairs. The blood shed by our ancestors, our fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, to obtain this sovereignty, and the right to self-determination, are the elements that should galvanize the Haitian people. Every Haitian man and woman, and Haitians collectively, must be able to find a common goal, which is to restore Haiti to its greatness as the first country that gained its independence, initiated the war against slavery and drove out the colonizers.
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1. The Core Group is composed of the ambassadors of the United States, France, Canada, Brazil, the European Union, Spain and the special representatives of the Organization of American States (OAS) and of the Secretary General of the United Nations in Haiti. This group of foreign entities, dominated by the ambassadors of the United States, France and Canada, has been systematically interfering in Haiti’s internal affairs, including holding fraudulent elections in order to select the Haitian president that suits its ambition to dominate Haiti for the benefit of narrow private interests.
2. The PetroCaribe program is an energy cooperation program established between Venezuela and several Latin American and Caribbean countries in 2005. This program allows signatory countries to receive loans from Venezuela as part of a preferential oil delivery mechanism. The program aims to benefit the poor by providing funds for the development of a self-sufficient economy.
Haiti joined in 2008. Under the agreement, Haiti received Venezuelan oil at reduced prices, and got 90 days to pay 60 per cent of its value. It had 25 years to pay the rest, at one per cent interest. By selling the oil to oil companies, and having 25 years to pay the last 40 per cent of the agreed-upon price, the Haitian government was supposed to accumulate funds to build public infrastructure and implement social programs. According to a Haitian court investigation, hundreds of millions of dollars from the program have been diverted by various Haitian governments to benefit members of the government and the oligarchy. People involved in a legal complaint regarding the PetroCaribe scandal estimate that approximately $4 billion has been misappropriated.