Now that the shocking news of the assassination of Haitian President Jovenal Moïse – the leader of Caricom’s most populous member – has sunken in, answers to the many questions raised are being sought. The basic question of “who” were the assassins has been answered. The Colombian military has confirmed that 26 of the 28 men – in what has to be a mercenary unit – were ex-Colombian soldiers. The other two are American citizens of Haitian descent from the large Haitian emigre population in Miami. The Colombian mercenaries were recruited by four named firms.
The 50-year war in Colombia against the drug cartels that ship most of the cocaine to the US and elsewhere – including through Guyana – has produced thousands of battle-hardened retired soldiers in their forties. Mercenaries have long been a staple in Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Colombians are far less expensive – and expendable – than the US and European mercenaries. The wife of one of the 17 Colombians arrested – three were killed and six are on the run – said he had been recruited last month for US$2700/month. They were flown to Haiti’s neighbour, Dominican Republic, and later crossed the overland border. The two Haitian-Americans were recruited as interpreters once they were in Haiti.
The big question is who wanted President Moïse assassinated to hire the assassins? At US$2700 per person – and it is certain that some of the more senior military personnel would have been more highly compensated – this amounts to US$75,600 monthly. The unit was accommodated for a month in the Dominican Republic, and from some Facebook postings, this was at resorts which do not come cheap. This would cost a pretty penny. From what is evident – even though it is now being investigated – it would appear that the president’s security detail had been compromised: another expensive proposition. While the “success” of the operation in executing its mission (pun intended) is undoubted, the extraction of the team failed, but monies would have been expended for this contingency.
All in all, this was an expensive, well-planned exercise that was strategic in its aims, raising the question of who hired the mercenaries, and “why”? From what we know of Haiti, there might be two possibilities, which are themselves not unrelated: politics and gangs. President Moïse had precipitated sustained protests because of opposition questions on the legitimacy of his presidency. The Nov 2015 elections’ results were disputed as fraudulent, and rescheduled in Nov 2016, which Moïse – though again disputed – also won and was sworn in on February 2017. Opponents claimed his 5-year team ended in Feb 2021 – from the time of his first scheduled inauguration of Feb 2016 while Moïse insisted his term would end on Feb 2022.
One possible – and possible “prime” – candidate for the title of “intellectual author” would then be from the ranks of the Opposition, frustrated by what they considered Moise’s “intransigence”. The Opposition would have received funding from the oligarchy that is still paramount in Haiti for the last 200 years. Most analysts have concluded the assassination was not the work of the numerous deadly gangs that have plagued Haiti for decades, and which recently have formed a loose alliance, G9. They had the necessary firepower and manpower to stage a direct attack on the President if they so desired, and it is unlikely they would outsource such a task. It is also unlikely that “foreign powers” were behind the assassination, since Haiti is not of any strategic importance at this time.
Moïse’s constitutional successor should have been the Chief Justice, but he died of COVID-19 a few weeks before. The incumbent Prime Minister (ag) Claude Joseph is being challenged by several persons, leading to further uncertainty. The US has been requested to send troops to maintain order, but this would be a controversial move in light of the last presidential assassination in 1915 and denouement to the entry of American troops.
Maybe this would be a role that Caricom troops can play.