The assassination of Jovenel Moïse: a coup with international ramifications

By Babyson Pierre*

Everything indicates that the assassination of Haiti’s de facto president, Jovenel Moïse, was a coup by sectors inside the regime, in alliance with organized crime and with the complicity of the US government. Not all details of the criminal plot are clear, and there is no reason to trust the national police of Haiti and Colombia, plus the FBI, who are leading the investigation. The crime, strictly speaking a coup, reflects the extreme decomposition of the regime that emerged in 2004 and was sustained by the Minustah and the imperialist Core Group. It’s a reactionary attempt to overcome the extreme weakness of Moïse, who was lacking any important support base, reinstalling some glimmer of capitalist order and putting in retreat the mass movement that has been mobilizing since 2018. The left and in general the opposition has correctly rejected the assassination, as it has frustrated the possibility of bringing to justice one of the great protagonists of the corruption of the last decade.

The crime involved mercenaries from the Colombian armed forces, with training from the United States. The hired assassins were hired by a security company owned by a right-wing Venezuelan based in Miami, and acted with the complicity of members of the haitian presidential guard. A former member of Moïse’s intelligence is accused of taking part in the intellectual authorship. Journalistic versions also involve the outgoing Prime Minister Claude Joseph. Less than 48 hours before the crime, Joseph had been dismissed as interim prime minister, but he clung to the post and obtained a de facto recognition from police and military sectors. As of July 7, he decreed a state of siege and requested occupation troops from the US government. The Core Group, which had initially recognized him, decided to ask Ariel Henry to form a government on July 17, and a declaration was enough to settle in a few hours the disputes over the succession after Moïse’s death.

Cui bono?

One of the starting points in drawing up a list of suspects is the famous question of who benefits from the crime. Because of the depth of the political, economic and social crisis, the list of real or potential enemies of Moïse is enormous and includes sectors of his own party. The immediate result of the crime was that the interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph assaulted power, despite the fact that Moïse had appointed Ariel Henry as new Prime Minister with the mandate to form a cabinet of national unity with some sectors of the opposition. First in the line of succession was the president of the Supreme Court René Sylvestre, who died of COVID-19 on June 24, two weeks before the assassination.

Joseph, Henry and Senate President Joseph Lambert claimed to be the legitimate head of state. Finally, the Core Group ruled, in the manner of a colonial authority, that it supported Henry to form a cabinet, pre-empting the possibility of a transitional government with the support of popular and opposition organizations. Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas, has joined the new government with a minister, proving once again its collaborationist character.

Colombian media, citing alleged sources in the investigative team, have alleged that Claude Joseph, now in the position of chancellor, participated in a meeting with Colombian mercenaries in the planning of the attack and that he was the head of the plot. The meeting would have taken place in November 2020 in Miami, with the participation of the company CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit Federal Academy) of the Venezuelan right-winger Antonio Intriago. A doctor and right-wing evangelical pastor, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, residing in Miami, and former opposition senator John Joel Joseph, from the Inite party of the late former president Preval, also took part in the meeting. Former official Joseph Felix Badio, member of the anti-corruption unit (ULCC), intelligence official and inspector of the national police until May of this year, as well as drug trafficker Rodolphe Jaar with links to Florida and DEA informant, as well as Joseph Vincent, have also been identified as part of the plot.

The Haitian National Police denied that the investigations incriminated Claude Joseph, but the Colombian press has published that three mercenaries mentioned Joseph during interrogations, and that there were photographs and telephone conversations as evidence. According to this version of the story, the mercenaries had no escape plan because they expected Joseph’s protection. The fact that most of them were captured near the presidential residence in Petionville, including the three who were killed and the eleven captured at the Taiwanese embassy, seems to indicate that there was no escape plan, that the plan was aborted or it failed completely.

The official hypothesis so far holds that everything was planned from Miami. Sanon, an evangelical megalomaniac, headed a conspiracy with the support of Itriago, who would have agreed to partially finance the operation in exchange for promises of future payments with assets of the Haitian State. Others implicated were Ecuadorian businessman Walter Veintemilla, of the Florida-based Worldwide Capital Lending Group, and Gordon Phenil Desir. Also involved was Arcangel Pretelt, a Colombian mercenary linked to the US government, who was a witness in a trial in that country against a former FARC member.

However, what this hypothesis does not explain is how, within this scheme, the assassination of Moïse could bring to power an unknown character, without any political backing like Sanon. Neither Sanon nor Itriago are capitalists with the capacity to finance a major mercenary operation. The only thing that could offer any prospect of success to the mercenary coup was the participation of government elements in its leadership. If Moïse was tortured into signing a resignation, it would indicate an interest in the coup maintaining some semblance of legal succession, which would benefit elements of the regime, not Sanon directly.

Added to all this is a fact of great importance: there was no resistance to the attack by the 23 guards at the presidential residence. One of the mercenaries reportedly confessed in interrogations that there was coordination with these guards to open the entrance door to the residence. None of these presidential security personnel were injured or killed in the attack. The attackers posed as DEA agents. Was the U.S. Embassy contacted from the presidential residence to verify if it was aware of such an operation? The DEA has admitted that one of its informants involved made contact with the agency after the crime. It is unclear whether it was Pretelt, Vincent or Jaar.

The head of presidential security, Dimitri Herard, who was already under investigation for arms trafficking, reportedly traveled to Colombia in January and May. There are versions according to which he participated in the hiring of Colombian mercenaries with the agreement of Moïse, with the understanding that they would be used to confront the gangs. So far the members of the presidential security are under precautionary measures, five members of the police, five Americans of Haitian descent, and 18 Colombian mercenaries have been arrested, five are fugitives and three mercenaries died in confrontations with the police.

There were also contacts in the Haitian State to arrange visas for the mercenaries. Magalie Habitant, one of the main figures of the PHTK, is said to be responsible for having provided one of the houses where the mercenaries stayed, although she has denied it.

Another sector that could not be left out of consideration in an independent investigation of the crime would be the Haitian oligarchy, with which Moïse alleged to have conflicts over issues such as electricity supply contracts. There are indications that in the development of increasingly Bonapartist characteristics, Moïse lost the support of at least one sector of the oligarchy. It is known, for example, that the multimillionaire Reginald Boulos has made efforts in the US to obtain support as a presidential candidate, using a lobbying firm linked to former Congresswoman Ross-Lehtinen, of the extreme right of Miami, precisely the city where the crime was planned.

The implication of imperialism and Uribismo

The carrying out of a planned mercenary attack in the U.S. against a Caribbean government has ample antecedents in the terrorist operations of the Miami right wing against the Cuban government between the 60’s and 90’s, with the complicity of the imperialist government. It also has a precedent in last year’s mercenary attack against the Maduro dictatorship, which failed miserably and which similarly involved the Venezuelan right wing in the signing of a contract according to which the cost of the operation would be paid for with Venezuelan state assets.

The difference is that Moïse’s government was openly pro-imperialist and was supported by the US through the Core Group. However, due to the weakness of the regime and Moïse’s dictatorial aspirations, which led him to act in an increasingly unilateral manner, he began to generate friction with the US, for example with the push for a constitutional reform without significant support from the Haitian bourgeoisie. It is possible that the U.S. government has allowed the attack to go unchecked. Let us not forget that in the past, the US has supported the assassination of dictators over whom it has lost control, as in the case of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic in 1961, or even invaded countries whose dictators it supported for many years, as in Iraq and Panama. Business as usual.

The head of the mercenary invasion against Maduro, Jordan Goudreau, was not convicted in the US. Now we see that despite all the evidence incriminating Antonio Itriago in the assassination of Moïse, he has not yet been arrested or prosecuted in the US. This already indicates an important level of complicity of imperialism with the crime. Itriago is known to have had links as an arms supplier to local police in the US. The participation of DEA informants in the assassination and of a former security agent of the Canadian embassy has also been proven.

Calls came from sectors of imperialism for an invasion of Haiti after the assassination, such as an editorial in the Washington Post. The Biden administration announced the sending of troops to Haiti, limited to the protection of its embassy, but without closing the possibility of future occupations. In addition, it maintains a blatant interference in Haitian internal politics, by sending a commission from the Department of Justice and Homeland Security to meet with Joseph, Henry and Lambert (the three politicians who demanded Moïse’s succession); and through the pronouncements of the Core Group.

Another one who requested a foreign intervention, through the OAS, was the Colombian president, the uribista Iván Duque. As for the involvement of the Colombian regime, the evidence is numerous and with possible implications at all levels. A photo of Itriago with the Colombian president has been published. It is also known that one of the detained mercenaries is a relative of a presidential advisor, a link recognized by the official himself.

According to the Colombian police, in addition to the Miami company CTU, four Colombian companies were involved in the recruitment of the mercenaries, all military personnel retired between 2018 and 2020. One of the mercenaries, Francisco Eladio Uribe, was under investigation for participating in Uribe’s policy of extrajudicial executions in 2008. The highest-ranking former military officers in the mercenary command were Carlos G. Guerrero Torres, a retired lieutenant colonel, and captain German A. Rivera.

One of the consequences of U.S.-sponsored state terrorism in Colombia has been that members of the colombian military, with extensive experience in committing massacres and cooperating with extreme right-wing paramilitary groups, have moved into the international mercenary industry, working as thugs for security contractors in the Middle East, Africa, Central American countries, as well as drug trafficking groups. Many of these mercenaries have received training by the U.S. and Israel.

Finally, it should be investigated whether there was involvement of the Dominican military or corrupt police in the operation. At least part of the planning would have taken place in a hotel in Santo Domingo, it has been proven that the mercenaries entered through Dominican territory and that they hired the services of the company Helidosa, owned by former presidential candidate and PLD leader Gonzalo Castillo. Although the Abinader government was an ally of Moïse and expressed public support for his constitutional reform project in exchange for support for the construction of a border wall, this alliance was conditioned by the subordination of both to US imperialism. In addition, there are important antecedents of Dominican support for coup efforts in Haiti. The government of Hipolito Mejia, of the same party as Abinader, supported the paramilitary coup leaders Guy Phillipe, Ernest Ravix and Jodel Chamblain, in 2004. The commission created by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark verified this support of Mejia and Bush to the coup. Then, in 2012, the military officer Pedro Julio “Pepe” Goico, also linked to Abinader’s party, was accused of participating in a coup conspiracy against Martelly. The judicial case was dismissed under dubious technicalities.

The assassination is part of the process of decomposition of the regime that emerged from the 2004 coup

Against the pro-imperialist discourse that assigns to the U.S. and the UN a pacifying role in an ungovernable country, we must establish the true role of imperialism in the Haitian crisis. This crisis is part of the balance of chaos and destruction left by the pro-U.S. coup of 2004 and the thirteen years of U.N. military occupation. It was the invaders who imposed Martelly in power in 2011, a right-wing singer linked to Duvalierism and the 1991 coup plotters. Despite having come in fourth place in the first round, imperialism pressured through the OAS for him to go to the ballotage. The following year the PHTK was formed.

The so-called South American “progressivegovernments not only collaborated with imperialism by sending thousands of Brazilian, Argentine, Bolivian, Ecuadorian and Uruguayan soldiers to invade the country as part of the Minustah. In addition, the Venezuelan government through Petrocaribe financed the regime with four billion dollars, much of which went into the pockets of corrupt right-wingers. Moïse participated as a businessman and as a ruler in this massive theft. One of the emblematic examples of this corruption has been Senator Rony Célestin of the PHTK, owner of a $4.25 million mansion in Quebec.

In 2015, an attempt was made to electorally impose Moïse but the fraud was so scandalous that the election was finally annulled in June 2016. When it was repeated, amidst a very high abstention Moïse won in the first round. From its inception, Moïse’s government was under the shadow of illegitimacy. The economic crisis in Venezuela led to a cut in Petrocaribe subsidies and Moïse’s government, in agreement with the IMF, tried to increase fuel prices. This gave rise to the first social outburst from July 6 to 9, 2018, which forced the government to back down. Later that year protests began demanding justice in the face of Petrocaribe corruption. A new triumph was achieved with the May 2019 Court of Accounts report, which incriminated Moïse, Martelly and other members of the regime in money laundering and embezzlement.

Moïse did not organize the elections that were due in 2019 and at the beginning of 2020, applying the law to the letter, he dissolved the lower house, dismissed the mayors and left the senate without quorum because its legal term was over. Then, he failed to comply with the law when his own term expired, a year later. Under the leadership of a former policeman, Jimmy Cherizier, a confederation of gangs under the name G9 was formed in June 2020. The government sought a pact with these gangs by providing them with safe zones in exchange for “peace”. This agreement has raised suspicions about the use of gangs as paramilitary devices against opposition sectors, for example in the massacre of June 30 of this year in which journalist Diego Charles and opposition activist Antoinette Duclaire of Matris Liberasyon were murdered in the Delmas 32 neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. Gang violence has left at least 18,000 people internally displaced in recent months, in peripheral areas of the capital such as Martissant, Fontamara, Bel-Air, La Saline and other popular neighborhoods.

This alliance was neither lasting nor did it bring any peace, but rather an upsurge in kidnappings for ransom and violence. The G9 groups set out to conquer territories controlled by rival groups. These groups have their own interests and control lucrative extortion and drug trafficking businesses.

Although Moïse’s position was weak, he not only remained in power without parliament, governing by decree, but refused to organize presidential elections in due time and even tried to impose a constitutional reform to enable immediate reelection, the elimination of the figure of the prime minister and greater attributions for the presidency. Moïse had broken with Martelly, according to some versions. Even imperialism, which through the Core Group headed by the U.S. and the European Union had been supporting Moïse, began to have doubts about his capacity to control the situation and recommended broadening the consensus in the Haitian bourgeoisie instead of advancing unilaterally.


Moïse’s assassination involved Colombian mercenary elements, a byproduct of state terrorism in that country. The crime was planned in the US and had financing and logistical support from a US-based company owned by a Venezuelan supporter of Guaidó and possibly linked to the Duque government. Like Goudreau’s mercenary invasion against Venezuela, those involved have not been criminally prosecuted in the US. There was participation of members of the regime in the crime, which explains at the very least the complicity of the presidential guard in the attack.

Given its adventurist and coup nature, this crime must be rejected, as well as the role of imperialism. An independent investigation by people of recognized scientific and professional merit from Haiti and the diaspora is necessary to get to the bottom of the matter, we do not trust the Haitian, Colombian and U.S. authorities investigating the case. In Colombia and the US, the popular movement and the left must also demand independent investigations into the role of their respective states.

In the immediate future, it is necessary to reorganize the workers’ and popular movement around demands that allow us to retake the offensive on the terrain of mobilization:

No to imperialist interference in the affairs of Haiti.

For a transitional government of the workers’ and popular organizations that organizes elections with guarantees for all sectors.

Against the gangs and mafias, organize the self-defense of the people and the workers.

At the same time, we must respond to the brutal economic and social crisis with emergency demands: suspend payment of the foreign debt and use all possible resources to address hunger, provide shelter for those displaced by the violence, and overcome the chronic lack of running water, electricity and domestic gas.

The solidarity of the workers movement and the international left is crucial to support the demand that the imperialist powers, the U.S. and France, pay reparations for the extortion Haiti suffered after its independence and for the occupations and coups promoted by the U.S. in the 20th century. These demands should be discussed with the entire opposition and the Haitian left. By raising them in unity we can obtain important expressions of international solidarity and raise a political alternative of our own in the eyes of millions of Haitians who have already seen all the fractions of the bourgeoisie fail in the task of leading Haiti along the path of prosperity and social justice.

*Member of the IWU-FI