Haiti: Assassination of Moïse and the role of imperialism

Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in early July. Many of the details surrounding his assassination are still shrouded in mystery. While 27 suspects have been arrested and a total of 44 have been detained—including four police officers and 18 former Colombian soldiers—there remain many questions, including who organized the assassination and why.


There are two different versions of events emerging with regard to Moïse’s assassination. The first, from the Haitian police, says that the former Colombian soldiers and two Haitian Americans were hired by Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Florida-based Haitian physician and self-styled pastor who allegedly plotted the assassination and planned to take power upon Moïse’s death.

Money for the operation was raised by the Worldwide Investment Development group and funneled through a Miami-based security company called CTU Security. CTU Security is run by a Venezuelan man named Antonio Intriago, who has connections with the right-wing opposition in Venezuela and has connections with Colombian reactionaries in Miami. A picture has emerged of him and the current right-wing Colombian president Ivan Duque, who denies knowing Intriago. 

In one version of events, the former Colombian soldiers were initially hired to protect Sanon and arrest Moïse on the orders of a judge. The order has not been seen or verified, and no one knows who this judge is supposed to be. Upon Moïse’s arrest, Sanon was to be named president. However, given everything that is known about Sanon, it seems unlikely that he was the main mastermind behind the assassination.

The other story comes from the Colombians arrested, their families, and the Colombian media. According to this version of events, most of the Colombian soldiers were hired to be Moïse’s bodyguards. There is some confusion with this version of events, with some claiming the soldiers knew nothing of the plot to assassinate Moïse, and others saying that only a few of them were aware of the actual plot, leaving the rest of the Colombian team to take the fall. In one version of this story, the Colombian soldiers arrived about half an hour after Moïse had been killed. When they arrived, Haitian police officers were already there.

Whatever the true story is, many questions still remain. For instance, the Pétion-Ville neighbourhood where Moïse lived is home to many of Haiti’s ruling class and political elite. There is a national police guard stationed at the main gates of the neighbourhood. This guard was apparently not present at the time of the assassination. Moïse also had his own security guards, a team of some 30-50 guards, who were supposed to be present at his home to protect him. The investigating judge, who arrived on scene the day of the president’s death, noted that none of the police guarding the neighbourhood or the president’s security guards appear to have been present during the attack.

There was no resistance to the attack on Moïse, and none of the police or bodyguards charged with defending the neighbourhood or the president were injured or killed in the attack. Given how strange and suspicious this is, some of these police officers and guards have now also been arrested, including the chief of security for the national palace.

Another major question relates to the aftermath of the attack. It seems very strange that such a detailed plan for the assassination was implemented involving foreign mercenaries, but that there was no exit strategy after the attack for the assassins. Why would such highly-trained soldiers knowingly agree to a plan to kill the Haitian president when they had no plan to get out of the country afterwards?

It seems possible that some of the former Colombian soldiers had no idea what the real plan was. It is also possible there could have been plans for a coup. If the assassination plotters had planned to take power, they could have protected the assassins and provided an exit strategy. It is possible that these plans fell through or were cancelled for some reason, leaving the mercenaries exposed. It is also possible that the plan all along was to dupe the former Colombian soldiers one way or another and set them up to take the blame for the attack.

Others have indicated that Moïse could have been assassinated by mafia elements or by Haiti’s powerful gangs. Moïse’s wife has reported that the mercenaries were looking for specific documents at Moïse’s home before they killed him. It is possible that a problem developed in some sort of deal between Moïse and criminal elements and that he was killed as a result.

It has also been suggested that Moïse was killed by insiders within his own security team. Others have suggested that opponents in the senate or even enemies within Moïse’s PHTK party were responsible, i.e. that the assassination of Moïse was the violent end of a bitter faction struggle within the ruling party. Indeed, arrest warrants have recently been issued for Liné Balthazar, the head of the PHTK party, and Paul Denis, a former senator, along with several other individuals.

It seems there was an intense struggle between the Martelly wing of the party and the GNB wing of the party. It has been noted that Claude Joseph, the outgoing prime minister who took power after the killing, had close ties to the GNB group. The GNB group played a significant role in the 2004 coup that removed Aristide from power.

At this point, there is not much use in trying to dissect the various conspiracy theories about the assassination plot. The details will eventually emerge, and hopefully the truth will come out. It is important to note at the moment that Moïse, who had become a source of political instability, has been removed from the equation and the Core Group is now playing a more direct role in Haitian politics.

The role of imperialism

The most important thing to note at the moment is the role of imperialist countries in Haiti. Most of the Colombian mercenaries had been trained in special operations by the U.S. Army when they were soldiers. One of them had been tried for involvement in the ongoing case of the false positives, in which security forces killed innocent civilians and then made them pass for guerrillas to make up the numbers. At least two of the Haitians arrested were paid informants for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. There is no evidence that the U.S. government or these agencies directly organized the assassination, but it also seems unlikely that they knew nothing about it.

Haiti Image Green LeftClarity has yet to be established as to who exactly ordered this assassination. Nonetheless, with the masses mobilising repeatedly against Moise, it is clear that he came to be regarded as a liability and a source of instability by US imperialism / Image: Green Left

The paw prints of the Colombian and Venezuelan reaction are all over the operation, which has many parallels with Operación Gideon, the failed mercenary incursion in Venezuela in 2019. Some have stated that Intriago’s company lost the bid to carry out Operación Gideon. 

The plot to assassinate Moïse does seem—directly or indirectly—to involve U.S. imperialism, as well as Colombian and Venezuelan reactionaries. Why would the reactionaries in the region have an interest in assassinating Jovenel Moïse? After all, Moïse was really a member of their right-wing, reactionary team.

The fact of the matter is that Moïse, while initially an agent of U.S. imperialism in Haiti and supported by the U.S. government, had become an obstacle to the interests of imperialism. The political opposition to Moïse was intense and growing daily. His increasingly authoritarian rule, his moves towards dictatorship, and his plans for the unconstitutional referendum had not only activated the masses and brought them into almost daily political activity against the regime, but had also brought civil society, the courts, the various competing political parties, and the church into opposition. The Moïse regime was becoming increasingly unstable. With a mass movement and growing opposition, there was likely a very real concern on the part of the Core Group that Moïse could be responsible for triggering a revolutionary movement, which the imperialists feared more than anything else as this would genuinely threaten their interests.

The UN initially supported Joseph after Moïse’s assassination and wanted him to form a government. However, Ariel Henry, Moïse’s selection for prime minister just before he died, claimed that as the nominated prime minister, he should take power. Henry played a big role in the 2004 coup against Aristide and was on the “Council of the Wise” installed after Aristide was removed from power. He also apparently has close connections to the G9 gangs, who called for him to be accepted as the PM, and the Martelly wing of the PHTK. In the midst of the power struggle between the different wings of the PHTK, it was announced that the 10 remaining elected representatives in the senate had chosen Joseph Lambert as interim president.

These three men began vying for power. And this power struggle had the potential to turn into a real source of political chaos. At this time the Core Group put enormous energy into resolving this power struggle. As Lambert recently said, “Haiti has become a baseball being thrown between foreign diplomats… I received calls from certain American diplomats in Haiti. Also I received calls from diplomats in the U.S. State Department, who asked me to postpone so we had time to build a larger consensus.”

Not long after the diplomatic maneuvers of the Core Group came to light, it was announced that Henry would take over as prime minister, with Joseph acting as his foreign minister. In fact, with Henry now in power, it seems that the Core Group wants to patch up the divisions in the PHTK party to ensure it stays in power. Thus, the Henry government will be a continuation of the Moïse regime, and with the gangs allied with the PHTK, the opposition parties have been locked out of the political process following Moïse’s assassination.

Interim Prime Minister Joseph had made calls for the UN and the U.S. to send troops to stabilize the situation. The Biden administration has said that it has no plans to send troops for the time being. Sending U.S. troops would likely only inflame the situation at the moment, as opposition to U.S. imperialism and foreign meddling is high among the Haitian masses.

With the PHTK still in power and the factional struggle in the party being softened by imperialist diplomats, the imperialists are likely feeling that there is no pressing need for troops on the ground. This is all the more true given that the PHTK has support of the gangs, particularly G9. 

The fact of the matter is that the PHTK is still in power, and the plan is to go ahead with election plans later this year. The current situation leaves the corrupt PHTK in control of this process. The previous two PHTK presidents, Martelly and Moïse, “won” the previous elections on the basis of massive electoral fraud. With the gangs terrorizing the masses and the opposition and the corrupt PHTK in power with the direct backing of the Core Group, we can assume that the next elections will also be rigged and the PHTK could remain in power.

The role of the masses

From the perspective of the imperialists, the assassination of Moïse has removed a major source of instability. Now, with a climate of fear following his assassination and the gangs still running amok, the imperialists are likely hoping that the mass movement will be removed from the equation as well. The imperialists hope that they will have time to secure the PHTK as the ruling party and can stabilize the situation.

But stability will be elusive for the PHTK and the Core Group. The assassination of Moïse has in fact changed very little from the perspective of the masses, and the assassination itself has created space for other sources of political instability—from within the various political institutions and the PHTK itself. The assassination of Moise has not stabilized the regime or the political situation.

The PHTK remains in power, the imperialists are directing things from behind the scenes, and the gang violence and kidnappings continue. The imperialists have locked the opposition parties out of the process. The needs of the masses remain unfulfilled. Haiti’s economic situation continues to deteriorate, and the PHTK in power will bring little political stability.

The masses must continue to mobilize and organize around their own interests and their own political program. This means opposing the PHTK regime and the role of the imperialists in installing the Henry regime. The bourgeois opposition and the opposition in the courts have been rather quiet since the assassination and have called for calm. They fear the mass movement as much as the ruling class and political elites do. The opposition also wants to prevent the masses from playing an active role in events. They seem resigned to the imperialists controlling the situation and the continuation of the PHTK regime, as this is safer than a mass revolutionary movement escaping the control of the bourgeois opposition and starting a struggle for its own demands.

Lavalas, led by former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has continued to call for the establishment of a government of public safety. Lavalas has proposed an agreement, presumably between all the various opposition and civil society groups, for the foundation of a “new, inclusive, and transparent state.”

But how is this to be achieved? Lavalas has called for the organizing of a national conference, the re-establishment of the judiciary, and for those responsible for the gang attacks and massacres to be brought to trial along with those responsible for corruption and the theft of PetroCaribe funds. In a recent statement opposing new elections in the near future, the Lavalas leadership said, “We need another electoral decree, another Electoral Council to organize democratic elections, to ensure justice.”

But is a new electoral decree and Electoral Council what are really needed in Haiti? Is this a way to really ensure justice? We’ve discussed these positions of Lavalas in previous articles. What Lavalas is calling for is the re-establishment of the bourgeois regime in Haiti based on the 1987 constitution. This is a call for the re-establishment of all the institutions and laws that have collapsed in Haiti. The old status quo based on the 1987 constitution fell apart under the pressure of the class struggle. It cannot be simply put back together piece by piece like broken glass.

Lavalas and other opposition groups are calling for the renewal of the old status quo, only with themselves in power instead of the PHTK. But these calls for renewal of the old bourgeois status quo are no solution at all, as they leave capitalism intact and the bourgeoisie in power. The bourgeoisie in power necessarily means a bourgeois state that will rule in the interests of the capitalist class. Such a “new” regime would in fact mean no change at all. The factors that led to the disintegration of the old status quo are still present. The clock cannot simply be turned back. Even if the institutions and laws of the old status quo could be renewed, they would again begin to crumble and collapse under the intensity of the class struggle. We would end up in the same position we are in now.

What is really needed in Haiti is a total rupture with this collapsing bourgeois and imperialist status quo. The masses must break radically with capitalism. The way forward is the fight against capitalism and for socialism. The masses of workers, peasants, the poor and the youth can only rely on their own forces and must fight for a political program that can fulfill their needs. This program must include an end to the meddling of the imperialist Core Group, and include the expropriation of the Haitian oligarchy and the imperialists. The Haitian oligarchs and the imperialists share the same class interests, and it is these interests that keep the Haitian masses poor and exploited. The PHTK has unleashed a wave of gang-related terror on the masses, hoping to terrorize the movement into submission. The Haitian masses must begin to organize revolutionary action and defence committees to defend the popular neighbourhoods and the movement from the terror of the state and the gangs.

The masses must reject the PHTK and Core Group regime and fight for the establishment of a new regime based on the will of the masses in the form of a revolutionary constituent assembly, rooted in the popular movement and the organizations of the masses themselves. This will be the only way for the masses to establish a genuine, democratic alternative to the plans of the Core Group and the bourgeois opposition in the courts. Committees for revolutionary action and defence will not only help to give the movement an organized structure, but it will also provide the physical forces allowing the movement to protect itself and its achievements. It will also provide the physical forces allowing the revolutionary constituent assembly to act politically, oppose the PHTK gangs and the Core Group and enforce the rule of the masses.

The status quo of the 1987 constitution, the status quo of the bourgeois regime in Haiti, has failed. There is no solution to this crisis on the basis of capitalism. The masses must reject the calls for the renewal of this failed bourgeois regime and fight to determine their own fate. The solution to the present crisis lies in the democratic methods and will of the masses themselves, not the rotten bourgeoisie. The solution lies not in the bourgeois regime, but in the overthrow of capitalism and the socialist revolution.

Down with the reactionary PHTK regime!

Imperialists out! Hands off Haiti!

Defend the democratic will of the masses! For a revolutionary constituent assembly!

Reject capitalism and the failed bourgeoisie, for the socialist revolution!