The Haitian government on Friday asked the United States to send armed troops to help stabilize the country and protect its most important infrastructure, after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse by a team of foreign mercenaries created a strong situation. instability: in the past 48 hours, several people had been killed on the street in clashes between police and armed citizen groups, and many politicians now fear that Haitian institutions could face new attacks.
The administration of American President Joe Biden has responded to the invitation – also made to the UN – by saying that it will send personnel from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security as soon as possible to contribute to the investigation and establish the modalities of intervention, but that for now there are no plans to send troops.
Haiti’s request comes at a time when the investigation into the murder of President Moïse is still quite confused, while in the meantime the political confrontation inside the country is becoming so hard that it risks wider destabilization.
For the murder of Moïse so far 20 people have been arrested, and five are still on the run. Of these, according to the Haitian government, 18 are Colombians and two are US citizens of Haitian descent. On Friday, the Colombian Defense Ministry announced in a press conference that at least 13 of the Colombians arrested in Haiti were part of the army. Former Colombian soldiers are in great demand as mercenaries in unconventional military operations, both because they are very experienced in guerrilla tactics due to Colombia’s long war with the far-left armed group FARC, and because the Colombian army is in good shape. part trained from the United States and therefore is very well trained.
The two arrested US citizens, on the other hand, told the Haitian judge who questioned them that they were hired exclusively as interpreters, that they were not present at the time of Moïse’s killing and that the original plan was not to kill the president, but to arrest him.
According to the reconstruction of the Haitian authorities, around one in the morning between Tuesday and Wednesday a group of armed men attacked the private residence of Moïse in Pétionville, a luxury neighborhood in the south of the capital Port-au-Prince. The president’s wife, Martine, was also injured in the attack – later transported to hospital in Florida, in serious but stable condition – while their three children were not involved. Former Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, interviewed by CNN, said Moïse was killed with 16 shots.
The investigations are also focusing on Moïse’s bodyguards who, as the New York Times, they would not have fired a single shot during the attack that led to the killing of the president.
While the investigation is still in its early stages, the police in Haiti are struggling to maintain order. Several groups of citizens armed themselves and began patrolling the streets, attacking people for some reason believed to be involved in the president’s murder, and burning their cars. During the clashes between these groups and the police, at least three people were killed. In addition, 11 gunmen were arrested on Thursday as they tried to break into the Taiwanese embassy.
Meanwhile, the harsh political battle unfolding between various leading Haitian politicians over who should take power after the president’s death is turning into a further destabilizing element. Theoretically, in the event of the president’s death his role should have been filled by the president of the Supreme Court, who nevertheless recently died of COVID-19.
After Moïse’s killing, interim prime minister Claude Joseph said he had taken command of the police and army and had introduced a state of emergency (state of siege) for two weeks, a regime that among other things provides for a ban on organizing events and expands the powers of the police. It was Joseph’s government that asked for US military intervention in Haiti.
Two days before he was killed, however, Moïse had appointed a new prime minister, Ariel Henry, who was due to take office just this week, and who was completing the training of his executive when Moïse was killed. to be the legitimate prime minister, and that the government of Haiti would fall to him.
A third contender joined on Friday night, after Joseph Lambert, the president of the Senate, got himself elected as the new president by his colleagues, many of whom had accused Claude Joseph of a coup. However, it is not clear how legitimate this appointment is: the Senate of Haiti is made up of 30 members, but currently only 10 remain active. The mandate of all the other senators, in fact, had expired in January 2020, and since then internal political clashes had not allowed the assembly to be renewed.
One of the reasons Haitian authorities have called for US military intervention is that many officials – as yet with no particular evidence – fear that the killing of the president is only part of a larger project to destabilize the country. Mathias Pierre, the election minister, said a plan was underway to “create chaos in the country” and that American troops should help protect strategic infrastructure, because “attacking fuel reserves and the airport could be part of the plan”.
– Read also: The tragic history of Haiti