Haiti’s acting Prime Minister survives assassination attempt

Authorities reported that Ariel Henry, Haiti’s acting head of state, survived an assassination attempt during an independence day event on January 1

January 05, 2022 by Tanya Wadhwa
Haiti’s acting Prime Minister and President Ariel Henry. Photo: Archives

The office of the head of Haitian government, on January 3, reported that acting Prime Minister and President Ariel Henry “survived an assassination attempt” during an event commemorating the country’s independence on January 1. The government office, in a statement, said that “bandits and terrorists” had opened fire at the Prime Minister and his delegates when they were leaving a church in the Gonaïves city, where the ceremony marking the 218th anniversary of Haiti’s independence from France was taking place.

According to reports, at least one person was killed and several others were wounded. Henry, who assumed office as prime minister barely two weeks after the assassination of de-facto president Jovenel Moïse in July and has been facing mounting challenges to his administration’s legitimacy, remained unharmed in the shooting. The Prime Minister’s office reported that arrest warrants had been issued for the suspects.

Local media reported that last week, Winter Etienne, the leader of the National Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Haiti (FLRN), an armed gang operating in Gonaïves that does not recognize Henry’s mandate as legal, had warned the PM against attending any events in the city.

This was the second time that Henry had to flee from a national celebration amid shots fired. On October 17, 2021, Henry and the head of the national police, Leon Charles, were attacked when they went to Pont-Rouge monument, in the capital Port-au-Prince, to pay homage to the father of the nation Jean-Jacques Dessalines on his death anniversary.

Prior to Moïse’s assassination, Haiti was facing a delicate situation of growing gang violence and insecurity with a large number of reported kidnappings, assassinations, massacres, rapes, and forced displacements in poor neighborhoods in the capital. This situation has exacerbated following his assassination. Paramilitary groups have now also seized control of major oil distribution terminals around the country, causing severe fuel shortages, among numerous other issues.

The rise in violence, political turmoil, fuel shortages, and a dire economic situation, made worse by several natural disasters in recent years, have forced a large number of Haitians to immigrate to other countries, such as the Dominican Republic, Mexico, the United States, where they face harsh discrimination.

Henry promised on several occasions to combat insecurity and to crack down on criminal gangs, however, the gangs are slowly taking control of the country. The government authorities and the police seem to have no response to the crisis. Many people have alleged that sectors within the Haitian National Police (PNH) and the ruling Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK) have sided with the country’s main gangs and ordered them to generate chaos to pave the way for an international interference.

Neocolonialism

Madame Boukman, an Haitian anti-imperialist blogger, in a series of tweets, condemned that “de-facto PM Ariel Henry and Winter Etienne are cut from the same imperialist cloth,” and are “minions of the 2004 coup that brought the Core Group to power.” The Core Group is composed of the ambassadors of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the European Union, the United States, as well as representatives from the United Nations and the Organization of American States, and is widely denounced by Haitian movements for playing an active role in Haiti’s domestic politics.

She criticized that “Etienne and other members of the CIA death squad FLRN in 2004, ‘liberated’ Haiti from the masses for the Core Group and bourgeoisie,” and stressed that “Etienne and Henry have the same boss.” She highlighted that “PM Ariel Henry was a member of the 2004 ‘Council of the Wise’ that transformed Haiti from a nascent democracy to a Core Group colony, as was planned during the 2003 ‘Ottawa Initiative on Haiti’ conference,” and said that “he was recycled in 2021 to help the imperialist bloc consolidate power.” She also said that “Etienne killed left-wing activists and police officers in 2003-2004 for the Core Group’s coup,” and “Henry helped establish the Core Group’s post-coup proxy regime that killed 8,000 left-wing activists in 2 years for the Group.”

Boukman said that both “Henry and Etienne, who tried to attack him, are both puppets of the Core Group,” and pointed out that “either the Group is fomenting fake resistance, or it’s a power struggle between factions of the same crime syndicate that has hijacked the country since 2004.” She also emphasized that “in Haiti, the Core Group foments controlled resistance to neutralize popular resistance. That’s how it has been able to keep its knee on the necks of millions of Haitians for nearly 18 years.”

It is worth noting that in September 2021, Henry came under suspicion in Moïse’s assassination. Haiti’s chief prosecutor, Bed-Ford Claude, claimed that Henry had spoken on the phone twice with one of the alleged masterminds of the crime, Joseph Felix Badio, hours after Moïse was shot dead at his residence on the night of July 7. Many argued at the time that the US government withdrew its support from Moïse and had him killed and replaced because it realized that he wouldn’t last long in the face of the strong resistance by the people of Haiti, who had mobilized and taken to the streets for months up until Moïse’s assassination against his illegitimate rule, demanding his resignation.

In September 2021, Henry persuaded around 20 political parties, platforms and organizations to sign his proposal for a transitional government led by himself. The agreement foresaw the holding of general elections and a referendum to draft a new constitution no later than the end of 2022 and the inauguration of the new authorities in early 2023.

However, there has been significant opposition to Henry’s plans. The Commission to Search a Solution to the Crisis (CRSC), a platform that brings together more than 500 social organizations and left-wing political movements, does not recognize Henry’s authority and considers his rule unconstitutional, since the current constitution does not have a provision with regards to how to replace an assassinated president. The commission also has emphasized that the current constitution does not allow a de-facto Prime Minister to change it. The CRSC encourages the inauguration of a new interim president by a new national council, made of people from diverse forces of the country.

Henry is yet to present a concrete proposal to emerge from the crisis and disagreement. The political and social forces are yet to reach a general consensus and set a date to elect the country’s new legitimate ruler.

× To Subscribe