The leader of one of Haiti’s most powerful gangs said on Saturday his men could take to the streets to protest the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, which could exacerbate the chaos in the country.
Jimmy Cherizier, is a former policeman known as “Barbecue” and heads a group called the G9, which is made up of nine gangs. For him, Moise was assassinated by a collusion involving the country’s bourgeoisie, the police and foreigners.
“This was a national and international conspiracy against the Haitian people,” Cherizier said in a video. “We told all of our bases to mobilize and take to the streets to get some clarification on the president’s assassination.”
Moise was assassinated at dawn on Wednesday (7). According to Haitian authorities, a squad of 28 men (26 Colombians, many of them retired soldiers, and two Haitian American citizens) broke into the residence and opened fire on him. Security forces arrested 17 suspects and killed at least three others. The others are still on the run.
So far, the reason for the attack is unclear and authorities are trying to find out who was responsible for the murder.
The gang leader said his supporters could engage in “legitimate violence” and it was time for the owners of the system, the Syrian and Lebanese businessmen who dominate sectors of the economy, to step down. Some of them got into a fight with Moise. “It’s time for black people with curly hair like us to own supermarkets, car dealerships and banks,” he said.
The statements reinforce fears of uncontrolled violence in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, where gangs and police have been clashing for several weeks for control of part of the streets. “They really don’t have the capacity to provide security. There aren’t enough police officers,” Benoit Jean, a resident of the city, told Reuters.
The assassination of the president aggravates the crisis in which Haiti is plunged. Moise, who had all but disqualified Congress and ruled the country by decree, remained in power despite opponents saying his term should have ended last February.
On the president’s death, acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph took command of the country and declared a state of siege for two weeks, a move that expands the powers of the executive. Joseph is expected to be in charge of holding legislative and presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Haitian government on Friday called on the United States and the UN to send military troops to help protect local infrastructure such as airports and gas tanks.
The US government has not confirmed sending troops, but the White House has said it will send FBI and Department of Homeland Security agents, as well as Covid vaccines to the only country in the Americas that does not has not yet started to vaccinate its population.
The request to the UN recalls the Minustah, a mission that brought together, between 2004 and 2017, troops to try to stabilize Haiti. The operation played a leading role in Brazil, which, with the exception of short intervals, commanded an international contingent that reached more than 7,000 troops from 22 countries.