Today, Haiti’s Department of Justice officially opened its probe into the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. It’s just shy of a month since the killing. That timing is typical of the whole “investigation.”
A Haitian friend and I have been talking the last few days about the “telenovela” that is the story of Haiti, post-assassination. In the days just after the murder, he said “it feels like an abscess emptying out, which could be good.” Now it feels more like the ranks closing and shutting down the investigative process, such as it is, while carrying out and elaborating the almost comic narrative the authorities have created to explain things and shield the actual perpetrators and intellectual authors.
At any rate, it’s a twisted narrative that most recently has swirled around the former first lady, Martine Moise—who witnessed and was shot during the event, was airlifted in critical condition to Miami, then returned for her husband’s funeral two weeks after the attack to give a fierce speech and announce she might run for president, and who most recently appeared on August 2 on CNN to tell everything she says she knows about the assassination, which it turned out is, seemingly, not much. Perhaps fear of reprisals has kept her mostly silent on the real facts.
In any case, her interview provided enough material to keep the rumor mills spinning, keep the telenovela’s plot moving. You don’t need much fuel to keep this beast active.
Martine Moise was composed, as a future presidential candidate should be, while she recounted on Anderson Cooper’s 360 how she lay there in the presidential bedroom of the Moises’ private residence, already injured, as the Spanish-speaking team of allegedly foreign commando killers searched the room while the president was still alive on the floor. They searched the room, she could tell from her perch on the floor at the side of the bed, asking each other “Is that it? Is that it?” until they said “There it is.”
She doesn’t know what they found (some Haitians say “a million dollars in cash”). The killers, Martine Moise said, then called someone and received confirmation of the president’s identity (“tall and skinny and black,” she claimed was the information given—this, to hired assassins allegedly flown in from outside the country, trained for at least a month, and heavily armed… ). How they then shot and killed her husband. As she left the house, she said she noticed there was no sign of the twenty or so security guards who usually protected the place and the family.
Her testimony bears little resemblance to the story told by people with privileged knowledge, as well as by official Haitian investigators, like Justice of the Peace Carl Henri Destin, before they fled into hiding because of death threats. The counter-story (or one of them): That Moise was on the phone with his missing security for several minutes before the attack began in earnest, asking where they were and demanding that they come protect him. That not a single security officer of Moise’s was injured or killed during the attack, and someone inside (or with a key or combination) must have allowed the attackers entry (see photo of gate and walls, left). That Moise was killed at least half an hour before the foreign commandos arrived. That he was shot twelve times in various parts of his body and one of his eyes gouged out. That before the onslaught began, the Moise children, a boy and girl both in their 20s, were spirited along with the family dog to a lockable bathroom by their mother. That the kids walked their mother out of the house once the killers had fled. That when the First Lady was taken away to a hospital, Colombian “commandos” helped Moise’s daughter gather clothing and other essentials for the family.
The commandos, apparently with no planned exit strategy after allegedly committing an assassination, tried to disappear into the surrounding communities but were soon either executed in the streets or scooped up in a singularly efficient Haitian police dragnet.
One element previously recounted by Martine Moise was that before they left, the killers “shone a light” in her eyes to make sure she was dead. She has now eliminated that detail from her narrative, probably having been told that a light shone into a living person’s eyes, especially in a dark room, will provide evidence of life, as their pupils contract against the brightness. So no more flashlight in the eyes.
Just that one tiny embellishment that’s now gone casts a strange light, shall we say, on the reality of the rest of her story. Why did she feel compelled to invent this telenovela element? (You can imagine the detective whipping his flashlight out of his belt on some show she may have seen…) Because: she knows as well as anyone that trained assassins who kill the sitting president of a country don’t leave witnesses behind. So conclusion: They must have ascertained that she was dead. Clearly Martine Moise, out of a feeling of survivor guilt or for whatever reason, felt she needed to explain why she survived the brutal attack, while her husband died in the same house in the same room.
Survivor guilt, or whatever reason, may also be pushing her potential run for president (“to continue his vision,” she has said, causing choked laughter among those who watched the Moise presidency, and Haiti, implode over the last five years) although if she is as worried about her personal security as she claims she is, a run for president of Haiti would seem a strange choice, especially right now.
Is there any hope for Haiti? I just don’t know
See my Twitter feed, Janice. Yes I do think there’s hope. Haiti and Haitians are a lot more sophisticated now about what goes on in their country than they were, and they were already pretty wired. Now they have more ability to speak and organize, they know they’re faced with a dire situation (even before this last earthquake), and they’re trying to met tet ansanm in a serious way to effect real change, not just cosmetic elections. They have stronger and more powerful allies. Still, change is hard and also you have to know what change you want and agree on it, and sneak it past the arbiters who rule the hemisphere! given global tendencies and international clinging to old ways and ideas. But it’s always possible to move forward. Sad that the country will now have lost another several thousand compatriots, with all the brilliance and energy and gifts they might have offered. But if you don’t look forward with optimism you’re left with, really, nihilism, and that won’t get anyone anywhere. I reject Haiti pessimism.