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Trump’s Haiti Policy Looks Much Like Obama-Clinton’s, Early

Samuel Maxime

Editor-in-Chief

Trump Delegation to Haiti

WASHINGTON, D.C. (sentinel.ht) – The White House announced on Sunday that it would be sending a presidential delegation to attend the inauguration of Haiti’s President-elect Jovenel Moise. This decision was not without controversy in Haiti and among the Haitian-American community.

What Trump’s delegation will be attending is the continuation of a regime marked by intimately close ties to drug-trafficking, kidnapping and corruption, embezzlement that rose to record levels. The regime known as Tet Kale (translates to Skinned Head in English) was propped up by the Clinton State Department in late 2010, the year of the earthquake and at a time those international actors sought a corrupt-friendly government in Haiti to continue their activities.

In fact, Pierre Louis Opont, who served as Director General of Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) in 2010 and then was appointed by the country’s elite to serve as CEP president for Haiti’s 2015 failed highly fraudulent highly violent elections, said in a July 2, 2015 interview (audio) that it was Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s Chief of Staff at the State Department and “volunteer” executive at the Clinton Foundation, who changed the election results. The results were changed to take a raunchy musician, Michel Martelly, from 4th to 3rd and the new to a 2nd place ranking in the first round of presidential elections.

Why Tet Kale May Have Appealed to the Clintons

John Kerry Michel Martelly
US Secretary of State John Kerry with President Michel Martelly, October 6, 2015

Michel Martelly is arguably the most successful musician in Haitian history. In his career which spanned more than 30 years he began as sultry singer of classic ballroom ballads of the dyazz Kompa, but from the early 90’s turned to a raunchy, expletive-filled act. Donning skirts, liatards, halter tops, thongs to exposing himself in front of crowds, he challenged the more conservative nature of Haitians.

He admitted to having a crack addiction and at the time of political shift in Haiti, going from the 30-year dictatorship of the Duvaliers to a democracy (1986-1991), Martelly lauded his membership and participation in Haiti’s pro-Duvalier paramilitary squads, namely FRAPH.

More importantly to this context were his public statements on politics. The Miami New Times in 1997 wrote:

Still, Martelly is not afraid to reveal that he has given serious thought to his philosophy of government. “First thing, after I establish my power, which would be very strong and necessary, I would close that congress thing. La chambre des deputes. Le senat.” He claps his hands. “Out of my way.” For the first year he would outlaw all strikes and demonstrations.

Michel Martelly has many ties with criminal elements but even back in 1997 it was written:

If Martelly decides to run for political office, his friendships with people like Celestin and Michel Francois will inevitably come under scrutiny. Formal charges of drug-dealing and gun-running against some of Martelly’s closest associates will raise other questions. Eddy Aurelien, a Little Haiti businessman who owned the North American distribution rights to at least five of Martelly’s albums, was arrested last October for allegedly selling $3000 worth of crack cocaine to a DEA informant. He subsequently jumped bail and is believed to be in Haiti.

Much more was written along those lines in the Miami New Times article. A bit more, although slightly, was published in the New York Times during his presidency. The Haiti Sentinel has countless articles on these ties in its archives.

The Tet Kale Regime

Mr. Martelly would hold to these relations and his political positions when he eventually would become president. He could not do it without the help of the Obama administration, Clinton State Department and United Nations with Bill Clinton as head of the envoy to Haiti. Early in his five-year term, in a meeting with Haitian senators on December 16, 2011, former President Martelly promised he would not facilitate the holding of elections in Haiti until he had every branch of government, executive, legislative and judiciary, as well as, every institution, under his power.

In January of 2012, the terms of all elected mayors, municipal commissions and townships ended. Some were replaced by hand-picked appointees the press called “interim agents”. These agents were ultra-corrupt but were maintained based on zealous and financial support of the central government. Other localities, perhaps fared better, left having no local government to address the population’s needs. The Obama administration remained steadfast with the regime despite massive popular protests.

Michel Martelly, Sandra Honore
Warm photo of President Michel Martelly (L) and Sandra Honore (C), UN Special Representative of the Secretary General in Haiti at a party at the National Palace, a week after the fall of the Haitian Parliament. January 19, 2015. [Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images]

In May 2012, the terms of ten of thirty senators ended. This made legislative actions requiring two-thirds vote impossible but also created such a fragile quorum that no legislative agenda could be had; except for a few conventions forcefully supported by U.S. Embassy. Martelly would begin, quietly, ruling by decree. Yet still, despite massive popular protests that even threatened to unseat the president, the Obama administration with the arms of the United Nations peacekeeping force known as MINUSTAH, stood steadfast.

January 12, 2015, the 5th anniversary of the earthquake, a second third of the senate, ten senators, would see their terms end. As well, all 99 members of the lower house of the bicameral legislature, would end their terms. Now, Martelly would rule by decree, create and not hold to budgets, as he pleased. Despite a heightened intensity in protests and now a totalitarian regime in place, the Obama administration stood steadfast with the regime as it would attempt to organize elections that the regime itself would be party in.

Enter Jovenel Moise

What We Thought

Jovenel Moise was unknown to Haitians when he was tapped by former President Michel Martelly in 2015 to run for president under his party, the Haitian Tet Kale Party, and thus succeed him. He was promoted as a businessman, proprietor of Agritrans S.A., a plantain producing and export company. He was calm-mannered, young in appearance, and free of political experience. He appeared an outsider.

It stunned many that the former president would select Mr. Moise and pass up a shoe-in, his former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe. Mr. Lamothe was a long-time friend of Mr. Martelly. He is the longest tenure prime minister in the history of Haiti. He is respect, lauded and loved through most of Haiti and throughout the world. He arrested kidnappers, drug-traffickers and, for all their controversy, set up programs that kept neighborhoods clean, provided subsidized meals and bridged the gap between Haiti’s large diaspora community and the local community. Lamothe would resign gracefully in December of 2014 to the request of the president and a commission of elites.

Still, an unknown Moise for the popular Lamothe appeared strange.

What We’ve Learned

Jovenel Moise campaigns with U.S. indicted drug-trafficker, wanted by FBI, Guy Philippe.

Jovenel Moise was never an unknown of the Tet Kale regime, in fact, he was a heavy-hitter. Mr. Moise is cousin-in-law to the former Minister of Economy and Finance who served the entire term of the Martelly regime. He was given a massive no-bid “loan” from the State of $27 million [USD] and 1,000 acres to establish Agritrans, S.A., which to this days has not exported any of its product. More shocking is that Mr. Moise may have been a key money-launderer from the years of 2008-2013.

Referrals made to the Central Financial Intelligence Unit (UCREF) by banking and the tax revenue institution sparked an investigation into Mr. Moise’s finances. The report was made public in July of 2016 showing that Jovenel Moise had managed transactions, untraceable, of up to $5.5 million [USD] through the 5 years. It would not be until January 13, 2017, that the UCREF report, as well as three others from the Unit Combating Corruption (ULCC), would be sent to the head of prosecutions in Port-au-Prince, Government Commissioner Jean Danton Leger, that the true prospect of criminality would be known.

Guy Philippe, January 13, 2017 arraignment after arrest and extradition by U.S. DEA

Mr. Moise also became emboldened as the electoral process continued. In a series of occasions since the UCREF reports initial unsealing, he has been seen carousing and even campaigning arm-in-arm, with two indicted drug-traffickers. One such trafficker would be Guy Philippe, leader of the 2004 coup in Haiti. He has been on the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) wanted list – clearly on the FBI’s website – since 2005. Philippe was arrested January 5, 2017 in Port-au-Prince and promptly extradited to the United States by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

The other indicted drug-trafficker is Marc Antoine Acra. A businessman, cited heavily in the UCREF report, but whose boat was seized in 2015, found carrying 82 kilos of cocaine and 10 kilos of heroine. Mr. Moise, as president-elect, had Mr. Acra join him as part of his delegation during a “private visit” to the Dominican Republic in mid-January.

Trump’s Delegation Includes Clinton-Tet Kale Operatives

U.S. President Donald Trump’s presidential delegation will be attending the inauguration of Mr. Moise to be president as he is embattled, still, by the criminal investigation into his participation in organized crime and its members. From the looks of things, not much yet has changed in U.S. foreign policy under Trump. It’s early and still under the guidance of Obama’s, largely shaped by his first Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Welsome Ceremony at State Department.

Trump hadn’t yet put his stamp on the nation’s foreign policy. This certainly became clear when Thomas Shannon, Under Secretary for Political Affairs at the State Department, appeared front and center, apparently brown-nosing at the new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s welcome address last week.

It is Mr. Shannon who will be heading Trump’s presidential delegation to Haiti. Shannon is not so controversial except that he assisted former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in looking the other way through 2015 as Mr. Martelly tried to force Jovenel Moise into power the first time. Who is extra controversial is another member of the delegation.

A man who has earned from the Haiti Sentinel the title of former Secretary Clinton’s most zealous henchman, former Ambassador to Haiti, Kenneth H. Merten, joins the four-member delegation. Mr. Merten played a key role into election result changes in 2010. He remains highly criticized for his role in a National Palace event in 2012 where he, himself, announced that the Haitian President Michel Martelly was a Haitian citizen. Martelly was under accusation of also having U.S. citizenship under the name of “Michael Martelly” which would have made him ineligible to be president. Merten didn’t really answer the question that was at hand. The actions of Kenneth Merten in Haiti as ambassador are too numerous to list here and will forever go down in Haitian lore.

Current U.S. Ambassador to Haiti, Peter F. Mulrean, is part of the delegation. He came to the dance late but was very outspoken in declaring the 2015 elections acceptable, before those elections were found to consist of tally sheets in which 97% were found fraudulent. Mulrean, still ambassador, did not heed Trump’s request for ambassadors to resign before January 20.

Lastly is Omarosa Manigault, Presidential Counsel and Adviser for Black American Outreach for President Trump. She would be the only semblance of a new policy towards Haiti in the mix. She is much more talented and educated than the pretty face, nice body, sassy attitude she has become known for. She remains the only semblance within the delegation that meaningful change in policy could be established towards Haiti. None the less, due to the other personalities, change is doubtful.

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About The Author

Samuel Maxime is a Haitian-born citizen living in the United States. He founded The Haiti Sentinel to bring Haitian issues to an English language audience.