Melissa Harris-Perry: I'm Melissa Harris-Perry, and you're listening to The Takeaway. Haiti is still struggling to recover a month after a major earthquake and storm killed more than 2,000 people. Hundreds are still missing. Even before the quake, Haiti was dealing with a profound political crisis after the president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated in July. This week, that political struggle became even more complex.
Port-au-Prince prosecutor, Bedford Claude, asked the Haitian judge to charge the current Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, with the assassination of Moïse and refired the prosecutor later the same day. For more, I'm joined by Jacqueline Charles, Caribbean correspondent for the Miami Herald. Welcome back to the show, Jacqueline.
Jacqueline Charles: Thanks for having me.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Can you walk us a bit through what happened this week with that chief prosecutor and his decision to ask a judge to charge the Prime Minister with the assassination?
Jacqueline Charles: Yes. The chief prosecutor asked a judge, the investigative judge in the case involving the assassination of Haitian President, Jovenel Moïse, who was killed inside his private residence on the 7th of July. He asked this investigative judge to charge current Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, and to also bar him from leaving the country. The problem is, is that Bedford Claude was already fired when he made this request. He had been fired on Monday.
At the same time, I've spoken to legal experts who say that even if Bedford Claude had not been fired, he was out of his jurisdiction. Legally, he had no right to make this request. That once a probe and investigation has been turned over to a judge, similar to a grand jury in the United States, the prosecutor has to stand down. Any additional information or investigation that has to come from that investigative judge who's also known as an instruction judge. Claude cannot mount a parallel investigation.
At the same time, under Haitian law, he cannot ask for a minister to be barred from leaving the country or bring any legal mandate or indictment against a minister without the authorization of a president. Currently, there is no president in Haiti. Ariel Henry was tapped by Jovenel Moïse days before the president was assassinated. That triggered a power struggle. At the time, it involved the current foreign minister, Claude Joseph, who took over the reins as prime minister.
Eventually, Henry was named on July 20th, three days before Jovenel Moïse was buried. I have to tell you that Ariel Henry is not the first and the only political personality that has been pulled into this assassination. Even Claude Joseph, the foreign minister, there were press reports out of the Colombian Press, basically citing the Haitian investigation and sources who try to say that he had something to do with the president's killing.
I remember in July, he called a press conference in order to address those basically saying that they were lies. We've also seen other personalities, as well as prominent pastors who's also had arrest warrants issued with them because there were some alleged contact between them and any number of some of these key suspects.
Melissa Harris-Perry: What has this level of conflict and just the roiling lack of clarity about what happened in the context of this assassination, what is that meaning politically for Haiti?
Jacqueline Charles: It carries so many implications. First, of course, is whether or not we're ever going to find out who truly were the masterminds behind the assassination of Haitian President, Jovenel Moïse. 44 people are currently in custody. A judge now has the case. He's going to start probing further. What we truly know who paid for this and why, who fired that fatal shot. We know that there are 18 Colombians on the site, as well as 2 Haitian Americans. There's a third Haitian American who has been implicated, a doctor. All of them are saying, "Hey, I didn't do it."
When you see that this investigation is taking on a political bent, it really raises questions about the integrity of the investigation itself and whether or not there truly is a desire to get down to the bottom of it. Then, when you see this whole political disarray that's taking place in Haiti, it is sad, because the reality is this is a country that is struggling to recover from a deadly 7.2 earthquake along its southern peninsula. I was there. There are towns that are almost completely destroyed. People are still sleeping in the streets. Over 60% of people in those regions do not have access to potable water.
Yesterday, the head of the Pan American Health Organization acknowledged that there's still some communities that they have not been able to access and that the humanitarian response itself has been hampered by the ongoing saga with armed gangs blocking the road, the major road between the capital, Port-au-Prince, and the rest of the southern region, which is in desperate need of assistance. You have that happening. Then if you were in Port-au-Prince, you have to deal with the huge issue of armed gangs and insecurity.
Remember, we also have a COVID epidemic. Pan American Health Organization yesterday says less than 1% of Haiti's 11.5 million citizens have actually been vaccinated. This is a country, thank God, it hasn't had the number of cases that we've seen elsewhere in the United States, or even across the border in the Dominican Republic. People don't necessarily believe in vaccines or traditional medicine, but if you're a government, you need to go out and be able to convince people that they should vaccinate themselves, especially now, since the Delta variant and the Mu have both been confirmed in Haiti.
Yes, the chaos, the political play, all of this is not helping. Let me just say that all of this happened in terms of Bedford Claude and trying to charge the prime minister and trying to bar him from leaving the country. The timing of all of this is very interesting. Bedford Claude as the chief prosecutor, has had in his possession for several weeks, the police investigation, once the police turn everything over to an investigative judge.
If there were phone calls between one of the key suspects and Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, he could have moved weeks ago, but instead, he did it when he did it. What was happening around that time? We have to remember that at this moment, the Prime Minister himself was starting to make inroads seeking a global political agreement with members of the opposition, some of the very same members of the opposition, who had basically been protesting against the late president, who had been seeking his removal from office.
What you had then was the loyalists to President Jovenel Moïse, they were going on radio, they were going on social media, they were attacking the current prime minister, and so feeling threatened that all of a sudden, they're going to be pushed aside or tossed aside. We see them issue the strike. In addition to Bedford Claude, the Prime Minister has also fired the Minister of Justice, who was theoretically Claude's boss and would have had to say, "Okay, yes, you can do this." Then he also fired a key advisor to the late president, who was the head of the Council of Ministers.
Melissa Harris-Perry: What role does the international community play or need to be playing right now?
Jacqueline Charles: The international community led by the United States has said, "Listen, we're hearing you guys say that you want Haitian solutions to Haitian challenges. Today, this is the Haitian challenge." We're going to allow you to have your Haitian solution because the reality is that, is that there is no formula, there's no constitutional answer for a president is killed. There is no parliament, there are only 10 senators that are left, the head of the Supreme Court died from COVID weeks prior.
All the institutions that may have stepped in, they are basically non-existent. There is no formula in the Haitian Constitution that says, "Here's what needs to happen. Here are the next steps." The international community basically saying, "Listen, this country needs to have some semblance of stability. It needs to be working towards elections." There is an acknowledgment on the Biden administration that Haiti could not go to election this year, despite the fact that they were pushing this as well as the Trump administration.
There is a serious security issue with armed gangs. There are people in their homes who cannot leave. There were 16,000 plus individuals who were forcibly displaced from their home, starting in June, because of armed gang clashes. There is Doctors Without Borders which works in war-torn countries, was forced to shut down their hospital in one of these communities because of armed gangs.
When you say elections, elections how? How are people going to go vote? There's a recognition on the part of the international community for that, but in order for you to start to tackle that, as well as the other challenges, the humanitarian crisis, the economic, the social crisis, you basically need people to play nice.
Melissa Harris-Perry: [chuckles] Jacqueline Charles is the Caribbean correspondent for the Miami Herald. I feel like we need another hour to even start to scratch the surface of the level of complexity. Please tell me you'll come back and talk Haiti with us again very soon.
Jacqueline Charles: Definitely, I will. Thank you for having me.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Thank you for joining us today.
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