News Release

Is the White House Greenlighting Haiti’s Descent into Dictatorship?


In Haiti, Douyon is an activist with Nou Pap Dòmi (We Will Not Sleep) and executive director of the group Policité. She will be testifying before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Friday.

Human rights lawyer Brian Concannon is executive director of Project Blueprint, which promotes a “progressive, human rights-based U.S. foreign policy by bringing the perspectives of people impacted by U.S. actions abroad into policy discussions.” He founded the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), and was its Executive Director from 2004-2019. He lived in Haiti from 1995 to 2004, where he served as a Human Rights Officer with the United Nations.

He just wrote the piece “Is the White House Greenlighting Haiti’s Descent into Dictatorship?” for Responsible Statecraft, which states: “As thousands of Haitians protest each Sunday against Jovenel Moïse, their embattled and increasingly authoritarian president, their protest signs and songs exhort the U.S. ambassador and the head of the United Nations mission in Haiti, who is also a career U.S. diplomat, ‘to stop supporting a dictatorship.’ The protests reflect a broad consensus among politicians, intellectuals, lawyers and others in Haiti, supported by human rights experts and members of the U.S. Congress, that the Biden administration is propping up Moïse and preventing the emergence of a Haitian-led solution to the political crisis.

“The Trump administration had backed Moïse despite revelations of spectacular corruption, government-linked massacres, and the expiration of Haiti’s parliament. In just one incident, the 2018 La Saline massacre, government-allied gangs killed at least seventy people to retaliate against anti-government organizing in the neighborhood. I interviewed survivors, and their stories were eerily similar to the stories I had heard 30 years before from the survivors of the 1988 St. Jean Bosco Church massacre — also in La Saline — by the vestiges of Jean-Claude Duvalier’s Tonton Macoute death squad.

“Haitians were hopeful that the Biden administration would change course before February 7, the day that Moïse’s term in office ended, according to Haiti’s judicial oversight body, the bar federation, and religious leaders, as well as the leadership of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee. But on February 5, the State Department, citing the position of Luis Almagro, Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, pronounced that Moïse’s term extended until 2022. This interpretation is based on a constitutional ambiguity generated by election delays in 2015 and 2016. But, as most commentators note, it is inconsistent with electoral law and with precedent set by Moïse himself.

“Taking Moïse’s side might have been an attempt to manage Haiti’s political crisis at a time when the administration’s attention is focused elsewhere. But Moïse proceeded as if this support provided a green light for continued repression. Before sunrise on February 7, his police arrested Supreme Court Justice Yvickel Dabrésil and at least 19 other suspected dissidents, illegally, alleging they were planning a coup d’état. The next day, Moïse, fired Dabrésil and two of his Supreme Court colleagues, who, under the country’s constitution, can only be removed by parliament. Haitians who protested the arrests and other autocratic measures were met with police beatings, tear gas and bullets, as were journalists covering the protests.

“The State Department added gaslighting to its green light on February 12, claiming there had been a ‘remarkable lack of popular response to calls for mass protest in recent weeks.’ The State Department knew very well that Haitian demonstrators had been subjected to violent attacks by government forces and allied militias once they marshaled in the streets. Indeed, the Department of Homeland Security reported in February that the government was using gangs ‘to repress the opposition,’ and noted ‘President Jovenel Moïse’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies.'”