Canadian government funds Aristide coup-partner’s political persecution efforts: Documents

By Travis Ross, The Canada Files, Feb. 29, 2024

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Documents obtained by The Canada Files reveal that a Haitian ‘human rights’ NGO had two reports, used to target political opponents, funded indirectly by the Canadian government through the NGO Avocats sans Frontières Canada (ASFC). 

The National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH) receives an undisclosed amount of funding under the ASFC “Access to Justice and Fight Against Impunity in Haiti” (AJULIH) project for “advocacy activities”. This author previously explained the corruption of RNDDH and its director, Pierre Espérance. 

In 2004, the Canadian government funded the RNDDH (then NCHR-Haiti) as part of a broader effort to ensure the criminalization and violent repression of Lavalas leaders and supporters. The RNDDH played a key role in destabilizing Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s democratically elected government by fabricating allegations of human rights abuses about Lavalas leaders and members before and after the 2004 coup d'etats. The RNDDH also gets funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), described by its co-founder Allan Weinstein as doing “a lot of what …was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”

Subsequent allegations and reports further reinforce the view that Espérance and the RNDDH are a political organization - with the facade of a human rights group - which uses their platform and funding to target and persecute political opponents. 

 

ASFC funds RNDDH reports that target Pierre Espérance’s political opponents

ASFC funded two RNDDH reports as part of the AJILUH project. Global Affairs Canada confirmed it knew that the RNDDH got funding from their project, when reached out to for comment.

Both reports contain a disclaimer: “This document was produced within the framework of the project ‘Access to justice and fight against impunity Haiti’ implemented by Avocats sans frontières Canada (ASFC) and its partners. The content of this document is the sole responsibility of the RNDDH and does not necessarily reflect ASFC’s points of view.”

The two reports, translated to English, are titled “Attacks on deprived neighborhoods: The RNDDH demands the end of the protection of armed gangs by the authorities in power” and “The reign of Prime Minister Ariel HENRY Or The fury of armed gangs”

Both reports repeat allegations made by Espérance and the RNDDH that Jimmy Cherizier is a gang leader beholden to Haiti’s president Jovenel Moise and, after he was assassinated, de-facto Prime Minister turned dictator, Ariel Henry. Both are members of the Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK). 

The first report is 25 pages long. Cherizier’s name appears fifty-two times. The report focuses on alleged crimes by Cherizier’s G-9 coalition, and ignores alleged crimes by other gangs. Criminal gangs opposed to the G-9 alliance, including, at the time, 400 Mawazo, Ti Gabriel’s Brooklyn gang, and Izo’s 5 Second gang are omitted from the report. 

Gangs who oppose the G-9 alliance are responsible for virtually all the incidents of kidnapping and rape in Port au Prince. 

Espérance must have been getting nervous. The first report was published June 23, 2020. The day before, Haitian media began reporting on Cherizier successful negotiations with several gangs in Port au Prince for a ceasefire. Cherizier had united his neighborhood defense group (or vigilance brigade) with others in Port au Prince. He also claims to have successfully convinced some criminal gang leaders to cease illegal activity that harmed local residents and, instead, defend them against criminal gangs who were routinely kidnapping, raping, and extorting local citizens. 

The coalition was named Fòs Revolisyonè G9 an fanmi e alye (Revolutionary Forces of the G9 Family and Allies, A.K.A. G9 or FRG9). 

A month later, in July of 2020, these gangs quickly coalesced into a crime federation known as “G-pép”. These gangs are better described as armed groups who function as paramilitary forces for Haitian oligarchs, politicians, and the ruling PHTK - the party of the de facto prime minister Dr. Ariel Henry. Ti Gabriel, for example, had the support of Haitian oligarch Reginald Boulos. Boulos who, in turn, supported PM Henry’s political accord. 

The first report alleges that Cherizier is “a powerful man, feared by the private business sector, armed arm of President Jovenel Moise”. Conversely, while speaking about his public demand that Moise step down, Cherizier said the G9 wanted him to “leave the country”, while also offering praise for leaders such as Aristide and Platfòm Pitit Desalin leader Moise Jean-Charles. 

“The G-9 is not working for the regime, and the G-9 was not created by and is not working for the opposition,” Cherizier said. “It was created to never again have robberies, rapes, and kidnapping in our neighborhoods… but also for the ghettos to get their due, schools, clinics, hospitals, services, running water, infrastructure, and “all the security which the rich neighborhoods get.”

The second report funded by ASFC was published on May 3, 2023. In this report, the RNDDH alleges that Cherizier and the G-9 coalition had deliberately committed acts of violence to justify a foreign intervention. 

The report alleges that a gun battle in Bel-Air that occurred between February 28 to March 5, 2023 was “purely and simply political”. The report goes on to claim that “the authorities in place” decided to “use their armed gangs members of the coalition led by Jimmy Cherizier” to amplify the “perception of violence in Haiti and to encourage the international community to follow up on the requested military intervention.” No evidence is presented for these assertions in the report. 

Contradicting the RNDDH’s allegations, Cherizier told a press conference on August 16, 2023, that a foreign intervention force would be met with armed resistance if it did not immediately, upon entering Haiti, arrest PM Ariel Henry, corrupt oligarchs, and corrupt politicians who flood poor neighborhoods with guns. He also emphasized the disastrous consequences of the last foreign intervention in Haiti led by the United-Nations - MINUSTAH.

 

Espérance and the RNDDH weaponize human rights reports against opponents, again

The first RNDDH report funded by ASFC repeats allegations made against Cherizier which originate from their December 1, 2018, report titled “The events in La Saline: from power struggle between armed gangs to State-sanctioned massacre”

The first part of the title is corroborated by locals in Lasaline at the time. The attacks that occurred in Lasaline on November 13, 2018 in Lasaline involved one gang, Nan Chabon, invading the territory of another gang, Projet Lasaline, for control of a local market. This brutal gang attack resulted in at least 23 murdered civilians. 

This RNDDH report also alleges that Cherizier participated in the attacks as part of a “state sanctioned massacre” of civilians in a neighborhood traditionally supportive of the Fanmi Lavalas political party. 

In early November 2018, Jimmy Cherizier was a largely unknown figure in Haiti. According to Cherizier, he had formed a neighborhood defense group with other Haitian police officers (PNH). The group had been formed to expel an armed criminal gang that had taken residence in his neighborhood of Delmas 6. Cherizier had not yet announced the G-9 or attracted the attention of Haitian or international media. 

In episode one of Dan Cohen and Kim Ives’ documentary, Another Vision, Cherizier alleges that Espérance offered to remove his name from the RNDDH’s upcoming report on the attacks in Lasaline if he assassinated Marie-Yolène Gilles. Cherizier refused. Gilles, a former program director for RNDDH, had left the organization, accusing its director, Pierre Espérance of corruption. She formed a competing human rights organization named the Open Eyes Foundation (FJKL) with lawyer and politician Samuel Madistin. 

Cherizier was first targeted by the FJKL in a rushed report released three days after the attacks in Lasaline. An analysis of this report is available in Another Vision and in this article. It is significant that Madistin is a legal representative for Reginald Boulos. Boulos, a Haitian oligarch, openly supported Ti Gabriel, the head of the Nan Brooklyn gang and the G-pép armed group alliance. Madistin was also hired in 2004 by the RNDDH to represent the “victims” of the fabricated La Scierie massacre. 

Espérance adopted the framing of the attacks in Lasaline as a “state sanctioned massacre” alleged in the rushed FJKL report, despite a lack of evidence. Similar to Espérance’s efforts to tie an alleged massacre of civilians to Aristide and Fanmi Lavalas (FL) in 2004, the RNDDH’s Lasaline report frames the civilian death toll as a result of a planned attack by the PHTK. 

It was Roger Millien, an elected FL deputy minister, who first alleged that the attacks in La Saline were politically motivated. He accused local PHTK politicians of planning the attacks. 

Millien’s version of events insist that the attacks were planned by the PHTK to target Fanmi Lavalas supporters. FL published a press release on November 15, 2018, less than 48 hours after the attacks. This FL press release preceded any report or investigation. The press release “strongly condemns the massacre that the Jovenel and Ceant regime conducted in Lasalin”. Explicitly blaming Jovenel Moise for orchestrating the massacre. 

Millien claimed to know about an alleged planning meeting for the attacks in Lasaline attended by Cherizier, Nan Chabon’s leader, Ti Junior, and PHTK members. These allegations appear in the RNDDH report. He seems to be the sole source for this allegation. 

Millien never offered an explanation on how he could know the details of a planning meeting he did not attend. Nor did he explain why he didn’t warn the residents of Lasaline of the impending attack. According to a June 21, 2019, UN report on the attacks in Lasaline, the members of the Projet Lasaline gang fled Lasaline before Nan Chabon’s attack, indicating they may have been forewarned. 

Both the FJKL and RNDDH reports acknowledge that Millien had a close relationship with the local gang, Projet Lasaline. In an interview with Le Nouvelliste, he admits to knowing the leader at the time, Bout JanJan. Indeed, Millien drove an injured Bout JanJan and other gang members to the hospital after an attempted assassination in early November. He told Le Nouvelliste he drove the gang members to the hospital in accordance with “international conventions” to “provide assistance to injured people even in times of war”.

Millien’s relationship with a local gang was not an uncommon feature of FL’s elected deputy MPs following the 2017 election. 

Printemps Bélizaire, another elected FL deputy MP, was summoned for questioning in connection to the 2018 murder of journalist Vladimir Legagneur. He responded by claiming that he had a diplomatic engagement in Canada, and couldn’t attend. It seems that he stayed there until the summons order expired. Bélizaire never testified. 

PHTK politician Joseph Lambert, and senator at the time, accused Bélizaire of helping gang leader Arnel Joseph avoid arrest. This accusation came three days after the RNDDH report on the attacks in Lasaline explicitly blamed the PHTK government for orchestrating the events in Lasaline. 

Coincidentally, Bélizaire was officially summoned to answer questions about Legagneur’s murder was on December 1, 2018, the day on which the RNDDH’s Lasaline report was published. 

Bélizaire also made headlines in June 2019  in Haiti when he was recorded saying in parliament that he “burn[ed] down police stations and murder[s] people with machetes.” 

 

Did the RNDDH politicize a clash between two armed groups?

The RNDDH’s allegations that the attacks that occurred in Lasaline on November 13, 2018 were politically motivated are contested by many residents. 

Several locals believed the violence was strictly a result of gang warfare over control of the local market. Dozens of displaced Haitians who escaped Nan Chabon’s violence settled in Place D’Italy. They were interviewed by Berrick Estiodore for Kapzy News. The leadership of the camp denied the violence was political. Matyas Jean Norger, secretary of the Place D’Italy committee, said the gang violence was for “control of the market”, referring to the Croix de Bouquets market. 

Jean Renaud Felix, the director of the Croix de Bouquet market at the time of the attacks, also believes the attacks in Lasaline were not politically motivated. He was interviewed in the documentary Another Vision and described the attacks as a clash between “two armed groups locking horns on the same block”.

Raphael Louigene, a social worker at Fondation St. Luc, a Catholic charity that works in the poorest neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, told the Associated Press (AP) that the attacks “appeared to result from a fight over the right to extort marketplace merchants after one gang pushed out another.”

In addition, the RNDDH report on Lasaline does acknowledge that some residents believe the attacks were part of an ongoing inter-gang war to control the local market, it nonetheless concludes that the attacks are a “result in the co-existence and cooperation between governmental authorities and armed gangs.”

The campaign to frame the attacks in Lasaline as strictly political was successful. Mainstream western media, as well as virtually every outlet on the left covering Haiti at the time, repeated the allegations that the attacks in Lasaline were politically motivated. FJKL and RNDDH reports on Lasaline were often the basis for the allegations. . 

Notably, The Center for Analysis and Research on Human Rights (CARDH), one of Haiti’s most prominent human rights groups, produced a report on the attacks in Lasaline that did not suggest the attacks were politically motivated. The CARDH report didn’t mention Jimmy Cherizier either. The CARDH report mentions a relationship between a PHTK politician and Nan Chabon, but blames the state for being complacent and absent, not for organizing a massacre. Unlike the RNDDH and FJKL, CARDH has no known political affiliations that would cause accusations of bias around this event. 

It speaks volumes that, in the same aforementioned AP report, Joel Noel, was identified as a “community leader” in Lasaline. IReferring to the November 13, 2018 attacks, he told AP “this is a political fight”. The fact that Noel replaced Bout JanJan as leader of the Projet Lasaline gang is omitted from the article. 

Predictably, in a separate AP report six months later, Noel was interviewed. Noel’s lips were “stained purple from the wine he’d been drinking that morning”. AP reports that he “accused Cherizier in the slayings.”

On November 15, 2023, almost five years after the attacks in Lasaline, Espérance announced that the US justice system had taken control of the Lasaline dossier.

 

The Canadian government continues to meddle in Haiti’s affairs

Canada’s funding of the RNDDH through ASFC provides evidence that while they may have retreated from publicly meddling in Haiti’s affairs, they still seek to more quietly. The funding the Canadian government provides the RNDDH indirectly affects political discourse in Canada and the U.S. by supporting Pierre Espérance’s platform for political influence.

Espérance was involved in the creation of the Montana Accord, announced in August 2021, which initially represented a broad coalition of political parties, civil society organizations, & peasant groups. In fact, once the accord was announced it was left at the RNDDH’s office so representatives of civil society organizations could sign the document.  

Support for it has shrunk significantly since the accord was announced. Two years after its initial announcement, the coalition behind the accord now only represents a small fraction of Haitian society, functioning more as a civil society front for a sector of the Haitian bourgeoisie than a coalition with broad support. The coalition was once considered the main rival to PM Henry’s political alliance. This is no longer the case. 

By funding Espérance and the RNDDH, the Canadian government has indirectly provided support to the leaders of the Montana Accord coalition. The same can be said of Washington via funding from the National Endowment for Democracy and the Open Society Foundation. Over the two-year period following the announcement of the Montana Accord, this funding had the effect of maintaining a controlled opposition to PM Henry’s rule.  

Espérance remains an enthusiastic supporter of the Montana Accord, even as its popularity has plummeted among Haitians. Espérance has written several articles for the liberal think-tank Just Security pleading to the American government to shift support from Ariel Henry to the Montana Accord. 

When asked about Pierre Espérance’s evident political activity as director of the RNDDH, an ASFC representative claimed that: “We are a non-political organization and we work on capacity-building for human rights organizations, not individuals.” 

ASFC also explained that they apply the “principle of subsidiarity” with their partners. “Our partners are independent and we offer them support without influencing their positions or endorsing them in their entirety,” they said. 

It is possible ASFC is unaware of the long list of reports that conclude Espérance and the RNDDH are not a legitimate human rights group. ASFC’s adherence to the “principle of subsidiarity” seemingly allows them to ignore the evident political nature of this so-called human rights group. 

It is the Canadian government that is ultimately accountable for this funding. Just as the Canadian government shares responsibility for its role in the Ottawa initiative, the 2004 coup, and funding NCHR-Haiti to pursue the case against then-Prime Minister Yvon Neptune. 

 

The Montana Accord leadership are also tied to the 2004 coup d'etat

One of the founders and spokespersons for the Montana Accord is Magali Comeau Denis. Comeau Denis, like Espérance, had a role in the anti-Lavalas campaign  before and after the 2004 coup. 

Comeau Denis was one of the members of Haiti’s bourgeoisie whom the Council of the Wise selected for the coup government. She was made Minister of Culture in the Latortue/Boniface coup regime. 

This means Ariel Henry, Haiti’s current dictator and, in 2004, member of the Council of the Wise, had a role selecting Comeau Denis for her position in the coup government. 

Comeau Denis' unelected position in government was a result of her participation in the propaganda campaign against Aristide’s democratically elected government. Comeau Denis co-wrote a letter in September 2003 signed by dozens of Haiti’s elite, calling Aristide’s government a “tyrannical power” experiencing “totalitarian drift”. 

Similar to Espérance accusations against Neptune, Comeau Denis also made baseless accusations of murder against another FL leader, Father Gérard Jean Juste, as part of a campaign to criminalize the overwhelmingly popular party and suppress dissent after the 2004 coup.

Representing the Montana Accord, Comeau Denis recently traveled to Washington with Espérance to lobby the U.S. government to shift their support to their dwindling coalition. They met with Juan Gonzalez, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and Under Secretary of State for Hemispheric Affairs Brian H. Nicholls on May 30, 2023. This was followed by a meeting with “authorities in the Pentagon” on June 2, 2023. 

Five days later, on June 7, Washington announced new sanctions against one of their political opponents, former PHTK prime minister Laurent Lamothe.

While visiting Washington, Espérance spoke to the New York Times. Referring to the recent popular uprising in Haiti known as Bwa Kale, he said “the rise of the vigilante movement… underscores the international community’s failure to address the crisis”. In other words, Washington must shift support to the Montana Accord, who will then approve a militarily intervention to prevent a popular uprising.

 

A revolution in Haiti against the Canadian-backed dictator?

The Multinational Security Support Mission (MSS) is fundamentally an occupation force, an imperialist tool for maintaining hegemony and preventing a popular uprising in Haiti. The MSS is also intended to reinforce Henry’s dictatorship and have a huge influence on  the composition of Haiti’s transitional government. And, in turn, Haiti’s eventual elections. 

The likelihood of an MSS deployment is faltering now that Kenya’s high court has blocked deployment of Kenyan forces. William Ruto has promised, however, to deploy the police force anyways.  

While the MSS hasn’t officially deployed, Kenya has already sent 200 police officers on the ground in Haiti. In addition, the U.S. Special Forces have been deployed as well to train and advise the PNH.

The Canadian government remains an enthusiastic supporter of the MSS. Canadian foreign affairs minister Mélanie Joly announced this February that Canada “will allocate $123 million in funding to support Haiti, including $80.5 million to support the deployment of the MSS”. 

The same announcement included a reminder that “since 2022, Canada has committed more than $300 million in international development, humanitarian and security assistance funding to Haiti.” In addition, Canada has contributed $57 million to “reinforce” the PNH. All this underlines that Canada has played a key role in maintaining funding for Haiti’s National Police force. 

Canada is the second-largest bilateral donor to Haiti after the U.S.

Global Affairs Canada has also committed the RCMP to provide “technical training” to PNH officers as part of the MSS. 

Berthony Dupont explained in a recent Haiti Liberte editorial that “imperialism's role in the current situation is obvious.” Nonetheless, he argues that conditions are favorable for a revolution. Kim Ives concurs, pointing out that “by all indications, the Haitian masses are fed up, hungry, angry, and ready to begin down the rocky road of revolution.”

In recent months, the Protected Areas Surveillance Brigade (BSAP), a small armed group tasked with protecting nature reserves, “has grown from a few dozen agents to become a large militia of over 15,000 troops, and, according to some estimates, perhaps two or three times that number”, Ives explained.

BSAP is led by Jeantel Joseph, who is also the nominal head of Guy Philippe’s party. This makes Guy Philippe the effective leader of BSAP. 

Philippe recently returned from the US after serving seven years for money laundering and drug trafficking. 

Upon returning, announced that he was launching a “revolution without arms”. Philippe claims his revolution is modeled after the events in Sri Lanka, where, in 2022, a popular uprising chased the government from power in four months. “Everybody saw how thousands and thousands of people entered into the residences of the leaders who were badly governing,” he explained.

While Philippe proposes a peaceful revolution, Jean Hilaire Lundi Roday, the spokesman for the National Awakening for Haiti’s Sovereignty, a political front led by Philippe’s chief lieutenant Jeantel Joseph, said that “no options are ruled out, including the taking of power by arms to overthrow Ariel Henry.”

In a speech delivered to supporters in Petit Goâve on January 28, 2024, Philippe also offered support for Cherizier, while echoing his plea to criminal gangs to “stop punishing our own people, people like you who are enduring poverty, who are victims of the system.” Philippe encouraged them to “listen to what Commander Jimmy Cherizier says: put down your weapons. Too many tears have been shed… We will change that with the people. I say to you: in 90 days we could have a beautiful Haiti which is flourishing… Stop killing people. Help them instead. Put down your weapons. Because the people are suffering too much.”

Haitians have reason to be doubtful of Philippe’s sincerity. Philippe led paramilitary forces in the 2004 coup against Aristide’s government. And yet, faced with continued imperialist-backed dictatorship and worsening security and hunger, Haitians have largely decided to support Philippe and Jeantel Joseph’s call for ousting Henry.

In a recent interview, Sherlson Sanon echoed the sentiments of many Haitians: 

“I don’t say that I’m a Guy Philippe fanatic, but when your house catches fire and you have to put it out to save your home and family inside, you will accept help from anybody who brings water, and afterwards you will examine his face … I ask all the people who believe in me and know that I’m not corrupt, don’t support Guy Philippe but support the people in this battle, because Haiti has to get out of this mess… I support a movement to overturn the system, and that means not just overturning Ariel Henry and all his acolytes”.

Two political parties have come to a similar conclusion. Moise Jean-Charles, leader of the Ptit Dessalines party, has formed an alliance with Philippe and BSAP, admitting to the press that he “couldn't fight the battle alone”. “I need to bring everyone together to have enough strength to chase Ariel Henry...", he explained. 

FL leader Maryse Narcisse told the press that she “supports the protest movements across the country to demand the resignation of Mr. Henry.” This is a tacit endorsement of the people’s movement that is supporting Jeantel Joseph and Philippe’s call to remove Henry from power, and a surprising turn of events.

At the time of the 2004 coup, Moise Jean-Charles was a popular leader inside FL, which was the target of Philippe’s rampaging paramilitary forces. Philippe has offered tepid apologies for his role in that coup. Narcisse and Moise’s decision to support the movement are, nonetheless, remarkable.

The naysayers to Philippe’s call to oust Henry are “scattered sectors of Haiti’s mostly silent political class”, Ives explains. “Philippe is clearly riding a wave of anger, hunger, fatigue, and desperation after two and a half years of interminable, fruitless negotiations in luxury hotels between politicians along with Washington’s assorted emissaries to find a path to a government to replace that of President Jovenel Moïse”, he concludes. 

These new alliances speak to the desperation and determination to remove Ariel Henry from power and free Haiti from imperialism’s suffocating death grip. 

The RNDDH, funded by the Canadian government, is among these naysayers against Haitian popular movements for genuine democracy. Esperance, critical of the Bwa Kale movement and any other local leader who resists the violence of criminal gangs, using Canadian government money for reports to attack political opponents to this day, remains steadfastly against the popular movement whose aim is to topple Ariel Henry. Not because Esperance supports Henry, but because a popular movement threatens the transfer of power to the Haitian elites who lead the Montana Accord coalition. 

 

Documents

 

Posted March 1, 2024