Thursday, July 29

Exiles, Corruption, and Coups: Miami’s Role in Haiti’s Chaos

Within the mystery surrounding the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, one of the less surprising factors is the central role that Miami has played throughout history. The city has served for decades as a platform for plots and frustrated coups: since the failed invasion of Cuba in 1961, known as the Bay of Pigs episode, going through last year’s wild foray into Venezuela.

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Now the city has also allegedly been instrumental in the assassination of the Haitian president last week, with most of the alleged participants killed or detained within 24 hours of the crime. Christian Emmanuel Sanon, the main suspect, is a Haitian with many ties to the Miami area, as is another Haitian-American who has been detained by authorities in Haiti.

The security firm that is suspected of recruiting the Colombian mercenaries accused of participating in the attack has its offices in Doral, near Miami International Airport and Donald Trump’s golf course. A Venezuelan exile runs that company, mentioned by some of those who conspired and calling itself the Federal Academy of the Antiterrorist Unit (CTU, for its acronym in English). No one opened the journalists of the Miami Herald when they came to their modest offices.

All of this is reminiscent of the ill-fated Operation Gideon, the daring and frustrated incursion into Venezuela in May 2020. Forged in Miami by Venezuelan exiles and with former green hat Jordan Goudreau leading the mercenaries, that plot caused eight deaths and 100 detainees. As in Haiti, the government they wanted to overthrow exhibited the assailants in front of the cameras to scrub their humiliation.

“The headquarters of exile in the world”

Miami has all the ingredients to be the heart of the riots: various communities of exiles who dream and plot to return to power in their countries of origin; a continuous supply of military veterans with experience in Latin America and the Caribbean (US Southern Command is based in Doral); and the permissive environment of a long history of corruption in their local politics, segmented by ethnic groups. Historically, the narco-dollars of cocaine trafficking have served as the lubricant and common ground of these three pillars.

In her book on Miami, writer Joan Didion wrote that the city’s exiles lived under “a collective spell, a hidden incantation brought about by a nervous mix of resentment and revenge, idealizations and taboos, that makes exile such a powerful organizing principle. “.

More than Little Havana

In the strip that goes from the coast of Miami to that of Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach lives the diaspora of most of the Latin American states, but the three most important and active communities are the Cuban, the Venezuelan and the Haitian.

Traditionally, the settlement of Cubans in Miami has been Little Havana, west of the city center. A few miles north is the densely populated Little Haiti neighborhood. Venezuelans are more dispersed, but the greatest concentration is in Doral.

“It is the headquarters of exile in the world,” says Ann Louise Bardach, who wrote an extensive report on Miami in her book Cuba Confidencial: Love and revenge in Miami and Havana. “Florida is a peninsula that is basically shaped like a dagger cutting through the Caribbean and pointing toward Latin America.”

According to Barcach, the exile communities almost function as autonomous countries, with their own internal government, their political apparatuses, their radio stations and their newspapers. “It is a breeding ground, people who long for their homeland,” he says. “They are all governments waiting, and they all believe that they will take power next week.”

Inevitably, each of these exile communities has developed a relationship with US intelligence services, and their aspirations have played a key role in US foreign policy.

Cuban exile militias trained in the Florida Everglades since the 1959 revolution, coming under the control of Jorge Mas Canosa, an exile who became an important figure in Florida and Washington politics.

This week Cuban-Americans are talking about setting sail from Miami in a flotilla of small boats, contrary to warnings from the US Coast Guard, to bring aid to protesting Cubans. According to Vicki Huddleston, a former US ambassador to Havana, “if one of those Cuban-American vessels from Florida goes into Cuban waters, the Cuban border guard can overreact, and that would put the United States in a very, very position. hard”.

More American private security

The vote of the Cuban and Venezuelan diasporas played a significant role in Florida’s lean toward Trump in 2016 and 2020. Although the city’s Haitian community has historically been less influential, it has been a determining force in Haitian affairs, as well as driving demand for security companies in South Florida.

“The lack of security in Haiti is such that the country’s elites have long relied on private security companies to ensure their own personal safety,” says Jenna Ben-Yehuda, who worked as a Haiti analyst at the State Department and now chairs the Truman National Security Project. “Across Haiti, private security has been ubiquitous for decades, probably outnumbering Haitian national police officers.”

Many of those companies are run by former US special forces soldiers like Jordan Goudreau, who are looking for a good retirement. CTU, the company that according to Haitian police recruited the Colombians from the Moïse attack, did not have the same pedigree. Its owner, Tony Intriago, boasted police experience in Latin America and connections with the special forces, according to a profile of the Miami Herald, but none of that has been confirmed. Haitian police have yet to present evidence of CTU’s involvement and there has been no comment from Intriago since the murder.

Early indications suggest that the Haiti operation went far beyond killing the president and was seeking regime change. In many ways, that it has fallen short and only served to add to the misery and chaos in the target country is also a hallmark of Miami.

Translated by Francisco de Zárate

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