buffet kreol haitian restaurant
Vendors gather outside Buffet Kreol, a restaurant on Nostrand Avenue. Photo by Sam Bojarski

Yves Masse lamented Haiti’s continued deteriorating as he picked up lunch at Bebe Fritay on Church Avenue July 7, hours after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. 

“It’s going to stop [us] from going back home,” Masse, of Flatbush, said about the assassination and its impact on the diaspora. “That shows you that we have no type of security back home right now. We need to restore that.” 

Around the Brooklyn neighborhood, as major airlines canceled flights to Haiti, many Haitians and non-Haitians alike reported that the assassination has stymied travel plans. Members of the diaspora searched for answers, while expressing shock at Moïse’s sudden death and calling for justice. 

Elected officials across various levels of government publicly expressed their condolences and were still developing plans to communicate with constituents. 

“It’s that type of thing, that we have to discuss as we move forward,” said Alix Desulme, chair of the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network (NHAEON) and vice mayor of North Miami. “Right now we are mourning with the country.” 

The gunmen who assassinated Moise and wounded his wife Martine at their home in Pelerin have not been identified, though there were reports of arrests on the evening of July 7. The assassins were reportedly well-trained mercenaries who arrived at the president’s home in nine new Nissan Patrol vehicles. 

Since taking office in 2017, Moïse has been embattled by popular protests against corruption. But the well-funded attack, said Flatbush salon owner Maelle Jean, means that a wealthy individual or group must have wanted Moïse dead. 

“He doesn’t deserve to die, he tried to help,” said Jean, 43, referring to Moïse’s plans to bring reliable electricity to Haiti. “Everything is about money.” 

Moïse also made enemies with well-known political and business leaders, including entrepreneur Dimitri Vorbe, attorney Andre Michel and political leader and mogul Pierre Reginald Boulos. However, Boulos said the political opposition did not have the capacity to assassinate the president.

“I don’t feel the opposition today would have the capability to pull out such a well-organized mission,” Boulos said in an exclusive interview with The Haitian Times. 

Many in the diaspora like Dahoud Andre, who has led protests against Moïse in New York City this year, were less sympathetic about the dead president. Andre, who runs a group called Committee to Mobilize Against Dictatorship in Haiti, said Moïse’s rule has been illegitimate, without a mandate from the people. 

“We believe that he was a puppet working for the United States [and] the Core Group, the enemies of Haiti,” Andre said. 

Answers sought 

Early in the day on July 7, Diana Jean received a call from a friend about Moïse’s assasination. One of the first places she turned for information was her local Haitian-American elected official. In her neighborhood, that’s the office of District 40 Council Member Mathieu Eugene. 

“I go to Mathieu Eugene, he closed the door,” said Jean, of Flatbush. “I wanted to speak to him to see what’s going on, what’s America going to say to Haiti, to Haitians over there, they have to say something.” 

Three Haitian-American leaders, including District 42 Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, District 45 Council Member Farah Louis and Rita Joseph, who recently won the Democratic primary to represent District 40 starting next year, organized a press conference at the corner of Newkirk and Nostrand avenues, Joseph said in a phone interview. 

The impromptu conference drew local media outlets, Joseph said, and was designed to express condolences and show support for the people of Haiti. 

“I am saddened about the horrific events that occurred in Haiti, which follow an unstable period for the country, which failed to hold free and fair elections,” said Bichotte, who also leads Brooklyn’s Democratic Party, in her written statement. “I pray for the Moïse family as they mourn their loss. I also pray for the security and peace of Haiti.” 

Louis condemned the assassination as a “cowardly act and a misguided attempt to resolve systemic issues faced by several administrations.” 

NHAEON does not yet have a position on the recent events in Haiti. The organization planned to hold an internal call the evening of July 7 to discuss next steps, Desulme said. 

“We do have an obligation to be a voice for our constituents who are in pain, there’s a lot of emotion,” said Desulme, on the role of elected leaders. “We are [in] uncharted territory as far as next steps for the country [and] looking at US policies with Haiti. There’a a lot on the table.” 

Although interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph has claimed to be leading the country, the path to naming a permanent successor to Moïse is unclear. 

Masse said the country is in desperate need of progress, in terms of education and electrification, which was largely unrealized under Moïse, despite his promises. 

“I just want to see somebody take the power and do something with it,” said Masse. “Kids need to go to school, we need light, we don’t have that.” 

Larisa Karr and Leonardo March also contributed reporting

Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America corps member. He has covered Haiti and its diaspora since 2018. His work has also appeared in USA Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Haiti Liberte. Sam can be reached at sam@haitiantimes.com or on Twitter @sambojarski.

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