In this edition of The Critical Hour, hosts Garland Nixon and Wilmer Leon talk to Greg Palast about the recent assassination of Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moïse, and the trail of blood that leads back to the United States. The trio also discuss the socioeconomic background against which this murder occurred, and how the economy of this mineral and agriculturally rich Caribbean nation has been systematically stripped — and, to this end, its stability and security systematically undermined — by multinational corporations backed by the IMF, World Bank and the US government.
Wilmer Leon: “Columbian assassins practiced long before Haiti hit. Mercenaries who killed Jovenel Moïse attempted to murder Hugo Chavez” — that’s according to our next guest. He’s broken frontpage stories for BBC television Newsnight, The Guardian, Nation Magazine, and Rolling Stone. He’s considered one of the top journalists in the country, Greg Palast, as always welcome back.
Greg Palast: Glad to be with you, Wilmer.
Leon: So a lot of people would never think to make an association or a link between the assassination of Jovenel Moïse and the attempted murder of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Please, Greg, connect those dots.
Palast: Well, it’s not the same exact people, because this was some years ago, as you know, when Chavez was president, but it’s the same game, the same basic cast of people behind it…. The Colombians are being used by right-wing, independent elements — and some unfortunately associated with the US government…
We have both a private company that was hired as “security” using Colombian-trained assassins. And don’t forget, these are assassins trained by the US government. They’re supposedly trained to kill “terrorists”. But when you train someone as a killer and there’s money to be had, and there’s a target to be had, you know, what goes around comes around.
In the case of Chavez, I was able to actually get tapes of mercenaries who were originally hired by what was then called the Wackenhut Corporation — it’s gone through several name changes. You might recognize them as the company that’s the big private prison owner in America and worldwide. And Wackenhut Corporation set up a whole [operation] tracking how Chavez moved, et cetera, and brought in these characters with the obvious intent of… in fact they discussed how they were going to take out Chavez. But they had a confederate, they had someone pro-Chavez [on the inside]. For those who don’t remember, Hugo Chavez was the progressive left-wing President of Venezuela, who I knew quite well, and was always played as a supposed enemy of America. He was actually quite good friends with Bush Senior and with Bill Clinton. Even Henry Kissinger was a friend of his. But then George Bush and in his right-wing death squad killers decided that he was unacceptable to some US oil companies, particularly Exxon, which was very angry about expropriations or, frankly, raising taxes on their property… They were paying next to nothing for their oil. So they had to take out Chavez because you can’t tax oil companies. That’s just how it is. And so that crew of killers was busted. I was part of the team investigating and uncovered that. We literally have tape recordings, we have secret videos and everything else of these characters from Columbia doing this.
So then they became kind of killers for hire. And this is the province; we’ll never really know how much government elements were involved. We do know that these guys were paid for by an American-Haitian citizen. You can’t get away with that stuff without being tracked. We have a trillion dollars intelligence operation, so the idea that we had no idea what was going on [is unlikely]. Whether we knew that there was going to be a real attempt on Moïse’s life, I don’t know… I’m not going to go beyond the evidence that we have. We don’t know what the US government knows. What we do know is that they create these death squads and… it’s never surprising to me when Frankenstein’s turn on you. As we saw with Osama bin Laden. We pushed the Saudis to create bin Ladin, to fight the Russians in Afghanistan and it turns around on us. It was blowback of a desperate order. And if you’re going to create a Frankenstein factory, then don’t be surprised when the Frankensteins start running around loose. This is one of the problems. We have to cut this off.
Leon: And threatening your village because the basis of a lot of our policy is when you operate from the basis of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” you then create… There you go…
Palast: Yeah, there you go. One thing to add though, I should note the US government trained these killers. When they were in the Colombian military, they made 300 bucks a month. With these killer security operations, when they get to freelance after they’ve had their training, they get $3,000 a month. What do you think is going to happen when you train killers? This is a big [problem], this is not a small issue. So the real answer is not to say, oh, we’re shocked and we’re surprised. How could you be shocked and surprised? If it wasn’t Moïse, it’d be someone else. And we don’t know who else. We are training Frankenstein, we’re arming Frankenstein, and then we go, oh my God, they’re acting like Frankenstein.
Garland Nixon: Well, the thing about it is… if you get to this whole thing of Jovenel Moïse, an alleged banana farmer, which, it was a pretty well known he was involved in produce other than bananas. But these guys… some of them were DEA informants, which means you have to be in the drug trade or you couldn’t possibly be a DEA informant. And it gets back to this, what the United States has done in Central America. I mean, Kamala Harris went there and she’s like, we’re going to come here and do some anti-corruption. What the US has done in Central America and South America, and in the Caribbean, the level of corruption, of murder, the horror, the poverty that we’ve created there is unthinkable. When we see these scenes like this and the US says, yeah, I guess we better send some troops in here to clean this thing up and fix it and bring security and stability — the reason they don’t have security and stability is because our constant meddling, oppression, murder, corruption, bribery, you name it in those areas.
Palast: And now this segues perfectly into the issue of Haiti. For 28 years, the United States militarily, with intelligence, and, again, supporting death squads and killers, kept the Duvalier family, the dictatorship, in power. For 28 years! It’s estimated that they stole 80% of the aid that was given to Haiti over those years. It is a desperately poor nation. Here we have Joe Biden jumping up and down about Cuba — and believe me, I’m no friend of the Cuban regime. I’m for democracy, whether it’s in Georgia or Cuba. But compared to how people live just a few miles away in Haiti, Cuba is Beverly Hills. You know, 200,000 people died in the earthquake 10 years ago. Well, it’s now been 11 years, and it has not recovered. It has not been rebuilt. We’ve poured in billions, but then we walked away. If you remember, Bill Clinton and Bush Senior were put in charge of rebuilding Haiti. Did you see the rebuilding of Haiti?
So, once again, we’ve left Haiti to suffer and struggle and here’s the great irony; one of the reasons why this rump president was supported by the US was that he was in favor of the overthrow of the Venezuelan regime at the Organization of American States. And so, once again, our massive support for a corrupt regime in Haiti [has caused this]. I mean, we don’t want to see a president — even a president elected in suspicious circumstance by a tiny minority of voters — [assassinated]. We certainly don’t want to endorse assassinations by any means. But, again, we created these monsters, and he himself was a monster and he was gunned down by other monsters.
You know, we did have an elected progressive president for Haiti. The one true, legal election they had was in 1991, when the priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide [was elected]… He sent me a note, by the way, when he was arrested by troops backed by the US, and, ultimately, US troops. He was reading my book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, and he said they took it away from him, so he asked me to send him another copy. Which I did. But the US, they finally had an elected democratic president and we couldn’t stand it. George Herbert Walker, Bush, that’s Bush Senior, basically overthrew the elected government they finally had, Then he’s put in charge of restoring Haiti, after he helped destroy it. Of course, when Aristide left, the wheels again fell off the economy and it became, basically one more client state of US corporations, who then leave. At a certain point they abandoned it because it was so corrupt and so impossible to work there. And then they had the earthquake and they’ve never recovered.
Leon: You know, it’s interesting, you make the point about Moïse wanting to overthrow Maduro in Venezuela, because Venezuela had been supporting Haiti financially through the Petro Kareem fund.
Leon: So when oil prices were relatively decent, Venezuela was sending Haiti money.
Palast: That’s right.
Leon: And also sending Haiti oil.
Nixon: And forgave $3 billion after the earthquake in oil-owed money.
Leon: Exactly. And now, you’ve got a president that wanted to assassinate the president of the country that had been supporting them to the best of their ability.
Palast: So once again, it’s the creation of the monster factory. And then don’t forget another bad actor in this is the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. I got some internal documents from the World Bank and IMF, which I reviewed with Joe Stiglitz. He didn’t give me these documents, I want to emphasize that. These were secret documents. He just did authenticate them. But these are plans for basically squeezing, what they later called an austerity program, but it was basically squeezing Haiti. And even after the earthquake, telling them to cut their budgets. There is nothing to cut. Telling a starving man, well, eat less — this is the kind of institutionalized cruelty that we have imposed on Haiti. And, again, you have to compare the economic situation with Cuba. I’m not crazy about the political situation in Cuba, but they did skip the cruelty bullet. Then if you go across the island, to Santo Domingo, there you had a US invasion once again. And, you know, people go to Santo Domingo, but they go to these resorts where they don’t actually see the nation — it’s an effective colony with tourism spots. We get the tour of the colony.
Leon: Quickly, we have just about a minute left… All people tend to know is what they see. And so all they see is a very, very poor country, not understanding that Haiti is incredibly mineral rich.
Palast: Yes. Unfortunately, it’s called the resource curse. It’s because it is mineral rich, and because it is lush agriculturally that they have suffered. They’d be better off if they were a desert, because, once again, they have something to steal. That’s been the problem. And remember the IMF programs were all about, not only cutting budgets, but privatizations of everything owned by the people. The public resources were sold off to privateers and the resources and wealth of the nation were taken away by fiat from the international banking agencies and with the imposition of the US government and people like Larry Summers, our Secretary of Treasury under Clinton, who just squeezed this nation. So we have to understand that it is a rich nation, but the people can’t access their own riches.
Leon: Greg Palast, as always, thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate that analysis and we look forward to having you back.