WASHINGTON — The power struggle in Haiti following the assassination of the country’s president has spilled over to K Street, as rival Haitian politicians, business leaders and advocacy groups turn to lobbyists for an expensive and escalating battle for influence with the United States to feed.
Documents, interviews and communications between Haitian politicians and officials show that a broad spectrum of Haitian interests are being criss-crossed to hire lobbyists and advisers in Washington and use those already on their payroll in hopes of gaining US support in a period of turmoil among the leadership in Haiti.
A group text chat in the days after President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination with Haitian officials, political figures and American lobbyists showed that they were devising strategies to counter American critics and potential rivals for the presidency and looking for ways to shift blame for the presidency. the murder, according to copies of the reports obtained by NewsMadura and confirmed by some participants. The conversation started before the murder and originally included Mr Moïse, though it seemed to take on a more frantic tone after he was gunned down in his home this month.
The lyrics and other documents help bring to life how lobbyists from companies including Mercury Public Affairs — which was paid at least $285,000 by the Haitian government in the second half of last year — are working with allied politicians to position successors in the wake of the murder.
In addition to Mercury, lobbying records show that the Haitian government pays a total of $67,000 per month to three other lobbyists or their companies, some of which have subcontracted additional lobbyists.
At the same time, competing political factions are looking for ways to gain support for their own candidates in Washington. A former Haitian lawmaker had a series of discussions about hiring a lobbyist to get the United States to recognize Haiti’s Senate president as the country’s interim leader. Another potential leader expanded the US political team he had assembled to seek support in Congress and from wealthy donors for a possible presidential campaign.
Several other Haitian politicians and advocacy groups approached lobbyists, political advisers and fixers, offering compensation of up to $10 million or more for their assistance.
A prominent lobbyist, Robert Stryk, signed a contract in the days following the assassination to represent a prominent Haitian business interest.
Stryk — who has worked as a fixer of sorts for foreign clients from whom other lobbyists keep their distance, including targets of sanctions and criminal investigations in Angola, the Democratic Republican Congo and Venezuela — would not identify his client in Haiti. But he said he helped the client attract private investment from the United States to Haiti in an effort to shape the debate over the country’s future.
“All the different personalities are competing for positions in the hope that the United States can somehow raise their status,” said Christopher Harvin, a former Bush administration official who works as a lobbyist and political advisor to clients on the subject. worldwide.
It is not yet clear how much effect the influence campaigns could have. But the lobby push is the latest example of the scale and reach of Washington’s influence industry and… its role in trying to influence foreign policy Especially in countries that rely heavily on the United States for financial aid and other support, governments and entrenched interests have long paid handsomely for help in winning support in Washington — or at least The semblance of that—sometimes sparked criticism that they’re more focused on gaining favor in Washington than tackling problems at home.
The momentum is strong in Haiti, where a quarter of the population is acutely hungry, despite billions of international aid since an earthquake devastated the country in 2010.
The Haitian government had ramped up its lobbying expenditure in Washington in the months leading up to the assassination, as Mr. Moïse was increasingly criticized for his efforts to write a new constitution and hold elections while the country was ravaged by violence, thousands of protesters demanded that he leave office.
As members of Congress criticized, a Haitian government lobbyist advised in the group text chat days before the assassination that “we should make a formal request” to the Prime Minister of Haiti “to visit and meet with Blinken in DC,” referring to Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken.
The chaotic power struggle created by Mr. Moïse’s assassination has only fueled the push for government support from the United States.
The United States initially recognized as Haiti’s interim leader, Claude Joseph, Mr. Moïse’s prime minister, whose claim to leadership was promoted by the country’s embassy in Washington and Mercury, the leading lobbying firm.
But the 10 remaining senators in Haiti almost immediately disputed Mr. Joseph’s legitimacy and said they wanted to form a new government. They argued that Mr. Joseph had already been replaced as prime minister with the appointment of Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon, and said Senate chief Joseph Lambert should become president.
Last weekend, the United States transferred its support to Mr. Henry from Mr. Joseph, who resigned as prime minister Monday and said he would become secretary of state. The moves received praise from the State Department but criticism from Mr Lambert.
Mr Harvin said he had been approached by three potential Haitian clients since the murder but hadn’t signed any of them. He said the mystery surrounding Mr Moise’s still-unsolved murder increased the risk surrounding the lobby derby.
“What happens when you spend six weeks positioning a candidate as credible, and then it turns out they have something to do with this?” said Mr. Harvin.
The Times text chat provides insight into how different players in Haitian politics think about influencing opinion in the United States.
One participant was Laurent Lamothe, a former prime minister of Haiti, who hired a public relations firm to promote a book he published last month that made him one of the most effective Haitian leaders in recent years.
Another example was Damian M. Merlo, a lobbyist and adviser who had participated in the presidential campaigns of both Mr. Moïse and his predecessor as president, Michel Martelly, who is seen as one of those seeking to maintain control. Mr. Merlo had accompanied Mr. Martelly on a trip to Washington in late June to interview other lobbyists, and he also has a $25,000-a-month contract to lobby for the Haitian embassy in Washington.
They were joined in the group chat by a few Mercury lobbyists, as well as an influential Haitian politician and the country’s ambassador to Washington.
Bochit Edmond, the ambassador, sent a clip to the group chat of a video interview asking Michigan Democrat Representative Andy Levin whether his opposition to the support of the United States’ Haitian forces may have contributed to the conditions the were the cause of the murder.
“He deviated and was clearly caught off guard,” wrote Mr Edmond. “We really should use this clip to show how much it undermines the security of the country.”
Mr Levin, who is co-chair of the House Haiti Caucus, criticized the lobbying efforts. “The Haitian government’s money should be spent on lifting the Haitian people and not on arguing in Washington,” he said in an interview.
The Assassination of the President of Haiti
Stanley Lucas, a political aide who was a close ally of Mr Moïse, wrote in the chat that an opposition political party, Inite, “appears to be the political arm of the assassination and conspiracy”, calling Mr Lambert “the Coordinator of Inite’ and Mr Henry ‘a member of Inite’.
Mr. Lamothe appeared to blame a handful of politicians and wealthy businessmen for the murder, including Reginald Boulos, a doctor turned businessman who had openly prepared for his own presidential campaign months before the assassination.
In a voice message sent to the chat, Mr Lamothe noted: that Mr. Boulos, who already had lobbyists and advisers before him, had added a lobbyist around the time of the assassination to promote an agreement under which Mr. Lambert would become president.
Pressing in the group chat for a public relations campaign to demand action to find the “masterminds” of the murder – who he claimed was Mr. Boulos – he asked the lobbyists, “Can we carry out the plan quickly. “
“Let’s talk tonight when I see you,” replied Morris L. Reid, a partner in Mercury Public Affairs.
In an interview, Mr. Laurent that he “cannot go public and name anyone” as behind the assassination attempt and claimed his comments in the chat were taken out of context. But neither he nor Mr. Reid responded to questions about the meeting or the group chat. Mr Lucas, who was accused years ago of undermining US policy in Haiti, said in text messages that he stood “firmly” behind his comments and again pointed to what he described as possible links between the sitting Prime Minister, Mr. Henry, and the plot to assassinate the president.
Mr Edmond, the Haitian ambassador, brushed aside questions about Mr Laurent and Mr Lucas’ attempts to blame opposition politicians for the murder.
“Everyone in the group is free to write anything, to write down their feelings,” he said in an interview. “As you can see, I didn’t write it.”
He also defended his country’s lobbying expenditures and activities.
“Many countries pay for lobbyists here in Washington. That’s Washington culture,” he said.
In a press release issued by a US PR firm that he withheld for $5,000 a month as of May, Mr Boulos said the assassination was “a dark day for Haiti” while also calling for free and fair elections. The lobbyist with whom Mr. Boulos entered into a $5,000-a-month contract the day after the murder, Arthur Estopinan, released a statement expressing his shock at the murder, suggesting it could be linked to “increasing violence around the drug trafficking”.
In May, Mr. Boulos also hired Joe Miklosi, a former Democratic politician in Colorado, on a $10,000-a-month contract to raise money and publicize the United States for a future presidential campaign.
A week after the murder, Mr. However, Boulos had an emotional conversation with some of his US advisers to ask them to resign, explaining that he was suspending his presidential efforts out of concerns for his safety, according to Mr. Miklosi and others who are known. with the call.
Mr Miklosi said Mr Boulos’ political party is “progressing”, and predicted that whoever is in power in Port-au-Prince is likely to put a lot of effort into Washington.
Haitian politicians, he said, believe “that whoever blesses the US, whether it is a Republican or Democratic government, will win.”