The big scoop that CNN and its Haitian correspondent Étant Dupain released on the afternoon of Fri., Nov. 4 was a lie, according to Dupain’s principal source for the story, Dr. Harrisson Ernest, leader of the Konstwi Lavi (Construct Life) party.
The Haitian National Police (PNH), with new armored vehicles from the U.S. and Canada, retook the Varreux fuel terminal on Thu., Nov. 3 after a firefight with the “Revolutionary Forces of the G9 Family and Allies, Mess with One, You Mess with All” (FRG-9), an anti-crime federation of armed neighborhood committees whose spokesman is former policeman Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier.
But the next day, Dupain published a story on CNN.com reporting that the FRG-9’s retreat from its barricades blocking the fuel depot was the fruit of “two weeks of negotiation with Haitian gang leader Jimmy Cherizier to relinquish control of the Varreux terminal, according to Haitian politician Dr. Harrison [sic] Ernest, who said he spoke several times with Cherizier and met with the Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry.”
Dupain quoted Ernest as saying “I talked to Barbeque [sic] and told them to leave the terminal because the kids need to go back to school. And we urged the government to do their part to make sure there is fuel and the fuel need [sic] to reach the customer.”
Ernest denied that he ever told Dupain that he was a mediator or negotiator between the government of de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the FRG-9
Dupain went on to quote Ernest as saying that his party was “playing the role of mediator between the government and the gang who blocked the gas terminal,” while adding that “[w]e’ve been working for two weeks with the government and the gangs to unblock the fuel.”
But a week later – Nov. 11 – on the airwaves of Radio Magik 9 100.9 FM and in a press conference, Ernest denied that he ever told Dupain that he was a mediator or negotiator between the government of de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the FRG-9 and that he had even specifically requested that Dupain correct his story. According to Ernest, Dupain agreed to make the corrections, but never did.
Ernest told Magik 9, Dupain “sent me the article to verify, and I said ‘No, you have three major errors.’ He said there was no problem, that he would rapidly correct them. Up until this moment that I am speaking to you [a week later], the article has never been corrected.”
In a press conference later that day, Ernest again made the point. “He [Dupain] asked what the government gave. I said go ask the government spokesman, because we never had any negotiations. He asked, what did the G9 ask for? I said that I’m not part of the G9, I didn’t do any negotiations. Go ask them that question.” He later added, that as far as he knew, “there never were negotiations between the government and the armed group.”
Ernest produced a time-stamped Whatsapp text record to prove his assertions.
Jean Junior Joseph, a special advisor to Henry also denied CNN’s assertions. “The Prime Minister met with [Ernest], but they did not engage in any negotiations with gangs on our behalf,” Joseph told Dupain.
In addition to disavowing the CNN report, Ernest denounced Pierre Espérance, head of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)-funded Haitian National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH), as lying about the contents of a manila envelope that Ernest held in a photo that he posed for with de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry on Oct. 26 during a meeting at the Prime Minister’s office. In the envelope, Ernest explained, was a seven-page Konstwi Lavi proposal to the government entitled “Reflections and Responses to the conjunctural crisis of the Haitian Republic.” But Espérance “went on Magik 9 FM to say that in the envelope was the document that contained the demands of the G9,” Ernest said in his press conference.
Ernest went on to say that Espérance, after lying about the contents of the envelope, tried to discredit him with “character assassination” and then later held “a meeting for my physical assassination,” although Ernest did not present any concrete evidence to substantiate the charge.