PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti—Before he was gunned down, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse regularly assailed what he called powerful oligarchs, blaming them for the impoverished nation’s woes.
“After decades of systematic plundering of state property by corrupt oligarchs,” Mr. Moïse said in a March speech, “the country needs a collective awakening.”
It was a common political strategy in a deeply unequal nation where Haitian politicians rally the poor against the so-called bourgeoisie, say historians and political analysts. It also fueled resentment among some in the business elite against Mr. Moïse, who became increasingly isolated and turned more autocratic, including against rivals in the business world as Haiti’s political and economic crises worsened, according to political analysts, Haitian rights activists and U.S. lawmakers.
His fractious relationship with the business community sheds light on the internal turmoil that buffeted the country in the months before his July 7 death. Two small security business owners in Haiti have been singled out publicly as suspects in an investigation that has, so far, implicated an assortment of some 40 Haitian politicians, Miami businessmen and former Colombian soldiers. Still, there is no motive in the case, which is being handled by Haiti’s police, with help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Under Mr. Moïse, some business magnates paid a steep cost, saying he used his political power to go after them for backing other political parties. Others won lucrative perks, business executives and analysts say, benefiting from political ties to the government in a nation the World Economic Forum ranks as 138th out of 141 countries in terms of economic competitiveness.