Haitian Activist Who Helped Bring Trump to Miami Won't Comment on "Shithole"-Gate

Donald Trump infamously visited Miami's Little Haiti in 2016, stood in front of the city's Haitian-American community, and promised to be a "champion" for Haitians. He was clearly lying through his teeth.

His dishonesty was obvious then and has become even more obvious now that Trump has rescinded temporary immigration protection for 60,000 Haitian earthquake refugees, reportedly said all Haitian people "have AIDS," and — according to multiple reports — called Haiti a "shithole" while debating what to do about Haitian immigration. (The comment has sparked a protest planned for 4 p.m. today at Little Haiti's monument to revolutionary leader Toussaint L'Ouverture.)

Now, the man who brought Trump to Miami last year — longtime Miami Haitian activist Rulx "Ringo" Cayard — refuses to say publicly how he feels about the president after a year of attacks on the Haitian community. New Times reached Cayard via phone today, and after saying he was "the person" who brought Trump to the Magic City on the campaign trail, he refused to speak on the record about the president's recent actions or remarks.

Trump's comments have otherwise infuriated Miami's massive Haitian diaspora. Haitian-American political leaders, including county Commissioner Jean Monestime, have demanded Trump apologize. Monestime said yesterday that "all decent people" should be able to recognize why Trump's comments are hurtful.

Likewise, Haitian-American immigrant activist Francesca Menes wrote online yesterday that the people who brought Trump to Miami in 2016 — after he'd already spent a year disparaging immigrants, ginning up white-supremacist rage, and dog-whistling to Nazis — deserved to be called to the carpet for their decision to let him speak in Miami's Haitian enclave.

"Self-serving Haitians, who now bury their faces in the sand, welcomed this sorry, poor excuse for a human being," Menes wrote.
Those "self-serving Haitians," of course, include Cayard, who is an infamous figure in Miami and Haitian politics. After starting a prominent local Haitian bakery and market, Cayard became a political power-player in town. For years he ran the now-defunct Haitian-American Foundation Inc. His reputation took a nosedive, however, after he was arrested in 2008 on 20 counts of grand theft, racketeering, and money-laundering. He was accused of stealing thousands of dollars in Miami-Dade County grants that were supposed to go to the nonprofit.

According to the Miami Herald, Cayard entered a pretrial diversion program for first-time offenders in 2012, which resulted in all but three of his charges being dropped. According to the Herald, he effectively avoided prosecution "in exchange for community service." Ed Griffith, a spokesperson for the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, said the case unraveled after several key witnesses rescinded their statements. According to state criminal records, Cayard's final three charges were dropped in 2013 after he completed the program. (He denied wrongdoing throughout the ordeal.)

In 2016, Cayard used his political connections to help bring Trump to Little Haiti's most iconic building, the tropical-colored Little Haiti Cultural Center on NE Second Avenue. During his speech, Trump spent most of his time attacking Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have also been accused of mismanaging Haitian relief efforts and do not have a good reputation in the Haitian-American community.

"Clinton was responsible for doing things a lot of the Haitian people are not happy with,” Trump said. “Taxpayer dollars intended for Haiti and the earthquake victims went to a lot of the Clinton cronies.”

He added, "Whether you vote for me or not, I really want to be your biggest champion."

Or maybe not.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.