Fri Feb 03, 2023
February 03, 2023

A new mass rebellion shakes Haiti

Haiti is experiencing a new social rebellion of great magnitude. Strikes, barricades, demonstrations, looting, and criminal groups are part of the huge economic, social and political crisis that the country is experiencing.

By: David Espinoza

The current crisis has escalated since Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s September 11 announcement of a fuel price hike. Two days later, the government announced that the price of a gallon of gasoline would increase from 250 to 570 gourdes (US$2 to US$4.7). The situation of the majority of the Haitian population is dire. The Haitian currency, the gourde, has depreciated sharply in recent months. Inflation has risen dramatically, reaching an annual increase of 30% in July 2022, with foodstuffs leading the way (32%). The most basic products consumed by the vast majority of the population have had a variation of more than 40%, such as rice, chicken meat, vegetable oil (91%), etc.[1] This would already be terrible in any country in the world, but we are talking about a country where more than 52% of the population survives on less than $3 a day.[2]

To understand the current protests, we must go back in time, as Haiti has experienced major social instability in recent years.

The latest cycle of crisis

This latest cycle of crisis and protests in Haiti began in March 2018. The then president of the country, Jovenel Moïse, announced an increase in fuel prices after the stoppage of Venezuelan oil exports to Haiti. A few months earlier, a huge corruption case involving funds from the PetroCaribe oil import program was uncovered, involving people from several governments, mainly from the two most recent ones, those of Michel Martelly and Jovenel Moïse. This further contributed to the rising anger of working people.

With the rapidly worsening living conditions of the majority of the population, protests broke out as early as 2018, demanding Moïse’s resignation. The protests were harshly repressed but continued and escalated in 2019, transforming into a real popular rebellion that left more than 40 people dead. In 2020, the government and State crisis deepened even more. The Parliament, unable to call new elections, was dissolved. Moïse began to rule by decree and intervene directly in the justice system. His violent repression also had the support of paramilitary sectors, such as the G9, an association of criminal gangs led by the former policeman Jimmy Chérizier, accused of carrying out the worst massacre in Haiti in recent decades killing more than 50 people.[3]

In 2021, the demonstrations erupted again with renewed force. Huge marches and general strikes took place, deepening the crisis of governance. In July, a group of mercenaries invaded Moïse’s house and brutally assassinated him. Investigations so far have shown the involvement of more than 20 Colombian paramilitaries, many of them ex-military. The investigation is still open to determine who was behind the crime.

With Moïse’s death, the crisis deepened even more. The office of president was left vacant and after a crisis in the corridors of power, Ariel Henry, appointed Prime Minister by Moïse two days before his death, took over the government.

The new protests

Following Ariel Henry’s announcement of an increase in fuel prices, the Haitian population began to take to the streets in several cities and set up barricades. Already on September 13, the oldest bourgeois newspaper in the country, Le Nouvelliste, announced that Port-au-Prince was completely paralyzed due to barricades and that a radio station had been attacked by demonstrators. Demonstrations in other cities (some of them already mobilized) increased. In Gonaïve, a large march with barricades demanded the resignation of Henry and the reduction of fuel prices. The Caritas headquarters and the World Food Program (WFP) were ransacked [4]. In the city of Les Cayes, the WFP headquarters was forced to open its warehouses and deliver food to the population.

In the following days, protests spread throughout the country, with the looting of shops, banks, supermarkets, and attacks on politicians’ homes. In Gonaïve, the population set fire to buildings of the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

In Port-au-Prince, the population blockaded the main petroleum products terminal of the country, the Verreaux Terminal, responsible for the distribution of more than 70% of the fuel that enters Haiti. A few days later, the leader of the country’s main criminal gang, the aforementioned Jimmy Chérizir, claimed responsibility for the blockade of the terminal (which remains blocked at the time of writing). With the fuel shortage, almost the entire country is paralyzed. In several cities, hospitals are beginning to have supply problems. In the city of Cabaret, armed groups invaded the prison and freed many prisoners.

The main industrial center of the country, the city of Caracol, has closed its doors due to a lack of fuel [5]. On September 23, the UN announced that all its non-essential personnel must return to their countries and was followed by different Embassies.

On the 26th, a meeting of the UN Security Council was held to discuss Haiti [6]. At that meeting, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Haiti, Jean-Victor Généus, affirmed that “with the exception of isolated cases, the country is under control.” This statement generated the indignation of employers’ organizations, which published a letter repudiating the Minister’s statements, describing the chaotic situation in the country and demanding that the Minister tell the truth about the situation in Haiti to the UN Security Council [7].

On the 27th, the Port-au-Prince transport unions call a general strike, which once again paralyzed the entire city. On the 29th, the workers of CODEVI, one of the main industrial parks of the country, in the city of Ouanaminthe, carried out “disturbances” inside the company and forced the closure of the industrial park. As we write, the demonstrations are still going strong all over the country, also with harsh repression on the part of the government and a toll of several deaths.

What does imperialism say?

Haiti was under UN military occupation for 13 years. MINUSTAH, led by Brazil under orders from the United States, was present between 2004 and 2017 (with the support of all the “progressive” governments of Latin America, such as Lula, Evo Morales, Bachelet, Mujica, etc). Once MINUSTAH ended, another UN Mission stayed in the country, MINUJUSTH[ 8], with less military presence and with the main objective of ensuring governance and training the Haitian police. The latter Mission ended in 2019 and was replaced by BINUH [9], with presence only in Port-au-Prince and the same objectives as MINUJUSTH: to strengthen the Haitian State, the police, and the judicial and penitentiary apparatus of the country. Alongside BINUH acts the so-called “Core Group,” composed of representatives of the UN, OAS and the Embassies of the US, Germany, France, Brazil, Canada, Spain and the European Union. The “Core Group” intervenes directly in Haitian politics [10].

At the last meeting of the UN Security Council, on September 26, a letter was read by the head of BINUH, Helen Meagher La Lime, in which she described the complex situation in the country and her efforts to find a way to solve the crisis with the different political and business actors by holding new elections. In her letter, Lime also raised the need to strengthen the “Basket Fund,” a fund that finances the National Police so that it can control the situation. Finally, Lime demanded that the UN Security Council act urgently.

On the other hand, several voices of imperialism are already beginning to justify a new military occupation under a disguised language of guaranteeing security and combating criminal groups, as is the case of Pamela A. White, former U.S. Ambassador to Haiti between 2012 and 2015 [11].

In no way can we rule out a new intervention by the UN or directly by a US-led coalition, as happened in the crisis of the 2000s before the formation of MINUSTAH. The deepening of the crisis in Haiti would jeopardize imperialist interests in the country (mainly in the export processing zones), would deepen the Haitian diaspora to the United States and other countries and could spread to the whole region, starting with the neighboring Dominican Republic, a U.S. semi-colony. The Haitian Armed Forces are practically non-existent since they were disbanded in 1994. A few years ago, they were rebuilt again, but they are still very weak. The Haitian Police, in spite of its extreme violence, cannot control the situation, since its forces are small, precarious and corrupt. The decomposition of the Haitian state is enormous, which makes bourgeois domination difficult and poses a new foreign military occupation as a real alternative to imperialism.

Haiti today is one of the poorest countries in the world, but also one of the most rebellious. The Haitian people have a long tradition of struggle, from the revolution for independence to the present day.

Solidarity with the Haitian people is needed

Workers all over the world, especially in Latin America, have the duty to show solidarity with the struggle of the Haitian people. While their situation of misery deepens, there is a real media blackout on the Haitian situation, which is hardly reported anywhere in the world. Therefore, it is essential that we workers spread the news about the situation in the country and communiqués from workers’ and popular organizations. The economic crisis also imposes on our organizations the need to collect money to strengthen Haitian revolutionary organizations, such as Batay Ouvriyé, an important organization with a presence in the industrial sectors.

In addition to state violence against the people, the decomposition of the Haitian state opens the space for criminal gangs like the G9 to impose their agenda and attack the organized sectors of the working class. The Haitian working class, strongly concentrated in the industrial parks, is the only one that can provide an organized solution to the deep social crisis of the country. It is fundamental that the working class forge an alliance with the popular and peasant sectors that are fighting against Henry. The struggle for working-class leadership of the troops of the Armed Forces and the Police are fundamental to confront a possible foreign military intervention and armed groups like the G9 and to build a real power of the working class and the people.

Down with the government of Ariel Henry!

Immediate reduction of fuel prices!

For the nationalization, under workers’ control and without compensation, of the entire banking sector, the industrial parks and the large food producing, exporting and importing companies!

For the expropriation of the large estates and distribution of land to the poor peasants!

UN and imperialism out of Haiti!

For the general arming of the Haitian working class and people to confront the State and the criminal gangs!

For the organization of workers’, peasants’ and popular councils to determine the direction of the struggle!

All power to the working class and the Haitian people!

Notes:
[1]     https://lenouvelliste.com/journal/lenouvelliste/2022-09-06/2561
[2]     https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/haiti/overview
[3]     https://insightcrime.org/caribbean-organized-crime-news/jimmy-cherizier-alias-barbecue/
[4]     https://lenouvelliste.com/journal/lenouvelliste/2022-09-17/2575
[5]     https://lenouvelliste.com/journal/lenouvelliste/2022-09-28/2583
[6]     https://www.securitycouncilreport.org/whatsinblue/2022/09/haiti-briefing-and-consultations-3.php
[7]     https://lenouvelliste.com/article/238323/des-associations-patronales-profondement-surprises-par-les-propos-irresponsables-du-ministre-geneus-a-lonu
[8]     https://minujusth.unmissions.org/en
[9]     https://binuh.unmissions.org/en/mandate
[10]   https://binuh.unmissions.org/fr/communiqu%C3%A9-du-core-group-4
[11]   https://lenouvelliste.com/article/238353/pamela-awhite-la-diplomatie-normale-ne-fonctionnera-pas-en-haiti-il-faut-des-bottes-sur-le-terrain-des-maintenant

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