Wed May 29, 2024
May 29, 2024

Haiti: Gangsterism, Misery and Crisis of Capitalist Domination

By Otávio Calegari

Haiti has been living a deep economic, political and social crisis for several years. This crisis is now deepening and leading to a real chaos in the country.

Before understanding the current situation, we must go back a bit. In 2022, as a response to the harsh reality experienced by the working class and poor people, there were huge protests and important strike processes, continuity of a process started in 2018. At that time we wrote that Haiti was experiencing a real popular rebellion. Our comrades of Batay Ouvriyé, Haitian trade union center with a strong presence in the industrial working class of Port-au-Prince, made several calls for mobilizations.

Since the assassination of the former president of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse (July 2021), the Haitian government is in charge of Ariel Henry, appointed by Moïse as Prime Minister two days before his assassination. At the end of 2021, Henry suspended the presidential and parliamentary elections that were scheduled (the Parliament had already been dissolved for the term of his mandate), maintaining an “almost” one-man power, supported by the real power in the country, the United States. Due to the enormous political instability, made even more explosive by the mass demonstrations, the power of the gangs and the fragility of the Haitian police, Moïse has been requesting for months a new UN mission to “stabilize” the country.

Due to the decomposition of the Haitian state and the inability of the Haitian bourgeoisie to reach agreements to establish its domination in the country, the armed groups linked to certain politicians, parties and businessmen have multiplied, each one with its own interests and business. Today some leaders of these gangs have more power than the National Police. The best known and most media-savvy are Jimmy Chérizier (nicknamed Barbecue), former policeman and currently head of the G9, a group that brings together 9 armed groups and was very close to former president Moïse. Another is Johnson André (nicknamed Izo) who leads the Vilaj de Dye – 5 Segonn group. According to academics that have written about gangsterism in Haiti (but who are foreigners and have no presence in the country) there are other leaders even more powerful, but keep a lower profile. These groups have had strong relations with the state apparatus for decades.

The crisis has escalated in recent weeks, with coordinated attacks by several gangs on public and private institutions, demanding Henry’s resignation. Last Thursday (14), the house of the general director of the Haitian National Police was set on fire by one of these groups.

Bus drivers denounce that the gangs control the highways, charging tolls to transporters, which has increased food prices and has caused a considerable decrease in the transportation of goods to the different points of the country. The gangs also keep Haiti’s main port, Port-au-Prince, under their control, making it difficult to supply the city with fuel. Fuel is disappearing from gas stations and is already being sold for double the price on the parallel market.

According to UN analysis, in the coming weeks there could be a devastating famine in the country. Famine levels in Port-au-Prince already resemble those of war zones. The main problem today is not food production but the transport of goods to the big cities and their distribution. This chaotic situation has already caused, in recent years, more than 360,000 people to be internally displaced in order to seek survival conditions.

With the escalation of the crisis, a few days ago Ariel Henry announced his resignation. Henry was in Puerto Rico and could not return to Haiti. The Prime Minister announced that he will resign immediately when the Presidential Transitional Council (CPT) is formed, a body that intends to take the helm of the State as a government of national unity among the different bourgeois parties and business organizations. The CPT is being formed from meetings held by CARICOM (Caribbean Community) in Jamaica, with the presence of Haitian parties and business organizations and the U.S. Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken.

The formation of the new government is not yet a reality, since the profound crisis of the Haitian state, totally incapable of organizing the bourgeois and imperialist domination in the country, is still open.

The possibility of a new military occupation

U.S. imperialism has had difficulties in organizing a new mission of occupation, since the majority of the states that fulfilled that role in 2004 (with the beginning of MINUSTAH) today show reluctance to carry out a new invasion. A few weeks ago, the State of Kenya agreed to lead the new military intervention, which has not yet become a reality due to the demands of the Kenyan government (to occupy the country only after the formation of the CPT) and the inability of the US to release money for the transfer of troops from Kenya (the Republican Party is obstructing the Democrat government). The US and Canadian governments are the main drivers of the new occupation and its main financiers. It is very likely that the occupation will begin in the next few weeks, with the formation of the CPT, although due to the magnitude of the crisis there is also the likelihood that the conditions for the formation of the interim government and the occupation will not be achieved using the currently proposed methods.

A new occupation would undoubtedly mean a setback for the Haitian people. A confrontation between occupying troops and armed gangs could mean enormous bloodshed, affecting hundreds of thousands of families. It is also possible that the U.S. might be able to negotiate with some of these gangs, making agreements for them to maintain zones of influence in exchange for allowing “governance”.

The objective of a new occupation is to do what MINUSTAH did, that is, to guarantee a certain political and economic stability so that foreign companies can continue to exploit the cheap labor of the Haitian working class and to contain the migratory flow from Haiti to other countries, such as the United States, Canada, the Dominican Republic and other Latin American countries.  The UN occupied Haiti for 13 years, at the command of the United States, and none of the basic social problems were solved. Therefore, all working class organizations worldwide must oppose a new occupation, which will only bring more suffering and misery to Haiti.

On the other hand, the present situation is unsustainable and can lead to a civil war or even greater misery for the people. Therefore, it is necessary to discuss a working people’s way out of the crisis.

It is necessary to respond to barbarism

It is not an exaggeration to say that in Haiti there is a situation of barbarism, mainly in the capital of the country. The levels of misery and violence are at levels unheard of in other nations of the Americas (very close to the poorest nations of Africa). The population lives in a real hell, not knowing if they will have something to eat the next day or if their relatives will be killed by the police or by armed groups. According to reports from our comrades in Batay Ouvriyé, the situation of the popular organizations is one of total defensiveness, since popular demonstrations are often attacked by armed groups.

From a distance, it is very difficult to give an opinion on what measures could be taken by the workers, popular and peasant organizations in the country, since the security conditions for meetings, assemblies or mobilizations are minimal. Some months ago, there was an important popular reaction with lynchings of gang members, as we reported in June of last year. This is an important example of popular reaction.

Because of the present situation, any possibility of having a working class and popular solution to the crisis passes through the organization of self-defense of the workers and peasants, with the formation of armed popular militias. There is no other way to confront the gangs, the police and an eventual occupation if not with the armament of the workers. We cannot say in what way this can be done, whether through the confiscation of arms entering through the ports, surprise attacks on the gangs, assaults on police stations and barracks or other ways.

The workers, popular and peasant militias should be at the service of the democratic organization of the working class in the factories, neighborhoods and in the countryside. A workers’, peasants’ and popular revolution that sweeps away the gangs and the decadent Haitian state is the only way to liberate the country from its permanent crisis.

That revolution should rethink the entire social and economic organization of the country, beginning with the nationalization of the big banks, telephone companies, factories and the lands of large landowners. One of the priorities should be to guarantee the supply of the cities with food produced in the countryside. In Haiti, a large part of agricultural production and the supply of the cities is carried out by small entrepreneurs. An alliance between this sector and the working people of the big cities is necessary.

The Haitian bourgeoisie and imperialism have shown themselves to be totally incapable of solving the enormous humanitarian crisis that Haiti has been experiencing for several decades. Only a government of the working class with the poor peasantry will be able to dictate another course for Haiti.

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