By João Pedro Mendonça and Wilson Honório da Silva, translated to English by Carlos Jara
Last week, on the 28th and 29th of March, powerful scenes took place at protests in Haiti as the Haitian people opened a new chapter in a long history of struggle against racism, bourgeois authoritarian governments, and imperialist interventions.
This time, the spark that lit the fuse was the combination of two living symbols of this history: the rejection of Jovenel Moïse’s authoritarian and fraudulent government, and the proposal of the creation of a nearly 400km border wall between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which would divide the island of Hispaniola in two.
Thus, Haiti has added itself to the stage of ongoing rebellions, alongside Chile and Paraguay in Latin America, the “yellow jackets” in France, and our African brothers and sisters in Nigeria and Senegal. These are all examples of the growing global polarization “from below” against their governments, the result of a pandemic that threatens both mass deaths and a global economic crisis.
In Haiti, the struggling masses are keeping alive the spark of an intense revolutionary process, beautifully analyzed by Black Trotskyist C.L.R. James in his book, The Black Jacobins, which documents how in 1804, by a single stroke, Black revolutionaries ended slavery, defeated Napoleon Bonaparte’s French imperialism, and repelled Spanish invasions, all in service of the struggle for independence.
Nevertheless, being the bold, first, Black revolution in history cost the country dearly. Its history, up through the present day, is pockmarked by economic and military interventions, neocolonial projects that have left Haiti the poorest country in the Americas.
Authoritarianism in the Name of North American Imperialism
Since 2016, Haiti has been governed by Jovenel Moïse of neoliberal Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK, Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale) that took power following electoral fraud accusations which led to the cancellation of the 2015 election. A businessman and associate of ex-president Michel Martelly, Moïse has been the target of constant financial scandals, such as the corruption case involving the Venezuelan oil company Petrocaribe.
Year after year, scandal after scandal, the people have responded with forceful demonstrations. In 2019, they were able to depose Prime Minister Jean-Michel Lapin, but Moïse stayed on the attack, refusing to hold elections in 2020, dissolving parliament, and refusing to step down on February 7, 2021, which should have been the end of his term according to the country’s constitution.
For his part, Moïse is threatening to change the constitution to stay in power for a second term, which has not occurred since the bloody dictatorships of Papa Doc (1957-1971) and Baby Doc (1971-1986) Duvalier. Moïse’s totalitarian project can be summed up in a peculiar phrase that has become his trademark: “I do not see how anyone, other than God, could have more power than I in this country. I am the president,” declared the most modest Moïse in a July 2020 speech.
The president’s political maneuvering and trickery has been paired with a policy of incessant repression against the struggling masses. There have been nonstop reports of political persecution, attacks, arrests and assassinations of journalists, judicial workers, and especially movement activists, on top of massacres in crowded neighborhoods at the hands of hundreds of armed paramilitary groups (genuine death squads nicknamed “pandillas”, lit. “gangs”).
Like in all other parts of the world, and particularly majority-Black regions that have been condemned to poverty, the pandemic has made the situation much worse, with the government indulging in the same genocidal policies of neglect that we have seen from the likes of Bolsonaro in Brazil.
Officially, the death toll in Haiti is under 400, but there are two important forces behind this number. First, the country’s tragic history (including the earthquake of 2010, which killed nearly 300 thousand people, as well as the 10 thousand that would die every year from cholera during the military occupation) has resulted in a demographic situation where more than half of the country’s population is under the age of 24. Second, simply put, there is no reason to trust the official data announced by the government.
In 2020, as was described in an article that was published on the IWL website in Portuguese, a new round of rebellions began, which as of early March resulted in the fall of Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe.
On the 29th of March, the anniversary of the approval of the Constitution of 1987, the people took to the streets with renewed energy and a sweeping radicalization that can be seen in the images from the rebellion where the people have clearly named their enemies: “Out with Moïse” lit the streets with a blaze that rivaled the intensity of the flames rising from the many US flags burnt at the protests.
The Haitian people’s hatred of imperialism is well-founded, drawing both on the country’s history and the present situation. After all, throughout the UN-backed military occupation and Moïse’s scandal-ridden government, the US, France, and OAS (Organization of American States) have stood behind the Haitian government, and the Haitian people can thus clearly see that their governments have merely been the puppets of a neocolonial project.
Following the US and Israel’s example: the Dominican border wall
The lack of control of the pandemic, above all else the government’s responsibility, has to do with Haiti having one of the greatest rates of migration in the Americas, caused largely by the terrible living conditions.
As clearly the world has not seen enough examples of political, social and xenophobic barriers being erected to stop immigrants, there is now a new, concrete example in the works: Haiti’s neighbor, the Dominican Republic, is planning to build a nearly 400km long wall along the island’s already-highly-militarized border, which has not prevented nearly 500 thousand Haitians from living in the country.
The project announced by President Luis Abinader (closely connected o global imperialism, especially due to his status as a major businessman in the tourism sector) at the end of February, is inspired by the Zionist apartheid wall separating Israel from the Palestinian Territories, as well as Trump’s plan to build a border wall between the US and Mexico.
Abinader has said that this wall is intended to stop immigration, trafficking, and violence, but his true goal is to cut off one of the only paths to survival available to the Haitian people, as many Haitians use their neighboring country to escape poverty, and especially as a stepping stone on the path to immigrating elsewhere.
The Dominican apartheid wall, with a budget of $100 million USD, is based on a project developed by the Israeli state industry Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, a predictably xenophobic military firm that excels in commercializing repression.
A history of interventions, and also of struggle
As we said at the beginning of this article, Haiti’s history has been marked by interventions. It is important to remember the most recent of these, the MINUSTAH (English: United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti), a military occupation disguised as a UN “peacekeeping mission”, led by Brazil under Lula da Silva and later Dilma Rousseff’s governments, which carried out the dirty work of George W. Bush’s government (at the time preoccupied with he Iraq War), which violently repressed the Haitian people’s uprising. It was a crime against Black people that has left scars that remain visible today.
On top of importing a regime of terror into the country, the only thing that the UN mission “stabilized” was the exploitation of the country’s resources a the hands of both the local parasitic elite and foreign multinational corporations, leaving behind a string of over 2000 rapes and innumerable massacres committed by the military troops, including, for example, the invasion of the Cité Solei community on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, which resulted in over 60 killed and dozens more injured.
If that was not enough, the MINUSTAH was transformed into a training ground for state repressive forces, which were latter deployed in Brazil to accelerate the genocide against Black, poor, and marginalized people, and which built the political careers of many politicians who now count themselves among the members of Bolsonaro’s government.
There is no shortage of examples. General Augusto Heleno, chosen by Lula to lead the occupation from September 2004 until August 2005, and who is now the head of the National Security Cabinet in Brazil. General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, who served in Haiti between 2006 and 2009, and later as the Minister of Strategic Matters of the PT (Lula da Silva’s party) government and Secretary of Government for Bolsonaro between 2018 and 2019.
Floriano Peixoto, who served the PT between 2009 and 2010, became the Chief Minister of Security for Bolsonaro, and now heads the postal service. And Luiz Eduardo Ramos, who led the MINUSTAH between 2011 and 2012, was Secretary of Government for Bolsonaro from 2019 to 2021, and now plays the role of head of a government militia.
Following intense struggles, MINUSTAH’s mission officially came to a close in April 2017, replaced by the equally oppressive MINUSJUSTH (United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti). It is important to remember that international solidarity was key in resisting the military occupation, and remains necessary in the present moment.
We need to support the heroic Haitian uprising, which needs to march on to defeat Jovenel Moïse’s authoritarian project, to establish a “second independence” for the country and establish a workers’ government, supported by organizations and movements that have been built over the decades of struggle.
To do so, we need to loudly denounce foreign intervention in Haiti, and the Dominican Republic’s apartheid project. We owe this to the people of Haiti, as well as to the long history of struggle of Black people the world over.
Aba Moïse! Ayiti Lib!
Down with Moïse! Free Haiti!