Wed Apr 24, 2024
April 24, 2024

Haiti – Two Tragedies: The Hurricane and the Military Occupation

A new tragedy fell over Haiti. The hurricane Matthew left a trace of destruction along the country. The South coast and part of the interior of the West region in the country were strongly hit. The official numbers mention almost 900 deaths, plus 350.000 shelterless. Certainly the real numbers are much worst. Also, there are millions of houses destroyed, hundreds of public buildings collapsed, and thousands of dead animals.

By Eduardo Almeida.


I was in the West region of the country once, in Artibonite, were there is a strong social struggle over the land. Now t became a battle for survival. In the description of Batay Ouvriyé (an organization of struggle in the country): “the people lost everything: homes, animals; there are destroyed harvests, evacuated lands. It is a disaster for the rural popular class”.

This is not only a natural disaster; the effects of the hurricane in a society living under decent conditions would not cause such destruction. In January 2010, an earthquake of 7.0 on Ritcher Scale destroyed 70% of the capital, killing 212.000 people (official numbers), and leaving 1.5 millions of homeless. A little more than one year later, an even greater earthquake (8.9 Ritcher Scale) reached Japan, killing 6.000 people.

We cannot trust the humanitarian actions in the country either. After the earthquake of 2010, hundreds of millions of dollars were destined to those actions: great part of that money ended up in the pocket of the corrupt rulers. Many NGOs also enriched. It is enough to visit Puerto Príncipe today, six years later, to confirm the marks of destruction all over the city that was never restored.

The truth, told by the Haitians, is that the few survivors of the earthquake were taken out of the rubble by other Haitians, with their own hands and improvised shovels. Thus, less than 200 people were rescued alive. Nothing makes us believe it will be different now.

The Minustah –occupation troop of the United Nations’ Organization, led by the Brazilian Army- was completely worthless during the earthquake. Batay Ouvriyé informed the main concern of the troops was to protect the headquarters against the starving population, with no qualitative role saving the ones stricken. Why would it be any different from now on?

In reality, two tragedies are taking place in Haiti now: the hurricane and the military occupation.

An impressive story

The image we have in Brazil of the Haitian people is the misery they live in. That is just one part of the truth. The other part can only be understood if we know the history of Haiti: this is a strong, rebel people with an exemplar history of struggles and victories in the past.

The Haitian people featured one of the most spectacular revolutions of all times: the first and only successful slaves’ revolution of history, in 1804. It was also the first triumphant anti-colonial revolution in America. The free slaves defeated all the dominant armies of their times, including the Spanish one, the English one and the French Army of Napoleon.

The imperialism could not let the seed of the Haitian revolution spread. Therefore, it imposed a harsh economic blockade to the country that ended up destroying its economy.

The brutal devastation of the country has nothing to do with nature: it is a consequence of the imperialist pillage that continues to exist until nowadays.

The names Toussaint L’Overture and Dessalines (leaders of the revolution) are present in all the squares and monuments in the country. The black Haitian people, so exploited and oppressed, have a history of which they are proud until today. The continuous foreign military occupations show the imperialism is still afraid that this history could resume from where it left.

The charade of “humanitarian occupation”

In February 2004, agents of the CIA and US Marines invaded the Haitian Governmental Palace. They took the elected president, Aristide, as prisoner, and they deported him to the Central African Republic. A new military coup was consummated in Haiti; a new US military intervention.

On the same day, the UN Security Council voted in a rush a resolution of Emergency, mandating the US and French militaries as the vanguard of a multinational force that was supposed to “stabilize” the country, to actually legalize the military occupation.

To mask the imperialist intervention, the back then president Bush appealed to Lula. Facing the wearing of the military occupation in Iraq, Bush “outsourced” the Haitian occupation. On June the 1st, the Minustah (United Nations’ Haiti Stabilization Mission) arrived to Haiti, led by Brazilian troops and composed by Argentine, Chilean, Uruguayan and Bolivian troops, among others. These are, still, the military forces sustaining the economic and political plan of the US imperialism in Haiti.

Most workers still believe the occupation forces in Haiti drive a “humanitarian” mission. Even important activist sectors that oppose to other occupations think the Haitian case is “different”.

Lula’s government performed one of the major indignities of Brazil, by accepting to lead the military occupation to the poorest country of America, serving Bush and the multinationals. Lula’s sympathizers should take position now regarding such a stain in the Brazilian history, now continued by Temer.

The military occupation (existing for 12 years now) looks to cover the fragility of the bourgeois Haitian State. The [national] bourgeoisie could not structure a bourgeois democracy after the fall of Duvalier’s dictatorship, as it happened in most countries of Latin America after the dictatorships fell. It could not articulate the armed forces to sustain a bonapartist regime with a minimum stability in front of the social explosion in the country, either.

The country of the first and only victorious slaves’ revolution of history is still a powder keg that has to be secured by a military occupation. The reality of such “humanitarian” occupation holds all the typical scenes of occupations per se, such as brutal repression to the people, humiliations, rapes, etc.

There is not one single school, hospital or sewage network made by the “humanitarian” occupation troops. They do not have a significant role after the earthquake. All the violence is serving a group of multinational companies making high profits out of textile production in Haiti for the US market.

The multinationals take advantage of the military occupation

There is an economic plan for Haiti that has as main project to implement two dozens of free zones with multinationals producing for the US market: multinational factories producing to export to the US free of custom duties and any legal labour regulation in general.

The goal of the multinationals is to produce with even lower salaries than in other regions, and a brutal repression to any resistance. The existence of a legion of unemployed -80% of the population, a huge industrial army of labour- allows the multinationals to pressure the employed workers to accept the humiliating wage and labour conditions. The Unions are violently repressed and their leaders and members are dismissed as soon as they are recognized as such.

In one of our visits to Haiti, we went to a factory in one of the free zones: Codevi, in Ouanaminthe. Codevi is a multinational, part of a Dominican conglomerate (the M Group), linked to the Chase Manhattan Bank, and makes jeans for famous marks, such as Levi’s and Wrangler. The workers earn US$48 monthly, and they work under surveillance of armed guards. In Cité Soleil (Puerto Príncipe), another free zone is being prepared. We met the workers of Hanes there, one of the most important T-Shirt factories of the US. We listened to one of the female workers talking, outraged, about the labour conditions in the company. She said they work 12 consecutive hours, with no right of a break, not even for lunch. The factory used to put a lock in the doors to avoid them leaving the production line to go to the bathroom.

The ideology spread by the occupation forces is that the troops are in Haiti to help reduce the poverty in the country. Nevertheless, the multinational companies cynically use the poverty level to produce at extremely low costs for the US market. There is no water or drainage in the homes (except in the bourgeois homes, hotels and stores). Some houses do have electric energy, but it cuts on a daily basis with no previous warning. Most part of the population does not exist officially; they do not have identification documents. The people take water of the artesian wells carry it in buckets to their homes. They use coal to cook. People walk long distances to avoid having to pay for transportation.

The imperialism is performing an experience. In the factories, there is a modern organization of work: the units. It is installing an industry in the country of basic technological level with exploitation levels similar to barbarianism. It is a modern capitalism with clear barbarianism elements.

They are imposing a new miserable wage reference for the entire Latin American continent, with wages highly inferior to the ones in China. The companies pay salaries three times lower than the already low salaries in Brazil.

The Brazilian troops –and other Latin American ones- are in Haiti to help the multinationals, like Codevi and Hanes, to brutally exploit the cheap labour force. Thus, these troops repressed the Hunger Revolt of 2008, the strike of textile workers of 2009, and the students’ demonstrations also in 2009.

The crisis of the “election”

The military occupation is necessary to the imperialism, as the [national] bourgeoisie was unable to stabilize the State in Haiti. The Minustah is, then, the armed institution ensuring the bourgeois domination in the country.

The situation of occupation turns the election into a complete farce. The real power is not in the Presidency of the Republic but in the foreign headquarters and embassies. To be precise, in the US and Brazilian embassies. The presidents are nothing but puppets that do anything but what they are told to.

Even in such situation, the elections are always reason of major political crisis. The presidency allows direct access to the State and “humanitarian help” money, through a huge corruption network. Thus, different cliques of the Haitian bourgeoisie, associated to the imperialism, dispute the election.

The elections play the role of channeling the enormous discontent of the population with the worn-out governments to choose “new governments”; yet, they always generate new political crisis. Shortly after being elected, each government is repudiated by the population, although they are still sustained by the troops.

The first election in Haiti after the occupation took place in 2006. Despite all, René Prèval, the candidate of the overthrown president Aristide, won the election. But the imperialism and the occupation troops organized a major fraud to impose, during the second round, the two candidates that were accepted by the US embassy. A popular rebellion impeded the fraud and guaranteed the assumption of Prèval.

Already in power, Prèval did exactly what the multinationals and US and Brazil embassies told him to. He never confronted the occupation; he strongly repressed the workers’ strikes and popular demonstrations; he used the earthquake of 2010 to sack, together with his accomplices in the government, part of the money donated to the victims; he privatized the companies that were still under State property, and he signed the Hope Bill, completing the transformation of the island into a US colony once again.

Prèval ended his turn completely with complete discredit by the Haitian population. The graffitis “Down with the Minustah” and “Down with Prèval” were very common along the walls of Puerto Prínicipe. In 2011, during the election of his successor, Prèval did the same thing he was victim of: he organized a fraud to impose his own candidate, Jude Célestin. Once again, the beginning of a popular rebellion stopped the fraud.

This fact was used by the OAS Commission, which imposed, over the National Electoral Committee, a second round with Mirlande Manigat (wife of a former president) and Michel Martelly, leaving the government’s candidature aside. The OAS took advantage of the crisis to impose another fraud.

Martelly won the elections channeling the repudiation to the traditional politicians. He was a very popular singer who made his campaign rejecting “the politicians” and the corruption. Another farce. He actually was Duvalier’s “tonton macoute” since he was 15, before becoming an artist. So his election was the return of Duvalierism to the government. He promoted the return of the big landowners to the lands occupied by peasants in a type of counter-agrarian reform, with the armed support of the Minustah.

Furthermore, Martelly celebrated the return of Baby Doc [Duvalier’s son] –whose dictatorship was defeated in 1986- to Haiti, in 2011, returning from a luxurious exile in France. Baby Doc had several of his direct representatives elected as ministers of Martelly’s government, and lived hand in hand with the government up until his death, in 2014

Martelly ended his turn completely worn-out. And once again the same maneuver as before was attempted: electoral fraud to impose Jovenel Moïse as his successor. But a popular rebellion –on January 22, 2016- avoided the fraud once again. The Minustah troops, together with the local police, repressed the mobilization harshly, but they could not stabilize the situation. A political vacuum took place in the country that lasts until today.

So Martelly ended his turn without a successor to replace him. The US embassy and the OAS, with the complicity of Brazil, imposed Jocelerme Privert, the head of the Senate, as temporary president until the new elections.

The last elections were annulled, and new elections were called for last October 9th. The hurricane was the pretext to postpone them again. Privert continues ruling the country in midst of a giant political crisis.

The Minustah supported the governments of Prèval and Martelly. It tried, together with them, to impose the electoral frauds that were defeated by popular rebellions; all serving the multinationals actually leading the country.

How to help the Haitian people?

There is a global feeling of solidarity with the Haitian people because of the hurricane. However, it is necessary to recall the past experience of the earthquake. It is not by chance the popular leaders warn: “very frequently, the true victims of natural disasters are not benefited by the humanitarian help. The alleged help will help creating new rich, in Haiti and internationally, in detriment of the victims”.

It is necessary for the help of the workers around the world to be delivered to the organizations of struggle in Haiti, and not to the puppet government.

Besides, in October 13th, the UN will vote a new mandate for the Minustah to continue imposing the multinationals’ orders in Haiti.

Thus, together with the solidarity, it is necessary for the workers organizations all over the world to pronounce against “the other tragedy” striking Haiti: the military occupation of the country.


Translation: Sofia Ballack.

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