Congress members call Haitians ‘violent’ for marching unarmed against government forces shooting live ammunition

Demonstrators against Haitian President Jovenel Moise flee as Haitian police open fire during the clashes in the center of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince on Feb. 13, 2019. Political speech in Haiti is traditionally expressed by filling the streets with unarmed peaceful protesters doing nothing to incite violence. – Photo: Hector Retamal, AFP

by Haiti Action Committee

Haiti Action Committee response to joint statement

The joint statement follows this response.

Haiti Action Committee strongly condemns the joint statement by nine members of the House of Representatives claiming “Violent Protests That Have Left Haiti at a Standstill.” Their assertion, “While the frustrations that have prompted the protests are justifiable, the violent acts being used to express them are indefensible,” is as backwards a statement as President Trump equating those protesting white supremacy in Charlottesville with the racist demonstrators.

It harkens back to the arguments used against the Civil Rights Movement in this country and the fight against apartheid in South Africa. Their statement explains nothing about why the overwhelming majority of Haitians are demanding the removal of a hated and corrupt president, imposed on Haiti by the United States and the United Nations, except that their “frustrations” are “justifiable.”

What violent acts? Rocks wielded in self-defense by unarmed protestors, facing the barrage of automatic gunfire from police and their civilian affiliates? Nowhere does this statement denounce the overwhelmingly disproportionate violence of the government against the Haitian mass movement – arbitrary arrests and police-affiliated death squad killings with impunity, such as in La Saline throughout November 2018, culminating on the 13th and 14th in a massacre of at least 71 people and probably many more.

Massacres in Kafou Fey on April 24, 2019, in Village de Dieu on June 17, and on June 24 in downtown Port-au-Prince, killing an estimated 30 people trying to find shelter from the police attacks. Women raped in front of their husbands and children. Murdered bodies disappeared or cut up and fed to pigs.

Demonstrators attacked with water cannon spewing a blue foam that burns the skin. The atrocities go on and on, completely ignored by these representatives concerned more with burning tires and broken windows.

We agree that “one of the key pillars of a democratic society is the freedom to stand up and speak out,” but Haiti is not a democratic society. It is a society under military occupation since 2004, led by governments put into place in four fraudulent and corrupt presidential election cycles, where the majority Fanmi Lavalas Party was either not allowed to run candidates or was prevented from winning through massive fraud and voter suppression.

If a Haitian “stands up and speaks out,” that person is likely to be shot dead in the street, or end up in a prison for years without trial, or have death squads show up at their door in the middle of the night. Haitians risk their lives every time they go into the streets to protest.

Yes, Haiti does need international support, but support to rid the country of thieving government and business officials, to force the return of $4.2 billion in stolen Petrocaribe money – not to mention stolen earthquake donations – and to hold truly free and fair elections. We ask these representatives to reconsider their statement, condemn the violence of the state against those demonstrating, and support their just demands, starting with the removal of Jovenel Moise as president.

The people of Haiti are struggling for freedom, justice and equality; for dignity, sovereignty and unity. They are working to build a country. Those who are steeped in corruption are the ones who are failing and destroying the state.

Learn more about and contact the Haiti Action Committee at www.haitisolidarity.net.

A mother protects the body of her son who was shot by Haitian police. She is making sure no one “disappears” his body as is the common practice of repressive forces in Haiti. They take the bodies away, and all over Haiti people are searching for their loved ones.

Joint statement on violent protests that have left Haiti at a standstill

Washington, D.C. – Reps. Frederica Wilson, D-Florida; Kathy Castor, D-Florida; Lois Frankel, D-Florida; Val Demings, D-Florida; Alcee Hastings, D-Florida; Debbie Murcarsel Powell, D-Florida; Darren Soto, D-Florida; Donna Shalala, D-Florida; and Barbara Lee, D-California have issued the following statement in response to violent protests in Haiti:

“We are extremely troubled by news reports coming out of Haiti that describe a country in a state of emergency as protests continue and at least two lives have been lost. Congressional lawmakers have made several trips to Haiti and have witnessed firsthand the devastating toll that natural and manmade disasters have taken on the island nation and its citizens. We must do all that we can to ensure that Haiti does not become a failed state as this crisis unfolds.

“While the frustrations that have prompted the protests are justifiable, the violent acts being used to express them are indefensible and hurt the very people they’re meant to help.

“Violent protests have shut down government services and businesses and are preventing people from getting to work and school. The loss of even one day’s pay could set an already struggling family back by weeks, while the primary targets of the protests continue to live in great comfort.

“One of the key pillars of a democratic society is the freedom to stand up and speak out, and we fully support the right of Haiti’s citizens to do so. The protesters are urged to remember, however, that violence only begets more violence and its continuation could undermine the international support that Haiti so urgently needs to right itself in the days, weeks and months ahead.

“To address this growing crisis, we plan to convene in July a meeting in South Florida that will include members of the Haitian diaspora and its advocates, elected officials from Haiti and the United States, and other key stakeholders to discuss strategies that will strengthen the rule of law and civil society in Haiti to the benefit of all Haitians.”

This statement is published on the website of Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, at https://wilson.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/joint-statement-on-violent-protests-that-have-left-haiti-at-a-standstill.