by Robert Roth, Haiti Action Committee
On Dec. 16th, 2022, Fanmi Lavalas – the people’s party of Haiti – released a statement commemorating the 32nd anniversary of the first democratic election in Haiti’s history. In that election, the Haitian people chose Jean-Bertrand Aristide as their president, only to see their historic victory overturned seven months later as the result of a bloody U.S. orchestrated coup d’etat. Drawing on the lessons of that period, the Lavalas statement connected the events of 1990-1991 with the crisis facing Haitian society today:
“The truth speaks for itself: If there had not been a coup d’etat, today many of the beautiful dreams of the Haitian people would have already materialized. With justice, transparency and participation, there would be food for everyone, housing for everyone, schools for all and health care for all.”
“32 years after the victory of Dec. 16, 1990, we are witnessing how the anti-democratic forces have failed. They have failed because the country has become a hell on earth. Everywhere is kidnapping, insecurity, misery, hunger, excessive cost of living, corruption, economic crimes, political crimes in a hell that is called a country.”
Today, the situation in the country could not be more dire. The unelected and illegitimate de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry remains in power despite continuous mass protests demanding his ouster. Henry was hand-picked by the U.S. and its allies in the so-called Core Group of foreign occupiers that exercises colonial control over Haiti. Like the series of U.S. imposed governments that have infected Haiti since the 2004 coup against the second Aristide administration, the Henry government has proven to be a disaster for the Haitian people. Following the dictates of the IMF and its structural adjustment policies, the Henry regime removed government subsidies on fuel prices, resulting in dramatic hikes in the cost of gas, food and other basic necessities. In response, Haitians took to the streets by the tens of thousands in a series of militant and powerful protests.
With collapsing infrastructure and a defunded health care system, Haiti is once again confronting a cholera epidemic. Food insecurity now threatens nearly 5 million people, including 2.4 million children, in a country of 12 million. Government-supported paramilitary groups continue to terrorize opposition neighborhoods, with kidnappings at an all time high.
These crises have their roots in the 2004 coup and the subsequent imposition of foreign occupation, coordinated through the United Nations. And yet, without a trace of irony, the same foreign powers and corrupt rulers responsible for this situation are now asking Haitians to believe that more intervention and more elite anti-democratic rule will somehow change all of this.
Fearful that the Henry regime is on its last legs, the U.S. and the U.N. have been lobbying other countries, including Canada, Mexico and the CARICOM nations, to become the face of yet another round of military intervention to insure that Haiti’s popular movement is kept from power. In a sign of things to come, the Canadian government, which was a key organizer of the 2004 coup d’etat, has just sent warships to patrol off the coast of Haiti. Speaking to a reporter from NPR, one Haitian activist made clear the anti-intervention sentiments of so many as he recounted the track record of the UN occupation that descended on Haiti in the wake of the 2004 coup: “All they brought was kidnappings and rape and cholera,” he said. “If the U.N. sends troops to Haiti, the fighting will get even more intense.”
Trotting out the familiar argument that “gang warfare” is the root of Haiti’s problem, the U.S. and Canada are also ramping up funding and training for Haiti’s notorious and corrupt national police force, including sending tactical and armored vehicles. The same militarized policing that has produced a wave of murders of unarmed Black people in the United States will continue to be exported to Haiti to bolster an already brutally repressive police force.
Just this past week, the people of Bele – a Lavalas stronghold that has been under constant attack for the past three years – have had to defend themselves against a paramilitary assault by the G-9 federation headed by Jimmy Cherizier, otherwise known as Barbecue. According to eyewitness reports, over 60 people were killed and more than 50 others disappeared. Similar to the Lasalin Massacre in 2018, community residents reported seeing three police armored personnel carriers shooting residents, burning homes and transporting G-9 members. All of this was accompanied by a deafening silence from the Henry regime. These crimes took place one day after a CARICOM delegation visited Haiti, promising increased support for the Haitian National Police.
As his government teeters on the brink, Ariel Henry has rolled out his own hand-picked transitional council, which would supposedly organize elections in 2024. Orchestrated by the U.S. State Department, this plan keeps in power the same dictatorship that has created the terror now engulfing Haiti. In the name of “transition”, it maintains the same system in place, setting up the foundation for more stolen elections and the further destruction of civil society. Fanmi Lavalas and other opposition parties have rejected the phony transition promoted by the Henry government and its imperial backers, with Lavalas calling for an authentic popular transition:
“The transition that the Haitian people want cannot take us from bad to worse. No. The transition that the Haitian people want is a complete break with this system of corruption to put an end to this ever-boiling cauldron of misery.”
Adding fuel to the fire, the Biden Administration has just announced a new, draconian anti-migrant plan to be instituted when Title 42, Trump’s Covid-19 era vehicle used to block refugees from seeking asylum, comes to an end on May 11. Biden’s plan would summarily deport any migrant who comes across the Mexican border without hearing any claims for asylum. Haitians are a primary target of the new directive, which Immigrant rights advocates have condemned as “Trumpism without Trump.” Even a former Biden White House official, Andrea Flores, denounced the move, stating that, “the Biden Administration has resurrected a transit ban that normalizes the white nationalist belief that asylum seekers from certain countries are less deserving of humanitarian protections.” More than 25,000 Haitians have been deported since Biden took office and those numbers will surely swell. As the U.S. stokes the flames in Haiti, it will have the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard standing ready to make sure that Haitians cannot flee the fire.
Nineteen years after the February 29, 2004 coup that overthrew democratic and progressive governance in Haiti, the Haitian popular movement remains powerful and dynamic. As the people of Haiti deepen their fight to end this oppressive system, the U.S. is orchestrating a new series of maneuvers to keep it squarely in place. The crisis is sharpening and the stakes could not be higher.
Support the popular movement in Haiti.
Demand an end to U.S. funding for the Haitian National Police and military.
Demand an end to the Biden Administration’s unconscionable attacks on refugees.
For more information, please visit our website at: www.haitisolidarity.net
and our facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/HaitiActionCommittee/
Robert Roth is an educator and a co-founder of Haiti Action Committee