Articles, International

Haiti in Revolt-Again

As Haiti enters into its eighth consecutive week of anti-government protests, barricades and roadblocks are shutting down the country, while mass demonstrations of hundreds of thousands, including contingents of organized workers, demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise and equitable redistribution of national resources. Marx21 received the report below on Haiti. Although the mainstream news in Haiti has underplayed the size of the demonstrations and ignored the violence of security forces, an office of the UN reported 42 people have died and 86 have been injured during these protests. In response, several police headquarters have been destroyed, and a jail burned to the ground. Banks and stores were looted in the richer parts of Port-au-Prince. The crowds have seamlessly integrated political, economic and anti-imperialist demands. While Andre Michel, spokesman for the Consensual Alternative for the Refoundation of Haiti, declared “It is the people who have control,” opposition parties are trying to steer the protests to changes at the top. The demands of the crowds can only be met when they move from shutting down society to running it themselves. The protests started over specific raises in food prices, gas shortages, and government corruption, but is based (as are rebellions around the world) on a deep long-term resentments, discussed in the message below: 

Adults and children alike hurry home excitedly because the government power utility is back on. No one knows for how long. Allegations of government corruption abound. No one can afford to buy food in the market: prices are as high as U.S. prices, nor can they continue to subsist  on the little food and fuel available. The Haitian currency, the gourde,has been devalued by 20% in a country were some 60% of the population make less than $2 a day.

Amid these conditions of systematic neocolonial underdevelopment  protests have resurged focusing on the removal of President Jovenel Moïse—dubbed “Operation Find Jovenel” (as he’s gone into hiding.)  Protests have lingered since U.S. President Barack Obama backed Michel Martelly (2011-2016.) and his blatant effort to rig the elections. However, real anger erupted when it became apparent that the  billions of dollars from PetroCaribe funds–the Venezuelan-subsidized oil which was supposed to be used to build up the Haitian infrastructure had disappeared. The protesters were now demanding a complete overhaul of parliament and the president as the new fiscal year began. Furthermore,  the protests have also targeted banks, police stations, and stores filled with overpriced foreign goods.Thousands have taken to the streets in Haiti to combat the more than decade-long economic and political crisis.

From its inception as the first victorious slave revolution in 1804, Haiti has struggled to free itself from foreign interventions’ stranglehold on the country as well as from its own ruling elite. Haiti, as the first black republic, was viciously punished by slave owning nations who could not allow it to serve as an example to be followed by others The threat of invasion has always been present, such as in 1917 when the United States invaded to protect its foreign investments. Even as Woodrow Wilson was busy declaring that countries had the right to self-determination, his marines were rewriting the Haitian Constitution, installing their own president, and locking Haitian currency to the U.S. dollar.

But the Haitian people, far from simply receding into the background  have never simply backed down. The striking feature of the nation born out of a slave revolution in 1791 is its never-ending struggle against a state designed to keep  its people down. From peasant-led rebellion demanding land redistribution in 1844 to armed peasant resistance to U.S. occupation in 1917, to the 1985 protests against dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, the Haitian people have fought to try to preserve the freedoms they had fought for and won in 1804.

The significance of the new Haitian movement cannot be downplayed. Much of the international media has cast the protesters as violent and “unfit” but the ruling class and international community cannot ignore the significance of the upheavals occurring in Haiti today.