Social unrest in Haiti, never far from the surface, has exploded again in recent weeks, with inflation hitting 30 percent, a lack of fuel and a spike in the prices of basic goods on the one hand, and an increase in gang-related kidnappings and killings on the other.
When France moved from revolution to reaction under Napoleon Bonaparte, so too did the French government go from being an ally to an enemy of San Domingo’s black government.
Napoleon was to declare: “The freedom of the negroes, if recognised in St Domingue and legalised by France, would at all times be a rallying point for freedom-seekers of the new world.” The same attitude towards Haiti has been displayed ever since by imperialist powers, the main mantle of suppression having been passed from France to the USA in the meantime.
US imperialism regularly puts just the same supremacist thinking on display. In this Washington Post article, for example, the author opines: “Many in the Haitian American community also blame US foreign policy for spurring Haiti’s humanitarian crisis, saying successive administrations have failed to nurture stable Haitian governments willing to embrace human rights and fight corruption, poverty and criminal gangs.” (Charges of racism swirl as Haitian Americans, allies unite to protest migrants’ treatment by Tim Craig, Sean Sullivan and Silvia Foster-Frau, Washington Post, 22 September 2021)
The assumptions this makes about the supposed ‘rights’ and ‘responsibilities’ that the USA has in its relations with Haiti are obvious nonsense. Firstly, the USA is itself the greatest destabiliser of Haitian governments, regularly installing comprador leaders who are willing to do its bidding.
Secondly, what gives the USA either the right or the duty to ‘nurture’ the government of Haiti? And in whose interest? It is US corporations’ pursuit of maximum profit that has led to the overthrow of so many Haitian governments – in large part so as to suppress minimum wages – and which have built a private army to enforce this agenda.
“Drawing on almost 2,000 classified US diplomatic cables on Haiti released by WikiLeaks, a partnership between The Nation magazine and the Haitian weekly Haïti Liberté exposes new details on how Fruit of the Loom, Hanes and Levi’s worked with the United States to block an increase in the minimum wage in the hemisphere’s poorest nation, how business owners and members of the country’s elite used Haiti’s police force as their own private army after the 2004 US-backed coup that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and how the United States, the European Union and the United Nations supported Haiti’s recent presidential and parliamentary elections, despite concerns over the exclusion of Haiti’s largest opposition party, Lavalas, the party of Aristide.” (Haiti: Leaked cables expose US suppression of minimum wage, election doubts and elite’s private army, Democracy Now, 24 June 2011)
US imperialists openly express derision towards Haiti, whether it is former president Donald Trump referring to Haiti and various African nations as “shithole countries” and asking: “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out,” or the criminal Clinton family stealing billions of donations to Haiti following a devastating earthquake.
“From January 2010 through June 2012, $9.04bn in international funding was raised – $3.04bn from individuals and companies, and $6.04bn from bilateral and multilateral donors. Of the $6.04bn, 9.6 percent, or $580m went to the Haitian government, while 0.6 percent or $36.2m went to local Haitian organisations.
“The lion’s share, 89.8 percent of $5.4bn went to non-Haitian organisations, including private contractors, international NGOs, and military and civilian agencies of donor countries, including the Pentagon, which charged the State Department hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Critics have pointed at the Clinton Foundation, alleging the charity had control over the billions of dollars in aid to Haiti.” (What really happened with the Clinton Foundation and Haiti? by David Love, Atlanta Black Star, 24 January 2018)
Not only did the Clinton Foundation wash money through Haiti – and immediately back out again – but the few shelters it actually built were actually found to be hazardous to the health of their occupants.
“Lab tests conducted as part of our investigation in Haiti discovered levels of the carcinogen in the sixth-grade Clinton Foundation classroom in Léogâne at 250 parts per billion – two and a half times the level at which the CDC warned Fema trailer residents that sensitive people, such as children, could face adverse health effects.
“Assay Technologies, the accredited lab that analysed the air tests, identifies 100 parts per billion and more as the level at which ‘65–80 percent of the population will most likely exhibit some adverse health symptoms … when exposed continually over extended periods of time’.” (The shelters that Clinton built by Isabel Macdonald and Isabeau Doucet, The Nation, 11 July 2011)
Here we see the two sides of bourgeois dictatorship in the USA. On one side there is the ‘bad cop’ expressing open contempt for the Haitian nation, whilst on the other side the ‘good cop’ offers the hand of ‘philanthropy’ – seizing the opportunity to wash its dirty money, rinse US tax payers and scoop up well-meant donations, recycling all that money back out of Haiti via private contracts, international ‘NGOs’ and the Clinton family’s ‘charitably’ deep pockets.
Fuel prices further diminish Haitians’ lives
The comprador president’s decision to end fuel subsidies will wreak further havoc on the lives of Haitians. It should be noted that Haiti’s president was assassinated last year by US/Colombian mercenaries. (Haiti judge claims two US ‘mercenaries’ arrested over assassination of Jovenel Moïse by Rachel Sharp, Daily Mail, 9 July 2021)
The prime minister who replaced him had close links to the assassins, but this did not deter the USA from supporting him, even as the country has descended into anarchy. (Haitian prime minister had close links with murder suspect by Anatoly Kurmanaev, New York Times, 10 January 2022)
Black Alliance For Peace noted that this was typical behaviour by the USA, the United Nations and the Organisation of American States. (Haiti’s white rulers have spoken on Haiti’s political future by Black Alliance for Peace, Greanville Post, 9 July 2021)
The United Nations’ special envoy for Haiti, Helen La Lime, declared in a statement only a day later that Claude Joseph would be the new president – a decision that was made after a closed-door UN security council session. This was all very reminiscent of the role played by the ‘UN peacekeepers’ who oversaw Haiti’s government after the 2004 coup.
Meanwhile, policemen in Haiti are reportedly no longer showing up for work, unwilling to risk their lives in defence of such a deeply unpopular government. (Fuel hike plunges Haiti into near anarchy by Milo Milfort, Anatoly Kurmanaev and Andre Paultre, New York Times, 16 September 2022)
Opposition leader Moïse Jean Charles called on his supporters to shut down the banks. The crowd responded with “We are going to set them on fire!” Haitians are on the front line against imperialism as it attempts to drive the Haitian nation into perpetual slavery to monopoly capitalism.
Haiti is routinely presented in the bourgeois press as a kind of soap opera – an endless saga of natural disasters and social violence to which it seems to be randomly and uniquely cursed. Far less is said about the real causes and consequences of colonial and post-colonial abuse by imperial powers, a legacy that continues to stunt the development of oppressed nations everywhere.
But as the Haitian people struggle against the latest round of abuse being heaped on their heads, they can draw inspiration from their own proud history of resistance. Let them remember the audacity shown by their ancestors in staging the first revolution led by black men and women, establishing the first independent republic of America and emerging as the first nation on the American continent to abolish slavery.
Banditry unleashed on the Haitian proletariat – to maintain class rule
As of May this year, young men started raiding towns on motorcycles armed with assault rifles. By June, they were seizing control of entire areas. By July, the bandits held sway, kidnapping children and raping women as a form of warfare.
Children as young as one have been executed and their bodies burned. Young teenagers are executed in public ‘for spying for the other side’. (‘They have no fear and no mercy’: gang rule engulfs Haitian capital by Luke Taylor, The Guardian, 18 September 2022)
The USA has long used bandits, drug dealers and other lumpen scum capable of any violent or heinous act as its reserve army of anticommunism. Peter Dale Scott in his book American War Machine made the following point when analysing the ‘Golden Triangle’ (the heroin trade of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos) that the CIA had a central role in creating, using the profits in its war against communism.
“Thus, the restoration of an opium supply in Burma to replace that being lost in Yunnan had the result of sustaining a social fabric and an economy that was capitalist and anticommunist. I would add today that the opium traffic was an even more important element in an anticommunist strategy for southeast Asia as a source of income.” (2010)
“NGOs like Viva Rio, AVSI Foundation, and Concern Worldwide have been the privileged associates of Haiti’s security apparatus. With huge financial resources, these actors work in concert with local associations they call ‘partners’, but which are essentially non-governmental subcontractors.
“NGOs focus on neighbourhoods such as Cité Soleil, Martissant (Grand-Ravine, Ti-Bois, Cité de l’Eternelle, Village du Dieu) and Grand Bel-Air (Rue St-Martin, La Saline, Fort Touron, Bas Delmas, Fort National, Solino, and others). These are areas historically marked by economic and social inequalities caused by globalisation, as Marc Abélès has documented.
“Haitian geographer Jean-Marie Théodat describes these marginalised neighbourhoods in Port-au-Prince as ‘sans’ places – those ‘without’. That is, they are neighbourhoods where the state is absent and where the population does not have access to basic social services.
“In these places, NGOs are forced to come to terms with deviant groups, and their actions contribute to the ghettoisation of poor and marginalised neighbourhoods.” (The political anatomy of Haiti’s armed gangs by Djems Olivier, 2 April 2021)
As the bourgeois press circulates articles that feign concern at “more foreign powers being involved in Haiti’s sovereignty” and the “intervention dilemma”, we should see through the imperial facade built up to misrepresent the situation. (As gang violence consumes Haiti, donor nations – Canada included – seem reluctant to get involved by Evan Dyer, CBC, 22 September 2022)
This alleged concern for Haiti’s sovereignty should be met with the utmost scepticism. After the western-backed coup against Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004, a generalised chaos has reigned in Haiti, with neo-Duvalierists, mafia networks and drug traffickers working in concert. Armed groups work as death squads, spreading terror on the streets to intimidate supporters of Haiti’s social movements.
This generalised chaos has been the aim of the so-called ‘donor nations’ – a more honest term for which might be simply ‘imperialist powers’.
In stark contrast, since Cuba started its medical cooperation with Haiti in 1998, more than 6,000 Cuban health cooperation workers have worked in the country, providing more than 36 million outpatient consultations, almost 9 million of them to children.
Cuban medical staff have performed more than 721,000 operations and assisted more than 194,000 births, helping to save more than 429,000 lives in the process. More than 1,649,000 vaccine doses have been administered via disease prevention campaigns.
Moreover, 1,129 Haitian health workers have been trained in Cuba. More than 448,000 Haitians have learned how to read and write thanks to the Cuban literacy programme ‘Yes, I Can’; and 1,595 Haitian students have graduated from Cuban universities.
In 1998, Fidel Castro stated bluntly what Haitians needed and what they didn’t: “Haiti does not need troops. It does not need invasions with troops … Haiti needs invasions of medical doctors. Haiti also needs invasions of millions of dollars for its development.” (Cuban president: Haiti deserves the best world attention and urgent support, Cuban News Agency, 17 February 2022)
The people of Haiti are capable of running their own affairs. Imperial powers sending waves of NGOs and propping up drug lords to ensure Haitians cannot raise their minimum wage to a sufficient standard are the ultimate causes behind the social violence that plagues the country.