Photo: Protest last year demanding Jovenel Moïse’s resignation. Credit: Alba Movimientos
Dec. 16 is the 30th anniversary of the first free and democratic election in Haitian history. In 1990, anti-imperialist liberation theologian Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the left-wing party Fanmi Lavalas were elected to power with mass support (67 percent) on a program of guaranteeing social rights for the working class. Less than one year later, a U.S.-backed coup ousted Aristide and installed a military dictatorship that murdered thousands of Haitians and attempted to stifle the mass energy behind the Lavalas movement. After being re-elected in 2000, Aristide was again ousted by a U.S.-backed coup in 2004. Only last year was Haiti finally relieved of the U.S. troops that had been patrolling the streets to contain the revolutionary fervor since the ousting.
Today, the Haitian people continue to confront the same forces that staged the coups of 1991 and 2004, now in the form of a dictatorship by U.S. and United Nations-backed president Jovenel Moïse. Nonetheless, the powerful grassroots movement for democracy and justice only continues to grow in size and strength, as demonstrated by the more than18 months of daily mass protests to oust Moise’s corrupt leadership from 2018 to 2019. Still, Moïse remains in power and has responded to the movement with violent police and paramilitary repression, assassinations of grassroots leaders, and massacres targeting active communities.
The international week of solidarity with Haiti, December 10 to16, as called by the Haiti Action Committee, has put forward the following demands to stand in solidarity with the Haitian people in the face of U.S. imperialism: (1) End massacres in Haiti, (2) End the U.S. funding of police terror in Haiti, and (3) Support the movement for democracy and justice in Haiti.
Aristide, Fanmi Lavalas and U.S. interventionism
Out of the ashes of the brutal near thirty-year Duvalier military dictatorship of 1957 to 1986 arose the popular Lavalas movement in the late 1980s. The movement, along with Aristide, were among the most potent symbols for progressive political change in the world in a period of great difficulty for the left, advocating for policies of equitable growth. They sought sovereign, anti-imperialist solutions to Haiti’s crises of political instability, colonial military rule and infrastructural deficits, refusing the austerity measures pushed by the International Monetary Fund that often come with fine-print political and economic control. Upon assuming the presidency in February 1991, Aristide and Lavalas instituted programs to promote literacy through investment in education, improve the health care system and uplift the nation’s poorest in national politics.
However, Aristide’s reforms angered Haiti’s military and elite, and represented a threat to the dominance, economic security, and political reign that the United States held and largely continues to hold over the Western hemisphere, particularly Latin America and the Caribbean. With his election came an economic embargo on the nation from the United States and a demonization campaign against Aristide to internationalize the so-called “political crisis” in Haiti. In September 1991, just eight months after assuming the presidency, Aristide was ousted in a coup orchestrated by the U.S. government in collaboration with right-wing forces on the ground in Haiti.
Again, Aristide was elected in 2000, this time winning 92 percent of the vote, but his importance to the Haitian people and the rebuilding of the nation after centuries of neo-colonial turmoil meant little to the dominance of the Western powers. Prior to his second ousting in 2004, orchestrated again by the U.S. and right-wing Haitian forces, the U.S. enacted sanctions on further international aid to Haiti, and in 2003 alone, the Bush administration invested nearly one million dollars for regime change efforts in the country. Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, the World Bank disengaged from Haiti and established conditions for re-engagement that required the Haitian government to undertake sectoral reforms.
Ironically, while Haiti was deemed to have been in a humanitarian and political crisis due to the rise of Aristide and the Fanmi Lavalas party, the nation was in fact making its first monumental strides to overcome the legacy of Western interventionism since the Haitian Revolution of 1804. The supposed motive to “spread democracy” often fronted by the White House in reality has always been, in the case of Haiti, a masked attempt to curb the threat of a force promoting Black liberation in the Caribbean. Similarly, the United Nations’ mission to “stabilize” the nation following the coups, when what was really needed was sovereign development, was in fact just a mandate to keep the peace of the graveyard.
Stop the massacres and police terror of the Jovenel Moïse dictatorship!
Three decades later, the Haitian people face remnants of the monstrous, U.S.-backed Duvalier dictatorships of both François “Papa Doc” (1957 to 1971) and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” (1971 to 1986) through paramilitary repression and political stifling supported by the ruling Moïse administration.
Under Papa Doc Duvalier, the infamous paramilitary force Tonton Macoutes or “Boogeymen”, were created to instill fear in the mass movement for democracy. Although the Tonton Macoutes were formally dissolved at the end of the Duvalier regime, today the proliferation of death-squad style repression continues to murder innocent Haitians and attempts to contain the revolutionary energy of the people.
The Moïse administration has emboldened the Haitian police, trained mostly by the United States during the military occupation following the 2004 coup, along with paramilitary forces. Impunity for crimes against humanity — namely massacres, political assassinations and sexual assault — have empowered such forces to continue to reign terror over the Haitian masses. Just this year, dozens of Haitians have been murdered at the hands of the country’s various military forces, including university student and pro-democracy activist Gregory Saint-Hilaire, who has called for opposition to the government, and Christella, one of many working-class Haitian women who has been murdered by a death squad for resisting rape. Similarly, high school student Evelyne Sincère was murdered with impunity after being kidnapped and held for ransom.
While the Moïse government has escalated its repression against the people of Haiti, the United States has similarly increased its funding for the Haitian police forces. Since 2016, the U.S. State Department has more than quadrupled its support for the Haitian National Police.
Still, the people of Haiti continue to resist in the face of government corruption and U.S. imperialist intervention. The Party for Socialism and Liberation stands in solidarity with the Haitian people to demand an end to the massacres, an end to U.S. funding of police terror, and support for the peoples’ movement for justice, democracy and sovereignty in a free Haiti.