Book Review – Truth-Telling about Nicaragua’s Long Revolution for Liberation and Democracy / By W. T. Whitney Jr.

Photo :

Daniel Kovalik, Nicaragua, a History of US Intervention & Resistance, (Clarity Press, Atlanta, 2023), ISBN; 978-1-949762-64-8,, 303 pages.

Prime minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves, speaking in Nicaragua in 2022, points out that the United States “is 350 million people [and is] the strongest military force in the world. Nicaragua is 6.2 million people, a country in Central America seeking to develop itself and its people.”

And so, “Why in God’s name, with a country so large, with so many resources, with such military strength, why would [the U.S.] want to pick on a small country like Nicaragua? I ask myself that question every day.”

Clarity Press, 2023

Peace activist and Vietnam War veteran S. Brian Willson, speaking in South Paris, Maine, on September 13, 1998, had answered the question: “This neoliberal economics, the latest stage of capitalism, does not allow for alternative political or economic ideas or values. We already knew that any country that seriously threatened our model either had to assimilate or be eliminated.”

Willson had acted. On September 1, 1987 in Oakland, California, he put himself in front of a train to prevent a weapons delivery to U.S.- backed “Contra” mercenaries fighting revolutionaries in Nicaragua. The train did not stop and Willson lost two legs.

Daniel Kovalik’s valuable new book “Nicaragua, A History of US Intervention & Resistance” demonstrates the truth of Willson’s insight. Kovalik is a labor lawyer, human rights activist and teacher, and prolific author (his other books are here).

In that summer of 1987, college student Kovalik was part of a reforestation project in Nicaragua. The Contra war was in progress, and he heard machine gun fire “nearly every night.” The suffering was “simply shocking.”  He writes that photos he took of children there “makes me want to cry.” The “Veterans Peace Convey” of humanitarian aid to Nicaragua, which he joined in 1988, was “possibly the most profound experience of my life.” Kovalik’s book is immensely appealing, not least because of personal experience that he relates.

He makes effective use of extended quotations from various reports, other histories, analyses from international agencies, and commentary from participants. Kovalik states that the object with his book was to present “the realities of U.S. intervention [in Nicaragua,] past and present,” highlight Nicaraguans’ abilities to overcome U.S. “assaults,” and promote solidarity with Nicaraguans in their struggle for self-determination.

The book’s first sections review Nicaragua’s history prior to the Sandinista National Liberation Front’s (FSLN) accession to power. It covers Tennessean William Walker’s attempt to set up his own slavocracy in 1855, U.S. Marines’ occupation of Nicaragua from 1912 to 1933, U.S. formation of Nicaragua’s oppressive National Guard, and U.S. support after 1936 for the brutal Somoza-family dictatorship. 

Kovalik reports on Augusto Cesar Sandino’s guerrilla army that fought the Marines from 1927 until their departure. He writes about the struggle of the FSLN rural insurgency after 1960 to bring down the Somoza regime. Over 50,000 Nicaraguans died in the year preceding its collapse on July 17, 1979.

Most of the book is about the FSLN in power, their electoral defeat in 1990, the U.S.-led Contra counter-revolution in the 1980s, the “Dark Days” of neoliberal rule after 1990, and the Sandinistas in power again after 2007. There are these points:

·        Until recently, the Sandinistas, originally an alliance of three factions, governed with allies including Catholic Church representatives, business leaders, capitalists, Marxists, and rural collectives.

·        Women’s lives have improved in equality, political participation, and leadership opportunities.

·        Sandinista approval ratings have remained high, even in stressful times, for example, 80% in 2018 prior to the protests of that year and up to 90% before the 2021 elections.

·        Dissent within FSLN ranks and FSLN differences with its opposition have reflected divisions between city and countryside and between intellectual callings and manual work.

·        The Catholic Church, now far removed from liberation theology, has consistently harassed the Sandinistas.

·        Kovalik inveighs against U.S. leftists who have abandoned the Sandinistas. They “claim to know better about the nature of Daniel Ortega and the FSLN than the Nicaraguan people,” he points out.

·        Sandinistas in power have accomplished much: nutritional gains, agrarian reform, food sovereignty, housing access, widespread electrification, increased literacy, more jobs, youth programs, universal access to schools and healthcare, infrastructure improvements, and lowered mortality rates.

Until 2020 or so, far fewer Nicaraguans were migrating north than were the peoples of other Central American countries. Their reduced numbers testify to the benefits of change in Nicaragua.

Kovalik finishes his book with a look at the interplay of recent anti-government protests, harsh penalties exacted by the government, and mounting criticism of the FSLN government by sectors of the U.S. and European left.

Anti-government protests with street actions and barricades prevailed in mid-2018. In his afterword that concludes Kovalik’s book, Orlando Zelaya Olivas indicates that 198 civilians and 22 police officers were murdered. Mainstream news reports uniformly blamed the police for killing peaceful demonstrators. The truth was otherwise.

Kovalik, citing sources, shows that the protesters had been paid and prepared, that many had criminal records, that snipers rather than the police did most of the killing, and that lethal violence continued even after the police were withdrawn. These were fake protests programmed toward destabilization and eventually a coup.

Kovalik shows the U.S. hand in creating turmoil. The U.S. government had funded opposition NGOs, youth groups, religious organizations, and dissidents who included former Sandinistas. U.S. agents and funding were behind the anti-government messaging on social media that played a prominent role. 

Nicaragua’s government arrested and jailed many of those who in 2018 had violated laws against terrorist activities and against unauthorized service to a foreign government. In June 2019, the government amnestied hundreds of those caught up in the coup attempt. Dozens of jailed coup plotters were released on promising that they would no longer conspire against the government.

Criticism exploded again in 2021 after those who had promised to give up on plotting were imprisoned again on grounds that they were aiming to destabilize upcoming elections. Kovalik states that, “the first duty of a Revolution is to defend itself, for if it cannot meet this most essential goal, it obviously cannot serve and defend the people as they deserve.”

There was the added element of the imprisonments supposedly constituting interference in the elections of November 7, 2021 that gave Daniel Ortega a fourth consecutive presidential term.

Writing from Nicaragua, Stephen Sefton explains that the jailed opposition leaders were not opposition candidates. The political opposition in 2011 had split into regular political parties and “an extra-parliamentary opposition based in local NGOs.” The latter sector had “mounted the violent, US designed coup attempt” of 2018 and were arrested according to Nicaraguan Law. The opposition’s contending political parties had no part in planning a coup in 2021, according to Sefton

After Daniel Kovalik’s book was published, solidarity with the Sandinistas took a big hit. On February 9, 2023, the government released 222 prisoners, mostly those who had been arrested in 2021. It expelled all but a few to the United States. The government took away their citizenship and that of a 100 or so others, and confiscated their properties. Criticism has resounded, for example, from the Economist magazine, the United Nations, to the left-leaning Colombian government.

Taking away someone’s citizenship surely is an extraordinary step, certainly in the United States, and only slightly less so in the U.K. The grounds would be treason. A rationale for such a judgment emerges out of Kovalik’s book.

One imagines a favored few in Nicaragua who are oblivious to decades of U.S. military attacks, violence, pay-offs, trickery and manipulations. They spurned the government’s long efforts at collaboration and coalition building. One equally imagines the grief attending decades of popular resistance against the U.S.-backed dictatorship and, afterwards, the U.S.-backed opposition.

What’s left is desperation, especially what with population elements who reject the idea of justice and dignity for all Nicaraguans and who once more are shown to be dependent on the U.S. government. Meanwhile, U.S. economic sanctions are non-stop.

The book’s basic point is that rescue and recovery of oppressed, marginalized, and poor Nicaraguans have required a very long process. It’s no wonder that some counterparts today of Tom Paine’s “summer soldier and the sunshine patriot” have dropped out.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

Indigenous rebellion continues as post-coup Peruvian government flounders / By William T. Whitney Jr.

Anti-government protesters chant slogans against Peru’s President Dina Boluarte, on the shore of lake Titicaca in Puno, Peru, Tuesday, March 7. | Juan Karita / AP

Revived democratic struggle in Peru is well along into a second act. There was the parliamentary coup on Dec. 7 that removed democratically-elected President Pedro Castillo and the “First Taking of Lima” in mid-January, when embittered and excluded Peruvians occupied Lima and faced violent repression. Then, on March 1, protests renewed as the Indigenous inhabitants of Peru’s extreme southern regions prepared once more to demonstrate in Lima and would shortly be protesting in their own regions.

The resistance’s make-up was fully on display.

Protesters throughout Peru were rejecting a replacement president and an elite-dominated congress and calling for early elections and a new constitution. They belonged for the most part belonged to Aymara communities in districts south of Lima extending from Lake Titicaca both west and northeast, into the Andes region.

Their complaints centered on wealth inequities, rule by a Lima-based elite, inadequate means for decent lives, and non-recognition of their cultural autonomy. Their support and that of other rural Peruvians had brought about the surprise election to Peru’s presidency in 2021 of the inexperienced Pedro Castillo. He had defeated Keiko Fujimori, daughter of a now imprisoned dictator and favorite of Peru’s neo-liberal enablers.

By March 1, residents of provinces close to the city of Puno were arriving in Lima to carry out the so-called “Second Wave of the Taking of Lima.” Demanding the de facto President Dina Boluarte resign, as of March 4 protesters had not been able to break through police lines surrounding key government buildings. The main action, however, was going on in the epicenter of police and military repression ever since Boluarte had taken office on Dec. 7.

That would be the Puno area, where most of the 60 deaths caused by violent repression have occurred, with 19 protesters having been killed on Jan. 9 in Juliaca, a town 27 miles north of Puno city.

On March 5, violence was again playing out in Juli, a town 58 miles south of Puno, also on the shore of Lake Titicaca. Demonstrations along with roadblocks were in progress throughout the extended region, all in sympathy with the concurrent protests in Lima. Involved were Indigenous groups, small farmer organizations, and social movements.

In July, the demonstrators, confronted by military units and police in civilian dress, set fire to judicial office buildings and the police headquarters. The troops fired, shots came from open windows, and tear gas was released from a helicopter; 18 demonstrators were wounded.

Demonstrators blocking a bridge over a river prevented the entry of troops into the nearby town of Llave. Rains had caused flooding and in the process of swimming across the river, one of them drowned and five others disappeared.

Protesters captured 12 soldiers; community leader Nilo Colque indicated they were released after they admitted to trying to break the “strikes” but that they too opposed the military’s actions. Colque predicted that soon 30,000 Aymaras would be descending on Juli and nearby population centers.

Aymara activists in Llave announced a strike of indefinite duration. A “committee of struggle” in Cusco announced the beginning as of March 7 of an indefinite strike in 10 provinces. The president of the national “Rondas Campesinas” (peasant patrols), said to represent two million Peruvians in all, announced a big march on Lima from all regions set for March 13.

Meanwhile, Peru’s chief prosecutor has embarked upon an investigation of President Boluarte and other officials for crimes of “genocide, homicide resulting from circumstances, and causing serious injury,” that allegedly took place mostly in southern regions in the weeks immediately after her taking office.

There are these other developments:

  • Peru’s Supreme Court on March 3 heard proposal that the “preventive imprisonment of ex-President Castillo be extended from 18 to 36 months. Another court had previously denied his appeal for habeas corpus.
  • The Congress as of March 6looked to be on the verge of, for the fourth time, refusing to advance new presidential elections from April 2024 to sometime in 2013.
  • The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has released a preliminary report accusing the new Peruvian government of excessive use of force against protesters.
  • Polling results currently go one way: 77% of Peruvians reject the Dina Boluarte government, 70% say she should resign, 90% denounce Peru’s Congress. 69% favor moving general elections ahead to 2023, and 58% support the demonstrations. Most of those making up these majorities live in rural areas, according to the report.

The opposing sides in the Peruvian conflict are stalemated. Powerbrokers presently lack a government capable—willing though it may be—of providing structure and organization adequate for protecting their political and economic interests.

Marginalized Peruvians are without any effective historical experience from which revolutionary leadership and strategies might have developed, such that now they might have direction and focus. The people’s movement there is not as lucky as its counterparts were in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

Now, the U.S. government meddles with this state of precarious balance in Peru. And not surprisingly: it has long intruded militarily and is competing with China economically.

Speaking on March 1, State Department Ned Price did insist that in Peru, “our diplomats do not take sides in political disputes … They recognize that these are sovereign decisions.” He added that the United States backs “Peru’s constitution and Peru’s constitutional processes.”

But political intervention was on the agenda already. Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols on February 28 urged Peru’s Congress to expedite early elections and Peru’s president to promptly end the crisis caused by ex-President Castillo’s “self-coup”—whatever that was.

People’s World has an enormous challenge ahead of it—to raise $200,000 from readers and supporters in 2023, including $125,000 during the Fund Drive, which runs Feb. 1 to May 1.

Please donate to help People’s World reach our $200,000 goal. We appreciate whatever you can donate: $5, $10, $25, $50, $100, or more.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

People’s World, March 9, 2023

Bolivia’s socialist government confronts separatist, racist uprising / by W. T. Whitney Jr.

A banner reads ‘2023 census now!’ at a blockade on a Santa Cruz street. | via Twitter

With the exception of a coup-government interregnum in 2019-2021, the Movement Toward Socialism political party (MAS) has headed Bolivia’s government since the beginning of Evo Morales’s presidency in 2006.

The MAS government now led by President Luis Arce and Vice President David Choquehuanca announced on July 12 that its every-ten-year Population and Housing Census would be moved from November 16, 2022, to sometime in 2024.

Spokespersons attributed the change to difficulties left over from the pandemic, a need for translations into indigenous languages, uncertain financial resources, and extra time required for “technical” changes.

Leaders of the Santa Cruz department in Bolivia’s eastern lowlands, the nation’s largest, immediately demanded a census in 2023, not in 2024. Department governor Luis Camacho and Rómulo Calvo, president of the Santa Cruz Civic Committee, warned that without a settlement on the census, they would initiate a strike aimed at undoing the department’s economy, and thereby the national economy.

In response, “over one million Bolivians mobilized” on Aug. 25 in support of the government and against a regional leadership group that is the vanguard of opposition to Bolivia’s socialist and indigenous-led government. Even so, the strike began on Oct. 22. Recent Bolivian history suggests another coup may be in the offing.

Why a seemingly routine piece of government business like staging a census might provoke momentous consequences is not obvious. A look at expectations attached to Bolivia’s census and at the nature of Santa Cruz politics may clarify.

Census results help to determine the national distribution of government-provided services and resources and are the basis for each department’s representation in the national Legislative Assembly. Opposition forces in Santa Cruz see operation of the national census, as presently constituted, as beneficial to their side, particularly for the national elections of 2025.

They see advantage in the increased numbers of indigenous peoples migrating recently from Bolivia’s poverty-stricken highlands to economically-resourced Santa Cruz. That advantage rests on indigenous peoples showing up on the census with an identity other than indigenous.

The national census in 2012 fueled controversy when it showed that many indigenous people identify themselves as mestizo and not as belonging to a particular indigenous nation. That was encouraging to the reactionary and racist Santa Cruz leaders, who have no enthusiasm for increased indigenous representation in the national legislative assembly.

The Arce government, by contrast, objects to an undercount of indigenous people and especially in the eastern lowland departments, where their numbers are increasing.

The category of mestizo did not appear in the census of 2012 and is not part of the census in dispute now. The Santa Cruz leaders are insisting that that mestizo identity be incorporated into the census. Expert advice was sought in 2012 and the Arce government is now proposing the same.

The peculiarities of Santa Cruz are central to this story. For one thing, Bolivia’s four easternmost departments, particularly Santa Cruz, produce most of Bolivia’s wealth. Santa Cruz is home to industrial-scale agricultural operations and to facilities for oil and natural gas production. This lowland region accounts for most of Bolivia’s export income.

The realities are these: Santa Cruz alone accounts for 76% of the country’s food production, for all of its sorghum and sunflower oil production, 99% of its soy products, 92% of its sugar cane, 75% of its wheat, 72% of its rice, and 66% of its corn. In 2021, farmers owned 4.6 million head of cattle, over a million pigs, and 130 million chickens.

Among departments, Santa Cruz consumes 39% of the country’s diesel fuel and contains the bulk of Bolivia’s natural gas reserves, which rate as South America’s second largest. The Financial Times lauds the Santa Cruz economy’s explosive growth and large foreign investments. It mentions Santa Cruz city as one of the world’s fastest growing urban areas.

Also relevant to the strike story is the reactionary and racist nature of opposition leaders in Santa Cruz. They are utilizing the department’s “Civic Committee” to organize the strike and the Union of Santa Cruz Youth to carry out violent, paramilitary-style street actions. Gov. Luis Camacho formerly headed the Santa Cruz Civic Committee.

The civic committees of all departments originated decades ago in response to national-regional tensions. Members of formerly eastern European families, some of them big landowners, belong to the Santa Cruz civic committee. Many brought fascist ideology with them when they immigrated to Bolivia after World War II.

At the last of three big gatherings in Santa Cruz, Camacho on Sept. 30 announced the start on Oct. 22 of an anti-government strike of “indefinite” duration. In operation, the strike has led to barriers being placed across major highways to impede exports and in-country deliveries of commodities, mainly food. Strike leaders have forced key factories and commercial centers to shut down.

The Youth Union and other thugs have carried out anti-government demonstrations and fought in the streets against MAS party supporters and the national police. There have been injuries, human rights violations, and one death. The strike has had little impact in the other eastern departments.

With a presence at border crossings, the strikers have sharply reduced the transit of exported goods. Government authorities on Oct. 27, anticipating domestic food shortages, banned all exports from Santa Cruz of soy products, beef, sugar, and vegetable oil.

The government and MAS activists organized a rally and march by hundreds of thousands of people before the strike began, and another on the day after. In La Paz on Oct. 26, confrontation between government supporters and an opposition march left 20 persons wounded.

The government on Oct. 25 held a “Pluri-national Encuentro for a Census with Consensus.” Officials from throughout the country attended. A proposal emerged that would enable a technical commission to determine a date for the national census.

Camacho rejected it, but opposition leaders Rómulo Calvo and Vicente Cuellar accepted the proposal. In an interview, Camacho asserted that federalism remains the only solution to the “fissure” present since the “founding of the Republic.”

On Nov. 1, President Arce, referring to threats to “national integrity,” called upon military leaders “to guarantee and defend the independence, unity, and integrity of our territory.” A presidential spokesperson indicated that Arce favored new negotiations with no established date for the census and without conditions.

Events in Santa Cruz align with a grim history. President Evo Morales’s accession to power in 2006 was a culmination of old indigenous resistance against European colonialists and of recent pushback against neoliberal assaults inflicted by local enablers of U.S. and European ruling-class objectives.

Social gains achieved by the MAS-led government and its program of modest wealth distribution seemed to cement its place in history and certainly inflamed the animosities of reactionaries in Santa Cruz and nationally.

As a new constitution was being shaped—it was approved in 2009—Santa Cruz and its neighboring eastern departments staged a separatist revolt fueled by racism. A failed assassination plot against Morales in 2008 was part of it. During this period, the Morales government expelled a U.S. ambassador and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

The U.S. government and the Organization of American States, serving the United States, facilitated the coup that removed the Morales government in 2019 after his election to a fourth term. Luis Camacho of Santa Cruz led the coup and reportedly delivered the U.S. moneys used in various payoffs. Bolivia’s military participated.

The president of the coup government, Jeanine Áñez, is now in prison, in part because of human rights abuses and killings by soldiers during her tenure.

The current MAS-led government came into existence in 2020 following the first-round electoral victory of Arce and Choquehuanca. Its approval rating currently is 51%. The present strike has set back governmental efforts to restore a national economy devastated by the coup government’s neoliberal reforms and by pandemic effects.

Arce, reporting to the Legislative Assembly on Nov. 8, indicated that “We have complete certainty that our people are fully behind us and that they recognize a national patriotic government that looks out for the national welfare, which stands above sectarian and regional interests.” He observed that “in times of crisis, it’s always the poor that end up losing more, or losing everything.”

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

People’s World, November 10, 2022,

U.S. eyes military intervention in Haiti, again / by W.T. Whitney Jr.

Protesters calling for the resignation of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry run after police fired tear gas to disperse them in the Delmas area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Oct. 10, 2022. | Odelyn Joseph / AP

The news story begins: “The Council of Ministers [on October 8 in Haiti] authorized the prime minister to seek the presence in the country of a specialized military force in order to end the humanitarian crisis provoked by insecurity caused by gangs and their sponsors.”

The circumstances are these:

Masses of Haitians have been in the streets protesting intermittently since August. Their grievances are high costs—thanks to the International Monetary Fund—and shortages of food and fuel. Banks and stores are closed. Students are demonstrating. Labor unions have been on strike.

The pattern has continued intermittently for ten years. Pointing to corruption, demonstrators have called for the removal, in succession, of Presidents Michel Martelly and Jovenel Moïse, and now de facto prime minister Ariel Henry.

Recently, violence has aggravated the situation, and foreign powers, including the United States, have paid attention. That’s significant because U.S military interventions and other kinds of U.S. intrusions have worked to trash Haiti’s national sovereignty, and, with an assist from Haiti’s elite, deprive ordinary people of control of their lives.

Presently, 40% of Haitians are food insecure. Some 4.9 million of them (43%) need humanitarian assistance. Life expectancy at birth is 63.7 years. Haiti’s poverty rate is 58.5%, with 73.5% of adult Haitians living on less than $5.50 per day.

Electoral politics is fractured. It was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who arranged for Martelly to be a presidential candidate in 2011. Moïse in 2017 was the choice of 600,000 voters—out of six million eligible citizens. He illegally extended his presidential term by a year. As of now, there have been no presidential elections for six years, no elected mayors or legislators in office for over a year, and no scheduled elections ahead.

Washington’s man: De facto Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry holds power, even though he wasn’t elected. Some believe he may have been involved in the murder of the previous president and now he’s seeking U.S. troops to stem protests against his government. | Odelyn Joseph / AP

Gangs mushroomed in recent years, and violence has worsened. Moïse’s election in 2017 prompted turf wars, competing appeals to politicians, narcotrafficking, kidnappings, and deadly violence in most cities, predominately in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Violence escalated further after Moise’s murder in July 2021. Hundreds have been killed and thousands displaced, wounded, or kidnapped.

The U.S. Global Fragility Act of 2019 authorizes multi-agency intervention in “fragile” countries like Haiti, the U.S. military being one such agency designated to do the intervening. The influential Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) wants U.S. soldiers instructing Haitian police on handling gangs. Luis Almagro, head of the Organization of American States, calls for military occupation. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres wants international support for training Haitian police.

Former U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote weighs in with a choice: Either “send a company of special forces trainers to teach the police and set up an anti-gang task force, or send 25,000 troops at some undetermined but imminent period in the future.” The Dominican Republic has stationed troops at its border with Haiti and calls for international military intervention.

Meanwhile, foreign actors intrude as Haitians try to reconstruct a government. Their tool is the Core Group, formed in 2004 following the U.S.-led coup against progressive Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The Core Group consists of the ambassadors of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the United States, and representatives of the United Nations and Organization of American States.

Haiti’s government is now in the hands of Ariel Henry, whom the Core Group approved as acting prime minister, overruling Moïse’s choice made before he died. Some believe Henry, a U.S. government favorite, may even be complicit in Moïse’s murder.

Henry insists he will arrange for presidential elections at some point in the future. Prevailing opinion, however, holds that conditions don’t favor elections any time soon.

The Core Group backs an important agreement announced by the so-called Montana Group on Aug. 30, 2021. It provides for a National Transition Council that would prepare for national elections in two years and govern the country in the meantime. The Council in January 2022 chose banker Fritz Jean as transitional president and former senator Steven Benoit as prime minister. They have still not assumed those jobs.

The Montana Group consists of “civil society organizations and powerful political figures,” plus representatives of political parties in Haiti. One leader of the Group is Magali Comeau Denis, who allegedly participated in the U.S-organized coup that removed Aristide in 2004. Henry also has a connection to coup-plotting, having worked with the Democratic Convergence that in 2000 was already planning the overthrow of Aristide.

The CFR wants the U.S. government to persuade Henry to join the Montana Group’s transition process. U.S. Envoy Foote supports the Montana agreement because it shows off Haitians acting on their own. Recently, some member organizations have defected, among them the right-wing PHTK Party of Henry and of Presidents Martelly and Moïse.

The weakness of Haiti’s government in the face of dictates from abroad was on display during Moïse’s era. The perpetrators of his murder, who had been recruited by a Florida-based military contractor, were 26 Colombian paramilitaries and two Haitian-Americans. Their motives remain unclear, and there is no apparent movement toward a trial.

Moïse, the wealthy head of an industrial-scale agricultural operation, became president through fraudulent elections in 2017. He was the target of massive protests a year later. Prompting them were fuel and food shortages and revelations that the president and others had stolen billions of dollars from the fund created through the Venezuela’s PetroCaribe program of cheap oil for Caribbean nations.

Foreign governments, the United States in particular, may now be on the verge of intervening in Haiti. But the ostensible pretext—gang violence—turns out to be muddled. Progressive Haitian academic and economist Camille Chalmers makes the point. He claims that “gangsterism” in Haiti actually serves U.S. purposes.

Interviewed in May 2022, Chalmers explains that the “principal [U.S.] objective is to block the process of social mobilization, to impede all real political participation … through these antidemocratic methods, through force using the police … and above all these paramilitary bands.” Terror is useful for “breaking the social fabric, ties of trust, and any possible resistance process.”

By means of gang violence, the Haitian people “are removed from any political role, and the economic project of plundering resources from the country is facilitated.” Also, Haiti becomes “an appendage of the interests of the North Americans and Europeans.” Chalmers refers to gold deposits on Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic and big investments by multinational corporations.

He sees a bond between reactionary elements in Haiti and the gangs. The gangs “have financing and weapons that come from the United States. Many of their leaders are Haitians who have been repatriated by the United States.”

A U.S. Army soldier arrests a Haitian man during the U.S. military occupation following the overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Oct. 3, 1994. | John Gaps III / AP

Within this framework, Haiti’s police must be ready and able to fight the gangs in order to achieve maximum turmoil. The U.S. government provided Haiti’s police with $312 million in weapons and training between 2010 and 2020, and with $20 million in 2021. The State Department contributed $28 million for SWAT training in July. As of 2019, there were illegal arms in Haiti worth half-a-million dollars, mostly from the United States.

In view of U.S. tolerance or even support of the gangs, the zeal to suppress them now is a mystery. Perhaps some gangs have changed their colors and now really do pose danger to U.S. interests.

The so-called “G-9 Family and Allies,” an alliance of armed neighborhood groups led by former policeman Jimmy Cherizier, may qualify. Not only has it emerged as the Haitian gang most capable of destabilization, but the words “Revolutionary Forces” are a new part of its name.

Cherizier observed in 2021 that, “the country has been controlled by a small group of people who decide everything …They put guns into the poor neighborhoods for us to fight with one another for their benefit.” He noted that, “We have to overturn the whole system, where 12 families have taken the nation hostage.” That system “is not good, stinks, and is corrupt.”

Referring to a mural depicting Che Guevara, Cherizier declared, “we made that mural, and we intend to make murals of other figures like … Thomas Sankara and … Fidel Castro, to depict people who have engaged in struggle.”

These are words of social revolution suggestive of the kind of political turn that repeatedly has prompted serious U.S. reaction. Beyond that, the words of Haitian journalist Jean Waltès Bien-Aimé represent for Washington officials the worst kind of nightmare.

He told People’s Dispatch: “Activation of gangs is part of a strategy to prevent Haitian people from taking to the streets.” He scorns Ariel Henry “as a present from the U.S. embassy,” adding that the “Haitian people do not need a leader at the moment. Haitian people need a socialist state … We have a bourgeois state. What we need now is a people’s state.”

In the background are U.S. racist attitudes. They flourished initially as a consequence of the slavery system’s central role in developing the U.S. economy. They still show up, it seems, as discomfort with the ideas of formerly enslaved Haitians gaining autonomy and securing independence for their own nation.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

Peoples World, October 12, 2022,