Haiti in the Caribbean: A political economy perspective on the urgent crisis of imperialism / by Tamanisha J. John

Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, and former president Bill Clinton at opening of garment factory in Haiti on October 22, 2012 (Photo: Getty Pool)

Originally published in Black Agenda Report on November 23, 2022

Often, when you mention Haiti in conversation and the anti-imperial struggle that has consistently been waged by the Haitian people against imperialist forces for centuries, you are met with minor acknowledgement and some confusion by the listener. Even in cases where there are those who understand Haiti’s battle against imperialist interventions and incursions—many people are still unclear about: “why Haiti.” This is especially true in the present, where there exists a propagandized belief that there are no broader imperialist aspirations in the Caribbean, insofar as those interests cannot be tied to interests in Latin America, and especially to Cuba.  Persistent myths about Haiti and confusion about the nature of politics in the Caribbean have allowed systematic investigations into (neo) imperial enterprises in the broader region to go largely uninvestigated. This is all at the peril of failing to contextualize sustained foreign meddling in the Caribbean region and the consistent need by those forces for sustained violence to maintain their dominant position.

On November 10th, 2022 I was invited by the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) Haiti/Americas Team to participate as a panelist on a teach-in webinar discussing the urgent crisis of imperialism in Haiti. Although my invitation on the panel was to focus on the role of states like Jamaica in helping to facilitate imperialism and persistent intervention in Haiti, I spent a major part of my own analysis discussing “Why Haiti.’” This is because unlike most states in the Caribbean region—Haiti stands out as one that not only had a revolution, but one in which the rights and freedoms for all Black people were guaranteed. This is quite different from other states like Jamaica, for instance, whose radical and revolutionary fervor were cut short or co-opted by liberal reformists. Co-opted revolutionary defeat in the states which this occurred, has made those states’ exploitation amenable to strong political rhetoric and sustained conservative governance, especially as it relates to security. With a revolutionary history less forgiving towards co-option, Haiti poses a constant threat to European and Anglosphere economic and ideological investments and interests in the region. The analysis below comes from an extended version of my discussion on that day.

Today, there is an ongoing narrative—largely popularized by Europe and the Anglosphere (referred to collectively as “the West” from here on)—that Haiti is poor and that nothing good is in or comes out of Haiti. This lie is so persistent, that many people do not know that Haiti is the manufacturing hub in the Caribbean—and that Haiti continues to compete against countries in Asia for foreign corporations to set up shop to exploit cheap labor. While the manufacturing and assembly line exploitation in Asia are made much more readily available by Western media sources, less widely recognized is how these same exploitations also happen systematically in Haiti, perpetuated by foreign corporations and co-signed by local elites and political puppeteers to those interests. Component parts are shipped from the U.S. and Canada for assembly in Haiti, as finished products are reimported back to these developed countries, essentially duty-free, with a small charge or tax on the cheap labor used in Haiti.

This is expressly stated in U.S. tariff code 807, whereby in the 1980s, “the major part of the total duty-free content of item 807.00 imports from the principal Caribbean countries [included] almost 80 percent for the Dominican Republic, 60 percent for Haiti, and more than 90 percent for Costa Rica and Jamaica” (U.S. International Trade Commission, 1970). This same sort of exploitative trade policy that screws over workers also expresses itself in deals like NAFTA, wherein U.S. HTS 9802.00.80 allows for “a reduction in duties for articles assembled abroad in whole or in part of U.S. components” (U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 2014). Thus, when examining Haiti, what you essentially have is a nearby site in the Americas with cheap and exploited labor, that must remain so for external interests. Or, as Democratic representative William J. Green III stated in 1970, “item 807 merely promotes a competition between Hong Kong and Haiti for lower wage labor to serve this market—without building markets worldwide” (House of Representatives).

The distance to Haiti for states like Canada and the U.S. makes the costs of doing certain kinds of business cheaper there than in Asia. So, when popular talking points such as “Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas” are repeated—it is imperative to understand that what is really going on is that Haiti is made to have the lowest wages in the Americas, because Haiti is—and there is interests in keeping Haiti–the most exploited manufacturing hub in the Americas. It is not accidental that prior to the onset of the Global COVID-19 pandemic, Haiti was being touted as the future “manufacturing Taiwan of the Caribbean” due to the impacts of the 2010 Earthquake and the worsening of the cholera epidemic in the country due to UN intervention. Part of that potential—it is admitted—lay in the fact that Haiti is seen as “a low-wage economy lying just south of the huge U.S. market and just north of the emerging economies of Latin America” (Edwards, 2015). Not ironically pushing this narrative are the same corporate entities which have made Taiwan, in the present, a supplier of military and security gear to Haiti to suppress protests (Blanchard, 2022).

In order to maintain this situation and to strengthen aspirations for a continuous site of cheap exploitation, Haiti is the most intervened-in country in the hemisphere. Worst yet, when we consider interventions into Haiti by Canada, for example, we see how it has been enabled by Haiti’s own neighbors like Jamaica. In the 1990s when Aristide was first ousted from Haiti by a CIA-backed coup d’etat, weapons sent into Haiti from apartheid South Africa landed in Kingston first. After the second coup d’etat against Aristide in 2004, weapons sent to Haiti from South Africa yet again landed in Jamaica before being sent to Haiti—highlighting the crucial role of Jamaica as an arms shipment site into Haiti (BBC Caribbean, 2004).This reality is due to conservative governance in Jamaica which allies with Western imperialisms in its history of revolutionary suppression and liberal co-option. After all, it was Jamaican politicians who agreed to aid the U.S. in its invasion of Grenada in 1983—so it is not surprising that it was also Jamaica who, in the 1990s, pushed the call for multinational forces in Haiti after the coup. Today it is in Jamaica where Canada has its “Latin America and the Caribbean” military base, which specifies Haiti as a site for military intervention while using seaports and airports in Jamaica’s capital as its staging post.

While it is easy to dismiss Jamaica as a counterrevolutionary force in the region, understanding why Jamaica’s role is this way matters. The Jamaican Defense Forces were created in the interest of Western Capitalist Imperialisms in the Caribbean region, helping to stop Black rebellions and alleged burgeoning communisms. Shortly after independence, Jamaica allowed states like Canada to conduct espionage operations from Kingston against Cuba, Venezuela, Haiti, and other countries in which the West had a fear of growing communism or socialism (Maloney, 1988). Jamaica’s proximity to states like Haiti and Cuba has made it a strong historical, and present, ally of Western security objectives in the region, whereby Jamaica gets the most amount of military and security funding from external donors in the Caribbean. This is also why Jamaica’s security doctrine and mandates, including its stance on Haiti, are beholden to Western interests. While there is some nuance in this very brief and quick history, it helps to contextualize the present-day actions of Jamaica—as well as CARICOM (The Caribbean Community Market) as a whole. CARICOM’s stance on security actions cannot be discussed outside of the fact that 52% of its security funding, thus its security objectives and goals, are externally determined (Hoffman, 2020).

Jamaica, and other CARICOM states, while having the ability to espouse activist rhetoric often times are tied in the kinds of ensuing governmental actions that can be taken. While Haiti is exploited due to its resistance against imperialism, other countries in the region are subservient to Western capital and other elite interests which purport an unattainable dream of development—so long as they stay in their exploitable or minor reform friendly positions. After all, it was during Manley’s administration that Jamaica spied on its more radical regional neighbors. And it is during times of conservative governance where Jamaica experiences an increase in security funding, aids, and grants (the difference in this type of Western support is most clearly illustrated in comparing external support that Manley got versus Seaga).

Jamaica’s security history and its acceptance of a Canadian military base in its country (OSH-LAC), makes its political class a willing participant in ensuring Haiti remains under western occupation. Thus, when Canada calls on CARICOM to intervene in Haiti, we can expect Jamaica to be a leading force in that intervention—unless our opposition to it is vocal, as our understanding of the ‘why’ becomes clearer.

Tamanisha J. John is an Assistant Professor of International Political Economy in Clark Atlanta University’s Political Science Department. She studies Caribbean development, sovereignty and politics, as well as economic imperialism, financial exclusion, and corporate power.

MRonline, November, 28, 2022, https://mronline.org/

No to U.S. intervention in Haiti! / by CPUSA Peace & Solidarity Commission

Image:  U.S. Marines patrol Port-au-Prince after 2004 coup, U.S. Airforce, Wikimedia

Once again the major corporate media, including the New York Times and Washington Post, call for military intervention in Haiti. Yet one would have to search painstakingly to find when these bastions of the “free press” last opposed sending the U.S. war machine or its proxies into another country. Or for evidence that Haitians are looking for yet another military intervention.

Economic and political chaos, gang violence, massive inflation on top of terrible long-term economic deterioration, shortages of necessities, and cholera — brought into Haiti by a militarized United Nations peace-keeping Force that has taken up to 30,000 lives — continue to rage: “Of Haiti’s 11.4 million people, 4.6 million are food insecure and 70% are unemployed.”

Despite these hardships there is no evidence that Haitians, aside from some of its tiny ruling class and unelected prime minister Ariel Henry, installed by the U.S. and its allied outside forces, consider another invasion beneficial.

To the contrary, working-class Haitians have been constantly demonstrating against unrepresentative governments, against U.S. support for them, against more foreign intervention, and against gang violence that often has the support of the same governments. Past interventions have replaced coordinated government services with a variety of nongovernmental organizations.

Indeed, it’s long overdue that the U.S. end its repeated, historically destructive, anti-democratic interventions into the affairs of Haiti: “In the view of most scholars, the problems in Haiti are not due to internal problems, they are due to the ongoing role of foreign interference, primarily by the U.S.” U.S. policies are not responsible for the catastrophic earthquakes and hurricanes that have befallen Haiti, but they preclude Haitian’s ability to prepare, recover, and rebuild. “Hands Off Haiti!” makes more sense to Haitians and to all of us showing solidarity with the Haitian people.

Because enslaved Black Haitians dared to free themselves and secure their independence from France through revolution in the early 19th century, France then blockaded Haiti militarily and extorted Haitians to hand over much of their national treasury for over a century to pay for their own freedom.

A century ago, U.S. imperialism replaced the French version. The U.S. invaded Haiti in 1914 with Marines, stole the assets of the Haitian National Bank, and invaded again in 1915. Troops remained, slaughtered Haitian resisters, and introduced Jim Crow policies that engendered a light-skinned, elite ruling bourgeoisie, until 1934. U.S. banks took over Haitian “debt” to France and profited handsomely on the interest. Subsequently, the U.S. supported a series of autocrats and then propped up the two Duvalier dictatorships for three decades.

After Haiti’s first truly democratic elections in December 1990, the U.S. overthrew the two landslide victories of the democratically elected Jean Bertrand Aristide governments. First, in 1991, while imposing devastating neoliberal economic programs that included the demolition of Haitian rice farming when the Clinton administration forced Haiti to import subsidized rice, which buried Haiti’s ability to feed itself; and again in 2004 after wreaking havoc by blocking all international aid to Haiti. Following the earthquake of 2010 U.S. troops invaded yet again while 99% of U.S. aid money returned to the U.S.

Most recently, evidence points the finger at U.S. allies for assassinating the highly unpopular, U.S.-backed President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. The U.S. continues to support his unelected, and also highly unpopular, successor, Ariel Henry, who is implicated in the 1991 coup and the Moïse assassination. Unsurprisingly, he calls for military intervention.

This past September, Velina E. Charlier, representing the anti-corruption group Nou Pap Dòmi, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee:

The policy of the international community and the United States towards Haiti has been a constant for years and has not changed. It has always followed a paternalistic and interventionist approach that often fails to serve the best interests of the Haitian people. Through its embassy in Port-au-Prince, the United States has continued to support leaders who have emerged from fraudulent elections or corrupt governments that have lost all popular legitimacy. The general impression of the population is that the United States does not listen to the Haitian people and only sides with the leaders who obey them.

The U.S. handles Haitian immigrants with policies no less despicable than the ones aimed at those living on the island.

In September 2021, Daniel Foote resigned two months after President Joe Biden appointed him U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti, citing “inhumane, counterproductive” treatment of Haitian migrants along the U.S. southern border. “The people of Haiti, mired in poverty, hostage to the terror, kidnappings, robberies and massacres of armed gangs and suffering under a corrupt government with gang alliances, simply cannot support the forced infusion of thousands of returned migrants lacking food, shelter, and money without additional, avoidable human tragedy,” Foote wrote.

It is clear that imperialism emanating early on from France but later and continuing today from the U.S. has stifled Haitians’ demands that they control their own destiny without foreign interference. Although U.S. imperialism has invaded many countries to overthrow their governments, prevent democracy, and seize the wealth of populations, a majority of whom are people of color, its treatment of Haiti represents a particularly vicious form of racism. U.S. imperialism is telling the world that it will not allow descendants of African slaves, who successfully threw off slavery and defeated a European power, to secure sovereignty and self-rule.

The CPUSA supports the demand that France repay the financial tribute it militarily forced Haitians to pay for over a century. We support the demand that the United States pay reparations to Haitians for its century-long interventions. We support the demand to end the tyranny of U.S. imperialism: No foreign intervention, no troops, no sanctions, no coercion.

Haitians shall determine their own future!

Hands off Haiti! Now and forever!

People’s World, November 7, 2022, https://www.cpusa.org/

Open Letter to Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), on the need to Support Haitian Sovereignty / by Black Alliance for Peace Haiti/Americas Team

Protest at White House on October 9, 2022 (Photo: Twitter @GordonTWhitman)

An Open Letter to Her Excellency, Dr. Carla Natalie Barnett Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), on the need to Support Haitian Sovereignty

This letter was originally published on the Black Alliance for Peace website.

Dear Dr. Barnett: 

On September 19, 2022, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) issued a short statement expressing grave concern about worsening conditions in Haiti and pressing for “urgent and immediate attention from the international community.” In light of CARICOM’s more direct engagement in Haitian affairs in recent months, we call on your organization to respect Haitian sovereignty and to support the Haitian masses in their stand against the ongoing occupation of their country by foreign powers. Despite the erroneous representation of the current protests in Haiti as simply “gang violence,” the latest demonstrations are a direct result of two factors. First, they are a response to the everyday economic misery caused by rising inflation, especially through the staggering increase in the price of fuel. Second, they are part of a long history of demands for the end of foreign meddling in Haitian affairs, especially via the installation and maintenance of an unelected and illegitimate government by the Core Group, of which the United Nations is a part. 

We applaud your concern for Haiti. We have also noted the support your member nations have given to Caribbean and Latin American self-determination. For this reason, we would like to remind CARICOM members that the U.S., Canada, France, and other Western countries, along with the Core Group, and UN missions such as MINUSTAH, are directly responsible for the current conditions in Haiti. Attempting to solve the current crisis in Haiti through a dialogue between unelected and illegitimate Haitian “stakeholders” will not be successful. It will only serve the needs of non-Haitians.

We share with you the words of a coalition of Haitian grassroots organizations explaining the main reason for the currency protests: 

“[T]hese popular protests are part of a struggle for a Haiti free from suffocating foreign interference, gangsterization, this extreme manufactured misery and an anti-national, illegitimate, criminal political regime established by the Core Group of which the UN is a member.”

A brief historical contextualization is in order:

The UN Mission to Haiti Is a Foreign Occupation Repressing Haitian Sovereignty

As you surely are aware, the United Nations became an occupying force in Haiti after the U.S.-France-Canada-led 2004 coup d’état against Haiti’s democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. We must note that, in addition to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, only Jamaica’s P.J. Patterson, in his capacity as leader of CARICOM, spoke up against the coup.  

Following the coup, the UN took over from U.S. forces. Under Chapter VII of the UN charter, the UN established the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (or MINUSTAH), for the tasks of military occupation under the guise of establishing peace and security. The Workers Party-led government of Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva then betrayed the Haitian people and undercut Haiti’s sovereignty by agreeing to lead the military wing of the UN mission in Haiti.

The history of the UN in Haiti has been a history of violence. An expensive, multi-billion dollar operation, MINUSTAH had between 6,000 and 12,000 military troops and police stationed in Haiti alongside thousands of civilian personnel. Like the first U.S. occupation (1915-1934), the UN occupation under MINUSTAH was marked by its brutality and racism towards the Haitian people. Civilians were brutally attacked and assassinated. “Peace-keepers” committed sexual crimes. UN soldiers dumped human waste into rivers used for drinking water, unleashing a cholera epidemic that killed between 10,000 and 50,000 people. The UN has still not been held accountable for this needless death.

The Core Group — an international coalition of self-proclaimed “friends” of Haiti — came together during the MINUSTAH occupation. Non-Black, un-elected, and anti-democratic, the goal of the Core Group is to oversee Haiti’s governance. Meanwhile, as with the first occupation, the United States and MINUSTAH trained and militarized Haiti’s police and security forces, often rehabilitating and reintegrating rogue members. The United States, in collusion with MINUSTAH and the Core Group, also over-rode Haitian democracy, installing both neo-Duvalierist Michel Martelly and his Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK), alongside Martelly’s protege and successor, the late Jovenel Moïse.

It is claimed that this occupation officially ended in 2017 with the dissolution of MINUSTAH. But the UN has remained in Haiti under a new acronym: BINUH, the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti. BINUH has had an outsized role in Haitian internal political affairs. For example, soon after Moïse was assassinated, its representative, Helen La Lime, asserted that Claude Joseph would be installed as Haiti’s leader. Later, the “Core Group” switched gears and demanded that Ariel Henry should be president. And this is exactly what happened when a “new” Haitian government was announced on July 20, 2021, with Henry as leader. This, without any say from the Haitian people, without any pretense of a democratic process, without any concern for Haiti’s sovereignty.

UN Occupation Increases Violence and Instability

Haiti currently has an unelected, unpopular, unaccountable, and illegitimate prime minister, propped up by the United States and the western nations. Meanwhile, Haiti’s security situation has deteriorated considerably as groups, armed by the transnational Haitian and Levantine elite, continue their attacks on the Haitian people. We must emphasize that, in the eighteen years that the United Nations mission has participated in the occupation of Haiti, the Haitian people have only experienced violence and political instability. You must recognize the foreign occupation of Haiti has left it in a state of disarray and violence. 

The consequences of Foreign Meddling and Occupation

We must remind you that this is the sixth week of protests of the Haitian people against both the U.S.-backed puppet government of Ariel Henry and the continued occupation and meddling of the Core Group and the UN itself. With all the talk of Haitian “lawlessness,” one would never know that the other main reason for the protests was the illegitimate government’s decision, under IMF austerity dictates, to cut fuel subsidies, amid spiraling inflation and economic insecurity. Hear the people’s words:

“This new decision, taken to the detriment of the interests of the people, has aroused his anger and also intensified a protest movement already initiated, whose objective is the recovery of our sovereignty, the recovery of Haiti’s destiny by Haitians, the establishment by Haitians of a legitimate government, capable of defending the interests of the people and meeting the various challenges of the moment.”

No to Occupation. Yes to Self-Determination.

The speed at which contemporary events are moving in Haiti makes it difficult for those outside the Caribbean republic to understand its internal political dynamics. Because of this, it is easy to resort to historical cliches and short-hand analyses in an attempt to neatly package and summarize or flatten what are oftentimes complex, structural, and historical formations whose origins are as much rooted outside than inside the country. Thus to outsiders Haiti is in the middle of a crisis, a never-ending crisis marked by lawlessness and violence, by the failure of government and the collapse of the state, and by a savage populism paired with well-armed, predatory gangs. 

We believe this representation of Haiti is fueled by an ancient racism premised on the notion that Haitian people (and African people more generally) are incapable of self-government, and this notion, in turn, nurtures the rationalization for the strengthening of the current mandate for the continued international occupation of Haiti. 

We ask that you think with all seriousness about the relationships among nations in our region. All nations should be able to chart their own destiny, not just some. You must know the history of the proud Haitian people whose Revolution changed the course of world history and material aid helped the liberation of the Americas from colonial rule and enslavement. Despite the continued affront to its self-determination, the people of Haiti will continue to fight for its liberation.

The Black Alliance for Peace, in alignment with the wishes of the Haitian masses and their supporters, absolutely stands against any foreign armed intervention in Haiti, and continues to demand an end to the unending meddling in Haitian affairs by the United States and Western powers. We call for the dissolution of the imperialist Core Group, an end to Western support for the unelected and unaccountable puppet government of Ariel Henry, and for the respect of Haitian sovereignty. 


The Black Alliance for Peace, Haiti/Americas Team

Black Agenda Report, October 12, 2022, https://www.blackagendareport.com/

Death toll mounting in growing cholera outbreak on Haiti / by Morning Star Editors

Patients with cholera symptoms sit in a centre at a cholera clinic run by Doctors Without Borders in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

DEATHS are mounting in a growing cholera outbreak in Haiti.

After more than three years with no cases, the national authorities reported two confirmed cases of Vibrio cholerae O1 in the Port-au-Prince area at the start of this month and, as of last week, the Ministry of Health had reported 47 cases confirmed and 35 deaths in the West and Central departments.

Civil unrest, lack of access to affected populations and fuel and logistics constraints are hindering the emergency response operations, according to the Pan American Health Organisation, and difficulties accessing water present a high risk that the outbreak will spread to other departments in the Caribbean country.

It follows Friday’s report that a record 4.7 million people in Haiti are facing acute hunger, including 19,000 in catastrophic famine conditions for the first time, in a slum controlled by gangs in the capital.

Haiti has been gripped by inflation and political gridlock that have sparked protests and brought society to breaking point.

Daily life in the country began to spin out of control last month hours after Prime Minister Ariel Henry said that fuel subsidies would be eliminated, causing prices to double.

The rising prices have put food and fuel out of reach of many Haitians, and clean water is scarce.

“Harvest losses due to below-average rainfall and last year’s earthquake that devastated parts of the country’s south are among the shocks that worsened conditions for people,” UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said, while violence, unrest and tensions in Cite Soleil have limited access by aid workers to the district.

“So, we don’t know necessarily how bad it’s getting, although it’s very clear it’s very bad indeed. And we need to get access to people: we need to make sure that we can get food to people,” he said.

Morning Star: The People’s Daily (UK), October 17, 2022, https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/

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, https://peoplesworld.org/

The ‘Leftism’ of the Americas Collapses at the Door of Haitian Sovereignty / by Jemima Pierre

United Nations peacekeepers from Brazil conduct a security patrol in Cité Soleil, Haiti, during the second round of senatorial elections in 2009 / credit: United Nations

The following opinion was originally published in Black Agenda Report.

It is an exhilarating time for the “leftists” of the Americas. This past week, at the 77th meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, leader after Latin American leader made grand statements against U.S. and Western imperialism, the hypocrisy of U.S. foreign policy, the violations of human rights, and the West’s assault on the sovereignty of smaller nations. Colombia’s brand-new president, Gustavo Petro, made an impassioned plea against the genocidal “War on Drugs.” Cuba’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bruno Eduardo Rodríguez Parrilla, rejected the attacks on the sovereignty of China and Russia. Venezuela’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carlos Faría railed against the Western sanctions against Nicaragua, Cuba, Iran and Russia. Honduran President Xiomara Castro demanded that the United States stop its attempts at destabilizing her country and strongly pushed against Western policies of intervention in the region. Nicaragua’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Denis Ronaldo Moncada Colindres, made perhaps the most explosive claims when he stated :

“The assault, the robbery, the disgraceful abominable depredation, the looting and the genocides unleashed by the colonialists and imperialists of the Earth, are the real crimes and they are the real criminals against humanity, and we denounce this… It’s time to say enough to hypocritical imperialism that politicizes, falsifies and denigrates the very human rights which they themselves violate and deny on a daily basis.”

Most of these leaders spoke to the urgent question of Cuba, calling for the lifting of the economic blockade against the country and for Cuba’s removal from the U.S.-created list of countries that supposedly “sponsor terrorism.”

Yet, for all the eloquent denunciations of imperialism and the impassioned defenses of Latin American and Caribbean sovereignty and independence, one country was conspicuously avoided: Haiti. Not a single one of these countries applied their critiques of imperialism to Haiti. Sure, Cuba and Venezuela mentioned Haiti. Cuba’s representative called for reparations for the Caribbean for slavery, said that humanity owed a debt to the Haitian revolution, and stressed that Haiti needed international support “through a special contribution for its reconstruction and development.” Venezuela’s representative name-dropped Haiti within a list of countries, which have suffered bloodshed from “imperialism and supremacism.”

Beyond the casual mentions, the hollow rhetorics, and the empty invocations, there were no concrete critiques of the current imperial machinations in Haiti—of Haiti’s complete loss of sovereignty through the ongoing destruction of the Haitian state apparatus, of the current occupation of the country by the Western-led Core Group, and of the repression (and violent misrepresentation) of the Haitian people as they have taken to the streets to demand their sovereignty and call for an end to foreign intervention. Instead, the extension and intensification of foreign intervention appears to be the strategic end goal of not only the usual suspects of the West, but our supposed Leftist allies in the Americas.

One has to ask: Do the leaders of the region even know what has been going on in Haiti? Surely they know about the 2004 U.S./Canada/France-led coup d’etat against Haiti’s democratically elected president, and the Chapter 7 deployment of a United Nations occupation force (euphemistically known as a “peacekeeping” force). Indeed, it was Lula’s Brazil that led the military wing of that occupation that brought nothing but violence and devastation to Haitian peoples. Brazil’s active participation in that occupation led to the migration of thousands of Haitian workers to Brazil, where they provided cheap labor to build the infrastructure for the Olympics and World Cup. The savage racism experienced by Haitian migrants in Brazil, combined with the disappearance of work, led them to flee overland through Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border in search of asylum.

The leaders of the Americas must also know about the Core Group—the self-selected, unelected group of foreigners, with representatives from the European Union, the United States, Brazil, Canada, that was created during the early months of the occupation. The Core Group continues to control Haiti’s internal political affairs. They certainly know that the UN still occupies Haiti; after all, it is the left’s “anti-imperialist” darling, Andrés Manual López Obrador (AMLO), who is serving, along with the United States, as “co-penholder” and writing the UN Security Council’s imperial policies on Haiti. Similar to Brazil, will Mexico’s bid to play power-broker in the region come at the expense of Haitian people and Haiti’s sovereignty?

AMLO must know what he’s doing. After all, even as it gets celebrated for its “leftist” credentials, the Mexican government continues to collude with the U.S. Border Patrol to militarize its southern border against migrants, and enforce the U.S. “Remain in Mexico” policy. Meanwhile, Haitian and other Black migrants continue to suffer racist abuse in Mexico.

It is not lost on me that there is a deep-seated, racist view of Haiti as exceptional—and therefore exceptionally difficult to engage. The constant refrain from anti-imperialist groupings in the West is that Haiti is so “complex” and its sociopolitical terrain so difficult that there’s no way to truly understand what’s going on there. During a recent webinar against U.S. imperialism in Latin America, I brought up the current UN/US occupation in Haiti, only to have the host soberly agree with me that this was, indeed, an important problem to engage, but that, perhaps, Haiti needed a separate webinar. Many webinars later, discussion of Haiti’s destruction by a brutal Western imperialism, continues to get short shrift.

While we celebrate the rise of another “Pink Tide” in Latin America, the emergence of a truly multipolar world, with new economic and political alignments, it seems clear that Haiti will continue to be on the outside of “leftist” imaginations—beyond, of course, the non-specific words of “solidarity” thrown its way.

In a discussion on Twitter about the ways that Haiti appears— and dismissed—in global discourses, a colleague, Vik Sohonie lamented , “Haiti is unfortunately where all good will, solidarity, and Third Worldism goes to die… The ‘international community’ that occupies it, as you know, is Nepali, Brazilian. You get looked at funny elsewhere in the Carib if you compliment Haiti. It’s astonishing.” He’s not wrong. One of the reasons that the brutal UN military occupation of Haiti could fly under the radar was because it was populated by a multi-national and multi-racial military and civilian force. The United States admitted as much, as revealed in the Wikileaks files. Former U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Janet Sanderson lauded the occupation force (MINUSTAH) as a cheap source of U.S. power in Haiti, as it is made up of a multinational coalition of Western and non-Western forces, including countries ranging from Benin and Kenya to Brazil and Ecuador, who seem all bent on using Haiti as their training ground.

Why is it so easy for these nonwhite and oppressed nations to come and serve U.S. and Western imperial interests in Haiti? Could it be that they, too, have imbibed the dehumanized and, frankly, racist views about Haitian people? Is Haiti’s Blackness seen as the root cause of its problems and struggles—even by many Black people? One would think so if one reviewed the recent actions of the leaders of CARICOM who, also, deploy the dehumanizing language and white supremacist assumptions about Haiti that is the foundation of Western imperialist actions in the country.

This wasn’t always the case, of course. Back in 2004, under the leadership of PJ Patterson, CARICOM at least spoke up against the U.S./France/Canada coup d’etat against elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide (and this was despite his often problematic public positions against him). Jamaica was even threatened with sanctions—by the Bush administration’s Condoleeza Rice—if it attempted to provide Aristide asylum. The other bold voice was Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, who railed against the coup and later provided direct support to Haiti’s masses through the PetroCaribe fuel subsidies.

Where are those voices now?

Perhaps if people in the region saw Haiti less as an abstraction and more as a place with real humans, citizens of the world, with the same claims to rights and livelihood, confronting a white supremacist imperialism, they would recognize the current denial of its sovereignty. Until that time, the Leftists of the Americas are betraying a people that have given so much to the struggles for sovereignty and independence in the region.

Jemima Pierre is a sociocultural anthropologist whose research and teaching interests are located in the overlaps between African Studies and African Diaspora Studies and engage three broad areas: race, racial formation theory, and political economy; culture and the history of anthropological theory; and transnationalism, globalization, and diaspora. She is the author of The Predicament of Blackness: Postcolonial Ghana and the Politics of Race. She is currently completing a manuscript whose working title is “Racial Americanization: Conceptualizing African Immigrants in the U.S.,” and working on a project on the racialized political economy of multinational resource extraction in Ghana. 

Toward Freedom, September 30, 2022, https://towardfreedom.org/

Uprising targets Canada’s man in Haiti / by Frantz Elbé, Jovenel Moïse, Mike Duheme, Sébastien Carrière

Sign reads: “Banks are not innocent in our misery.”

Originally published in Canadian Dimension, 09.15.2022

A popular uprising has paralyzed life in much of Haiti. While police are violently suppressing protesters, don’t expect Canadian officials to criticize security forces they fund.

Major centres across Haiti have been blocked for days. Protesters want foreign appointed leader Ariel Henry to go. They are angry about insecurity and the cost-of-living. Stoking the growing protests, the government ended a fuel subsidy on Monday that will have a broad economic implication.

In response to the strikes and marches, as well as some property destruction and looting, foreign embassies and banks have closed. The Dominican Republic reportedly sent special forces to Haiti on Thursday.

On Wednesday in the southern city of Les Cayes protesters held a casket draped with the U.S., French and Canadian flags and a picture of prime minister Henry. After President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated fourteen months ago the Core Group (representatives of U.S., Canada, France, Brazil, Spain, Germany, EU, UN and OAS) effectively appointed Henry to lead the country.

Since the U.S., France and Canada overthrew thousands of elected officials and instigated a UN occupation, Haitians have regularly targeted Ottawa at marches. Previously, protesters have hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails, as well as burned tires, in front of the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince. Millions of Haitians clearly view Canada as an imperialist force.

As part of its influence Ottawa has devoted significant political capital and resources to the Haitian police. Since the 2004 coup Canada has spent hundreds of million dollars on the Haitian police. Last month the federal government approved the export of Canadian-made armored personnel carriers to the Haitian police. Canadian ambassador Sébastien Carrière recently boasted about Canada spending $30 million on the Haitian police in 2022 and Ottawa is leading the push for the United Nations basket fund to assist the Haitian police.

On Tuesday in Port-au-Prince police shot towards a journalist and when he complained one of the officers walked over and shot him. With video of the incident, BNN Canada reported,

Police open fire on a journalist who states, ‘I’m the press!’ during protests in Haiti’s capital. A police officer approaches and shoots him in the stomach with a handgun hidden behind his riot shield.

But don’t expect ambassador Carrière to criticize this incident or any other police violence. Over the past few weeks, the Haitian police have killed a number of protesters and beat many others with no comment from Canadian officials. Almost without fail Canadian officials have stayed mum about Haitian police repression. Instead, Canada’s ambassador to Haiti regularly tweets about supporting the police.

Recently Carrière tweeted about Haitian police Chief Frantz Elbé addressing the UN and about RCMP Deputy Commissioner Mike Duheme meeting Elbé. Last week Carrière also retweeted a Miami Herald article about the Haitian police and a few days earlier an Alterpresse story on the same subject.

Canada has chosen a side and it’s not the long-suffering Haitian people. Ottawa has trained and funds police to maintain its chosen leader, Ariel Henry, in office.

Canada’s actions speak loud and clear: ‘We support police violence. Popular uprising be damned. Democracy be damned. Non-interference in other country’s affairs be damned.’ Ottawa is sticking to its guns. Literally.

MR Online, September 21, 2022, https://mronline.org/

WFP warns of unprecedented levels of hunger and food insecurity in Haiti / by People’s Dispatch

The World Food Programme (WFP) warns that nearly half of Haiti’s population is at the risk of hunger and needs immediate food assistance. Photo: Georges Harry Rouzier/UNICEF

According to the latest Integrated Food Phase Classification (IPC) report, between March and June 2022, 4.5 million Haitians will be facing severe hunger.

In a country with one of the highest levels of food insecurity in the world, data indicates that the situation in Haiti will only worsen. The World Food Program (WFP) of the United Nations has warned that nearly half of the country’s population is at risk of hunger and in need of immediate food assistance.

The WFP, citing the latest Integrated Food Phase Classification (IPC) report, the global standard for measuring food insecurity, reported that between March and June 2022, 4.5 million Haitians (45% of the population) would be suffering from severe hunger. The WFP further reported that of this number, 3.18 million Haitians (32% of the population) would be in a situation classified as in the crisis phase, and 1.32 million Haitians (13%) would be in the emergency phase.

The WFP representative in Haiti, Pierre Honnorat, stated that the current situation is “the worst registered since 2018.” In 2018, half of Haiti’s population was undernourished and the country’s Global Hunger Index score rose to 35 from 28 in 2009, reaching the “alarming” threshold.

Honnorat also highlighted that the Caribbean country’s dependence on food imports places Haitians in an unfavorable position, due to the devaluation of Haitian currency against the US dollar. As Honnorat described, “70% of the goods in Haiti’s stores are imported, including basic products such as rice, 80% of which is imported.”

The WFP’s report also detailed how “one of the key drivers of food insecurity in Haiti is the poor performance of the agriculture sector and the country’s dependence on food imports, which makes the country vulnerable to inflation and price volatility in international markets.” The WFP expressed concern about the effect of the Russia–Ukraine crisis on food security, which continues to negatively impact the purchasing power in highly import-dependent countries like Haiti.

Honnorat also said that the WFP fears the war in Ukraine would raise the price of food and therefore increase hunger in Haiti. He described how Haiti primarily imports wheat from Russia and Canada, adding how wheat flour is used to bake the bread which consumed by Haitians every day. “If the wheat flour [price] is going up, you will see a problem. And as I said, the price has already multiplied by five in two years. So, we can only expect that it will multiply again.”

Honnorat added that the situation of hunger would push people to resort to extreme measures, “fueling insecurity, migration and sexual exploitation.”

The WFP’s report added that persistent political instability, deepening economic crisis, soaring inflation, and recurrent natural disasters also limit access to affordable food for vulnerable populations. Over the past two decades, Haiti has been rocked by severe storms, floods, landslides, droughts, including the devastating earthquake in 2010 and the category 4 Hurricane Matthew in 2016. On the 2021 Climate Risk Index list, Haiti is on number three among the countries most affected by extreme weather events from 2000 to 2019.

Last August’s earthquake caused massive economic, human and infrastructural losses in southwestern Haiti, affecting nearly 1 million people. Northern Haiti is also reeling from the aftermath of heavy flooding in late January, which resulted in the displacement of nearly 2,500 families, forcing them to seek refuge in temporary shelters.

People’s Dispatch, March 29, 2022, https://peoplesdispatch.org/2022/03/29/wfp-warns-of-unprecedented-levels-of-hunger-and-food-insecurity-in-haiti/