[News] Haiti’s Permanent Resistance

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Mon Apr 11 20:44:10 EDT 2016


*Haiti’s Permanent Resistance*
Kim Ives April 11, 2016

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Haiti is no stranger to political crises — and it is in the midst of its 
most severe one in decades.

The latest upheaval, which looks set to last many months, began in 
January 2016, when massive demonstrations aborted the final round of 
patently fraudulent, US-sponsored elections. An unelected interim 
government stepped in to try to reestablish an elected and 
constitutional regime, but it’s still too early to know if the outcome 
will be revolutionary or a further tightening of US imperialism’s 
chokehold on the country.

Although Haitian progressive forces are splintered and weakened after 
twelve years of foreign military occupation and internal turmoil, the 
shifting social and economic terrain in Latin America and the United 
States may offer the Haitian people an opportunity for change.

Haiti, after all, has a long history of resistance. All Haitian children 
learn how their ancestors carried out history’s only successful slave 
revolution and, in 1804, founded the first independent nation in Latin 
America (the second in the Western Hemisphere) and the first black 
republic. These accomplishments are the core of the Haitian identity.

 From the beginning, the small Caribbean nation clashed with elites in 
the United States. During the early nineteenth century, US slave owners 
were deeply alarmed by this neighboring nation founded by self-liberated 
former slaves. Its existence and survival inspired and emboldened slave 
uprisings throughout the United States and Caribbean. US governments 
embargoed Haiti and did not recognize it until 1862, during the Civil War.

But recognition did not bring reconciliation. US tensions with Haiti — 
which gave support and refuge to Latin American revolutionaries ranging 
from Francisco de Miranda and Simón Bolívar to José Marti — continued in 
the form of gunboat and diplomatic skirmishes. US Marines invaded the 
island nation on July 28, 1915, beginning a nineteen-year military 

Haitians responded to the invasion by forming the Cacos, a guerrilla 
army with thousands of members. And when Marines killed Caco leaders 
Charlemagne Péralte in 1919 and Benoit Batraville in 1920, Haitians 
continued resisting through demonstrations, marches, and general strikes.

The resistance paid off, and US troops finally withdrew in 1934. But, in 
a template that would later be used in the Dominican Republic and 
Nicaragua, Washington left behind a surrogate Haitian force known as the 
Garde d’Haïti, which later became the Armed Forces of Haiti (FADH). For 
more than two decades this army installed or ousted regimes at will, 
until a popular movement drove General Paul E. Magloire from power in 1956.

Two tumultuous years of power struggles and coups followed Magloire’s 
ouster, culminating in the election of Dr François “Papa Doc” Duvalier 
on September 22, 1957. Using a paramilitary force known formally as the 
Volunteers for National Security and informally as the “Tonton 
Macoutes,” Papa Doc established a reign of terror and dictatorship that 
he liked to call “Presidency for Life.” When Papa Doc died in April 
1971, his son Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier took power. Baby Doc ruled 
until February 1986, when an uprising forced him to flee to France.

Baby Doc’s exile ushered in a period of crisis that would last almost 
five years. Seven provisional or fraudulently elected governments 
succeeded each other until a nationalist former parish priest, 
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was elected president in a landslide on December 
16, 1990.
Free and Fair

The 1990 election was historic. It was the first truly free and fair 
election in Haiti’s history. Since the assassination of the country’s 
founding father, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, in 1806, Haiti’s two rival 
ruling classes — the comprador bourgeoisie and the big landowning class, 
known as the grandon — had alternated power, either through coups or 
indirect parliamentary elections. The US occupation and FADH had brought 
to power a string of bourgeois governments to which the grandon 
governments of Dumarsais Estimé (1946–1950) and Papa Doc were reactions.

Aristide didn’t fit into either camp. He was a people’s candidate with 
an anti-Duvalierist, anti-imperialist agenda. Fearing for their 
interests, Haiti’s rival ruling groups joined together into a grand 
alliance to oppose him.

Aristide’s victory also marked the first time the US’s election 
engineering had been so grievously defeated. Setbacks in Cuba, Iran, 
Nicaragua, and Vietnam pushed Washington to change its paradigm for 
controlling states under its sway.

Beginning in the late 1970s it let go of or phased out corrupt, 
repressive strongmen like Duvalier, Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, 
Augusto Pinochet in Chile, and Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, and 
instead began empowering civilian puppet presidents through 
“demonstration elections.”

The demonstration elections would be won by the candidate with the most 
money, just like in the United States. And if there were trouble or 
surprises, Washington would no longer use the local army, which was sent 
back to its barracks. Instead it would deploy the empire’s new enforcer: 
the international “peacekeeping” force.

After Baby Doc’s ouster, the United States figured it would be fairly 
easy to get former World Bank official and Duvalier finance minister 
Marc Bazin elected president, providing him coaching and support from 
the newly formed National Endowment for Democracy (NED). With a war 
chest of $36 million raised from the US and Haitian ruling classes, 
Bazin outspent Aristide’s $500,000 campaign 72 to 1. It wasn’t enough. 
Aristide swept the election, from a field of eleven candidates, 
garnering more than 67 percent of the vote.

Just as Haiti’s 1804 independence inspired “the Great Liberator” Simón 
Bolívar to wage similar wars to free Spanish colonies on the continent 
(with pivotal Haitian financial and military support), nearly two 
centuries later, Aristide’s 1990 victory inspired Bolívar’s admiring 
descendant Hugo Chavez to attempt the same tactic in Venezuela in 1999. 
Soon a wave of pink “electoral revolutions” washed across Latin America, 
with countries like Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, 
Paraguay, and Uruguay all electing progressive candidates.
The Clinton Approach

Washington didn’t take its defeat lightly. Eight months after Aristide’s 
February 1991 inauguration — or, as Aristide called it, “Haiti’s second 
independence” — the Haitian elites, with support from George H. W. Bush, 
staged a bloody FADH coup. The nature of the attack was clear. Haitians 
throughout Haiti and its international diaspora rose up in spirited 
resistance, and an international solidarity movement sprang into life.

Bill Clinton was elected in 1992 and quickly saw the futility of 
returning to the old paradigm to counter Haiti’s democracy movement. The 
quintessential representative of the transnational “enlightened 
bourgeoisie,” Clinton made a deal to bring Aristide back on the 
shoulders of twenty thousand US troops if the former anti-imperialist 
priest agreed to champion neoliberal reforms, including nationalizing 
state industries and lowering tariff walls. Aristide agreed, or 
pretended to.

After US troops returned Aristide to power in October 1994, all while 
protecting the FADH troops that had overthrown him, Clinton turned to 
the United Nations to play its role as US occupation surrogate, just as 
the Garde d’Haïti had replaced US Marines sixty years earlier.

In March 1995, US troops handed over command of Haiti’s military 
occupation to the United Nations Mission in Haiti, which then morphed 
into and spawned the United Nations Support Mission in Haiti, the United 
Nations Transition Mission in Haiti, and the United Nations Civilian 
Police Mission in Haiti (MIPONUH), which lasted until March 2000. 
(Aristide had “demobilized” the FADH in early 1995, so Haiti was left 
with only the Haitian National Police after MIPONUH’s departure.)
The Bush Approach

Aristide was reelected by a landslide in November 2000, just as George 
W. Bush was also coming to power. The new president brought with him a 
pack of neoconservative officials keen to oust Aristide. After 
Aristide’s 2001 inauguration, the Bush administration stepped up a 
coordinated campaign of political isolation, economic sanctions, 
diplomatic pressure, and paramilitary guerrilla attacks to drive him 
from power.

They finally succeeded on February 29, 2004. After a night of threats 
from the US Embassy’s deputy chief of mission, Luis Moreno, a US SEAL 
team took Aristide from his home in Tabarre (along with his entire 
security detail) to an unmarked jet with all the window shades closed 
and flew him to the Central African Republic. Aristide later called it a 
“modern kidnapping.”

Aristide’s rapid departure — the second coup d’état in thirteen years — 
following on the heels of a relentless, punishing three-year campaign, 
left the Haitian people exhausted and confused. US, Canadian, and French 
troops immediately swarmed the island and occupied Haiti from March 
until May 2004. Then, just like in 1995, the United States passed off 
the mission to the United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH).

But Haitians were not quiescent. As in 1915, an armed resistance sprang 
up to fight the foreign military occupation and President Boniface 
Alexandre and Prime Minister Gérard Latortue’s puppet regime.

Most of the resistance fighters — called “bandits,” just like Péralte 
and Batraville — were based in the teeming Port-au-Prince slums of 
Belair and Cité Soleil, although the Dessalinien Army of National 
Liberation (ADLN), a rural-based guerrilla force, carried out a half 
dozen successful attacks in Haiti’s north against PNH stations and 
MINUSTAH patrols.

Resistance also showed its face in elections. Although Aristide’s 
Lavalas Family party (FL) remained banned, his supporters voted 
erstwhile Aristide ally René Préval into power in 2006 for a second 
time. (He had succeeded Aristide from 1996–2001). The Lavalas masses 
hoped Préval would bring Aristide back from exile in South Africa, but 
he didn’t, and Lavalas began to splinter into factions as a result.

The party became divided between Préval supporters and those remaining 
loyal to Aristide, and Préval used the divisions to keep the FL out of 
elections planned for 2010.

Then on January 12, 2010, an earthquake hit just outside of 
Port-au-Prince. Tens of thousands died, and over one million were left 
homeless. The United States unilaterally sent in 22,000 troops, rapidly 
taking control of the main airport and the international relief and aid 
response. Former president Bill Clinton designated himself ringleader 
and became the co-chair of the International Haiti Recovery Commission 
(IHRC), which decided how some $13 billion in aid would be spent to have 
Haiti “build back better.”

The United States was not working to build a better Haiti. It was using 
its reach to dismantle the last vestiges of Haitian sovereignty and 
popular power that remained from the 1990 election. Their puppet in the 
process was a vulgar neo-Duvalierist coup cheerleader and konpa musician 
named Michel Martelly, also known as Sweet Micky.

Martelly was ushered in after Préval had appeared ineffectual in his 
response to the earthquake and beholden to Washington. Préval made a few 
symbolic protests, like walking out of a ceremony when Bill Clinton took 
the microphone or pointedly typing on his Blackberry in the back of a 
room while a US general gave a press conference on earthquake response, 
but his lack of control was clear to all.

Martelly, on the other hand, was a Donald Trump–like character: tough 
talking, media savvy, simplistic, and charismatic — all the things 
Préval was not. And he had a professional election team, Ostos & Sola, 
whose personnel had engineered campaigns for John McCain and Mexican 
president Felipe Calderòn, behind him.

But Martelly’s slick campaign and US backing didn’t guarantee success. 
Indeed, the first round of presidential elections held in late November 
2010 were a disorganized mess. The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) 
declared Mirlande Manigat and Swiss-trained engineer Jude Célestin, 
Préval’s protégé, the two candidates that would go to a run-off. 
Martelly came in a close third.

Martelly’s partisans took to the streets to burn buildings and wreak 
havoc, while Washington deployed the Organization of American States 
(OAS) to review the election results. Unsurprisingly, the OAS — using a 
thoroughly arbitrary calculation — declared Martelly the second-place 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Port-au-Prince in January 
2011 to pressure Préval to supplant Célestin with Martelly. As usual, 
Préval complied, although the CEP members — constitutionally the “final 
arbiter” of any Haitian election — never validated the US-altered 
election results. Martelly won a run-off victory in March 2011.

The United States was also victorious. It had managed to stage, in the 
words of dissident and later fired OAS representative Ricardo Seitenfus, 
an “electoral coup d’état” — the type of soft-power play that has come 
to epitomize the Clinton-Obama approach.
The Martelly Regime

Like Baby Doc’s, Martelly’s regime was a macouto-bourgeois alliance 
marked by outrageous corruption, excess, infighting, dysfunction, and 
repression. It was so unpopular that it sparked a mass rebellion that 
nearly drove it from power in late 2014.

To save his presidency, Martelly sacrificed his longtime business 
partner and prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, who otherwise would likely 
have been the 2015 presidential candidate of Martelly’s Haitian 
Bald-Headed Party (PHTK). (Constitutionally, Haitian presidents are 
limited to two non-consecutive terms.)

For the first four years of his five in power, Martelly used an array of 
stalling tactics to delay holding elections so that the terms for the 
Chamber of Deputies, two-thirds of the Senate, and all of Haiti’s 
municipal posts expired.

The result was a rushed forced march to repopulate the entire 
government, including the presidency, before parliament’s expiration on 
January 12, 2016 (the earthquake’s sixth anniversary) and the end of 
Martelly’s term on February 7, 2016.

A three-round staggered electoral schedule was established for August 9, 
October 25, and December 27, 2015. The August 9 round was a complete 
fiasco, marred by violence and blatant fraud. Thugs from 
Martelly-aligned parties guarded many voting center doors, keeping out 
their rivals’ partisans. In the Artibonite Department, for example, 
eight out of fifteen voting districts had to annul their polling due to 
violence and fraud, but the CEP still opted to keep the results.

The second election on October 25 saw less violence, but was plagued by 
massive fraud and, despite including the first round of the fifty-four 
presidential candidates’ races, extremely low turnout. Most of the votes 
were cast by the candidates’ 916,000 poll-watchers, many of whom voted 
repeatedly and not for the candidate they represented.

The dubious and contested official result: Martelly’s PHTK led the 
presidential pack with 33 percent of the vote. For his successor, 
Martelly had picked an unknown provincial businessman, Jovenel “Neg 
Banann” Moïse, who had developed, with a $6 million government subsidy, 
a tax-free agro-industry, “Agritrans,” exporting bananas mainly to Europe.

Moïse is an apt candidate. With an export-oriented agribusiness built on 
the dispossession of small peasants, he perfectly represents the 
alliance between the bourgeoisie, which now invests mainly in assembly 
industries, and the grandon, who have always bullied and bulldozed the 
peasantry off their land.

Moreover, many also speculate that the state lands currently leased to 
Agritrans could eventually be turned over to foreign mining interests to 
continue their now-stalled exploration and environmentally destructive 
gold mining in Haiti’s north.

But whether or not Moïse was the macouto-bourgeois alliance’s favored 
choice, a reliable Brazilian exit poll suggests that he didn’t win, 
coming in fourth, not first, with just 6 percent of the vote. Even a 
Martelly-appointed verification commission found widespread voting fraud.

Nevertheless, Martelly and the US continued to push for a third round of 
the scandalous elections. It was postponed twice, until January 24. But 
a final giant march on January 22 forced its indefinite postponement and 
the disbanding of the CEP.

Reluctantly, under huge pressure, Martelly stepped down on February 7, 
and a provisional government with a 120-day mandate (which will surely 
be extended) was installed.
Washington’s Chaos

There were fifty-four presidential candidates, but only three were 
heavyweights in the opposition to Jovenel, and two of them are Lavalas. 
The first Lavalas candidate is Dr Maryse Narcisse of Aristide’s FL, who 
supposedly placed fourth with 7 percent of the vote.

Then there is the breakaway Dessalines Children platform (PD) of former 
senator Moïse Jean-Charles, who supposedly placed third with 14 percent 
of the vote. The third heavyweight is the supposed second-place finisher 
(with 25 percent), Jude Célestin of the Alternative League for Haitian 
Progress and Empowerment (LAPEH), which is affiliated (albeit 
informally) with Préval’s platforms Vérité and Inite, under whose banner 
Célestin ran in 2010.

Both Washington and Martelly wanted to marginalize the two Lavalas 
currents and keep them out of any runoff. Although their leaderships 
adopt moderate positions, their popular bases remain mobilized and 
dangerously radical.

Instead, the United States favors a monolithic two-party system in 
Haiti, which would establish a regular alternation between “acceptable” 
players, parameters of debate, and political programs. The Republican 
analog would be the PHTK, while the Democratic surrogate would come from 
the current Préval constellation: LAPEH, Vérité, or Inite.

Not surprisingly, Lamothe (who felt betrayed by Martelly and hews 
closely to US positions), singer Wyclef Jean, and large sectors of 
Haiti’s ruling elite had thrown their support behind Célestin, who could 
be expected to give the United States the same grudging but faithful 
collaboration that Préval did.

Although it has faded into the background, Célestin and seven of the 
other leading presidential runners-up (except the FL) were in a “Group 
of Eight” (G8) whose unity was more formal than real.

Nonetheless, while the masses in giant demonstrations demanded the 
elections’ annulment and Martelly’s arrest, the G8 and FL did not. Even 
today, they insist on an “independent evaluation commission” to review 
the October 25 results, and each of the heavyweight candidates asserts 
that they won the election in the first round. Whatever results any 
evaluation commission finds, it will surely explode the opposition’s 
tenuous unity.

Senate and National Assembly president Jocelerme Privert, under OAS 
supervision, became the interim president in the meantime and, as of 
April, has a prime minister, Enex Jean-Charles. Both are under pressure 
to convene a verification commission, but the US ambassador, Peter 
Mulrean, opposes it.

Washington knows that an election verification commission would even 
further ruin their plans. The fraud in the presidential election was so 
extensive and profound that the first round would have to be scrapped.

Moreover, and more importantly, any election review would discover that 
most of the Senate and Deputy races were just as fraudulent as the one 
for president, thereby invalidating the largely US-friendly parliament.

This would leave the road open for the more radical provisional 
governments being proposed by Haiti’s left-wing parties, like the 
Dessalines Coordination (KOD), and like-minded popular and student 
Opportunities for the Left

The missing element in this revolutionary cocktail, at the present 
moment, is a revolutionary party or front strong enough to lead and 
champion the masses’ increasingly radical demands. Currents like KOD and 
others were seriously weakened in 2015, when many of their comrades were 
caught up in the electoral euphoria sweeping Haiti.

Although one of KOD’s founders, Moïse Jean-Charles, had repeatedly vowed 
to respect the party’s position to never participate in an election held 
under Martelly and MINUSTAH, he couldn’t resist taking the plunge, 
especially when the FL refused to join him in a boycott and said it 
would go into the elections “head first.”

The seductive illusion that another December 16, 1990 miracle can be 
performed infects almost the entire political class, but particularly 
its Lavalas offshoots.

A similar wave of electoral fever and defections swept the leftist 
Patriotic Democratic Popular Movement coalition, one of whose clearest 
and most active currents is the Democratic Popular Movement (MODEP). In 
the aftermath of the crash of the US/Martelly “selections,” KOD and 
MODEP have been talking but have not yet forged an operational unity.

However, if history is any guide, Haiti’s political crisis and 
revolutionary potential promises to continue for several months at 
least. The window after Baby Doc’s fall in 1986 lasted for four years, 
until the popular movement carried out a political revolution with 
Aristide’s first election.

Many veterans and students of the 1980s and ’90s struggles now realize 
that a deeper social revolution — changing Haiti’s property relations, 
above all land reform — is necessary for any progressive government to 
survive. As long as Haiti’s tiny ruling class controls 92 percent of 
Haiti’s wealth, it can continue to buy and corrupt enough desperately 
poor Haitians to do their bidding — whether it is to demonstrate for 
them, vote for them, or kill for them.

Most important now is that the ruling class is either divided on or 
unsure of how to go forward and maintain power. This offers a unique 
opportunity for Haiti’s left. Privert and Jean-Charles are weak 
functionaries, trying to reconcile the irreconcilable. Martelly’s 
right-wing allies, like former death-squad leaders Senator Youri 
Latortue and Senate candidate Guy Philippe, are just waiting for their 
opportunity to strike with their paramilitary thugs.

Meanwhile, the US empire is weakened by its own interminable overseas 
wars and beset by internal rebellions that are threatening the 
“establishment,” particularly the right-wing populist support around 
Donald Trump and the social-democratic Bernie Sanders movement.

All these factors offer hope that the democratic, anti-imperialist 
movement among peasants, workers, and the urban unemployed that began 
with Duvalier’s ouster thirty years ago can finally make some headway 
after its many setbacks.

Haiti remains the only nation in the Western Hemisphere militarily 
occupied by UN “peacekeepers,” making it the victim of Washington’s 
greatest show of force in the Americas. But like their ancestors did to 
Napoleon’s legions, Haitians may once again succeed in taking on 
colonialism, now in its multinational twenty-first century form, and 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
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