[News] Pro-Democracy Movement in Haiti Swells Despite Lethal Police Violence
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Oct 17 12:41:42 EDT 2019
Pro-Democracy Movement in Haiti Swells Despite Lethal Police Violence
Frances Madeson - October 16, 2019
It’s getting hard not to notice that U.S. corporate media is covering
pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong far more than pro-democracy forces
in the Caribbean. It can be challenging to catch up on significant
events in a place that’s a mere two-hour flight from Miami; with a few
exceptions, the media is largely failing Haiti right now.
A movement birthed in the shantytowns of Port-au-Prince has now swelled
to broad swaths of the populace in all 10 of Haiti’s geographical
departments. Friday, October 11, saw a national mobilization of tens of
thousands of protesters out in force throughout the country demanding
the resignation of President Jovenel Moise — and 10 of them didn’t make
it home alive.
Longtime Haiti observer Kevin Pina, editor of Haiti Information Project,
told /Truthout/ that protesters were assaulted on October 11 by police
armed with guns, tear gas and water cannons, and that seven
protesters were reported to be killed by police in Petion-ville, a
wealthy enclave in the hills above Port-au-Prince. Three
<https://twitter.com/HaitiInfoProj/status/1182784199092080640> more were
killed in Saint-Marc in the western department of Artibonite. Those
killed on October 11 included a 16-year-old boy
bringing the documented death toll (all on the side of the protesters)
to more than 20.
Pasha Vorbe, a member of the executive committee of the political party
Fanmi Lavalas, told /Truthout/ in a call from Port-au-Prince that
Lavalas has counted 28 total protesters killed by police during the
“Today, I can tell you, we are living in a humanitarian crisis; it is
not just Lavalas, the entire population is against Jovenel Moise and the
rigged elections that delivered him to us,” Vorbe said.
Haiti is in revolt against The Core Group
<https://www.oecd.org/countries/haiti/44826404.pdf>, a political entity
formed by dint of United Nations Security Council Resolution
in 2004, the same year as the U.S.-backed coup toppled former president
Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his Lavalas party from Haiti’s helm. A
multi-national supervisory body with the nebulous mission of “steering
the electoral process,” its creation was originally proposed as a
six-month interim transition support measure, yet it endures to this day.
At issue is the legitimacy of the presidency of Jovenel Moise, who was
installed in 2017 to serve a five-year term. Protesters say Haiti cannot
wait until 2022 for his departure from office.
Moise stands accused of embezzling millions of dollars
from the proceeds of the PetroCaribe energy loan program extended by
Venezuela. He earned the ire of many Haitians after attempting to remove
energy subsidies in July 2018. The president’s administration has been
directly implicated in the massacre of upward of 70 people (some reports
say closer to 300) in the Lasalin neighborhood of Port-au-Prince — a
four-day torture and killing spree in November 2018.
The massacres took place in the same community that had been
demonstrating on a weekly basis since July 2018 in protest of the
economic violence of double-digit inflation, currently at approximately
Targeted assassinations are ongoing. On October 10, Haitian journalist
Néhémie Joseph, a reporter with Radio Méga and critic of the Moise
administration, was found dead in his car with multiple shots to the
head, prompting a demand for a swift investigation
from the Committee to Protect Journalists.
With continued backing from The Core Group — which is chaired by the
Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General, and comprised of
the Ambassadors to Haiti from Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain,
the European Union, the U.S. and the Special Representative of the
Organization of American States — Moise clings to power. If he can hold
on until January 2020, and parliamentary elections (currently scheduled
for October 27) do not take place by then, the parliament will be
dissolved and Moise can rule by decree.
Cécile Accilien, director of the Institute of Haitian Studies at the
University of Kansas told /Truthout/ the political situation in Haiti is
“We’re ruled by far more powerful countries, the 1 percent, the NGOs —
everyone’s playing a game,” she said. “But most of us don’t know what
the rules are or who the players are, but we know this: Everyone is
Pina noticed how Moise appeared more confident after meeting
with Donald Trump in Mar-a-Lago in March 2019.
“Moise’s entire disposition changed after he’d gotten reassurance from
Trump that he will back him,” Pina told /Truthout/. “I assume there was
a /quid pro quo/ for Trump supporting him in exchange for doing a 180 on
“I’ll make a promise to you
Pence told the assembled leaders. “Stand with us and know we’ll stand
with you. Work with us and we will work with you.” Haiti had pointedly
not been invited in June 2018 to a confab with U.S. Vice President Mike
Pence who was courting nations willing to vote to eject Venezuela from
the Organization of American States and to invoke the Rio Treaty
Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance) for the first time since
9/11, potentially clearing the way for U.S. military intervention in
Subsequently, Moise reversed Haiti’s support for Maduro and Venezuelan
“Our response has to be sarcastic,” Vorbe said. “If they think that
Moise is so good and great why don’t they give him a job in the U.N. or
in Washington? Quick, before he drains the economy completely.”
The hypocrisy of the U.S. attacking Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro
as “illegitimate” while upholding Moise is not lost on Vorbe. Much of
what Washington claims about Maduro’s 2018 re-election is verifiably
true about Moise’s election in 2016: Yes, there was a record low voter
turnout in Venezuela, only 46 percent, but in Haiti it was vastly lower:
only 18 percent of the electorate went to the polls. Accusing Maduro’s
government of drug trafficking and money laundering reminds Haitians
that Moise came into office already accused
of laundering millions of dollars. Plus, he was mentored by Guy
Phillippe, currently serving nine years in a U.S. prison for those exact
The Devastation of Haiti’s Economy
Vorbe said Moise has bankrupted the startup businesses that were
developing in Haiti and has annihilated the education system. This year
there will be 70,000 high school graduates and places for only 7,000
university students. Jobs are in scarce supply. Without a meaningful
economic development program, Haitian workers are left to labor in
sweatshops that pay the lowest sub-poverty wages in the hemisphere.
According to the World Bank
32 percent of the country’s GDP in 2018 was derived from remittances
from family members living elsewhere.
“Today the majority of Haitians do not eat three regular meals a day,”
Vorbe said. “Maybe they eat once a day, or every other day. They feel
practically doomed, and their living conditions are getting worse every
Maud Jean-Michel is known as Sanite B., the host of Sewom Patriyotik on
Radyo Tele Timoun. A human rights protector and freedom fighter, she
uses her radio platform to expose what the U.S. is doing to Haiti. She
bristles at hearing Haiti referred to as a poor country, the poorest in
the Western hemisphere.
“We are one of the richest, but Haiti has been impoverished,” she
continued. “This is the reason they keep us in turmoil. If we
stabilized, we could use our resources — our bauxite, uranium and black
marble — how can we be poor when we have so much? If Haiti is so poor,
why is the U.S. there, why is The Core Group there, why do they refuse
to leave us alone?”
Haiti also has billions in gold, iridium, copper, and oil advises human
rights attorney Èzili Dantò. “And,” she told /Truthout/, “the Windward
Passage and a history the enslaving nations must rewrite.”
She said the U.S. built its largest embassy in the Western Hemisphere in
Haiti to control Haiti’s geopolitical position and strip it of its
assets and riches.
“They will obliterate Haiti before they allow it to succeed as a
nation,” Dantò said. “There is white fear of Haitian success.”
Vorbe sees preserving Haiti’s remaining riches for Haiti and the Haitian
people as Haiti’s last chance for survival.
“It’s essential that Haiti get out from under the current constitution
before any deals to develop mineral resources or arable lands go
forward,” he warned.
“All of the institutions have failed the majority of the people,” he
said. “Judiciary, legislature and executive, all corrupted completely.
We have to start over, start fresh, with something that suits the
The country has come to a full stop and the demands are clear: Moise
must go before finishing his five-year term, without conditions; the
billions embezzled must be returned to the treasury to capitalize the
future of the country; and a three-year “time-out” must be planned so
the nation can stabilize and a meaningful process for free and fair
elections can be created.
Lavalas has put out a transition plan
that calls for “put[ting] in place an executive and a government of
public safety…consist[ing] of credible personalities, engaged in the
struggle against exclusion and corruption, who share a vision of a new
method of governance.” If that sounds vague, it was meant to be a
conversation starter. Dialogues across all segments of Haitian society
have been ongoing with facilitation by civil society groups, and
participants are finding common ground.
“We want a new nation, a democracy, free elections, a new constitution,
and a type of government that’s better for us,” Vorbe said. “We’re doing
the deep thinking about it now.”
A Political Crisis in the U.S.’s Backyard
Pacifica Radio journalist Margaret Prescod recently returned from a week
of documenting the revolt in Port-au-Prince on the back of a motorcycle
ridden through streets ablaze and blitzed with tear gas. She and her
team were fortunate not to have been hit by the live rounds fired by
police. This was her third trip to Haiti in the past few months, and she
said she’s never seen a worse human rights crisis or people better
organized and more determined to prevail.
“Over and over the people say, ‘We have no food, no jobs, no way to
support our families,'” Prescod told /Truthout/. “‘We are not leaving
the streets. We’d rather die on our feet than live on our knees.’”
Born in Barbados, Prescod keeps a sharp journalistic eye focused on
foreign meddling in Haiti’s affairs.
“I’m with Frederick Douglass,” she said, referring to the abolitionist’s
maxim in his 1893 World’s Fair speech: “Haitians…striking for their
freedom, they struck for every Black man in the world.”
In the early 1800s, Haiti repelled Napoleon and ended slavery six
decades before Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Prescod said Haitian protesters have said that they view the current
revolt as a continuation of the rejection by the Haitian grassroots of
the subversion of Haiti’s sovereignty in the U.S.-backed 2004 coup and
its aftermath, especially the imposition of presidents “selected” by the
U.S. and Canada in elections ridden with fraud.
“After victory, what follows next is an important question,” she
advises. “The grassroots have nothing, but they know what’s going on: I
was told by protesters that any Haitian government you see backed and
supported by the U.S. is generally not one that is good for the Haitian
The days Prescod was on the ground were perilous — the police were
shooting live rounds from unmarked trucks, she said. She added that her
crew was told at the barricades that police were hiding in ambulances, a
blatant violation of international law, transporting themselves with
teargas to penetrate the roadblocks.
Prescod’s Pacifica radio team was the first international group of
journalists to visit Lasalin and speak with survivors of a series of
massacres said to be linked to the Moise government. They were
accompanied by a delegation from the National Lawyers Guild. Following
her reporting on the massacre, Prescod returned to Haiti as part of a
headed by U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters to further investigate the
Surviving victims of the Lasalin massacre told Prescod that their
communities were politically targeted to punish them for their protests
against Jovenel Moise, and for their support for Lavalas, the party of
“Jovenel Moise uses paramilitary thugs similar to the Tonton Macoutes,
as a strategy to strike fear into their hearts,” she explained.
Prescod said the massacres were barely reported by U.S. and
international media, and when they were, it was framed as gang warfare
instead of political terrorism — even when a U.N. report verified there
were in fact ties between the perpetrators and Moise’s government,
specifically implicating Pierre Richard Duplan of the PHTK (Parti
Haïtien Tèt Kale, the ruling party of Jovenel Moise).
What Happened in Lasalin
This sticks in Judith Mirkinson’s craw as well.
Mirkinson, president of the San Francisco chapter of the National
Lawyers Guild (NLG), is co-author with Seth Donnelly of The Lasalin
Massacre and the Human Rights Crisis in Haiti
a 14-page report published on July 8, 2019, by the NLG and Haiti Action
“First of all, the narrative of competing gangs…throw that out, that’s
garbage,” she told /Truthout/. “It was the worst massacre in decades. I
get very angry thinking about it.”
The report begins:
On November 13, 2018, police and other paramilitary personnel entered
the neighborhood of Lasalin in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. What followed was
a massacre of the civilian population. Buildings, including schools,
were fired upon and destroyed, people were injured and killed, with some
burned alive, women were sexually assaulted and raped and hundreds were
forcibly displaced from homes. Bodies were either burned, taken away to
be disappeared, buried, never to be found, or in some cases left to be
eaten by dogs and pigs.
Mirkinson hopes people will read the report and that it prompts a
renewed focus on Haiti from the human rights and progressive communities.
“In recent history, the U.S. has overthrown the government twice,
prevented democratic elections twice and treated Haiti like a
neocolony,” Mirkinson said. “Haiti is in our hemisphere, $260 million of
our tax dollars have paid for police in Haiti since 2010. We do have a
responsibility to pay attention.”
Solidarity Actions in the Haitian Diaspora
A spate of solidarity actions has taken place in California, Montreal,
Toronto, New York City and Miami in recent weeks.
On September 30, Solidarité Québec-Haïti #Petrochallenge 2019 occupied
the prime minister’s election office in Montreal for three and a half
hours. They delivered a statement to officials and media demanding that
Justin Trudeau stop his support for Moise. Meanwhile, at a press
conference in Toronto, Trudeau seemed flustered to hear a reporter’s
question about the occupation of his Montreal election office. The group
followed up with a boisterous rally on October 1, resulting in one
arrest, which also garnered media attention.
Yves Engler, co-author of /Canada in Haiti: Waging War on the Poor
Majority/, told /Truthout/ that the group plans to up the ante during
the Canadian elections.
“Haiti is what brought me to be critical of Canadian foreign policy,”
Engler explains. “In 2004, I was shocked by how terrible Canada had been
in the coup against Aristide. Life in Haiti is decided in Washington and
On October 1, a group of Haitians protested Hillary and Chelsea Clinton
as they were promoting their new book: /The Book of Gutsy Women:
Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience/ at the Kings Theater in
Brooklyn, New York.
Human rights attorney Èzili Dantò said she supports the protests by
KOMOKODA (the Committee to Mobilize Against Dictatorship in Haiti) who
the Clintons’ public appearances.
“We know the harms the Clintons have done to Haitian women,” Dantò told
/Truthout/. “Haitian women will not have their agony and colonially
imposed poverty be used by parasites like Hillary and Bill Clinton.”
Ricot Dupuy, a Haitian journalist at Radio Soleil in New York City, said
he holds then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responsible for
installing Michel Martelly as president, ushering in an era of
illegitimate governance that is still killing Haitians today.
On October 2, Haiti Action Committee held a march and rally with South
Bay students, teachers, human rights and community activists in downtown
San Jose, California. They expressed solidarity with the uprising of the
Haitian people and demanded an end to U.S. support for the dictatorship
and death squads in Haiti. Six activists blocked the entrance to the
Federal Building while chanting “Stop massacres in Haiti!”
On October 3, Haitian Americans participated in a roundtable listening
session organized by U.S. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson with invited
guest U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in Miami, Florida.
On October 9, Solidarité Québec-Haïti #Petrochallenge 2019 held a press
reiterating its demand that Trudeau denounce Jovenel Moise.
And on October 13, the group held a protest rally outside Trudeau’s
campaign office in Montreal.
Dantò said that support from Haitians living in the diaspora now
standing in solidarity with the masses in the streets has never been
higher. Nevertheless, she worries about political machinations in
/Truthout/ requested an update from the Congressional Caribbean Caucus
and received a statement from staff containing these assertions:
The country is experiencing fuel shortages, lack of clean water,
dwindling food reserves, and more as protests escalate…. We hope
that the October 27th parliamentary elections will take place as
scheduled and without violence.
October 17 is Dessalines Day, a national holiday in Haiti that
commemorates the death in 1806 of Jean-Jacques Dessaline, a major hero
of Haitian independence. It is also the one-year anniversary of a bloody
day for protesters against Jovenel Moise; two people were killed last
year and many others wounded. The passing of an entire year is a
crystallizing reminder that the patience Moise asked of the people last
year has been unanswered by any positive or meaningful action all this
“Haiti is caught in a vicious circle,” Vorbe said, “but we want to
prepare for our future.”
Many of the masses of people anticipated to be in the streets on October
17 will be carrying leafy tree branches; most don’t have the money for
poster board and magic markers. And they don’t need them — the branch is
the symbol for the mobilization of the Haitian people. The historical
covenant to rebel in 1804, to risk bloodshed, was made in the mountains,
out of sight of the overseers and bosses. It was also carried by those
fighting the tyranny of their day during the Duvalier era. The leafy
branch is the sign of those ramifications.
From her academic perch at the Institute of Haitian Studies in
Lawrence, Kansas, Accilien said she struggles to find the words about
“Seems like this a moment of steps forward and steps back. We have a
glimpse of hope, but we’ve seen these moments before,” Accilien said.
“When is it going to be something else — when will it be Haiti’s turn to
tell the story?”
/Note: This article has been corrected to clarify that Moise attempted
to remove energy subsidies in July 2018./
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