[News] Haitians protest their president in English as well as Creole, indicting US for its role in country's political crisis

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue May 11 21:20:12 EDT 2021


https://theconversation.com/haitians-protest-their-president-in-english-as-well-as-creole-indicting-us-for-its-role-in-countrys-political-crisis-160154
Haitians
protest their president in English as well as Creole, indicting US for its
role in country's political crisis
Tamanisha John - May 10, 2021
------------------------------

Haitian protesters on the nation’s streets have a laundry list of reasons
they believe President Jovenel Moïse should resign.

They blame Moïse for overstaying his term, which should have ended on Feb. 7
<https://nacla.org/news/2021/02/06/foreign-roots-haiti-constitutional-crisis-jovenel-moise>,
for fiscal austerity that has caused rapid inflation and deteriorating
living conditions
<https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2021/02/25/can-haiti-rid-itself-of-jovenel-moise>
and for sponsoring gang attacks that have killed at least 240 people
<http://hrp.law.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Killing_With_Impunity-1.pdf>
since 2018, according to human rights groups.

And though very few people in Haiti speak English
<https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-languages-are-spoken-in-haiti.html>,
Haitian protesters are using English to make their demands known, with
viral Twitter protest hashtags
<https://twitter.com/search?q=%23freehaiti&lang=en> like #FreeHaiti
<https://haitiantimes.com/2021/03/16/online-trend-freehaiti-spurs-action-offline-with-protests-in-us-2/>
and protest signs reading “Jovenel is a dictator.”

My research on imperialism and Caribbean politics
<https://pir.fiu.edu/people/phd-grad-students/tamanisha-john/> suggests
Haitians are using English not only to draw Western attention to the crisis
there
<https://www.coha.org/haitis-ongoing-struggle-for-uninterrupted-democracy-against-international-interventionism/>,
but also to indict the U.S. for its role in creating that crisis
<https://www.voanews.com/americas/haiti-presidents-term-will-end-2022-biden-administration-says>.

A scandal-plagued president

Sustained protests
<https://theconversation.com/haiti-protests-summon-spirit-of-the-haitian-revolution-to-condemn-a-president-tainted-by-scandal-126315>
have been a hallmark of Moïse’s tenure since he was elected in November 2016
<https://haitiliberte.com/the-record-low-voter-participation-in-haitis-2016-election/>
in an election that fewer than 12% of Haitians voted in.
[image: Valerie Baeriswyl / AFP via Getty Images]
<https://images.theconversation.com/files/399496/original/file-20210507-19-crdlx.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip>
Haitian
President Jovenel Moïse speaks on Nov. 18, 2019. Jovenel at a podium with
men sitting behind him
<https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/haitian-president-jovenel-moise-speaks-during-a-military-news-photo/1183269268?adppopup=true>

Moïse was the handpicked successor of Haiti’s unpopular last president,
Michel Martelly
<https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/haiti/politics-moise.htm>.
His meager 2016 electoral success came after two years of delayed
votes and confirmed
electoral fraud by Martelly’s government
<http://worldpolicy.org/2016/03/22/haitis-unending-electoral-transition/>.
In 2017, his first year in office, the Haitian Senate issued a report
accusing Moïse
<https://haitiliberte.com/le-rapport-petrocaribe-de-la-commission-senatoriale-speciale-denquete-du-senateur-evalliere-beauplan/>
of embezzling at least US$700,000 of public money from an infrastructure
development fund called PetroCaribe to his personal banana business
<https://time.com/5609054/haiti-protests-petrocaribe/>.

Protesters flooded into the streets crying “Kot Kòb Petwo Karibe a
<https://theweek.com/articles/840427/fight-transparency-haiti>?” – “where
is the PetroCaribe money?”

Lacking the trust of the Haitian people, Moïse has relied on hard power to
remain in office.

He created a kind of police state in Haiti, reviving the national army
<https://www.reuters.com/article/us-haiti-military/haitian-army-set-to-make-controversial-return-after-two-decades-idUSKBN1DJ01M>
two decades after it was disbanded and creating a domestic intelligence
agency
<https://cepr.net/whats-in-haitis-new-national-security-decrees-an-intelligence-agency-and-an-expanded-definition-of-terrorism/>
with surveillance powers. Since early last year, Moïse has also been ruling
by decree. He effectively shuttered the Haitian legislature by refusing to hold
parliamentary elections scheduled for January 2020
<https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2020/01/18/jovenel-moise-tries-to-govern-haiti-without-a-parliament>
and summarily dismissed all of the country’s elected mayors in July 2020
<https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article249251975.html>
when their terms expired.

Existing street protests exploded early this year after Moïse refused to
hold a presidential election and step down when his term ended in Feburary
2021
<http://www.haiti.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/CCI-CONSTITUTION-Note.pdf>.
Instead, he claims his term ends in February 2022, because Haiti’s 2016
election was postponed.

In the coming months, Moïse says, he intends to change the Haitian
Constitution
<https://www.liberationnews.org/fierce-struggle-resists-u-s-backed-haitian-presidents-power-grab/>
to strengthen the powers of the presidency and prolong his administration
<https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-03/proposed-changes-to-haiti-s-constitution-may-keep-moise-in-power>.

Memories of a dictatorship

For many Haitians, Moïse’s undemocratic power grabs recall the 30-year,
U.S.-backed dictatorship of François Duvalier, aka “Papa Doc,” and his son
Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.
[image: Black-and-white image of François Duvalier, in a suit, and his
wife, in a dress, surrounded by watchful men]
<https://images.theconversation.com/files/399495/original/file-20210507-13-17wn3bx.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip>
François
Duvalier with bodyguards and his wife, Simone, after they voted in Haiti’s
1957 presidential election, in which Duvalier was a leading candidate. AFP
via Getty Images
<https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/fran%C3%A7ois-duvalier-is-shown-with-his-wife-simone-after-they-news-photo/101945949?adppopup=true>

Both Papa Doc and Baby Doc relied on murdering
<https://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/haiti.htm> and brutalizing
<https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1986-02-03-mn-3859-story.html>
Haitians to remain in power, in close collaboration with Western corporate
and political interests
<https://origins.osu.edu/article/pact-devil-united-states-and-fate-modern-haiti/page/0/1>
in Haiti. The Duvaliers enriched themselves – along with Haiti’s American
financial investors and U.S. manufacturers based there
<https://theconversation.com/gas-shortages-paralyze-haiti-triggering-protests-against-failing-economy-and-dysfunctional-politics-116337>
– while leaving the country in massive debt.

When mounting Haitian protests ended the regime in 1986, Baby Doc fled the
country. Haiti was in economic collapse and social ruin
<https://scholarworks.uvm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1835&context=graddis>
.

The 1987 Haitian Constitution that Moïse now seeks to change was written
soon after to ensure that Haiti would never slide back into dictatorship.

Beyond Moïse’s use of state violence to suppress opposition, Haitian
protesters today see another similarity with the Duvalier era: the United
States’ support.

In March, the U.S. State Department announced that it supports Moïse’s decision
to remain in office until 2022
<https://responsiblestatecraft.org/2021/03/09/the-biden-administration-is-greenlighting-haitis-descent-towards-dictatorship/>,
to give the crisis-stricken country time to “elect their leaders and
restore Haiti’s democratic institutions.”

That stance – which echoes that of Western-dominated international
organizations that hold substantial sway in Haiti, such as the Organization
of American States
<https://dyalog.org/refleksyon/2019/2/11/the-core-group-as-a-parasite-on-haitian-sovereignty>
– sustains what is left of Moïse’s legitimacy to remain president.

Haitians unhappy with continued American support for their embattled
president have held numerous demonstrations outside the U.S. embassy
<https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/hundreds-haiti-protest-demand-leaders-resignation-75387503>
in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince
<https://www.garda.com/crisis24/news-alerts/445921/haiti-activists-to-protest-outside-the-us-embassy-in-port-au-prince-feb-22-24>,
while Haitian Americans in the U.S. have protested outside the Haitian
embassy in Washington, D.C.
<https://www.peoplesworld.org/article/solidarity-rallies-call-for-end-to-u-s-backed-dictatorship-in-haiti/>

Some Haitian demonstrators have also burned the American flag
<https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-03-31/haiti-leader-defies-protester-calls-to-cancel-election-and-quit>
at several protests in Port-au-Prince
<https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article249213495.html>.
The flag-burning, like the English-language protest slogans, aims to
highlight the history of Western foreign intervention that created the
disaster situation in Haiti.

>From its invasion and military occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934 to its
support of the Duvalier regime, the U.S. has played a major role in
destabilizing Haiti
<https://library.brown.edu/create/modernlatinamerica/chapters/chapter-14-the-united-states-and-latin-america/moments-in-u-s-latin-american-relations/a-history-of-united-states-policy-towards-haiti/>.
Ever since the devastating Haitian earthquake of 2010, international
organizations like the United Nations and nonprofits like the American Red
Cross have also had an outsize presence in the country
<https://theconversation.com/a-decade-after-the-earthquake-haiti-still-struggles-to-recover-129670>
.

Last year, protesters staged demonstrations outside the United Nations
headquarters in Haiti as the U.N. Security Council met to discuss Moïse’s
future and the country’s political crisis. Their message, according to the
publication Haïti Liberté
<https://www.struggle-la-lucha.org/2019/10/12/haiti-gripped-by-protests/>,
“No more foreign meddling.”
[image: Crowd in the street under smoky skies hold up a sign with U.S.,
Canadian and other foreign flags]
<https://images.theconversation.com/files/399493/original/file-20210507-19-1yjhdms.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip>
Protesters
in Port-au-Prince in 2019 highlight the role of foreign governments in
supporting President Jovenel Moïse, who was accused of corruption. CHANDAN
KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images
<https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/demonstrators-carry-a-cross-bearing-images-of-canada-us-and-news-photo/1149703953?adppopup=true>
Why
English?

Haitian protesters aren’t the only non-English-speaking protesters to use
English to air their grievances. In Myanmar, where a Feb. 1 coup overthrew
the country’s democratically elected government, English-language protest
signs, videos and hashtags abound
<https://www.elgazette.com/english-the-language-of-protest/>.

According to linguist Mary Lynne Gasaway Hill’s 2018 book, “The Language of
Protest <https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783319774183>,” using a widely
spoken, politically dominant language like English helps to get traditional
news outlets to cover uprisings occurring abroad. And if the state cracks
down on dissent, that means international audiences will see the violence,
too – potentially protecting protesters and hurting the government’s
credibility.

[*Insight, in your inbox each day.* You can get it with The Conversation’s
email newsletter
<https://theconversation.com/us/newsletters/the-daily-3?utm_source=TCUS&utm_medium=inline-link&utm_campaign=newsletter-text&utm_content=insight>
.]

English is a more likely protest tool, then, in a country where local
people feel – or in fact are – powerless to effect change without outside
alliances. Coupled with “social media and the rapidity of globalized
communication,” Hill writes, English protest messages can raise some
critical international solidarity.

I see another reason, too, for Haitian protesters’ recent adoption of
English: It is the language of the United States, the world’s most powerful
country and Moïse’s most influential international backer.

Haitians’ cries to “Free Haiti” ask Americans not only to pay attention to
their struggle – but also to consider their country’s responsibility for it.
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