Resisting the invasion of Haiti: protests continue in 2022

Haiti has been in a state of civil unrest since 2018 as a result of a crisis that has been playing out for over a decade.

Haiti
PC: Reuters

Protests began again this year on 14 September following an announcement by Prime Minister Ariel Henry calling for an end to fuel subsidies. After the announcement, many gangs in Haiti began a coordinated occupation of sites to hoard fuel and basic goods. Gangs would then sell fuel at rates of nearly Rs. 600 per litre. Inflation reached alarming levels at this time, resulting in mass-level demonstrations and riots. At the same time, there was an outbreak of cholera. The outbreak began in the prison, owing to a lack of water. The crisis arising from a lack of basic amenities and a torturous economy keeps adding fuel to the fire of protest.

During the crisis, Prime Minister Henry called for foreign assistance to respond to the law and order problem. Protesters stood in opposition, calling for the resignation of Henry. Protesters shouted slogans expressing opposition to any armed UN intervention as a response to the crisis. The United States and Mexico have offered a non-UN international force to fight the gangs in Haiti.

As a result of the COVID Pandemic and the Ukrainian War, fuel and food prices in Haiti, like many parts of the world, have shot up. Haiti has been in a state of civil unrest since 2018 as a result of a crisis that has been playing out for over a decade.

American-backed President

Ariel Henry has been the acting Prime Minister and acting President since July 2021. He has been part of a movement that was in opposition to Jean Bertrand Aristide. Aristide was Haiti’s first democratically elected President. Aristide was a steadfast opponent of imperialism. He was the first leader of Haiti to bring to the world’s attention the horrible exploitation of Haiti by France, stating that France owed Haiti reparations for its brutal imperialism and the horrible debt it enacted on the country for nearly 150 years after independence. Aristide’s government was continually toppled by military coups from within the country, supported by the United States.

Ariel Henry, Present Prime Minister of Haiti

Ariel Henry has been seen by the Haitian people as an extension of American interests. He became Prime Minister after the assassination of Moise, after representatives from the United Nations and the Organization of American States, a US-based organization that works with the militaries of many states in Latin America to “monitor elections.” The OAS has been responsible for suppressing leftist governments throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Soon after his Presidency, a massive earthquake hit Haiti, leading Henry to declare a state of emergency. Henry then tried to change the constitution of the country to abolish the Prime Minister’s office and give more powers to the President. Henry’s rule also a rise in gang violence, which Henry used to justify his need for more powers. Soon after, there were assassination attempts on Henry, leading to Henry calling on the United States to support his efforts to combat gang violence.

Henry’s government has been marked by corruption, authoritarianism, natural calamity and subservience to foreign powers. Some Haitians believe that he may have had a role in the assassination of his predecessor, though he has denied it.

Haiti
Jean Bertrand Aristide, former Haiti Prime Minister

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Protesters have also shouted against international peacekeepers. The United Nations Security Council just issued sanctions against the violent gangs and wants to send Peacekeeping forces to restore order in Haiti. On 21 October 2022, the UNSC voted unanimously to impose asset freezes, travel bans and an arms embargo against Haiti to combat the violent situation.

Haitian protesters have made it clear that the country needs economic support, not the foreign boot on their necks. Haiti has had a long history of foreign powers occupying their country and using civil unrest in the country as a pretext to deny the Haitian people their due democratic rights. While the people of Haiti have suffered escalating gang violence, they see it as a result of foreign meddling. They do not see the United Nations, or the presence of foreign powers like the United States or France as a path to reclaim their country.

Gang Violence

Since 2021, gang-related violence has increased massively in Haiti. Nearly 200 gangs are active in Haiti today. A lot of the gang violence can be traced to the underfunded state and the rampant corruption within the police department. The corruption of the police department is part of the reason for such high levels of gang violence.

One large gang collective is the G9 gang, which has consolidated 9 gangs under the leadership of Jimmy Cherizier, AKA Babekyou (sounds like Barbeque). Babekyou was a former police officer of the Haitian National police. While a police officer, he was part of the Unit for the Maintenance of Law and Order but worked secretly with members of the underworld to provide them with weapons. He has been accused of many massacres and working with former President Moise. He was a public figure who had a huge following in the country. His history with the former President has led many Haitians to feel that the UN sanctions have been designed to fight Henry’s rivals and enei3es rather than a genuine desire to end gang violence.

The Illegal arms trade from the United States has also made gangs more powerful and deadly. Sexual assault and the recruitment of children by gang members are common now. Tens of thousands of Haitians have been displaced from their homes over the past two years.

What would help Haiti

Haitian protesters have made it clear that the violence and corruption are a direct result of the undemocratic structure of the government. This structure is a result of centuries of imperialist suppression and exploitation by countries like the United States and France. The United States is pushing for further interference, which will keep continuing the patterns of violence and corruption. Only through economic cooperation and recognition of the democratic struggles of Haiti will there be any change.

Author is a mathematician and political observer based in Bangalore. 

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