Mass protests continue in Haiti against the US-backed regime of ‘President’ Jovenel Moïse. Publicly stating that he is “not a dictator”, Moïse has been ruling by decree without a parliament since January 2020. He has consistently failed to call legislative elections during his term in office and has already ordered the arrest of three Supreme Court judges.
To add insult to injury, Moïse is also trying to redraft Haiti’s constitution so that he can serve two consecutive terms. Predictably, the Biden administration, the UN and the OAS all support his claims that he didn’t officially take office till 2017 and should therefore be allowed to stick around for another year. Not surprisingly, Haitians disagree.
Thousands have taken to the streets in recent weeks to denounce the threat of another dictatorship and demand Moïse’s departure. The protesters are also responding to the sharp increase in insecurity and state-sanctioned violence. Kidnappings and gang-related violence have escalated.
The date of Moïse’s expired mandate, 7 February, marked the 35-year anniversary of the overthrow of the Duvalier regime. As Évelyne Trouillot writes in Woy Magazine:
[Just] like during the Duvalier era, Haitians are…still fighting in the streets throughout the country, refusing to abandon the struggle that began long ago. Haitians are fighting for another type of government, a State that will listen to their needs, a government that will not use public money for individual interests.
The government has responded with harsh repression, tear gas and rubber bullets, and attacks against the press.
“Where is the PetroCaribe money?” / #KotKòbPetroCaribeA
Recent anti-government protests are part of an ongoing wave of mobilisation since 2018 against a corrupt regime whose president Moïse, and his predecessor, Michel Martelly, stand accused of embezzling millions in PetroCaribe funds. Venezuela’s oil sponsored PetroCaribe programme was purportedly established in 2005 to support the development of infrastructure and sanitation projects in the Caribbean.
Recent protests in Haiti must therefore be understood in relation to the continuing anti-corruption movement #KotKòbPetroCaribeA – “Where is the PetroCaribe money?”
Non ak diktati! Stop the dictatorship!
There has been no government investigation into the Lasalin massacre in November 2018 – one of the worst since the Duvalier dictatorship – in which over 70 men, women and children died. Moïse remains silent and has given no response to this atrocious human rights violation.
Lasalin residents were involved in anti-corruption campaigns after Moïse had failed to deliver on development promises in the community. Reports into the causes of the massacre evidence collusion between gang leaders, corrupt police and government officials.
Meanwhile, the two men implicated in this politically motivated massacre – Jimmy Cherizier, former national police officer and gang leader, and Fednel Monchéry, former Executive Director of the Interior Ministry – manoeuvre with impunity.
Human rights groups, including the National Human Rights Defense Network, show that the perpetrators intended to create a climate of fear and repression ahead of further anti-government protests to demand the resignation of the incumbent president.
International day of solidarity for Haiti: what HSG supporters can do to help
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen unprecedented scenes of mobilisation against mob rule and kidnappings, with crowds from diverse sectors of civil society joining forces to swell the streets of Port-au-Prince. If Haiti is to avoid repeating history – Duvalierism, dictatorship, government repressions and insecurity – we need to pay attention, listen to what Haitians are telling us and act fast.
The Grassroots organisers we work with in the Caribbean and Latin America, including Camille Chalmers of the Haitian Platform for an Alternative Development (PAPDA), are calling for an international day of solidarity with Haiti on 29 March (the date the 1987 constitution was voted).
We can listen to this call. We can share news of what is happening in Haiti now, denounce Jovenel Moïse’s dictatorship and call on the governments of so-called ‘democratic’ states to stop supporting the tyranny of the Haitian people.
In the words of Trouillot
Listwa pa dwe fè bak
History should not move backwards. Help us help Haiti move forwards.
By Charlotte Hammond our Haiti Support Group Secretary