Canada, the United States and the United Nations (UN) are openly discussing a new intervention in Haiti.
On October 7, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry officially called for foreign military intervention in his country under the pretext of fighting the gangs. A few days later, Canadian and American military aircraft coordinated the arrival of Canadian-made armored vehicles to reinforce the Haitian National Police (PNH).
While Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vaguely talked about “diplomatic, humanitarian, and stabilization options” and declared that the solution should be “Haitian-led” (implying being against troops on the ground), he has explicitly evoked sanctions “to break the cycle of corruption” and for “holding those responsible for the crisis to account.”
Meanwhile, the United States have also talked about sanctions and came out in favour of a “security mission”, but however “led by a partner country”, thus implying that they wouldn’t be the ones sending troops on the ground themselves.
In addition to this, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres publicly supported the sending of a special international armed force. At the time of writing, the UN Security Council just approved sanctions targeting the gangs and in particular Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, the leader of the most powerful of them, G9. The US representative on the Security Council talks about this being an “initial answer” which may be followed by more actions.
The details of what an intervention would look like are still foggy and the imperialists do not seem to entirely agree. But whatever ends up taking place, if there is one thing we can learn from Haiti’s history, and its recent history in particular, it is that any intervention backed by the big capitalist powers has only brought suffering to the country’s workers and poor. That is why we say: no to imperialist intervention in Haiti!
The role of imperialism in Haiti
The Haitian state is in decay. Prime Minister Henry acts as president without having ever been elected, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies are no longer meeting, and large parts of the economy are controlled by gangs. The powerful “G9” gang led by Chérizier is now trying to carve out a place for itself in the government’s cabinet and is holding the government hostage by blocking the main oil terminal in Port-au-Prince, where 70 per cent of the country’s oil comes through. What remains of the Haitian state is crumbling, to the benefit of the gangs. It is the workers and the poor who are the first victims of this.
If you listen to the Canadian or American government, you would believe that they only want to protect “the rule of law” in Haiti and fight against the “chaos” that reigns. But they never discuss how we arrived at this chaos.
In reality, it is the imperialists themselves, and no one else, who are primarily responsible for the misery that afflicts Haiti.
Although imperialist interference has a long history in Haiti, the present situation can be traced back to 2004. The government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, elected by a large majority on a platform of progressive reforms, was overthrown by a coalition in which Canada played a key role. As early as 2003, the Canadian government had initiated a secret meeting at Meech Lake with representatives of many countries where the idea of overthrowing Aristide was discussed. Aristide terrified the imperialists and their private companies with his criticism of the U.S. and his program of raising the minimum wage and the living standards of the masses. For example, Canadian clothing manufacturer Gildan Activewear (which relies on extremely low wage workers, in Haiti and elsewhere) was among the fierce opponents to Aristide and his programme, and financially supported the coup.
On Feb. 29, 2004, U.S. security forces flew Aristide out of the country, while Canadian forces secured the airport, and the coup d’état won. It is not insignificant to note that Ariel Henry was part of the “Council of Elders,” an unelected group formed under U.S. auspices after the coup, to choose, in an equally undemocratic manner, who would replace Aristide.
The miseries suffered by Haiti’s workers and poor have only gotten worse since then. From 2004 to 2017, the country was under the occupation of UN forces, the so-called “United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti” (MINUSTAH). These supposedly democratic forces prohibited Aristide from returning to the country and his party, Fanmi Lavalas, from running for elections.
The UN peacekeepers, instead of “peace”, fomented terror and suffering. The imperialists are crying over the recent resurgence of cholera, but it was the peacekeepers themselves who imported the virus in the first place! These peacekeepers have repressed the population by raiding poor neighborhoods and specifically attacking Aristide supporters. A Brazilian soldier confessed in 2006: “The truth is that not a day passes where the UN troops don’t kill a Haitian in an exchange of fire. I myself definitely killed two, others, I didn’t look back to see.” As if that wasn’t enough, peacekeepers have committed sexual crimes against thousands of women and girls.
In 2008, an American ambassador revealed the true purpose of MINUSTAH:
“A premature departure of MINUSTAH would leave the [Haitian] government…vulnerable to...resurgent populist and anti-market economy political forces—reversing gains of the last two years. MINUSTAH is an indispensable tool in realizing core USG [US government] policy interests in Haiti.” [emphasis added]
Thus, the UN dictatorship was aimed at fighting those who oppose the capitalist market.
The Canadian, American and Western imperialists in general have no right to invoke the suffering of Haiti. They are its direct accomplices. It is the misery they have cultivated for decades that pushes layers of Haitians to join the gangs.
Haiti has been a social powder keg for years. Since the end of the UN occupation in 2017, the country has been plunged into one crisis after another. The government of Jovenel Moïse and his PHTK party, an ally of imperialism in power since 2017, has alienated all workers and the poor with its corruption and the widespread impoverishment it has imposed on the population.
In 2018, an attempt by the government to end fuel subsidies at the request of the International Monetary Fund sparked a mass uprising. Most of Haiti’s workers and poor need kerosene as a source of energy at home and depend on these subsidies to obtain it. The uprising forced the government to back down.
In early 2019, protests and a general strike called for the departure of the corrupt president. In the summer of 2020, yet more mass protests took place.
Then, President Moïse simply ignored the need for new elections and was headed for a dictatorship before his assassination in July 2021.
The Haitian government had already requested the intervention of foreign troops in the summer of 2021 to help manage the post-Moïse era. The call was not successful. The imperialists were not in a rush to go back to Haiti. They understand that the last UN intervention left behind cholera, sexual abuse and violence, and that the masses are not looking forward to reliving this at the hands of “peacekeepers”.
But the situation has changed since then. The imperialists hoped that Ariel Henry would be able to stabilize the situation after the assassination of Moïse, but the opposite happened. Henry dissolved the Provisional Electoral Council on Sept. 27, 2021, effectively postponing the elections indefinitely. Henry, like Moïse before him, presides over a dictatorship in all but name.
And on Sept. 11, this illegitimate government withdrew fuel subsidies, causing a drastic increase in prices at the pump. Combined with a 52 per cent increase to the cost of food, the masses can’t take it anymore and the PTHK government is once again facing a mass movement and demonstrations all over the country.
It is in this context that the G9 gang blocked the oil terminal in Port-au-Prince, the day after the announcement of the end of subsidies. The gang also wants Henry to fall, even though they supported him last year when he took power.
The imperialists thus face the real possibility that their ally Henry could be overthrown, opening up an even more unstable and unpredictable period. From the point of view of imperialism, it would be even worse if Henry were to be overthrown by a mass movement of workers and the poor like the one now unfolding. This is why talk of some sort of an intervention have escalated.
In Canada, and in the West in general, our first duty is to oppose our own imperialism. We must oppose all forms of economic sanctions, sending vehicles or weapons to reinforce the police, or any military intervention. In terms of sanctions “to break the cycle of corruption”, this will prove impossible, as the whole of the elite and the state is corrupt to the marrow! We also know from the experience of Iran that the price of sanctions will be passed off one way or another onto the poor who suffer the brunt of them. Any sanctions will either have little impact, or allow the sanctioned figures to whip up anti-imperialist sentiments for their own ends. Any strengthening of what is left of the Haitian state or the Haitian national police would increase its capacity to repress workers and the poor. This is what we saw on Oct. 17 when thousands of demonstrators took to the streets at the initiative of the left organization Pitit Dessalines to demand Henry’s resignation and denounce imperialist intervention. They were met with tear gas from the PNH. More repression and poverty is what awaits the masses, whether it is Henry’s corrupt clique or the gangs that hold power. All of them serve the Haitian elite which perpetuates the exploitation of the poor.
Moreover, it is not clear where the state ends and the gangs begin, and therefore reinforcing the state may end up helping the gangs too. The imperialists, by the way, had no problem with the gangs as long as they didn’t turn against their puppet Henry. The imperialists don’t care about the suffering of Haitians and the power of the gangs. They talk about fighting corruption while supporting a most corrupt regime which was responsible for the embezzlement of billions of dollars through the PetroCaribe scandal. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds. They only care now that their ally is in trouble and the masses are on the move.
The masses rise up: The only way forward
Haiti was born out of the slave revolution of 1791-1804, one of the most inspiring events in human history. For the first time in history, slaves rose up against their masters, and won. This proud tradition of struggle is alive and well today, and we see it with the mass movements of the last few years and the one currently underway.
Likewise, the Haitian masses have a healthy distrust of the imperialists who have destroyed their country. At the Oct. 17 demonstration, the leader of Pitit Dessalines said in front of the U.S. embassy, “Haiti is a great people. We are not your backyard.” In the demonstrations of the last few weeks, one can see many anti-imperialist symbols, for example this coffin with Henry’s picture on it, covered with the American, Canadian and French flags:
The imperialists have plunged Haiti into a misery that has no parallel in the Americas. Counting on aid from the UN, the United States or Canada is like counting on the arsonist to come and put out the fire.
It is Haitian capitalism as a whole that is rotten to the core and must be overthrown. The best demonstration of solidarity we can give here in Canada is to oppose any interference in Haiti and fight to overthrow our own ruling class here. The task of overthrowing Henry’s corrupt government and eliminating the power of the gangs belongs to the workers of Haiti themselves. This can only be done through a socialist revolution.
Hands off Haiti! No to imperialist intervention!
No to capitalism – for a socialist revolution in Haiti!