Haiti under the boots of ‘freedom’

Haiti under the boots of ‘freedom’

By Oscar Rotundo *

The political history of Haiti is the history of the challenges of a people that placed its self-determination over the interests of the European empires. Since then, this people have constantly struggled to maintain that self-determination.

The Haitian revolution was not carried out by sectors of the literate petty bourgeoisie. Slaves who lived in conditions of extreme exploitation and poverty carried it out. That is the reason why that revolution is characterized by its anti-slavery, anti-imperialist , anti-racist, anti-patriarchal and anti-capitalist stance.

It was intolerable for a slave-free nation to emerge when one of the economic pillars of the European powers was the slave trade and the plundering of the natural resources of the peoples conquered by blood and fire in a continent that offered all the material possibilities for the decadent and devastated imperial transatlantic metropolises accumulated wealth and stood up in the midst of an unprecedented economic and social transition process.

In the midst of a fierce inter-imperialist scenario at the beginning of the 19th century and in a strategic place like the Caribbean, a constitution that established that all men and women free, could not be allowed to exist – even less so in 1804, when Napoleon had proclaimed himself the emperor and converted that country into the French Empire.

The expansion of Napoleon Bonaparte through Europe put in check the control and flow of resources from the colonies of the new continent, which in the heat of this situation began to develop independence processes that ignored the authority of European governments.

If we take into account that the indigenous and African population was much bigger than that of the European conquerors and colonizers, the Haitian antecedent constituted an extremely dangerous milestone for the imperial nations. Hence the island was besieged with interventions, blockades and implausible obligations such as the payment of compensation to France for its unyielding will to be free – until the nascent US continental imperial power in with its first military invasion 1915 – 1934 put its “libertarian” boot on the will of the Caribbean people. This period was a period in which the US overwhelmed the sovereignty and devastated the country’s finances, thus beginning the dark times that reign until today.

Since that invasion, the political destiny of Haiti has been manipulated by the United States. At the end of the Second World War and in the framework of the “Cold War”, Washington  did not hesitate to bet on the figure of François Duvalier, a doctor who by the middle of the In the 1950s, when the United States began its criminal crusade to overthrow popular governments, became president of the island in the presidential elections of September 1957, for a period of six years.

François Duvalier died more than 50 years ago, but his dictatorship is still felt in Haiti

By 1963, before the complacent gaze of the United States, the OAS and the international community, “Papa Doc” outlawed the various political organizations, leaving his the National Unity Party as the only legal organization.

To consolidate his power in the face of the challenge that these changes posed, he promoted the creation of his own police, known as the “tontons” and “macoutes”, made up of unscrupulous former criminals, disciplined and fanatical followers of the president and his political-religious story, who presented him to the people as if he had supernatural powers, imbued with voodoo beliefs.

His paramilitary body imposed a regime of terror by acting with total national and international impunity. The result was that between thirty and sixty thousand people were assassinated.

The US government treated Duvalier as a strategic ally since it was established as a guardian of Western interests in the presence of the communist island of Cuba in the region. The Haitian regime fought Marxist sympathizers or those who maintained contacts with Havana.

For 1964, Duvalier “Papa Doc” changed the Constitution and proclaimed himself president for life, to be succeeded by his son Jean-Claude, known as Baby Doc, who was also proclaimed president for life in 1971, following the death of his father. All this tragedy at odds with democracy and with international agreements on the most varied range of rights was accompanied by the Western powers protected by US imperialism.

All that terrible period was one of misery and looting of the Haitian people, a situation that reveals that Haiti is not a poor nation, but a deliberately impoverished nation that has an indomitable people. This people have managed to overcome all the scourges inflicted by imperialism and its caste mercenary politics.

In February 1986, General Henri Namphy takes over as part of a military junta in the heat of popular discontent encouraged by the sermons of a Salesian priest named Jean-Bertrand Aristide and deposes the dictator, who at the time did not have the support of his partners of ­Washington anymore. Duvalier left the country taking with him a significant and unspecified amount of dollars.

After a succession of presidents, and trusting in the promulgation of an amnesty, Jean-Claude returned to his country where he was prosecuted and confined for a time, until he died in 2014 without having paid for his crimes and his looting of the state coffers.

During 1987, the priest continued with the denunciations from the altar of the church and in the streets, leading the demonstrations and claims of his faithful, a situation that led him to experience first-hand attacks by the paramilitary groups that had consolidated in the country.

The Salesian priest named Jean-Bertrand Aristide

The process of deterioration and political degradation that had begun at the beginning of the 20th century with the irruption of the North American troops seemed not to stop. On the contrary, it became more violent. On September 11, 1988, days before the coup that replaced Namphy with General Prosper Avril, armed men stormed the parish of Saint Jean Bosco, which had become the center of the Ti Église (The Little Church) movement promoted by Aristide, killing some 13 worshipers and wounding 77 others, then setting the building on fire.

The claims of the priest and the popular mobilization continued to focus on corruption, the abuses of the Avril dictatorship, the looting by the ruling classes and the socioeconomic inequality suffered by the people – considering the policies implemented by the United States as responsible for what their country was experiencing.

On December 16, 1990, for the first time in the 187-year history of Haiti as an independent State, democratic elections were held, and Aristide as a Lavalas candidate*, a pro- democracy movement that called together different organizations of the popular movement, unions and democratic parties, has won with 67.5% of the votes over a dozen opponents and with a wide difference to the second, who obtained 14.2% of the votes. In the legislative elections, after a second round, Aristide obtained a simple majority of 27 deputies out of 83, followed by 23 from the right-wing forces.

On February 7, 1991, Aristide assumes the leadership of the state for five years, a month after the loyal Army neutralized a coup movement whose leader was Roger Lafontant, Minister of the Interior and head of the “Tontons” and “Macoute” under the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier.

With this background, Aristide requested the cooperation of the United States and France to obtain economic possibilities that would lead him, not to eliminate, but to reduce social injustices and the appalling misery of the country “to a level of poverty where dignity was saved.”

Haiti had social indicators worse than those of several African countries, with a life expectancy of 56 years, an infant mortality rate close to 10%, illiteracy of 53% in the adult population and a per capita of 400 dollars for its 6.5 million inhabitants.

The country had an inflation rate of 25% and high job insecurity, depending on the prices in the international markets for cocoa, coffee and sugar cane.

With Lafontant’s failed coup attempt, it became obvious that democracy was weak and that the rural oligarchs, the upper bourgeoisie and the corrupt military bureaucracy saw their privileges seriously endangered.

On September 30, 1991, Aristide was overthrown by a bloody coup d’état that caused thirty deaths. The chief of the Army General Staff, General Raoul Cédras led the coup. After a brief detention Aristide traveled to Venezuela, a country governed by Carlos Andrés Pérez.

The cancer of Duvallierism had metastasized in Haitian society and political life, manipulating from the concentrated sectors of the economy the emancipatory will of the people who time and time again faced terror.

Aristide, at that time, had the support of the international community, and of the North American administration, which was very concerned about the possible arrival of “boat people” on its shores Haitians displaced by the state terrorism of a dictatorship that was opposed to their new facet of “protector of human rights and freedom”, with which Washington intended to harass socialist Cuba.

The UN, the OAS, as well as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) unanimously condemned the coup in Haiti, accompanying this shift in US foreign policy.

The OAS immediately decreed a trade embargo and the United States Government ordered the freezing of Haitian funds in its territory.

To restore Aristide to power, the diplomats of France, the United States and Venezuela, together with the special envoys of the UN and the OAS, began negotiations with the coup plotters and the representatives of the parliamentary parties in favor of the coup.

The Bush Administration considered the recovery of order and stability in the Caribbean country a priority, with or without Aristide at the helm, but the arrival of the Democratic administration of Bill Clinton in the White House accelerated the role of the United States, as a mediator willing to enforce signed agreements.

After several twists and turns and the signing of the Governors Island agreements in the US, between the ousted president and the coup plotters, the UN Security Council approved the sending of a Mission of 1,500 civilian police, MINUH, to assist the local authorities in the implementation of these agreements. But on October 11, when the MINUH troops attempted to disembark in Port-au-Prince, the coup plotters aborted the operation.

The Haitian people continued to suffer the terrorist actions of the coup plotters and now once again the reestablishment of sanctions by the UN.

Aristide refused any possible negotiations with the coup plotters and asked the international community for immediate military intervention as the only way to restore constitutionality and stop human rights violations. On July 31, 1994, the Security Council, through resolution 940, proceeded to create a Multinational Force (FMN) made up of 21,000 soldiers to restore Aristide to power by force.

Thus begins another tortuous chapter, when the Haitian people would face on their way to recover democracy, these mentioned forces in due course would be replaced by the MINUH, expanded to 6,000 troops and converted into peacekeeping forces.

This was the first time that the international community mobilized war preparations to “Restore a Democracy”. On September 19, 1994, after Cédras had agreed with former US President Jimmy Carter guarantees of a total amnesty prior to the arrival of Aristide, the mission was present in Port-au-Prince disarming the paramilitaries without resistance.

Aristide’s return to power

On October 15, Aristide returned to power under the supervision of Washington, guarded by a delegation headed by Secretary Warren Christopher, at the same time that the UN Security Council annulled the sanctions regime.

Aristide knew that his reinstatement as president was an unprecedented commitment to the United States, and from that moment he multiplied calls for peace and national reconciliation, dissolved the Armed Forces, and proceeded to create, supervised by the MINUH, a Police National (PNH) of civil character integrated by 6,000 civil servants.

On March 31, 1995, Aristide received Clinton and the UN Secretary General, Boutros-Ghali, in Port-au-Prince on the eve of the transfer of command from the FMN to the MINUH. From that moment on, 2,400 soldiers from the US contingent would remain as personnel assigned to MINUH, until elections were held.

Despite everything, the climate of violence persisted and was present and the political disagreements between partisan organizations and personal ambitions made the democratic life of a country occupied militarily by foreign forces and handcuffed by the neoliberal policies of the IMF and other international organizations.

On February 7, 1996, Aristide handed over the presidential attributes to Préval in an act that marked a historical milestone, as it was the first transfer between democratically elected presidents in that country.

In this way Aristide moved away from institutional life, but not from his political aspirations. Within the framework of the resumption of the dialogue between the Government and the IMF, President Préval announced an economic rationalization plan consisting of the privatization of State companies and the downsizing of the same by reducing the staff of civil servants, generating the reaction of different political expressions – among them that of Aristide.

Neoliberal package deepens contradictions

The imposition of the neoliberal package deepened the contradictions between the democratic forces and deteriorated the incipient economy of the country. For the 2000 elections, Aristide ‘s party obtained a resounding victory in the legislative elections of May 21 and July 30, winning 72 of the 82 deputies and 26 of the 27 senators, although the opposition parties refused to participate in the second round and the OAS observers also refused to monitor it.

On November 26, Aristide defeated six opponents with 91.8% of the votes, but the international community decided not to send observers and, while the CEP spoke of a 60% participation, the opposition and the international media they said that the real index had not exceeded 10%, which turned the election into a “farce”.

On February 7, 2001, Aristide assumed his second five-year presidential term, but in a totally different scenario than the one that accompanied him previously. He no longer had the unconditional support of the international community and credit lines were suspended until the political normalization of the country. In this framework, the political and social deterioration accelerated, increasing the class struggle, since the privileged sectors of society engaged in a conspiracy process, maintaining their privileges at the expense of the suffering of the majority, which they had seen in the last 15 years. with democracy or dictatorship, misery deepened, paving the way for the installation of criminal organizations that co-opted desperate young people who did not envision a future different from the one they had witnessed as children.

This second Aristide administration was marked by violence and misery. On July 28, 2001, armed men in military clothes attacked three police stations, killing five agents. In November, two days of general strike called by the opposition ended with excesses and clashes.

In December, an extremely serious event occurred: a rebel commando made up of some thirty men broke into the National Palace, shooting at the forces guarding it. Aristide was saved because he was not on site. This event marks a circumstance that over the years we would witness again, this time not as an assassination attempt, but as an assassination carried out in the figure of Jovenel Moses.

As a result of this coup adventure, eight people were killed. Thousands of supporters of the president responded, carrying machetes and firearms, hunting down the fleeing rebels, killing four near the Dominican border. The overflowing fury did not stop there and also targeted the opposition parties.

With external economic conditioning and internal deterioration, violence was dominating in much of the country. The institutional deterioration manifested itself in the successive changes of cabinets and popular dissatisfaction grew in the heat of the deepening of misery and the denunciations of corruption.

On January 1, 2004, the bicentennial of the proclamation of independence, the so-called Democratic Platform of Civil Society and Opposition Political Parties presented a “transitional alternative” consisting of Aristide ‘s removal from power and his replacement by an interim president until elections are held.

CARICOM received a delegation from the Platform in Jamaica, to which it proposed the appointment of an independent prime minister and the deployment of a multinational police force. Aristide agreed to negotiate the appointment of a new prime minister and a government open to the parties of the opposition and civil society – but at the end of his mandate in 2006. The opposition organization emphasized the resignation of Aristide and the dissolution of the groups of armed supporters of the president, generating the stagnation of the negotiation.

The beginning of the year showed a scenario of civil war in progress, the dead, product of political violence, by the middle of the year exceeded fifty, the criminal gangs enrolled in the Cannibal Army, which had taken the name of the Revolutionary Resistance Front of Artibonite (FRRA) and also Front for National Liberation and Reconstruction (FLRN), led by Butteur Métayer, and two of his lieutenants, Winter Etienne and Milfort Ferdinand, alias Ti Will , had respectively proclaimed themselves Regional Chief of Police, Mayor and Commissioner of the “liberated city” of Gonaïves, destroying government buildings and police stations and emptying the prisons defeating the official forces whom they put to flight or assassinated.

It is clear that Haiti is an economically intervened and politically manipulated country, but what is most striking is the armed power of the drug gangs that face institutional forces, with sophisticated weapons that cannot come from anywhere other than the United States, by conventional or clandestine means.

On February 13, Aristide accepted the OAS and CARICOM proposal to send an international police force. But on the 15th, the disbandment of the government began and one of the FRAPH paramilitary chiefs, during the Cédras dictatorship, arrived from the Dominican Republic and entered into talks with the FLRN to coordinate their respective insurgencies to enter Port-au-Prince.

The chaotization of society opened the doors to foreign military intervention. On the 23rd George W. Bush sent a platoon of marines to protect the US Embassy, and France got ready to intervene.

On Sunday, February 29, Aristide boarded a US Air Force plane and took off with a small entourage, including his wife Mildred, his brother-in-law and two bodyguards to an unknown destination.

From his African exile, he denounced that on Saturday the 28th a delegation of US “agents” and “military” had appeared at his mansion and forced him to sign a document resigning power under the threat that otherwise he would have a “bloodbath” and “thousands of people would be killed”.

Washington denied the statements, but suspicions that this was the case were reflected in the requests of some CARICOM governments, which demanded an independent international investigation into the former president’s statements and decided not to send troops to the International Military Force.

Aristide accuses US of being complicit in “black holocaust”

In April 2005, Aristide accused the United States, France and Canada of being complicit in the “black holocaust” that had been perpetrated in Haiti in the last year and denounced that the “repression” suffered by his supporters had caused “10,000 deaths”.

The imperialist interventions on the island since 1915 have brought neither stability nor well being to the Haitian people. The last of them, the UN Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti (MINUSTAH) lasted 13 years (2004-2017), and what it served for was to increase the hatred towards the occupation that generated the degradation of the living conditions of the population, committing all kinds of aberrations, abuses and murders, subjugating the sovereignty of the Haitian people.

Now, the government forces suspected of being the ideological and financial authors of the assassination against the de facto president Jovenel Moïse at the hands of Colombian mercenaries, once again put their libertarian and democratic boot on a nation that, beyond internal contradictions and environmental and structural calamities, continues to stand up to rescue the libertarian values of the feat of 1804.

Haiti continues to be manipulated by the US militarist conception that sees in it an essential strategic location for military control of the Caribbean and to continue with its terrorist plan to destabilize the socialist island of Cuba, fundamentally at a time when multipolarism is rising as an option for the impoverished peoples of the South and the Caribbean.

Haiti needs the full and active solidarity of the peoples and the firm determination of the nations of the world to respect its sovereignty and self-determination and prevent a repetition of the MINUSTAH experience. In Haiti, the undeniable conviction of the liberator Simón Bolívar becomes flesh that “The United States seems destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of freedom.”

* A team editor at PIA Global

* Creole word that denominates the torrent that comes down from the mountain after a storm that washes everything.

This article was published first on Pia Global in Spanish.

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One response to “Haiti under the boots of ‘freedom’”

  1. Liana says:

    thanks for info

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May 2024