The world is boiling. To the impressive processes of mobilization crossing Hong King, Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria, Catalonia and other places, we need to add Latin America, now: Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Chile, Honduras, Bolivia.
By Daniel Sugasti
Although with much less media coverage, the popular upraise hitting Haiti for seven weeks deserves all our attention.
The Haitian people began a new cycle of struggles to defeat the president Jovenel Moïse. In this occasion, the straw was a grotesque scandal of corruption. But the background is the economic, political and humanitarian crisis in the Caribbean country.
From September 15, the demonstrations take place almost daily. According to the organization Batay Ouvriyé, the partial number of deaths is approximately 250, with hundreds of wounded and detainees. Blocked roads, street barricades, confrontations with the police, paralysis of the education system and garbage collection, etc., make the scene of the main cities.
The protests were growing in number and radicalization. They count with workers of the textile industry, artists, students, teachers, police officers, sanitarian workers and even bosses and church segments. Many of them respond to the call of the Democratic and Popular Sector, a struggles’ coordination roundtable. The broad extension of the mobilization, socially and politically, shows the deep erosion after decades of pillaging by imperialism and local agents. The social “twitching” is a symptom of a broken State, assaulted in every possible way.
We highlight a few elements that contribute to the understanding of the immediate context of this process. Some of them are known already but cannot be left unmentioned. Haiti is the poorest country in America. Almost 60% of the 11 million Haitians survive under the poverty line (established at 2,44 dollars per day), and 24% under extreme poverty (1,24 dollars per day). The average wage is $60 dollars a month. The life expectancy is 63 years. 41% of the population is unemployed. The current inflation is 18%, essentially in food and medicines. There is also a chronic crisis of electric energy supply.
In July 2018, Moïse ended the subsidies to fuels as part of an adjustment measures’ pack, accorded with the IMF in exchange of a 96 million dollars’ credit. This caused the fuel price to increase 38%, the diesel 48%, and kerosene 51%. To have an idea of the impact of this raise in the people’s pockets, the kerosene and carbon are the fuels most used by the population to lighten their houses and cooking.
In January 2019, the High Court of Auditors revealed a report in which it accused President Moïse and other senior officials of misappropriating not less than 3,800 million dollars in loans from the Venezuelan program Petrocaribe, which provides subsided oil and fuels. An audit revealed irregularities between 2008 and 2016 involving 15 former Ministers and as many other active officials. It also points out to the Agitrans company, owned by Moïse himself, benefitting with public contracts to build banana projects and roads that were never constructed.
Before these scandals and a despairing economic situation, the popular outrage exploded spontaneously on February 7. During the first days, luxury cars were burned out and hundreds of people threw stones to the president’s house. On February 12, a group of demonstrators burned out a popular market, sacked several stores, and helped several prisoners run away from Prison.
Prime Minister Jean Henry Ceant was destitute in March and Jean-Michel Lapin took his place. Like this, the Haitian State named its third Prime Minister in two years. New protests took place in June, in Puerto Príncipe and other cities. At least two people died.
A new stage of the upraising
And so we reached September, when the upraising took a defined form.
The struggle against corruption is not the only one. Workers demand the fall of Moïse and an increase of the minimum wage. For example, the SOTA-BO (textile and clothes industry Union), linked to the organization Batay Ouvriyé, and together with other two unions of the same industry, demand wage adjustment, reduction of work shifts, improvement of labor conditions, besides public transportation, education and health. This is remarkable, because it implies the entrance in scene of the working class in a broad process with an anti-corruption shade, with a self-platform, and questioning, in fact, the imperialist domination and its Haitian minor partners.
On his side, Moïse says he is not attached to power but to the (IMF) reforms, which must be implemented. However, he never showed any intention to resign. He repeats that the country needs a National Unity government to re-stablish peace and stability.
The truth is that this government emerged already questioned by the major electoral fraud that led it to power. Since 2017, there is a masses’ upraising that confronts his main measures. In 2018, an insurrectional process that included a resounding general strike defeated the increase of fuel prices.
The sellout government of Moïse and his semi-colonial regime are in deep crisis. The demonstrations clash directly with imperialist domination and its local partners.
The upraising, almost uninterrupted since Moïse’s arrival to power, also shows the failure of the UNO military mission (Minustah). No social or humanitarian improvement took place in more than 13 years of foreign military occupation, led by Brazilian troops. The only legacy of the Minustah was repression, rapes, massacres in the poorest neighborhoods and coverage to the fraud that guaranteed Moïse’s election. But neither the Minustah nor its successor, the Minusjusth, together with the re-organized Haitian police, were able to crush the people’s rebellion.
This process of mobilization in Haiti must give place to a new revolution in the country, which will count with a double task:
- The democratic task of national liberation from the semi-colonial bondage of imperialism, mainly U.S. imperialism;
- As part of the same process of permanent revolution, the transformation from a national liberation fight and the resolution of the land issues, as other pending democratic tasks, in a dynamic of struggle towards a socialist revolution.
Nevertheless, for this, it is vital to face the task of building a revolutionary leadership. We are talking about a revolutionary party, with influence among the industrial proletariat, capable of leading the mobilization process until reaching the strategy of Socialist Revolution in Haiti, its region, and the world.
A workers’ party that defends a socialist solution to the economic crisis in the Island. This means, which begins from the necessity of overthrowing Moïse, to incorporate the defense of the most felt demands of the working masses -from wages to employment in general- reaching the expropriation of big national and foreign companies. To fully break with imperialism and establish a workers’ and popular masses’ government. Only a program of this nature can be up to the heroism and revolutionary energy historically displayed by the Haitian people.
Translation: Sofia Ballack