Photo: Haitians set overturned car on fire during February protests demanding the president’s resignation. Those protests continue today.
By Miriam Cordova
On October 28, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse mentioned during a radio interview that he has requested “humanitarian aid” from the US government in response to the now seven consecutive weeks of violent protests throughout the country.
Protesters have been consistently calling for Moïse’s resignation, which he has refused. Backed into a corner, he is choosing to open the country up even more to US imperialism rather than concede to the people’s demands.
Since coming to power in February 2017, in an election which saw only 21% voter turnout, Moïse has been exposed by the masses as a fraud and sellout. The Haitian people have been resisting the intense state repression by occupying the streets and confiscating property, bringing business as usual to a standstill.
The latest wave of popular protests has been related to the issues of fuel shortage, double-digit inflation, and lack of necessities like clean water. Back in November 2018, six protesters were killed in one day as demonstrations heated up demanding Moïse present an account for the billions in PetroCaribe money squandered and embezzled by the previous government. The money was part of a Venezuelan-established oil fund which was supposed to go toward the Haitian economy but is unaccounted for.
The coffins of two of the protesters killed demanding Moïse’s resignation became centerpieces for militant protests in Port-au-Prince on October 16 as police fired into the crowd of mourners. Demonstrators retaliated the state’s attempts to block the road by burning a police car, and two more protesters were injured.
Thousands of protesters gathered in cities around the country to commemorate 11 of the people killed in the demonstrations. Meanwhile the masses barred Moïse from holding the usual public ceremony for Jean-Jacques Dessalines, one of the country’s founders, and he was forced to hold it privately.
The US Embassy in Haiti released a statement via Twitter Sunday afternoon, mocking the demonstrators with calls for “peaceful protest.”
The US has been careful to pay lip-service to a “Haitian-led” government as a veneer to its imperialist exploitation of the nation. While its official organs have no choice but to claim that Haiti is independent, the US retains imperialist dominance over the country.
An estimated 25% of Haitian imports originate in the US and 83% of exports end up in US markets. Most of the people who make the household goods and cotton and wool clothing that are exported to the US are paid less than $2 a day. Although the US still runs a trade surplus with Haiti, its control of Haitian markets is shrinking. As the political and economic crisis continues to deepen, US imperialists may use it as an opportunity to consolidate and expand their control over these markets and export finance capital to increase their dominance of the economy.
The Haitian people are correct in their call to remove Moïse from office, and his refusal to do so only exposes his own interests. However, Moïse is likely to be replaced with another lackey of US imperialism, possibly a stronger one if the US imperialists can influence proceedings under the guise of “humanitarian aid.” This process will continue until the class struggle there is organized into New Democratic Revolution, which conditions are ripe for. The Haitian people are not short-sighted and are rebelling against oppression and exploitation that they have been subjected to for decades.