Jovenel Moise, the “president” in name and dictator in fact of Haiti, was assassinated by gunmen in his home this morning. These gunmen allegedly claimed to be DEA agents, and were “foreigners” that “spoke both English and Spanish”. While the situation is still developing, and there are many unknown details, we can draw some conclusions despite the fog. First and foremost, Moise’s murder does not benefit the Haitian masses. One thing we know about these types of regimes is that the figurehead is always replaceable, as long as the extractive imperialist order remains in place. Indeed, it will likely provide a convenient excuse for other elements in the regime to escalate their violence against the pro-democracy, anti-imperialist mass movement and the Haitian people at large, and might even serve as a pretext for further US intervention and direct involvement. The acting authorities, led by interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph (a supporter of the 2004 coup against the freely elected Aristide government) wasted little time in declaring a state of emergency, which appears to grant them sweeping powers. Moise’s imperialist backers in Washington, Paris, the United Nations and elsewhere have responded with predictable crocodile tears and fake concern for the people of Haiti.
Jovenel Moise, like his predecessors, used heavily armed gangs to carry out acts of destruction theft, and repression that even the National Police-which is closely linked to the United States government-can’t get away with. In many respects, their function in 21st century Haiti is similar to the vicious Tonton Macoute militias of the Duvalier era. They have directed their violence against journalists, activists, medical workers, and residents of areas where support for the Fanmi Lavelas party and the protest movement is strong. On June 30, for example, gunmen murdered activist Antoinette Duclair, reporter Diego Charles, and several others in Port-au-Prince. Massacres, kidnappings, arson and sexual assaults are the tools of the trade for the regime and its street mercenaries. This is testament to their illegitimacy, and their hatred of the Haitian masses. It is much too early to know who the exact perpetrators of Moise’s death are. Maybe his chickens came home to roost. Maybe he outlived his usefulness to his foreign puppet-masters. Maybe it was a coup within the regime, or some combination of all of the above. We will discover the truth in time.
Regardless, the response of those of us who reside in the United States should be clear. Reject and actively oppose the intervention of Washington and other imperialist forces like the Core Group, the Organization of American States, and the United Nations. Support the Haitian masses fighting foreign occupation and domestic dictatorship, especially the most progressive and revolutionary elements within the masses. Follow their leadership and their demands, which include an end to US support for the regime in Haiti, steadfast opposition to foreign meddling, an end to state and state-sanctioned violence, and a truly democratic transition. Join up with principled organizations that are doing the same. Educate yourself and others on the history of Haiti and the Haitian people and their current struggle, and counter the narratives pushed by the racist, imperialist media. These are some of the ways we can be useful allies of Haitians.
No less than they were in the 19th century, Haiti and the Haitians are focal points of global revolution. The imperialists and the Haitian bourgeoise understand this, which is why they work so tirelessly to crush any seeds of democracy and liberation in the nation. The victory and self-emancipation of the Haitian people, marked by the defeat of France and the transformation of the colony of Saint-Domingue into the independent nation of Haiti in 1804, was a gut punch to white supremacy, colonialism, and empire. France not only lost its most lucrative colony, but it did so at the hands of people Europe and the US viewed (and continue to view) as subhuman. After independence, France and other European/Euro-American powers continued to punish Haitians for their audacity, isolating Haiti diplomatically and squeezing it economically. The Haitian peasantry, which made up the overwhelming majority of the population at the time, was able to live a materially poor but self-sufficient existence, but the Haitian elite chafed at their international pariah status. In 1824, the Haitian government agreed to pay France 150 million francs in exchange for diplomatic recognition. This was a deal with the devil, a payment plan struck with their former captors and torturers. The astronomical figure was later reduced to 90 million francs, which is still equivalent to tens of billions of present day US dollars, and it took Haiti generations to pay it. By the early 20th century, the United States had become Haiti’s largest trading partner, but American business interests wanted direct control of Haiti’s resources. From 1915 to 1934, the United States ran a brutal military occupation of Haiti, seizing absolute power over its finances and administration. The Marines were even sent into steal all of Haiti’s gold reserves, which were then sent to the headquarters of the National City Bank in New York. The National City Bank would later become Citibank. Most of the tiny Haitian elite collaborated with the Yankee occupiers, but popular resistance and growing international opposition forced Washington to withdraw.
But the punishment of Haiti hardly stopped there. Haiti’s natural and human resources couldn’t be ignored by the global, white-dominated bourgeoisie. The fascist Duvalier dynasty ruled Haiti from 1957 to 1986, backed to the hilt by the imperialists. One of the most notorious outrages was committed by Duvalier lackey Luckner Cambronne, head of the notorious Tonton Macoute militia and known as the “Vampire of the Caribbean”, who sold his people’s blood and even their bodies to the US through a front company. In the 1990s, the democratically elected, popular progressive government of Jean Bertrand Aristide was overthrown by the Western powers and the Haitian military, and a more compliant president allowed to take over in the interim after Washington-backed Macoutes killed thousands of Aristide’s supporters. Washington sent in tens of thousands of soldiers to unofficially occupy the country. When a restored Aristide, brought back thanks to mass pressure, dissolved the hated Haitian military, the CIA and other agencies worked to make sure the new National Police was on their side, even as the paramilitaries remained armed as a backup solution.
When Aristide was elected again in 2004, those same forces launched another coup, driving Aristide himself into exile and putting down resistance with an iron fist. The horrific 2010 earthquake gave the imperialists another chance at direct occupation, this time led by the United Nations. All of these coups, occupations and dictatorships allowed the colonizers of yesterday to continue robbing Haiti blind, while allowing their Haitian accomplices to take their share of the loot. Today, Haiti’s enemies still sing pretty words about democracy, prosperity and human rights, but their real record is written in blood and buried in stolen goods. Now we can see how Haiti’s poverty is not accidental or a result of the supposed laziness and backwardness of Haitians. It is an intentional policy of underdevelopment imposed by imperialist countries and supported by the traitorous comprador Haitian ruling class.
All the while, Haitians have continued to struggle against anyone and everyone, whether foreign invader or domestic dictatorship, that interfered with their dreams of land, dignity, peace and freedom. The recent protest movement is simply the latest in a long history of Haitian mass resistance. The imperialists and the entire bourgeois, racist order knows that a second Haitian Revolution, this time for socialism and against the internal/external bloodsuckers, would be a beacon of light in the world, and therefore a threat to their power. It is our duty to stand with the Haitian masses as they fight on.