By MARTY GOODMAN
“We have a little minority (of) rich people in this country, running this country, earning everything, and we have the mass of the population dying, hunger, and misery like this. It’s impossible,” said a Haitian protester, Valckensy Dessin, last month. Feb. 7, 2019, marked 33 years since nationwide protests forced the 1986 downfall of the U.S.-backed dictator, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.
Haitians were back in the streets for much of February. All major cities were on fire with protest. Schools, public offices, and private businesses were closed. Burning tires lit street intersections, gas stations were torched, and banks trashed.
The demonstrators demanded the ouster of the pro-U.S. businessman, President Jouvnel Moise. “Moise Must go!” and “Give me the money!” crowds yelled. Tragically, at least 26 were killed and about 77 injured, according to UNICEF.
Rage continued over the theft of $4 billion in oil credits from Venezuela’s “PetroCaribe” program, intended for aid to Haiti’s poor. Two Haitian Senate reports and another by government auditors, identified billions stolen from PetroCaribe funds. The reports cited Moise’s companies and other corrupt elements. The funds came from the 17-nation PetroCaribe program before imperialist oil sanctions were instituted against Venezuela. By declaring Venezuela “terrorist,” President Obama paved the way for Trump’s sanctions.
Haitians were also furious at the Haitian government when it voted in the Organization of American States on Jan. 10 to condemn Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as “illegitimate”—even after Venezuela’s $4 billion gift!
Today, 60% of Haiti’s population lives in poverty. The World Bank and its enforcement arm, the IMF, imposes austerity, which resulted in the doubling of gas prices last July to maintain debt payments. The measure sparked massive protests. The system is maintained by U.S. support for corrupt, pro-U.S. regimes and reinforced by years of a U.S.-led UN occupation. About 1000 troops remain in Haiti today.
In related news, on Oct. 3, 2018, a U.S. District Court prevented Homeland Security from terminating Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for some 240,000 TPS recipients from Haiti, Sudan, Nicaragua, and El Salvador living in the U.S. On Feb. 28, TPS was officially extended until Jan. 2, 2020. Considering conditions in Haiti, the fight must go on to protect all TPS recipients from deportation!
Tragically, no opposition force has emerged in Haiti worthy of trust. The building of a working-class revolutionary party remains top priority to escape from the boot of capitalist misery.