The Hell That is Haiti

by Marty Goodman, published on Socialist Action, September 12, 2021

Haiti is being hit by an unending series of natural and human-made disasters – seemingly all at once.

The assassination on July 7 of its president Jouvenel Moise; an Aug. 14 earthquake; tropical storms; rampaging gang violence and a COVID crisis in a society tortured by extreme poverty and inequality.

In the midst of the turmoil and horror, President Joe Biden, despite campaign promises to end the Trump era’s racist deportation of Haitians, has increased the rate of deportations. Remember that the obnoxious Trump had called Haiti one of the “shithole countries.”

The warm welcome given Afghan refugees today is in sharp contrast to Haiti policy that has meant decades of racist deportations to U.S. backed dictators. Coast Guard ships in the Caribbean regularly return fleeing Haitian immigrants to Haiti. This policy contrasts with those exiles that are white and/or anti-communist.

An August 30 protest letter addressed to Biden and top U.S. officials and signed by 344 organizations, slammed Haiti policy,

“Since February 1, 2021, the Administration sent at least 37 deportation flights to Haiti, even as your officials acknowledged internally that those being deported “may face harm” on return and the COVID-19 pandemic raged. By March, the Biden-Harris Administration had removed more Haitians since taking office than during all of fiscal year 2020. Many of the deportees must return to neighborhoods controlled by gangs with ongoing kidnappings in an already unstable environment, now further overwhelmed by Saturday’s calamity [the Aug.14 earthquake].”

ICE has apparently halted deportations since the earthquake, but may restart them without warning as it did shortly after hurricane Mathew hit Haiti in October 2016.

The Aug. 30 letter also attacked Biden’s continuation of the Trump era expulsions of immigrants, including Haitians, who crossed the Mexican border. In August, the U.S. deported 130 Haitians, including several children under the age of two. Advocates accuse ICE of violating U.S. obligations under asylum law.

Trump’s so-called “Title 42” exclusion policy was ostensibly in response to COVID fears at the Mexican border but in reality it was a cover for the racism at the heart of U.S. immigration policy. That policy essentially continues under Biden. Both absurd and tragic, many deported immigrants from Mexico say that they were never tested for COVID.

Moreover, those expelled under Title 42 are routinely denied access to a lawyer or the opportunity to claim a “credible fear” of what would happen to them back in Haiti or any other country of origin.

Finally, Biden has not restarted the “Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program” created under Obama that was ended without written notification by Trump. In Miami, Biden made a campaign promise to the Haitian community to restart it at an October 5th campaign rally in Miami.

In May, the Department of Homeland Security, under pressure from immigrant rights advocates, announced a new cut-off date for Haitians to be in the U.S. from May 21, 2021 to July 29, 2021, to be eligible to receive “Temporary Protected Status” (TPS) for 18 months. Those fleeing the turmoil surrounding the Aug. 14 earthquake are excluded.

Ira Kurzban, a prominent Miami immigration attorney, said,

“The first President [George H.W.] Bush allowed 320,000 Chinese students to stay in the United States after the Tiananmen Square protests. Are you doing group parole? Recognizing that there’s 30,000 people in southern Haiti that have no homes, do we fly those people to the United States? In 1966, we flew 260,000 Cubans to the United States.”

Imperialist to the core, Biden steadfastly supported President Moise despite massive Haitian protests demanding the gangster president step down on Feb. 7, 2021 in accordance with Haitian law. Agreeing with the demand of the protesters were the Haitian Bar Federation, the Superior Council of Judicial Power and Quisqueya University.

Haiti be damned, Biden has allocated extensive funding for November’s first round of scheduled sham presidential and legislative elections, which will include, reports say, Moise’s referendum on a constitutional change that forbids all brutality charges against the Haitian army. The Biden Administration has also called for continued U.S. funding to the Haitian police, despite gross human rights violations.

Assassination

On July 7th Haitian president Jouvenel Moise, a banana exporter-turned-politician, was assassinated in his estate outside downtown Haiti’s capital, Port au Prince, by a band of 26 Colombian mercenaries, some of whom received U.S. military training, plus two Haitian Americans. Moise’s wife, Martine, was wounded in the attack and three mercenaries were killed by Haitian police. The hired thugs met little resistance from Moise’s security guards at his estate in the upscale neighborhood of Kenscoff.

One of the Colombians was Manuel Antonio Grosso Guarín, a 41-year-old retired special operations commando. According to the Colombian newspaper La Semana, Grosso was “a member of the special forces and anti-guerrilla squads,” and in 2013, assigned to the urban anti-terrorist special force group, an elite ‘counter-terrorism’ operation that carry out kidnappings and assassinations of political opponents.

Another is Francisco Eladio Uribe Ochoa, who retired from the Colombian Army in 2019 and was accused in the 2008 murder of Luis Carlos Cárdenas on a possible “false positives” charge, a death squad practice of dressing up murdered dissidents in guerrilla garb, to ‘justify’ the execution. Although officially exonerated, Cardenas remains in files that don’t exist, according to the government.

Colombia is Washington’s closest military ally in Latin America and one of the continent’s most repressive. On May 13, 2021 Opovo Online—a Brazilian media outlet— reported on the hundreds of missing protestors in the context of Colombia’s national strike.

Reacting to the assassination of Moise, popular rage boiled over at yet another assault on Haitian sovereignty by, so far, unknown forces, although suspicions revolve around competing capitalist forces.

Assassination has not been typical in Haiti’s modern era. “This was a very brutal and shocking event,” said Robert Fatton, a Haitian author and professor at the University of Virginia.

President Moise was the hand-picked choice of the mob-linked, neo-Duvalierist former Haitian President, Michel Martelly, leader of the rightist Haitian Bald-Headed Party (PHTK). In a 2002 article, the Washington Post explained how the pro-U.S. Martelly was a “favorite of the thugs who worked on behalf of the hated Duvalier family dictatorship before its 1986 collapse.”

Wikileaks documents on Haiti, distributed by Julian Assange, revealed intense interference in Haiti’s 2010 elections by U.S. officials, especially by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who bullied the Haitian electoral council into bumping-up Martelly into a presidential run-off election in March 2010. After a low turnout of 20 percent, Martelly won.

Upon taking office in 2011 Martelly declared Haiti, “Open for business.” The pro-U.S. Martelly included the now interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph and the interim President Ariel Henry in his rogue’s gallery cabinet. Neither politician was ever elected.

Before his departure in 2016, Martelly handpicked the PHTK’s Moise as his successor, who won with only 9 percent of registered voters! After Moise’s assassination, pro-U.S. loyalists Joseph and Henry became the interim leadership under pressure from the so-called “Core Group” of imperialists and their surrogates, i.e., the U.S., Canada, France, Spain, Germany, Brazil, UN and the U.S. toady, the OAS. Shortly, Henry became interim Prime Minister, the higher post.

The “open” investment climate of PHTK regimes were viewed favorably in a 2018 U.S. State Department Report on doing business in Haiti.

Haiti Seethes with Anger 

In the aftermath of the assassination, massive numbers of Haitians poured into the streets to protest the catastrophic inequality, poverty and corruption in Haiti – not in grief over a despised and corrupt U.S. puppet.

Moise had allowed most of the legislative and municipal positions to expire without holding new elections. In addition, Moise purged several dissenting judges. On January 13, 2020, Moise formally announced the closure of the 50th legislature.

The journalists were shot while covering anti-government protests. ~Jeanty Junior Augustin, Reuters

On August 17, 2020, a revealing third corruption report was released by Haiti’s Superior Court of Accounts and Administrative Litigation. The massive Senate report linked Moise and others to a $2 billion embezzlement scandal. The report focused primarily on the pilfering of the “Petrocaribe fund,” a Venezuelan government solidarity grant in which 40 percent of the revenues Haiti would owe for the sale of some $4.3 billion of Venezuelan oil from 2008 to 2018 to be repaid at only one percent interest after 25 years. The funds were intended to go to projects benefiting the Haitian people like building schools and hospitals.

The report concluded that President Moise’s successive Prime Ministers, Garry Conille, Laurent Lamothe, and Evans Paul, burned through most of the Petrocaribe money (72.21 percent). Prime Ministers under former Haitian President Rene Préval, an ex-leftist and the hand-picked successor to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, spent 25.87 percent. Enex Jean-Charles, the PM for interim President Jocelerme Privert, who first served as the economics and finance minister under Aristide, went through 1.91 percent.

Poverty and Imperialism 

The theft of $2 billion was devastating for an impoverished country of 11 million, one of the worlds’ poorest. Massive protests hit the streets as news of the theft was revealed, to which the U.S./U.N. trained Haitian police, reacted brutally. Nevertheless, Biden promises to continue funding U.S. “training” of Haitian cops.

In addition to the pilfering, Haiti’s economy had been contracting even before the pandemic and shrunk a further 3.8 percent in 2020, with about 60 percent of the population now living in poverty, according to the World Bank. As of July, 4.4 million were food insecure — about 46 percent of the population. Three-quarters of the population lives on approximately $2.41 per day; the poorest live in extreme poverty, surviving on only $1.23 per day. Haiti’s inflation rate is as high as 20 percent and some estimates put Haiti’s unemployment rate between 35 percent and 70 percent. Only 30 percent of the population has direct access to potable water.

Especially criminal, under Moise, no COVID vaccines were administered. As reported in August by the organization, Global Exchange, “[on] Radio Tele Timoun (Youth Radio TV), a Haitian medical student trained in Cuba charged that the necessary mobilization of hundreds of young trained health care professionals is not taking place. Photos and videos showing dirty rooms, filthy beds and rat-infested trash in the two largest public hospitals in Port-au-Prince have added to people’s outrage.

“Summing up the sentiments of the general public, a woman trader in an open-air market commented that, “The authorities care only about lining their pockets…They will not do anything for us; the choice I have is to die of the corona virus or starvation; dying by the corona virus will take me out of this misery…”

Although the infection rate in Haiti was initially far lower than in the neighboring Dominican Republic, by August, there were 20,977 infections and 586 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the country – some say even more. On July 14, 500,000 doses of the vaccines were delivered by the U.S government. The latest figures are .02 percent (as of Sept. 6) of the population is vaccinated, interrupted by the chaos surrounding the assassination, earthquake, storms and the epidemic of gang violence.

Nearly half the population needs immediate food assistance, according to the U.N. World Food Program. The United Nation’s children’s aid organization, UNICEF, said in May, before the earthquake, that severe childhood malnutrition is expected to more than double in Haiti this year!

Literally under the boot of a U.S./U.N. occupation for most of the past three decades, Haiti has followed the dictates of the U.S. dominated World Bank and its enforcement arm, the International Monetary Fund, which demands neo-liberal austerity and an export model of development, i.e., screw the Haitian masses. That austerity, for instance, has led to a slashed health care budget that resulted in decreased services and the closing of health care centers and hospitals. Led by a tiny, corrupt elite, Haiti’s pro-U.S. rulers seek to attract internationally-owned assembly sweatshops, based on the super-exploitation of Haitian workers.

Earthquake Horror

On August 14 a 7.2 earthquake hit five miles from the town of Petit Trou de Nippes in the western part of the country, about 80 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, but not far from Les Cayes, the third-largest city. The death toll is just over 2,200. The quake damaged or destroyed more than 120,000 homes, injured more than 12,000 and affected the lives of 800,000 people, or 40 percent of the population in three regional departments combined.

We’ve lost everything,” said Ms. Simon, a resident who lives not far where the earthquake struck, “Where is the government? It’s not here.”

The area is nearly isolated from the capital, located along roads patrolled by well-armed gangs of thieves, whose existence has virtually exploded with the deepening crisis of Haitian society. Roads to the north and south of the capital have often paralyzed transportation in the country. Kidnappings for ransom, extortion, drug trafficking and shoot-outs between gangs have reached truly epic proportions. Links to competing capitalist interests are well known.

The U.S. relief effort is in support of the notoriously CIA-connected agency USAID, tying humanitarian aid to U.S. influence and control. The vertical landing U.S. aircraft, the Osprey, delivered aid to difficult to reach locations.

Cuban Aid

Escaping attention in the U.S. media, a medical brigade of 253 Cuban doctors deployed in Haiti was traveling to treat the injured and quickly adapted a Port-au-Prince hospital that was being used for Covid patients into treating earthquake victims.

In the aftermath of the Jan. 12, 2010 7.0 earthquake in densely populated Port au Prince, Cuban medical assistance was exemplary. Cuban doctors were already in Haiti providing aid to those infected by cholera, the result of the UN occupation’s waste dumping in a river, which killed 10,000. When the 2010 quake hit they quickly joined rescue operations.

The 2010 quake, which killed 200,000 or more (death totals are uncertain), resulted in a re-enforced U.S./U.N. military occupation, of 22,000 additional U.S. troops. Obama’s helicopters landed on the Haitian presidential palace lawn to arrogantly proclaim who was really in charge. The troops helped rescue Haitians and provide food but many eyewitnesses say that the most important rescue effort was by the Haitian people themselves.

Obama’s military and political strategists at the time were obsessed by the racist fear that post-earthquake Haiti would descend into widespread looting and chaos. Nothing of the sort happened! In New York, protesters against the occupation chanted, “Troops out, doctors in!”

In 2010, billions in private and governmental aid flowed into the country, largely recycled into profits for Washington beltway corporations and graft for the Haitian bourgeoisie. Haitian input was largely ignored by former President Bill Clinton, then the co-chair of the Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti, the UN Special Envoy for Haiti, and the co-director of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. Billions in aid was almost entirely squandered, with little to show for it in direct aid to ordinary Haitians (See Haitian director Raoul Peck’s extraordinary film, “Fatal Assistance,” 2013).

President Biden has followed the path of Obama, Trump and 200 years of U.S. racism and imperialism in Haiti. Like the U.S. support for the brutal 29-year Duvalier family dictatorship, the U.S. continues its support to the corrupt Haitian ruling class. Moise and his successors are merely the last.

When speaking of building “democracy” in Haiti, the U.S. rulers fail to mention the $26 million spent trying to remove President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who won 67 percent of the vote in 1990. The CIA-backed 1991 coup leaders themselves admitted to the New York Times that they received regular payments from the U.S. About 6,000 died under the bloodthirsty coup regime.

Solidarity with Haiti 

The Haitian bourgeoisie, including the so-called opposition, offers no alternative to the catastrophe of capitalism in Haiti, only bankrupt solutions that mask their greed.

The middle-class led the Lavalas movement of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has fractured into warring factions, deserting and betraying the masses. Aristide presided over a U.S. occupied Haiti in 1994, betraying its glorious slave revolution of 1804.

U.S./U.N. out of Haiti!

A working-class revolutionary party desperately needs to be built in Haiti – and now is the time. To end the bottomless misery in Haiti, revolution is the only solution!

*Featured Image: A woman stands in front of a destroyed home in the aftermath of an earthquake in Les Cayes, Haiti, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Duples Plymouth)


Marty Goodman is a former board member of the Haitian Refugee Center of Miami. He witnessed the fall of Haitian dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier in 1986 and was an official election observer in the 1990 election of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He opposed the US/UN occupation of Haiti and is a member of the ‘Black Lives Matter in the Dominican Republic’ committee. Goodman is also a member of Socialist Action.

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