“The Haitian People Need a Socialist State,” says Journalist Jean Waltès Bien-Aimé

by Tanya Wadhwa, published on People’s Dispatch, September 8, 2022

Since August 22, under the banner of “Rise Up for Another Independence,” tens of thousands of Haitians have been repeatedly taking to the streets in different parts of the country, demanding the resignation of de-facto Prime Minister and acting President Ariel Henry. Protesters have criticized that during the past one year of his governance, the economic, political and social crisis has aggravated in the country.

On Wednesday, September 7, in a new day of nationwide anti-government protests, tens of thousands of citizens hit the streets in the capital Port-au-Prince and other major cities in rejection of widespread insecurity, severe scarcity of fuel, high cost of living, and the devaluation of the national currency, the Haitian Gourde, against the USD.

In Port-au-Prince, protesters organized roadblocks with burning tires, rocks, and trucks. They carried out a massive rally from the Champs-de-Mars to Pétion-ville via Delmas, and marched past 11 commercial banks and roads leading to Henry’s official residence, raising slogans such as “Ariel, you have to go!”, “Get out, Ariel! Get out, Ariel!”, etc.

Haitian journalist Jean Waltès Bien-Aimé, of Radio Resistance and Haitian Popular Press Agency told Peoples Dispatch that “the fundamental demand of the people who are taking to the streets is the resignation of de-facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry…people will remain in the streets until he resigns from power,” because “Ariel Henry is not a legitimate leader, since he assumed office after de-facto president Jovenel Moïse, who had overstayed his term.”

In the country’s northern and southern region, protesters paralyzed various coastal cities such as Jérémie, Les Cayes, Miragoâne, Petit-Goâve, Jacmel, Port-de-Paix, and Cap-Haïtien, among others, condemning gang-related kidnappings and killings, soaring prices of essential commodities and basic services, and the acute shortage of fuel.

“When there is trouble between rival gangs, people suffer. Haitians have been protesting against kidnapping, insecurity, and gang violence. People have been protesting against the high cost of living and the Henry government. Activation of gangs is part of a strategy to prevent Haitian people from taking to the streets,” said Bien-Aimé.

In several cities, protesters were violently repressed by the police. Police officials fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and water to disperse crowds. According to reports from local media, at least one person was killed and two were injured in Port-au-Prince in police repression. There have been unconfirmed reports of injuries from the cities of Jérémie, Las Cayes, and Jacmel, where protesters clashed with police.

Earlier this week, on Monday, September 5, members of various social organizations and trade unions as well as citizens in general had been on the streets of Port-au-Prince, Cap-Haïtien, and Gonaïves, among others, demanding better living conditions.

According to official reports, inflation in Haiti has reached 30% and hit a 10-year high. The cost of basic food products has increased by more than 50%, and for some products by 80%. In the illegal market, petrol is sold for up to 15 USD a gallon while official service stations have been closed for months. The national currency, Gourde, has also been rapidly depreciating. It has lost over 40% of its value so far this year. The exchange rate fluctuates on a daily basis, and has been hovering above 100 gourdes per 1 USD.

Since 2018, Haiti has been going through a grave social, political, institutional, and economic crisis with people tirelessly organizing and mobilizing against the US-backed corrupt and neoliberal regimes. The situation has worsened since the assassination of its de-facto president Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, with armed gangs growing more powerful, and growing uncertainty over the possibility of general elections being held.

While Ariel Henry has promised to organize general elections by the end of this year, Bien-Aimé said that “Henry doesn’t have the will to organize elections,” and pointed out that “activation of criminal gangs is his strategy to stay longer in power.”

He added that “Haitian people are democratic people who believe in elections, but they don’t want elections organized by Ariel Henry because he is a de-facto prime minister, and he cannot organize free elections. Ariel Henry was put in power as a present from the US embassy.” Bien-Aimé also stressed that “the conditions to hold elections at the moment do not exist because the ruling far-right Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK) party believes in fraud,” referring to the electoral fraud that was committed in the October 2015 elections.

For the last two weeks, Haitians have been demanding a new transitional government to draw and implement a roadmap to resolve the political crisis in Haiti and renew the country’s leadership democratically.

Several unions, social movements and political platforms have warned that they would intensify the protests in coming days until their demands are satisfied.

Bien-Aimé emphasized that

Haitian people do not need a leader at the moment. Haitian people need a socialist state.” “We have had a lot of experience with leaders, and those experiences do not bring about any serious change. We need to change the state we have. We have a bourgeois state. What we need now is a people’s state,” he said.

Regarding the people’s demand to have a new transitional government, Bien-Aimé said that

“the ultimate goal of the ongoing street demonstrations is the application of the Montana Agreement, also called the August 30 Agreement.”

Following Jovenel Moïse’s assassination, over 70 trade unions, social organizations, popular movements and political parties came together and formed the Commission to Search a Haitian Solution to the Crisis (CRSC) to figure our an answer to the political crisis facing the country. On August 30, 2021, they reached a consensus and signed an agreement on a plausible people-centric democratic transition formula out of the crisis. It was decided that a transitional government, headed by a new interim president and a new interim prime minister, would govern the country for two years, recover it from the deepening institutional crisis caused by the PHTK administration, rebuild the society, and then organize elections for the next government.

On January 30, 2022, Haiti’s National Transition Council (CNT) elected economist and former governor of the Bank of the Republic of Haiti Fritz Alphonse Jean as Haiti’s new interim president, and former senator Steven Irvenson Benoit as the new interim prime minister. The duo was set to administer the country for a transitional period of 24 months, beginning this February 7, 2022. However, the alternative process was blocked by the US, the UN, and the Core group, which sided with the Henry government and its allies.

Bien-Aimé pointed out that

“within the Montana agreement, all national sectors were well represented, and that is the reason why the US Embassy, the Core group and the reactionary bourgeoisie blocked the process of Montana agreement because it is a popular process.”

He stated that

“the whole country is now rising up in struggle against imperialist interference in the political decisions of the country. Haitian people are going to keep fighting, like I said before, they are going to keep fighting until their demands are satisfied. And people never fail. The victory is going to be on Haitian people’s side.”

Bien-Aimé added that

“Haitian people are on the way for a popular uprising to overthrow Henry’s puppet government and the US and the UN neo-colonial government. That is why the people are calling it a new revolution. We led the first one in 1804, now we are going for a second one. Haitian people are going to overthrow this neo-colonial government, throw the Core group out of the country, and establish a popular state in the country, a socialist state in the country. Haitian people are historical people. We are used to making history.”

*Featured Image: Since August 22, tens of thousands of Haitians have been taking to the streets across the country demanding the resignation of de-facto Prime Minister and acting President Ariel Henry. (Photo: Madame Boukman/Twitter) 

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