Haiti Ungovernable: “We Will Burn the Parliament Down!”

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Cover Photo from Haiti Info Project

Since September, protests have continued in Haiti which is still recovering from the devastating 2010 earthquake that has left many living in tents without proper sanitation, leading to to a cholera outbreak, as well as the more recent effects of hurricanes Matthew and Irma, widespread corruption, and some of the most crippling poverty in the entire region.

Starting in September, The Coalition of Democratic Organization announced protests against the 2017-2018 budget, dubbed the “Budget of Death,” that includes tax increases aimed at the poor along with the decreasing of aid. The budget was passed in July and went into effect on October 1st. The Miami Herald describes some of the initial revolts:

Led by a former presidential candidate, Jean-Charles Moïse, protesters launched a military-style operation, blocking key intersections around the capital and paralyzing metropolitan Port-au-Prince. Behind the presidential palace, masked Haiti National Police officers were pelted with with rocks after they fired stinging water and tear gas at protesters, sending school children and pedestrians running for cover.

At the root of the anger are several new revenue schemes — fee hikes for property ownership, passports and traffic infractions — that were put in the budget and adopted by parliament just hours before Hurricane Irma skirted Haiti’s northern coast, flooding farms and damaging more than 8,000 homes throughout the northern region.

The budget includes a 74 percent boost in salaries, cars, staff and travel per diem for members of parliament. Also in the budget is a new tax to be levied on Haitian citizens before they can access government services. The amount — 10,000 gourdes or $159annually, depending on the exchange rate — was also being required of Haitians living abroad.

One man on the streets in mid-September commented:

“The revolution has just started. Jovenel Moise will have to retract his taxes or he will have to leave immediately,” said Jacques Menard, a 31-year-old protester. “And this is a warning because the next phase can be very violent.”

Since the initial protests in September, the demonstrations have grown into a full on revolt, with protests, strikes, riots, and clashes with the police spreading and grown increasingly insurrectionary and aimed at the entire government structure. In one video, a man was quoted as saying, “We’re burning tires, we’re destroying things until they kill us.”

From Tele-Sur

“This criminal budget means to impoverish the people and spare the middle class,” added the head of the coalition, which gathers opposition lawmakers from the leftist political party Fanmi Lavalas, led by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, along with other parties and social organizations. Despite the devastating effects of Hurricane Matthew last year, the government only allocated about 0.5 percent of this year’s budget to the Ministry of the Environment — despite promising to support local communities and sustainable agriculture.

In October transport workers shut down large parts of the country in demonstrations against the law, and at least 45 mayors have “gone on strike to protest the controversial bill.”

As the demonstrations have continued, they have taken on a revolutionary character aimed at the entire political system. As Tele-Sur reported:

Police forces have been clashing with around a thousand protesters in Haiti – they are demanding the government resigns and revokes the bill approving next year’s budget.

Demonstrators tried to march from an upper-class district of the capital Port-au-Prince on Tuesday towards the city center in Petionville, but officers stopped them halfway with tear gas and water cannon.

Police have responded with brutality; demonstrations have repeatedly been the scene of injuries due to police bullets and tear gas. In October, police attempted to put down protests, as rioters responded by attempting to burn down a gas station and clashing with police. While unions and opposition political parties have taken a key role in attempting to direct and represent the movement against the budget, it is clear that what is evolving in Haiti is growing beyond the confines of their control, as political leaders have attempted to condemn “the violence.

This week, protests continued as Haiti Libre reported:

Tuesday, they were several thousand people to have responded to the call for mobilization against the Government of the leaders of the coalition of democratic organizations of the opposition, to force the President Jovenel Moïse in power for 7 months, to hand in his resignation… 

Jean-Charles Moïse of the party “Pitit Dessalin” one of the leaders of the radical opposition, said before a crowd of overheated sympathizers, that the Head of State had lost all legitimacy “If Jovenel Moïse was aware of the impasse where he is, he would have already resigned.” Moreover he lamented that armed individuals aboard a white pickup opened fire and assaulted militants in the town of Pétion-ville to intimidate them. He reiterated his willingness to continue the mobilization until the departure of the Head of State.

Despite these acts of intimidation and of the police, protesters continued their march, waving placards and branches, chanting hostile remarks to President Moise and his team “Petyonvil révolte, Jovenel dwe ale” sang the protesters.

The demonstrations, riots, and strikes in Haiti should be supported, and we should find ways of offering both aid to the struggle and the people of Haiti. The history of Haiti itself is a history of resistance and repression. Paramilitaries backed by the US have in recent history overthrown democratically elected populists, and then in turn used their guns on unions and social movements. In the 1990s, when Jean-Bertrand Aristide was returned to power by the Clintons, he then also opened the door to neoliberalism and “free trade.” Since then, Haiti has continued on a downward spiral, as poverty has grown, and the standard of living has decreased, and political authority has increasingly been held in the hands of a corrupt few.

It should also be noted, that although the situation in Haiti is much, much worse than in the US, we see many similarities. We see both growing poverty and economic inequality, as well as the devastating effects of natural disasters, coupled with government corruption and rampant police brutality and violence. Let us make the chant of Haiti’s proletarians our own, “Down with the government and the bourgeoisie!”


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