May 26, 2023 ROBIN DELOBEL in Investig’Action
“A foreigner has spoken in my name again,” noted journalist Lyonel Trouillot. “The Haitian people are calling for the intervention of an international peacekeeping force” is a phrase that is regularly read or heard in the major international media, but proves to be misleading. The AyibiPost editor explains: “There is the de facto government and a handful of business associations calling for foreign military intervention. I doubt that this small group can be considered the voice of the Haitian people.” The author repeats it in several ways to be clear: “The ‘Haitian people’ know that carrying out such a request would only enable this de facto power to maintain itself…”.
For months, chaos has reigned in Haiti, as reported on RFI and other major media outlets. In the French weekly Marianne, the columnist speaks of “a permanent tsunami”, “the pearl of the Antilles”, “an open-air nightmare”, all superlatives are used to describe the atmosphere that prevails, or rather would prevail, in Haiti, in the eyes of a Western journalist who has certainly never set foot there. The number of gangs is indeed increasing and many people are being killed. But is it enough to regularly warn of the violence without giving the reasons for it?
We interviewed Jean Lavalasse, a Haitian photographer and documentary filmmaker living in Brussels, to find out more about gangs.
How would you describe the crisis in Haiti? Is it a humanitarian crisis on top of the political crisis?
The crisis is there in every sense of the word: social, ideological, political and economic.
It is repeated everywhere that the Haitian state has not fulfilled its obligations. But it has not! In fact, the state of Haiti, through its unelected leaders, has long prepared a macabre plan to place the people of Haiti under the tutelage of US imperialism.
This government against the people, although of course one can always go back further, goes back to the time of René Préval’s government. Prime Minister Bellerive, a stooge of the Haitian bourgeoisie, organised himself with certain political parties to offer the country to the Dominicans and the Americans. With the coming to power of Michel Martelly, the result of a deal between the Préval government and US imperialism, the era of the PHTK (Parti haïtien Tèt Kale) will enter triumphantly. Haiti is open for business.
Let me go back a bit to talk about this man and his role: Martelly was elected under the banner of the Repons paysan party. Once in power, he founded his own party: the PHTK. One of the many elements showing the stranglehold of power was that supporters had to wear a small armband to show they were members of the party. Even ministers wore the armband. During his five years in power, the only thing he emphasised was the carnival. There were no prospects for the people.
For five years, the country was plunged into crisis. Michel Martelly, on the advice of a few people around him, sought out an ambitious black farmer: Jovenel Moïse. Some politicians saw in him the saviour. To give himself credibility, Jovenel Moïse talked “the caravan” and about “change”, taking particular account of the peasantry, which is very important in the country. “The caravan” is a way of saying “I am going to visit the farmers”. Although it was natural marketing, he mainly made contact with the large landowners. His parents are big landowners and he based his claim on that by saying he was from the country. After his rigged elections, Martelly and his cronies paid people to support Jovenel. The Core Group, the imperialist camp dominated by France, the United States and Canada, was aware of all these manoeuvres.
Now the whole issue has resurfaced. Martelly dictated everything and Jovenel’s
entourage came from Martelly’s network. After four years in power, Jovenel wanted to distinguish himself with his personal ideas. He developed his own small team of gangs. He once declared, “the power I hold, no one can take away from me”. The
fact that Jovenel was killed does not mean he was a good man – everyone hated him. He did Trump a favour, for instance, by voting against Venezuela. He was nothing more and nothing less than a servant of the Core Group.
Jovenel Moïse was surrounded by Michel Martelly’s shrewd henchmen. Even his bodyguards were posted by Martelly. It was really Martelly who dictated and Jovenel who acted. He appointed key ministers. And he controlled the strategic sectors to organise corruption. When Jovenel Moïse got a taste of power, he started preparing his platform for re-election, rather than that of Martelly. Thus, there was a major conflict of interest between Jovenel Moïse and Martelly.
At the same time, certain organisations were working on a fundamental task: identifying Haiti’s real internal enemies. By this I mean analysing social classes, further sensitising peasants and the working class and participating in movements to raise factory workers’ wages.
Organisations like Papda, Rasin kan pèp la, Nou Pap domi, Mouvman peyzan, the anti-imperialist league, the New Haitian Communist Party, OPs (people’s organisations) and Pitit Dessalines really work among the people.
You have to realise that gangs don’t just appear out of thin air. There is a whole history behind it, going back to the Duvaliers; we were dealing with the famous Tontons Macoutes.
So it was Martelly’s misdeeds that led to Jovenel’s death and the spread of gangs?
Absolutely, and today it peaked. That deserves explanation. So illegitimate former president Michel Martelly was able to put his cronies in a position to support all his projects. Martelly and his prime minister Laurent Salvador Lamothe said Haiti was open for business. Tourism, with Cow Island (Cow Island) as its backdrop, was to welcome visitors and generate foreign currency. In reality, this was one of the reasons for the arrival of drugs in Haiti. Martelly set up his own gangs to facilitate these real estate investment projects. The reactionary Lavalas government also exploited the police and armed groups. Everything was about tourism and partying. Cow Island was a reflection of this government. In every sense of the word, because to find work, to do anything, you need a sponsor. Even diplomats have to pay
something back to their sponsor, a monthly amount to the person who put them in place.
Cow Island is where the drugs come from. Martelly wanted to make Cow Island “a paradise”, but that was to sell drugs. Farmers were driven off their land and exploited and impoverished. Martelly and Lamothe pushed these farmers off the island.
So gangs are not just lost youths looking for easy money…?
There are state gangs, gangs of political parties. There are also other armed groups created by members of the Haitian bourgeoisie. There are houses protected by bodyguards. To protect the property of the rich, while the vast majority of the population lives in extreme poverty.
Let us not forget that Martelly came to power thanks to the intervention of the Clinton family, which made him win in the second round of voting, even though the real results showed that he was not! This clearly shows the crucial role of US imperialism.
And Martelly had unabashedly created his gangs, like PHTK. And then there were the gangs of Jovenel Moïse, who also used to be part of the PHTK. This situation led to a lot of confusion and sometimes outsiders could not quite grasp it.
Despite the international headlines that showed the Haitian people as victims
Yes, but this is not inevitability. Relying on the phrase “time works for us”, some organisations have persevered in their efforts to raise awareness. There are many clandestine organisations and parties on the ground: the new party NPCH – the New Haitian Communist Party, for example, the anti-imperialist league…
These organisations work with the population to raise its awareness. They help the workers when they go on strike. I say this to emphasise that information is not provided through books, but through mainstream propaganda. Come and see the work of Papda and other organisations in the factories. These organisations are on the ground to inform the people, to form ideologically and politically by living with the masses in the struggle Recently, the government attacked activists from the Papay
What is the connection between drugs, Colombia and Haiti?
With the approval of the Trump administration, the Jovenel Moïse government has asked the Colombian government (1) for help in the fight against kidnappers and gangs. The spokeswoman for the national police made the following statement: “To help us in the fight against the gangs, the Americans are going to guard the sea, Canada is going to train our police and the Colombians are going to accelerate the
training of the anti-gang police.” 18 Colombians have arrived to tackle the gangs. The Colombians are the henchmen the United States sends everywhere to spread terror. To thank Trump, Jovenel Moïse went to the UN to vote against Venezuela (2). Progressive organisations and patriots openly protested against this position.
With the Petrocaribe affair, the idea was to create a free tourist zone, but in reality it was a scam to deprive farmers of their land and encourage corruption in the Petrocaribe funds. Moïse was also involved in drugs, following Martelly’s lead. He was soaked to the bone in this business.
From Jamaica, small boats approached the Haitian coast and made the crossing easily, in a day. The United States claims to be monitoring this area, but we know how smart the Americans are on this and they have already committed misdeeds in Nicaragua, talking about drug-related manoeuvres.
What about holding elections in this well-organised chaos?
US imperialism has quickly organised itself, along with the Canadians, to figure out who should come to power after Jovenel. Ariel Henry, currently in power, is the man of the United States. Imperialism plays such an important role that nothing can be left to chance. We in Haitian society have already asked for Jovenel’s wife to say a few words. Because she was there, she was already implicated in the death of Bâtonnier Dorval.
People are calling for justice for Jovenel, but it was his own troops who killed him. Everyone around him is Martelly’s man. He defended himself badly.
In what way?
He was silent, never wanting to talk. One day he sent a few tweets saying “you will learn the truth”. But after that, he said nothing more. A former MP proclaimed, “It was the godfather who killed his godson”. Martelly must answer to the law!
Elections are constantly being postponed. Ariel Henry met with two groups. The September 11 accord – Montana accord. Everything has been abused. Since then, nothing has happened.
On elections, Ariel and his government are manoeuvring with Madame Manigat, a member of the High Transitional Council, and other political parties to discuss elections. Operation Bwa Kale is on the streets. It upsets the current government.
Haiti’s ambassador to Washington has asked for an intervention, but to no avail. The OAS has also asked. No one wants to come. The situation is so complicated that any intervention could plunge Latin America into chaos. The Americans have said that “Haitians must take matters into their own hands”.
Some parties say the Montana Accord is more credible, it has more people in it than the September 11 Accord. There is a roadmap. But the crux of the problem is mainly that it is very complex because the prime minister is involved in Jovenel’s death. He just shouldn’t be there. He is continuing because he is supported by certain political parties, much of the commercial bourgeoisie and also the international bourgeoisie that has interests in the country. That is why the gang problem continues, to frighten the population and keep trade going.
How would you describe the UN’s current interference?
It is absurd to claim that the UN can solve problems without Haitians. After the coup against Aristide in 2004, we went from Minustah to UNIHRO, and now we are talking about problems with justice – it’s a joke! The UN has completely failed and is pretending it can do without the Haitians. No one should interfere in internal affairs. If civil war had broken out after Jovenel’s death, countries interested in Haiti could have intervened from outside. But no one took to the streets after his death.
After the 2018 mobilisations, can we say that the streets are currently tired?
We don’t hear much about it, but in this chaotic political situation, the working class is mobilising and demanding better wage conditions. There have been strikes, so don’t
think nothing is happening. In fact, they have had such an effect that the US embassy has travelled to the country to say that wages should not be raised.
I think Jovenel’s death took the mobilisation of the last few months by surprise. There was a lack of organisation, a lack of leadership. There were internal contradictions that prevented the movement from seizing the opportunity presented by Jovenel’s death. This organisational vacuum gave the reactionary forces, imperialism, time to gain the upper hand by making Jovenel a martyr. And today, with the participation in this corrupt and useless power of some of Jovenel’s opponents, propaganda against the sincerity of the movements finds fertile ground to develop.
Source : https://www.investigaction.net/fr/les-gangs-ca-ne-tombe-pas-du-ciel/
(1) In July 2021, Oliver Dodd noted in Jacobin about the Colombian mercenaries: “Of the twenty-six Colombians identified as involved in the assassination of the Haitian president, at least thirteen were former soldiers of the Colombian army and two are under investigation for involvement in war crimes. At least seven of the Colombian mercenaries involved in the Haitian assassination attempt received direct training from the US, although as usual the US State Department remains very ambiguous
about what exactly they learned. Several of them have links to US intelligence agencies, including at least one closely linked to the DEA.”
He goes on to confirm Jean Lavalasse’s comments on the role of the Colombian right: “The company that recruited these Colombian mercenaries, CTU Security, based in Miami, is owned by a Venezuelan businessman, Tony Intriago, who has relations with right-wing Colombian president Iván Duque. Intriago helped organise the February 2019 “aid concert” in Cúcuta, on the border between Colombia and Venezuela, aimed at undermining the Venezuelan government.
It has been confirmed that Colombian mercenaries have been directly involved in operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Venezuela. Dozens of Colombian-based mercenaries were hired by Saudi Arabia to fight in Yemen. Colombian mercenaries were also exported to Honduras to defend land interests and were later found to be involved in the coup against Manuel Zelaya in 2009. Of the $3.1 billion the US spent on privately contracted counter-insurgency and counter-narcotics operations between 2005 and 2009, Colombian companies were the biggest beneficiaries. If you need mercenaries to do your dirty work, especially of a reactionary nature, Colombians are a good investment.”
(2) As Jean Lavalasse told us in a previously published interview, “Venezuela’s help was very valuable. After the last earthquake, Venezuela offered help. Caracas is closely linked to Haiti. Not only geographically, but also historically. In the 19th century, Bolivar’s revolution could count on effective help from Haiti in its liberation struggle. President Moïse was used by the United States in its struggle against Venezuela’s progressive government. The Haitian government supported any attempt at “regime change in Venezuela”. The main anti-imperialist forces in Latin America and the Caribbean noticed this and criticised President Jovenel Moïse and his clique.”