Editor’s Note: The following opinion was originally published in Black Agenda Report.
It is an exhilarating time for the “leftists” of the Americas. This past week, at the 77th meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, leader after Latin American leader made grand statements against U.S. and Western imperialism, the hypocrisy of U.S. foreign policy, the violations of human rights, and the West’s assault on the sovereignty of smaller nations. Colombia’s brand-new president, Gustavo Petro, made an impassioned plea against the genocidal “War on Drugs.” Cuba’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bruno Eduardo Rodríguez Parrilla, rejected the attacks on the sovereignty of China and Russia. Venezuela’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carlos Faría railed against the Western sanctions against Nicaragua, Cuba, Iran and Russia. Honduran President Xiomara Castro demanded that the United States stop its attempts at destabilizing her country and strongly pushed against Western policies of intervention in the region. Nicaragua’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Denis Ronaldo Moncada Colindres, made perhaps the most explosive claims when he stated :
“The assault, the robbery, the disgraceful abominable depredation, the looting and the genocides unleashed by the colonialists and imperialists of the Earth, are the real crimes and they are the real criminals against humanity, and we denounce this… It’s time to say enough to hypocritical imperialism that politicizes, falsifies and denigrates the very human rights which they themselves violate and deny on a daily basis.”
Most of these leaders spoke to the urgent question of Cuba, calling for the lifting of the economic blockade against the country and for Cuba’s removal from the U.S.-created list of countries that supposedly “sponsor terrorism.”
Yet, for all the eloquent denunciations of imperialism and the impassioned defenses of Latin American and Caribbean sovereignty and independence, one country was conspicuously avoided: Haiti. Not a single one of these countries applied their critiques of imperialism to Haiti. Sure, Cuba and Venezuela mentioned Haiti. Cuba’s representative called for reparations for the Caribbean for slavery, said that humanity owed a debt to the Haitian revolution, and stressed that Haiti needed international support “through a special contribution for its reconstruction and development.” Venezuela’s representative name-dropped Haiti within a list of countries, which have suffered bloodshed from “imperialism and supremacism.”
Beyond the casual mentions, the hollow rhetorics, and the empty invocations, there were no concrete critiques of the current imperial machinations in Haiti—of Haiti’s complete loss of sovereignty through the ongoing destruction of the Haitian state apparatus, of the current occupation of the country by the Western-led Core Group, and of the repression (and violent misrepresentation) of the Haitian people as they have taken to the streets to demand their sovereignty and call for an end to foreign intervention. Instead, the extension and intensification of foreign intervention appears to be the strategic end goal of not only the usual suspects of the West, but our supposed Leftist allies in the Americas.
One has to ask: Do the leaders of the region even know what has been going on in Haiti? Surely they know about the 2004 U.S./Canada/France-led coup d’etat against Haiti’s democratically elected president, and the Chapter 7 deployment of a United Nations occupation force (euphemistically known as a “peacekeeping” force). Indeed, it was Lula’s Brazil that led the military wing of that occupation that brought nothing but violence and devastation to Haitian peoples. Brazil’s active participation in that occupation led to the migration of thousands of Haitian workers to Brazil, where they provided cheap labor to build the infrastructure for the Olympics and World Cup. The savage racism experienced by Haitian migrants in Brazil, combined with the disappearance of work, led them to flee overland through Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border in search of asylum.
The leaders of the Americas must also know about the Core Group—the self-selected, unelected group of foreigners, with representatives from the European Union, the United States, Brazil, Canada, that was created during the early months of the occupation. The Core Group continues to control Haiti’s internal political affairs. They certainly know that the UN still occupies Haiti; after all, it is the left’s “anti-imperialist” darling, Andrés Manual López Obrador (AMLO), who is serving, along with the United States, as “co-penholder” and writing the UN Security Council’s imperial policies on Haiti. Similar to Brazil, will Mexico’s bid to play power-broker in the region come at the expense of Haitian people and Haiti’s sovereignty?
AMLO must know what he’s doing. After all, even as it gets celebrated for its “leftist” credentials, the Mexican government continues to collude with the U.S. Border Patrol to militarize its southern border against migrants, and enforce the U.S. “Remain in Mexico” policy. Meanwhile, Haitian and other Black migrants continue to suffer racist abuse in Mexico.
It is not lost on me that there is a deep-seated, racist view of Haiti as exceptional—and therefore exceptionally difficult to engage. The constant refrain from anti-imperialist groupings in the West is that Haiti is so “complex” and its sociopolitical terrain so difficult that there’s no way to truly understand what’s going on there. During a recent webinar against U.S. imperialism in Latin America, I brought up the current UN/US occupation in Haiti, only to have the host soberly agree with me that this was, indeed, an important problem to engage, but that, perhaps, Haiti needed a separate webinar. Many webinars later, discussion of Haiti’s destruction by a brutal Western imperialism, continues to get short shrift.
While we celebrate the rise of another “Pink Tide” in Latin America, the emergence of a truly multipolar world, with new economic and political alignments, it seems clear that Haiti will continue to be on the outside of “leftist” imaginations—beyond, of course, the non-specific words of “solidarity” thrown its way.
In a discussion on Twitter about the ways that Haiti appears— and dismissed—in global discourses, a colleague, Vik Sohonie lamented , “Haiti is unfortunately where all good will, solidarity, and Third Worldism goes to die… The ‘international community’ that occupies it, as you know, is Nepali, Brazilian. You get looked at funny elsewhere in the Carib if you compliment Haiti. It’s astonishing.” He’s not wrong. One of the reasons that the brutal UN military occupation of Haiti could fly under the radar was because it was populated by a multi-national and multi-racial military and civilian force. The United States admitted as much, as revealed in the Wikileaks files. Former U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Janet Sanderson lauded the occupation force (MINUSTAH) as a cheap source of U.S. power in Haiti, as it is made up of a multinational coalition of Western and non-Western forces, including countries ranging from Benin and Kenya to Brazil and Ecuador, who seem all bent on using Haiti as their training ground.
Why is it so easy for these nonwhite and oppressed nations to come and serve U.S. and Western imperial interests in Haiti? Could it be that they, too, have imbibed the dehumanized and, frankly, racist views about Haitian people? Is Haiti’s Blackness seen as the root cause of its problems and struggles—even by many Black people? One would think so if one reviewed the recent actions of the leaders of CARICOM who, also, deploy the dehumanizing language and white supremacist assumptions about Haiti that is the foundation of Western imperialist actions in the country.
This wasn’t always the case, of course. Back in 2004, under the leadership of PJ Patterson, CARICOM at least spoke up against the U.S./France/Canada coup d’etat against elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide (and this was despite his often problematic public positions against him). Jamaica was even threatened with sanctions—by the Bush administration’s Condoleeza Rice—if it attempted to provide Aristide asylum. The other bold voice was Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, who railed against the coup and later provided direct support to Haiti’s masses through the PetroCaribe fuel subsidies.
Where are those voices now?
Perhaps if people in the region saw Haiti less as an abstraction and more as a place with real humans, citizens of the world, with the same claims to rights and livelihood, confronting a white supremacist imperialism, they would recognize the current denial of its sovereignty. Until that time, the Leftists of the Americas are betraying a people that have given so much to the struggles for sovereignty and independence in the region.
Jemima Pierre is an editor and contributor to Black Agenda Report, the Haiti/Americas Co-Coordinator for the Black Alliance for Peace, and a Black Studies and anthropology professor at UCLA.
All of Haitian society is in revolt.
A mambo and hougan—the traditional voudou priestess and priest—lead ancestral ceremonies before rallies take the streets and block the central arteries of Port-au-Prince, Cap Haïtien, and other Haitian cities and towns. After one of their members was kidnapped, leaders of the Protestant Church directed its congregation to halt all activities at noon on Wednesday and bat tenèb. Bat tenèb, literally “beat the darkness,” is a call for all sectors of Haitian society to beat pots, pans, street lights and anything else as a general alert of an emergency. A Catholic church in Petionville held a mass with political undertones against the dictatorship. When marchers from outside took refuge from the police inside the church, the Haitian National Police tear gassed the entire congregation.
Ti Germain, a well-known Lavalas activist, was hauled away by President Jovenel Moïse’s henchmen for protesting in the downtown Chanmas Plaza last week and has not been seen since. Peasants come together to form self-defense units against land grabs by the Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK, or Haitian Bald Headed Party) and their foreign backers before mobilizing in the streets themselves. With the spiritual hymn of resistance blaring from a sound truck, “A fight remains a fight. My sword is in my hand, I’m moving forward,” tens of thousands of protesters move toward police lines guarding the Delmas 96 entrance, which seals off the Haiti of the 0.01 percent from that of the 99.99 percent.
Showdown: the police, the ruling class & imperialism vs the Masses of People 🇭🇹 Which side are you on? #Haiti 🇭🇹 pic.twitter.com/sxRhwaDN90
— Danny Shaw (@dannyshawcuny) March 29, 2021
Chanting “The People Poetry Revolution!”, young writers and poets took to the streets on May 3 calling for a Haiti where youth have a future. A cultural worker, Jan Wonal, asserts, “They [the imperialists] fashion themselves the messengers of art, literature, history of art. So, for us, cultural revolution against cultural imperialism is an imperative.”
All of Haitian society is in revolt.
Who Cares About Haiti?
CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and the full gamut of mainstream media outlets have paid scant attention to this social insurrection. The headlines—if they mention Haiti at all—have focused on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Biden regime’s deportation of Haitians to the “civil unrest” of Haiti. The anti-neoliberal rebellion goes unmentioned.
According to one protestor at a mass demonstration, “If we were Hong Kong, Taiwan or in any country the U.S. lists as an enemy, there would be everyday coverage of our movement.”
Solidaridad con el pueblo haitiano 🇭🇹 #Haití Que viva el internacionalismo! pic.twitter.com/YviAUzrxXu
— Danny Shaw (@dannyshawcuny) March 28, 2021
The corporate press only mentions Haiti in the context of a natural disaster, a deadly disease or chaos. Millions of people in motion in a U.S. neocolony like Colombia, Chile or Haiti are not deemed newsworthy. The dominant narrative is people in the streets protesting is not a revolt, but a “political crisis.” It is not convenient for a neocolony to make noise and rise up against the empire’s handpicked lackeys and puppets.
In response to the media whiteout, Haitian intellectual Patrick Mettelus emphasized, “Our national liberation struggle is first and foremost a battle of ideas; it is an informational war. How can we counter the dominant narrative and show what is good, beautiful, encouraging and hopeful from our homeland?”
Showdown: Haiti vs. Imperialism
Ignoring months and years of widespread anger, Moïse continues to say resigning is not an option. The United Nations and Organization of American States (OAS) agree the U.S.-backed despot has another year remaining in his presidency, even though the 1987 Constitution stipulates his term ended on February 7. Former president Jean Bertrand Aristide called the UN, OAS and United States “the troika of evil” for the heavy-handed role they have played in Haiti’s historic destiny. This alone explains why Aristide was twice the victim of coup d’etats orchestrated by these neocolonial forces.
Moïse went before the United Nations General Assembly on February 24. In a 28-minute display of arrogance, the tone-deaf puppet patted himself on the back for supposedly carrying out ongoing socio-economic reforms. Adding insult to injury, Moïse now intends to brazenly overturn the 1987 constitution. This constitution was the result of consultations among hundreds of local committees representing all sectors of society一women, peasants, poor neighborhoods, etc.一coming together on the heels of the 1986 dechoukaj (uprooting) that overthrew dictator Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. Enshrined in the constitution is protection of Haitian cultural and economic sovereignty, and women’s empowerment, among other democratic rights. Today, these same sectors, representing the vast majority of Haitian society, are taking to the streets against Moïse and his dictatorial scheme to overturn the people’s constitution.
The reformist wing of the opposition has propped up a transition president, Joseph Mécène Jean-Louis, who has been in hiding since February 7, in fear of persecution of Jovenel’s National Intelligence Agency (ANI). Ruling class families such as the Vorbe/Boulos faction, which supported Jovenel (and Michel Martelly before) have now turned on Moïse and want to replace him without systemic change.
Kidnappings have reached epic proportions. The djaspora (Haitians in the diaspora) are afraid to travel back home. The Center for Human Rights Research and Analysis reported 157 kidnappings in the first three months of 2021. This lawlessness is representative of a society that has lost all confidence in Moïse. The most oppressed layers of society have been overwhelmed by the weak gourde (1 U.S. dollar equals 87 Haitian gourdes), widespread joblessness and no hopes for a dignified future. According to the UN’s World Food Program, half of Haiti’s 10.7 million people are undernourished. This bleek social reality has pushed the most castaway to resort to armed violence and taking hostages.
The fundamental demand of the popular sectors is a “sali piblik,” or a united transition away from dictatorship and neocolonialism that involves and empowers the masses of Haitian people.
While the corporate media silences Haitian voices, the Committee for Mobilization Against Dictatorship in Haiti (KOMOKODA), Leve Kanpe, the U.S./UN Out of Haiti Coalition, and other diaspora and anti-imperialist organizations across the United States and the world are standing with the historic Haitian rebellion.
“The ‘Core Group’ is a cabal of predatory countries and institutions created by the United States of America after the overthrow and kidnapping of President Aristide in 2004 to give a veneer of international legitimacy to their domination over Haiti,” KOMOKODA stated as the group protested May 3 in front of the French embassy in Port-au-Prince, “Join us as we stand in solidarity with the Haitian people, who are in the streets fighting for their liberation and their emancipation.”
Danny Shaw is a professor of Caribbean and Latin American Studies at the City University of New York. Since the most recent rebellion began on February 7, he has traveled to Haiti twice to stay with the mass anti-imperialist movement. A Senior Research Fellow at the Center on Hemispheric Affairs, Danny is fluent in Haitian Kreyol, Spanish, Portuguese and Cape Verdean Kriolu.
Dear Toward Freedom readers:
This week, Toward Freedom’s Board of Directors bids farewell to guest editor Charlotte Dennett, welcomes Toward Freedom’s new editor, Julie Varughese, and extends a heartfelt thanks to Sam Mayfield who stepped down as President of Toward Freedom’s Board of Directors in December, 2020.
Charlotte Dennett stepped in as Toward Freedom’s guest editor last October. Her decades-long experience as a scholar, author and activist allowed Charlotte to seamlessly step into the position serving Toward Freedom’s mission, “to publish international reporting and incisive analysis that exposes government and corporate abuses of power, while supporting movements for universal peace, justice, freedom, the environment, and human rights.”
Charlotte contributed not only her editorial and writing skills, but also her great depth of geopolitical knowledge, as well as her enthusiasm for working with other writers. She went above and beyond the call of duty to mentor new writers, guiding them through the editing process, which resulted in the publication of many articles about places and issues not covered by any other English-language media. You can read Charlotte’s reflections about her time as guest editor here. Thank you, Charlotte!
Earlier this month, Julie Varughese came on board as Toward Freedom’s new editor. Julie comes to us having worked as a newspaper reporter, video producer and communications professional in a variety of settings. She has been working with the Black Alliance for Peace since its inception, supporting their impressive growth over the past four years. Julie’s strong writing, editing, video, graphics and social media skills will be a boon to Toward Freedom as we expand and grow to serve a more diverse audience and cover different parts of the world. This past week, Julie edited and published stories on Colombia, Haiti, Afghanistan, Palestine, and drones in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. Please drop her a line at email@example.com with any comments or suggestions. Welcome, Julie!
Sam Mayfield led the organization during a period of transition in our operations, finances, and governance, with a clear vision and commitment to high-quality reporting and analysis of global events and grassroots movements from an anti-imperialist perspective. Her principled leadership, strong work ethic, and experience as a reporter and filmmaker were invaluable as we navigated multiple challenges over the past several years. Thank you, Sam!
Check out towardfreedom.org for all the latest, and expect to see increased presence of Toward Freedom stories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in the coming weeks.
Thanks to you Toward Freedom readers for your continued support!
On behalf of the Toward Freedom Board of Directors,
The world is shocked by the image of an 11-story residential building in Gaza collapsing because of a bomb dropped by the Israeli Defense Force, one of the most advanced armies in the world thanks to U.S. support. But in the United States, Andrew Yang, former presidential candidate and now candidate for mayor of New York City, proudly proclaims he stands with the “heroic people of Israel” who are under attack from the vicious, occupied Palestinians, who have no army, no rights and no state.
But as politically and morally contradictory as Yang’s sentiments might appear for many, the alternative world of Western liberalism has a different standard. In that world, liberals claim that all are equal with inalienable rights. But in practice, some lives are more equal and more valuable than others.
In the liberal world, Trump is condemned for attempting to reject the results of the election and indicating he might not leave office at the end of his term. But as soon as Biden occupied the White House, one of his first foreign policy decisions was to give the U.S.-imposed Haitian president, Jovenel Moïse, a green light to ignore the demands of the Haitian people and the end of his term in February. He remains in office.
In the liberal world, the United States that has backed every vicious right-wing dictator in the world since the Second World War, orchestrates coups, murders foreign leaders, attacks nations fighting for independence in places like Vietnam, trains torturers, brandishes nuclear bombs, has the longest-held political prisoners on the planet, is number one in global arms sales, imprisons more people than any other nation in the world, has supported apartheid South Africa and is supporting apartheid Israel—while championing human rights!
In the liberal world, the United States can openly train, fund, and back opposition parties and even determine who the leader of a nation should be, but react with moral outrage when supposedly Russian-connected entities buy $100,000 worth of Facebook ads commenting on “internal” political subjects related to the 2016 election.
In the liberal world, Democrats build on racist anti-China sentiments and the identification of China as a national threat, and then pretend they had nothing to do with the wave of anti-Asian racism and violence.
In the liberal world, liberals are morally superior and defend Black life as long as those lives are not in Haiti, Libya, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, all of Africa, and in the jails and prisons of the United States.
In the liberal world, you can—with a straight face—condemn the retaliatory rockets from Gaza, the burning of a police station in Minneapolis, attacks on property owned by corporations in oppressed and exploited communities, attacks on school children fighting back against police in Baltimore, and attacks on North Koreans arming themselves against a crazed, violent state that has already demonstrated—as it did with Libya—what it would do to a state that disarmed in the face of U.S. and European aggression.
And in the liberal world, Netanyahu is a democrat, the Palestinians are aggressors and Black workers did not die unnecessarily because the United States dismantled its already underdeveloped public health system.
What all of this is teaching the colonized world, together with the death and violence in Colombia, Haiti, Palestine and the rest of the colonized world, is that even though we know the Pan-European project is moribund, the colonial-capitalist West is prepared to sacrifice everything and everyone in order to maintain its global dominance, even if it means destroying the planet and everyone on it.
That is why Biden labels himself an “Atlanticist”—shorthand for a white supremacist. His task is to convince the European allies it is far better to work together than to allow themselves to be divided against the “barbarians” inside and at the doors of Europe and the United States.
The managers of the colonial-capitalist world understand the terms of struggle, and so should we. It must be clear to us that for the survival of collective humanity and the planet, we cannot allow uncontested power to remain in the hands of the global 1 percent. The painful truth for some is if global humanity is to live, the Pan-European white supremacist colonial-capitalist project must die.
This article was originally published in Black Agenda Report.
Ajamu Baraka is the national organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace and was the 2016 candidate for vice president on the Green Party ticket. Baraka serves on the Executive Committee of the U.S. Peace Council and leadership body of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC). He is an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report and contributing columnist for Counterpunch. He was awarded the U.S. Peace Memorial 2019 Peace Prize and the Serena Shirm award for uncompromised integrity in journalism.
Copyright Toward Freedom 2019
Thanks for subscribing to our newsletter!
You will be sent an email confirming your subscription.