María Isabel Salvador, the author of the April 25 report from the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) to the U.N. Security Council on the current situation in Haiti emphasized “the urgent need for the deployment, authorized by the Security Council, of an international specialized force.” Based on the last few decades, this is U.N.-talk promoting more imperialist intervention in Haiti’s internal affairs.
At the start of Salvador’s report, the head of BINUH brought up “gang violence” and later talked about “1,647 criminal incidents –– homicides, rapes, kidnappings and lynching” that took place in Port-au-Prince in the first quarter of this year. There was no Haitian input into this report and there has been no rush to assume leadership of such a project, which is certain to arouse tenacious opposition.
The corporate media amplified the violence aspect of her talk to explain the unfolding catastrophe in Haiti as an inevitable outcome of “criminal violence.” Article after article raised an incident that took place in the Canapé-Vert neighborhood of Port-au-Prince April 24.
Police noticed that a small bus from Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, was carrying armed young men. The cops stopped the bus and forced the passengers to disarm and lie on the ground. A crowd quickly gathered, took the passengers from the cops, stoned them to death and burned the bodies.
A video of this incident had been viewed 96,000 times on Twitter as of 4 p.m. April 30. The bus driver Dessain Amoncite and his helper Jameson Fleurancieux were unharmed but detained by the cops for questioning.
The April 24 Miami Herald reported several earlier incidents when Haiti’s masses, mistrusting the police, took justice into their own hands. These media reports fail to give background on the role U.S. imperialist and U.N. interventions have played in making life miserable for the vast majority of Haitians, and what has led to there being no confidence in the Haitian regime or its cops.
For example, cholera has made a comeback. In 2010, U.N. “security” forces from Nepal released cholera into the country’s water supply. According to Haiti’s public health ministry, some 800,000 Haitians were infected and 9,000 died, until the epidemic was brought under control in 2018.
In late 2022, the World Health Organization reported that cholera had returned. In February 2023 there were 33,000 suspected cases and the number of infections was increasing by 2.5% a week.
There are an estimated 11 million people living in Haiti, nearly all of them poor, with too little income to buy food for three meals a day. They can’t afford to buy potable water and the water from the public supplies is inadequate and often contaminated.
According to the U.N.’s World Food Program, “A record 4.9 million people are projected to be in acute hunger . . . in Haiti . . . including 1.8 million people in ‘emergency’ phase (IPC4).” According to the World Bank, “Over half of the population (6 million) lives below the poverty line, and 20% (2.5 million) live below the extreme poverty line.”
It cannot be stressed enough that this horrific impoverishment is caused by the super exploitation of the Haitian masses by U.S. and other global corporations, backed by their governments, which grab the country’s resources and pay its workers starvation wages.
About 22% of Haiti’s gross domestic product are remittances sent back from the 5 million Haitians living outside the country.
Violence and the political situation
Poverty, disease and hunger are intertwined with the political situation and its associated violence in Haiti. The ruling class of Haiti has not held presidential elections for seven years. Interim Prime Minister/President Ariel Henry was appointed by the CORE group –– an unofficial committee consisting of the U.S., Canada and France plus other imperialist powers. Since this past January, there have been no elected officials in Haiti.
Along with becoming the main transshipment center for drugs destined for the U.S., primarily cocaine and marijuana, increasingly sophisticated and high-caliber firearms and ammunition are being trafficked into Haiti, sometimes through intermediates. These weapons, which are obviously profitable items, largely come from arms dealers in Florida, based on the few interceptions that U.S. customs managed. Without this arms trade, violence in Haiti would fade.
There is a dispute within the Haitian progressive movement about how to characterize the armed groups in Haiti. One position is that all these armed groups are reactionary and should be disbanded. The other admits that some armed groups are criminally engaged in kidnappings, extortions, rapes and robberies, but that others are basically armed neighborhood self-defense groups.
The United States has traditionally used the excuse of “gang violence” as justification for intervention in Haiti, ignoring the fact that it has not implemented the arms boycott Washington has declared would prevent the weapons from reaching Haiti.
The violence has driven people from their homes. Tens of thousands of Haitians have been internally displaced. Schools have closed and institutions like hospitals have had trouble functioning.
The progressive newspaper Haïti-Liberté has called on all patriots, young and older, to join together and create a self-defense force for the whole nation.