Haitians commemorate liberator Dessalines with huge mobilisations

November 1, 2019
Protesters carry a flag of liberator Jean-Jacques Dessalines in Port au Prince on October 17.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across Haiti on October 17 to commemorate the national revolutionary and liberator Jean-Jacques Dessalines and to demand the resignation of United States-backed president Jovenel Moïse.

Several huge mobilisations occurred across the country demanding an end to Moïse’s anti-people, corrupt and neoliberal government.

Starting early in the morning, important roads and highways in the capital Port-au-Prince and other departments were blocked by the protesters with barricades and burning tyres. Almost all civil, commercial, governmental and transportation activities were paralysed.

Large-scale demonstrations were held in the entire metropolitan region of Port-au-Prince, with the [communes] of Delmas, Petionville, Tabarre and Croix-des-Bouquets being some of the hottest points. At the airport crossing on Delmas Avenue, hundreds of people gathered to pay tribute to the victims of police repression in the last four weeks of protests. They placed photos of the victims on a wall and held a religious voodoo ceremony in their honour.

Another huge demonstration was held in the capital of the Northwest Department [state], Port-de-Paix, called for by the Patriotic Forum, which brings together more than 60 peasants, workers, women, students, youth and human rights organisations. Similar mobilisations were organised in all ten departments across the country.

The day of huge national mobilisation coincided with the 213th anniversary of the assassination of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, an important leader of the 1804 Haitian Revolution and considered the “Father of the Nation”. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people mobilise on this day to commemorate his life and revolutionary contribution to the country.

The uninterrupted anti-government protests, triggered by a fuel shortage in the country, are in their fifth week now. Since September 16, Haitians have been on the streets daily, demanding that Moïse resign. They see him as one of the principal actors responsible for plunging the country into deep social, political and economic crisis as well as for embezzling US$3.8 billion in PetroCaribe funds, offered to Haiti by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to finance its economic and social development.

Fuel crisis

The fuel crisis has worsened and led to a humanitarian crisis in regions where water and food supplies are not reaching the people.

On October 16, after a month of demonstrations against his misgovernance, Moïse broke his silence and addressed the nation. Surprisingly, he took responsibility for the crisis facing the country, but refused to step down. “It would be irresponsible of me to resign,” he said.

In response, both sectors of the opposition, the social movements and trade unions strengthened their calls for people to continue mobilising and demanding Moïse’s resignation.

On October 17, four of the seven members of the Dialogue Commission resigned. The government commission was recently created to engage in dialogue with the opposition, to find a solution to the crisis.

The members said that one of the conditions of the commission was that everything, including the president’s resignation, would be raised at the negotiating table. However, they claimed that Moïse’s speech invalidated the work undertaken by the commission.

In the past month of intense protests, more than 20 people have been killed and more than 200 injured by heavy police repression. According to the National Network in Defense of Human Rights, more than 77 people have been killed this year during anti-government protests, excluding those in recent weeks. On October 16, funerals were held for those who have lost their lives during the last four weeks of popular protests.

Many incidents of police repression were registered on October 17 as well. The social movements denounced this aggression and reiterated their call for the establishment of a transitional government that would implement economic reforms according to the needs of the population.

UN interference

On October 17, the United Nations Integrated Office (BINUH) also began its one-year mandate in Haiti. The new political mission aims to help the government and police in their efforts to maintain law and order in the country. It was established by the UN Security Council through a resolution passed in June this year. The office is said to be the replacement for the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH).

The UN’s intervention in Haiti began in 2004 when the Security Council approved the Stabilisation Mission (MINUSTAH) to deal with political violence, impunity and proliferation of crime, following the second coup against the democratically-elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

This was replaced in 2017 by the MINUJUSTH, with the aim of strengthening the institutions of the Caribbean country. Both the MINUSTAH and the MINUJUSTH have been accused of committing atrocious human rights violations. The BINUH is nothing but a new face of international interference.

Thousands of protesters marched to the headquarters of the UN, located next to the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in the capital, on October 4, to denounce its support for the current government — which came into power after the fraudulent elections of November 2016.

The government is also supported by the US and the Core Group, made up of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative, the Ambassadors of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the European Union and the US, and the Special Representative of the Organisation of American States.

Haiti is the most impoverished and unequal country in Latin America and the Caribbean. More than 80% of the country’s population live below the poverty line and unemployment is presently more than 70%. Years of dictatorship, foreign military occupation, political instability, systematic corruption and racism towards the nation, harsh international sanctions and the devastating 2010 earthquake have systematically aggravated the crisis.

However, the courageous and determined people of Haiti have refused to give in. Since July 2018, the poor and dispossessed of Haiti have been organising and mobilising against the widespread corruption in the political system, the imposition of neoliberal measures in accordance with International Monetary Fund policies and the allegiance of the Haitian government to imperial interests.

[Abridged from Peoples Dispatch.]

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