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The gangs in Haiti seize control amid wreckage of imperialism

The Caribbean country has never been allowed to make its own choices. And the history of violent US and Western intervention is responsible for today’s crisis, writes Yuri Prasad
Issue 2896
Haiti imperialism US

The aftermath of protests in Haiti in 2019 (Picture: Wikicommons)


The Caribbean country of Haiti is in the grip of a massive political crisis. It’s one that results directly from centuries of imperialist intervention—and a global system built upon impoverishment.

Gangs—largely made up of the poor but directed by sections of the Haitian rich—are demanding the fall of acting prime minister and president Ariel Henry. 

They have taken control of much of the capital, Port-au-Prince, including the airports, and have smashed their way into two prisons to release inmates.

Led by Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, the armed groups have displaced thousands of people whilst killing and injuring many others. But Henry is no better, and his rule has been a disaster for most people.

Poverty has worsened in one of the world’s poorest countries, and the state is now near to collapse. Today, some 217,000 children suffer from malnutrition, a 61 percent increase since 2020.

Henry came to office after the assassination of president Jovenel Moise in 2021. The West engineered his rise to power, and until a few days ago, he had the full backing of both the United States and the United Nations (UN).

But now, as it becomes clear how little support Henry has, the “international community” is quietly moving away, and Henry is hiding in Puerto Rico. Kenya had agreed to send 1,000 police officers to help Henry in his battle with the gangs–despite the cops speaking neither French nor Haitian Creole.

Other African states were ready to back the plan with troops of their own. And Canada and the US funded the deal to the tune of £200 million. Both countries now accept that Henry is history and are calling on him to resign and initiate elections. But the collapsed deal is just the latest episode of Western meddling.

In 1994, the US sent 20,000 troops to Haiti in operation “Restore Democracy”. It aimed to return Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power after a military coup.

The US said it would put Aristide back in office if he ditched his antiimperialist promises. But it then backed another coup against him in 2004.

More than a decade of foreign intervention then followed. UN soldiers were stationed in Haiti and committed terrible abuses. Amid the poverty, they used promises of food and medicine to rape hundreds of women and girls.

Troops from across the world also brought cholera to Haiti, killing more than 10,000 people in 2010–the year that a deadly earthquake struck.

Imperialism’s defenders quickly turn to racism to justify its actions. They insist that, left to its own devices, Haiti would descend into further chaos.

Yet, at every turn, it is that rotten system that has both impoverished the country and created the conditions for civil war. Imperialism has meant that Haiti had never been allowed to run its own affairs.

Read all out Haiti history and analysis at socialistworker.co.uk/tag/haiti/


Gangs work for rich but recruit from people’s suffering

Western media makes no real attempt to explain what lies behind Haiti’s gangs. It tells us, instead, that they are an expression of the country’s inherently “violent culture”.

In fact the gangs are a relatively recent phenomenon and are tied-in to the political establishment the West constructed. The present gangs are generally affiliated with two groups, G-Pep and G9, which have fought each other for control of Port-au-Prince.

They emerged from rival sections of the establishment that sought to establish private armies. So, Aristide formed armed groups called Chimeres in the early 1980s, before winning the presidency as a way of gaining power and protecting his movement from repression.

With the support of Aristide these gangs took control of entire communities, and increasingly sought to operate on their own terms.

They were, in part, a reflection of a popular hatred of the police and the army. Flooded After he disbanded Haiti’s army during his second period as president, former soldiers flooded into armed groups as a way of making a living.

Jovenel Moise came to power in 2017 with the help of G9-affiliated gangs. Moise then ensured his backers had the support of the army in the massacres they then committed.

G9 worked for Moise as a private security force. He was assassinated in 2021 by foreign mercenaries. In the years since the ties between the gangs and their one-time political masters have loosened, they are now increasingly fighting on their own terms.


The power both politicians and the West fear 

Workers and the poor are the one force in Haiti that could wrestle the country back from both imperialist stooges and the gangs.

An uprising in 2019 showed what such united action could do. A mass movement rose from the poorest neighbourhoods to demand the resignation of president Jovenal Moise for corruption.

A court case revealed that he and his ministers had stolen millions of pounds in development loans gifted by Venezuela. Ransacked It sent a wave of fury into the streets, with police stations burnt down and shops and banks ransacked.

“For two years, Jovenel has promised to fill our plates. But I can’t eat lies,” said protester Josue Louis‑Jeune, banging a metal plate with a spoon.

“This president is nothing more than a liar,” he said. “He’s got to go.” Cops hit back with live ammunition but couldn’t quell the rising–and Moise was soon found dead. Haiti’s poor need the spirit of 2019 once again.

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