Milourdes Augustin writes about the protests in Haiti. Milourdes is Grassroots International’s Solidarity Program Officer for Haiti and West Africa.
L’union fait la force: There’s Always Hope — Haiti is Living Proof of That
I remember waking up one morning to our house in Port-Au-Prince shaking. “Is this an earthquake?” I asked my mother with an innocent tone only a 7-year-old could deliver. Her trembling voice responded, “Not a natural one, cherie.” It was 1994 and the US troops were circling above my city, letting their presence be known and their force felt with their helicopters and soulless weapons. Advertised as a peace-building mission, this arrival of US troops was only the latest in a long series of invasions and interventions by the US.
It’s been 23 years since my family and I migrated to the USA. And after several natural disasters and multiple failed presidencies, Haiti is on fire again. I am disheartened by the US mass-media’s coverage of the current crisis in Haiti: rather than portraying it as it is—a leaderless revolution in the making—“hopeless” seems to be the most popular word in these articles.
Why are the protests in Haiti Treated Differently?
Why are Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia and Egypt’s uprisings being portrayed differently, one might ask. The articles instead highlight the deaths and destruction but fail to mention that those deaths are being executed by the police and military, not those fighting for food, education, electricity, gasoline and basic human necessities that have been denied to the people. For the past 16 months, the Haitian people have taken to the streets in mass to protest the government, and demand that the current reigning president step down. The people are revolting against a president and government that simply does not care.
But how is that Haiti, once the richest country in the Western Hemisphere, is in the condition it is in right now?
The reason is simple, but largely absent from the mainstream media. Haiti has been prevented from growing economically for centuries dating back to when they gained their independence from France in 1804. Haiti was the first successful slave revolt to defeat a European imperial power. For western countries, the prospect of a successful slave rebellion sent tremors up and down the enslaved Americas. In response, France arm-twisted the newly liberated Haiti into committing to pay France an enormous sum of money—for their own freedom. In spite of this macabre deal, the early years seemed hopeful for the new country. Then corruption and manipulation by foreign governments started to penetrate the heart of the country and the people began to suffer.
The US involvement began in 1915 when they invaded and occupied the country under the falsehood of “helping” bring peace, and staying until 1934. Since then the U.S., in collusion with France and Canada, has been inviting itself into the country’s affairs, ensuring that the country remains mired in chaos, devastation and neocolonial servitude.
The current state of Haiti has been building for about a year and a half now. It began with calls for accountability surrounding millions stolen from Venezuela’s cancelled PetroCaribe oil supply agreement. PetroCaribe’s cancellation not only caused fuel prices to skyrocket for an already struggling population, but it also greatly reduced electricity supply in the country. Much of the country relies on diesel to run generators for electricity. The sickening corruption of President Moise and his party inspired the nation to take the streets and demand justice for those who truly rely on affordable oil for their livelihoods and their families.
Hope in Haiti’s Revolt
Relentlessly, the people march daily, fighting for their right to work, provide and educate themselves and their children. There are countless organizations in Haiti, including Grassroots International partners PAPDA (the Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development), MPP (Peasant Movement of Papaye), MPNKP (National Congress of the Papaye Peasant Movement) and Tet Kole (Heads Together Small Producers of Haiti) that are working round the clock to keep hope not only alive but thriving. In August 2019, the above organizations and their allies drew up a plan for a three-year interim government and a concrete road map for rebuilding Haiti during a nationwide convening of over 100 peasant, student, union and civil organizations
As Haitians march on the streets, it is a time of expectant hope, the possibility of a turning point in the nation’s history. The question on people’s minds is: will the usual western powers move to quash this call for justice, or will the uprising be successful in ushering in a new, accountable government that truly responds to people’s needs?