In the recent statement below, Haitian small farmer and human rights organizations — including Grassroots International partners — denounce the ongoing violent land grabs in north and northeastern Haiti. Grassroots partners Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development (PAPDA), Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), Tet Kole, and the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP) are among those condemning corrupt local government officials for their hands in the massacres of local farmers.
Statement of denunciation concerning the violent land grabbing against peasants in the departments of the North and Northeast
For several years, the Haitian state has been implementing economic policies that endanger people, animals, the environment, historical and cultural heritage, agriculture and land. These economic policies implemented by the Haitian State, the international bourgeoisie and the local bourgeoisie are at the root of land issues. More specifically, these issues are the monopolization of mostly fertile land and consequently the destruction of the life of the peasant farmers, their economy, their agriculture, their livestock and their environment.
In recent years, especially after the earthquake of January 12, 2010, multinational companies, the Haitian state and the local bourgeoisie have decided to develop a series of mega-projects contrary to the fundamental interests of the local population: mining, industrial free zones, tourism and agro-industrial .
As part of the implementation of these projects, peasants in various departments of the country, particularly the Northern and Northeastern departments, are subject to persecution, intimidation and violence by political and judicial authorities, protégés of the ruling party – the Haitian Party Tet Kale (PHTK) – and large landowners. In response to appeals for help launched by communities and grassroots partner organizations around these acts of violence, the organizations Kolektif Jistis Min – KJM (Mining Justice Collective), Plateforme Haïtienne de Plaidoyer pour un Développement Alternatif (PAPDA), Plateforme des Organisations Haïtiennes des Droits Humains (POHDH), Institut culturel Karl Lévêque (ICKL), Batay Ouvriye (BO), Mouvement Démocratique et Populaire (MODEP), Tèt Kole ti Peyizan Ayisyen (TK), Mouvement Paysan Papaye (MPP), Cercle Goman, Mouvement pour la Décentralisation et le Développement du Nord et du Nord-est (MODODOD), carried out a solidarity and informational visit in the departments of the North and the North-East from 25 to 29 October 2020 in order to better understand the situation.
During this visit, the delegation found that:
- There are many cases of land grabbing and violence against the inhabitants of the communities, particularly in Prévoyance (Ouanaminthe), Pister (Limonade), Casimir (Ferrier), Terrier-Rouge, among others;
- Political and judicial authorities, including justices of the peace, government commissioners, officials from the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, parliamentarians and former parliamentarians, police officers accompanied by armed civilians (often individuals wanted by the justice system), and some families are preparing false property titles to extort land that peasants have been living and working peacefully for decades;
- The peasants of Prévoyance, Casimir, Pister, Caracol, Grand Bassin and other localities live in fear and insecurity because of the exploitation of justice by potentates and zealots of the ruling team ;
- The political and zealous authorities of the ruling power and of the Justice system are trampling on the legal decision adopted on September 20, 2020 by the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INARA), with the aim of preserving peace and cohesion in the region, quarantining the lands of the locality of Prévoyance on which the Haitian State has placed the peasants who escaped the massacre of the Dominican dictator Trujillo in 1937 ;
- In 2014, in the locality of Prévoyance, at least two peasants fell under the murderous bullets of the police and armed civilians and several houses were destroyed, with agricultural production ravaged under the tractors of the protégés of the regime in power;
- In the localities of Prévoyance and Casimir, judicial, political and police authorities involved in the violent land grabbing issue, on the basis of false accusations, dozens of warrants against peasant leaders, youth and other citizens living in communities opposed to the land grabbing process;
- Several peasants are forced to go underground to protect themselves from the repression of the authorities, assisted by armed bandits;
- Not only is the Haitian state not committed to helping the victims, but in some cases, it is transgressing its own decisions taken in the past to grant land to peasants, in the context of humanitarian operations such as the establishment of « agricultural colonies » through the 1939 law to relocate the peasants victims of the 1937 massacre in the Dominican Republic.
The current constitution guarantees, through its article 39, the right of pre-emption to the peasants for the exploitation of the agricultural lands of the private domain of the State located in their locality. Thus, the organizations, signatories of the present statement, salute the intelligence of the peasant organizations of the North and Northeast, especially the peasants of the locality of Prévoyance, who understand their right to access land and their duty to resist violence and intimidation. Among this violence is the massacre orchestrated by Estime Saint-Juste (a former vice-delegate of the ruling regime), Me Kerby Pierre (Government Commissioner at Fort-Liberté), Jean Eugène (Justice of the Peace of Ouanaminthe), and Luma Démétrius (interim executive agent acting as mayor in the commune of Ouanaminthe). This massacre was conducted with the support of Haitian National Police (HNP) agents and armed bandits, despite the wise and legal decision taken by INARA to quarantine the land in conflict.
How can a group of individuals lay claim to the right to take over an area of land that is part of the private domain of the State and claim it as their private property? How can a Government Commissioner decide on his own (based on false judgments) to revoke the decision of the Haitian State taken under the government of Sténio Vincent to protect the lives of the peasants of Prévoyance?
The signatory organizations of this statement strongly denounce the land grabbing in the Northern and Northeastern departments. They strongly protest all repression, persecution, illegal and arbitrary arrests, massacres and other criminal actions carried out to extort land from the peasants of Prévoyance, Casimir, Grand Bassin and Pister, among others.
The situation described above foreshadows violence. In order to avoid an almost imminent bloodbath in which peasant families would be the main victims, the signatory organizations demand that:
- The regime in power cease all operations of land grabbing in the departments of the North and Northeast ;The peasants of Prévoyance, Casimir, Pister, Caracol and other communities continue to mobilize to defend their lives, their land, their agriculture and their livestock;
- INARA is urgently mobilizing the intervention of the Agrarian Reform Security Unit (USRA) to force troublemakers to comply with quarantine measures;
- The Office for the Protection of Citizens (OPC) and other human rights organizations carry out a fact-finding mission in the various localities affected by the land grabbing in order to prevent peasants from becoming victims of a bloodbath similar to the massacre orchestrated by Jean Rabel in 1987 or other cases;
- The OPC and other human rights organizations provide legal assistance to comrades who are imprisoned because they want to defend their rights and who are subjected to ill-treatment and threats;
- The justice system is acting urgently to suspend the more than 20 illegal warrants and false accusations that have been fabricated against the peasants of Prévoyance and the seven warrants issued against the peasants of Casimir who are resisting the land grabbing;
- The Superior Council of the Judiciary (CSPJ) is conducting a credible investigation of all judges involved in the land grabbing in the interest of the protégés of the regime in power and the bogus landlords;
- The media conducts its own investigations on the evolution of the situation in the affected communities and shares with the population the information gathered in order to contribute to a wider audience of peasant demands ;
- Human rights and popular organizations contribute to the denunciation of acts of violence perpetrated against peasants demanding their rights.
The struggle for the defense of peasants’ rights to access to land is a struggle for the right to life.
The struggle for the defense of peasants’ rights to access to land is a struggle for food sovereignty.
Peasants, be vigilant and stay mobilized until victory is achieved.
Signatory organizations and institutions:
Tet Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen
Origen Louis | Tet Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen
Ricot Jean-Pierre | Haitian Advocacy Platform for Alternative Development (PAPDA)
Alermy Piervilus | Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations