The 2016 election of Jovenel Moïse as Haiti’s president was marked by fraud and protests, and since then his presidency has been met by waves of protests. His presidency has not improved the lives of the Haitian people who are suffering food scarcity, fuel shortages and a lack of infrastructure and social services. 61.7% of Haiti’s population of 11 million live below the international poverty line, with $1.25 USD or less a day, according to UNICEF. Yet – the government of Jovenel Moïse receives economic, policing and political support from the “Core Group” made up of the United States, Canada, France, Spain, Brazil, the European Union, and a representative of the United Nations. Without the support of these imperialist countries and bodies, the Moïse government wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.
In May 2019 Haiti’s Superior Court of Auditors directly linked the president, as well as others aligned with his party and previous administrations, of embezzling billions of dollars in savings from the Venezuelan aid program PetroCaribe, intended for development and to fund social services. Even funds allocated for reconstruction after the devastating 2010 earthquake were fed into the pockets of companies owned by or linked to Moïse. Furthermore, a June 2019 report by the Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch found that the Canadian company SNC-Lavalin (already at the center of a bribery scandal involving Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau) ran a construction project in Haiti that has also been implicated in swallowing up PetroCaribe funds.
Since September 2019, the Haitian people have held near-daily protests across Haiti. Beyond demanding the resignation of Jovenel Moïse, the protesters have demanded an end to foreign intervention and backing of corrupt leaders like Moïse. A peaceful mass protest on October 4th marched to where the real seat of power in Haiti is – the United Nations offices, where protesters delivered a letter demanding the UN end its support for Moïse. Alongside protest signs reading “Resign Jovenel,” were also signs demanding “America come to take your corrupt and gangster president in Haiti that you give to us in fraudulent elections”and “Core group = diplomatic cartel”.
Haiti has a proud history of many firsts. Haiti is the only nation founded as the result of a slave revolution, which won independence from France in 1804. Haiti also became the world’s first black-led republic and the first independent Caribbean state.
Since then though, Haiti has been plundered and exploited by imperialist powers. This started in 1825 with France extorting 150 million gold francs from Haiti, shamefully as reparations for the loss of slaves and property. Then came the 1915 invasion of Haiti by the U.S. who occupied Haiti for 19 years, during which they controlled Haiti’s finances, ran forced labour camps and murdered those who resisted the occupation. The U.S. also forced the election of a U.S. puppet president – as we can see, this has not changed today!
Canada in Haiti: A Bad and Oppressive Example
On February 29, 2004, the U.S., Canada and France orchestrated a coup which forcibly removed President Aristide, who was taken by U.S. guards onto a U.S. jet and exiled. From Aristide’s account of events, “The coup and kidnapping were led by the U.S., France and Canada. [They] were on the front lines by sending their soldiers to Haiti before February 29, by having their soldiers either at the airport or at my residence, or around the palace, or in the capital to make sure that they succeeded in kidnapping me, leading [to] the coup.” Alongside U.S. and French troops, Canada immediately sent 500 troops to Haiti to secure the coup. The occupying force was soon conducted by the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which maintained imperialist control in Haiti from 2004 to 2017, followed by the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) which continues today. Canada touts its contribution to the UN missions with RCMP officers to reinforce and train the Haitian National Police, and Canadian Forces officers which have led the UN mission.
Alongside brutal raids and military occupation, the new occupying forces showed disregard for the standard of living of Haitian people. Haiti’s literacy program was quickly dismantled, as were plans to raise the minimum wage. In 2011, Wikileaks, with the Nation and Haitian weekly newspaper Haïti Liberté, published documents showing that a proposed increase of 37 cents an hour was opposed by the U.S. government, and the U.S. ambassador pressured then Haitian President Préval into a $3 per day wage for textile workers, $2 less than the proposed $5 a day. This goes to show how imperialist countries viewed Haiti as location for cheap labour. Shortly after the 2004 coup, Canadian textile company Gildan opened three sweatshop factories in Haiti. A November 27, 2014 Globe and Mail article detailed the conditions for Gildan workers in Haiti, with an interview with union leader Jean Bonald Golinsky Fatal. “It's worse than slavery… The slave owners had obligations to feed and clothe the slaves. Here you don't have to do that...The employer uses the extreme poverty and unemployment in Haiti because they know other workers will take the wage." This is Canada’s legacy in Haiti.
On January 12, 2010, a devastating 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti. Over 220,000 people were killed, 1.5-2.3 million people displaced, and more than 300,000 homes destroyed or badly damaged. Haiti was entirely unprepared – 500 years of colonization, foreign-backed dictators and imperialist occupations had not prioritized safety or infrastructure for the Haitian people, and still doesn’t.
The response of Canada and the U.S. to Haiti’s earthquake was deplorable. In a time when Haiti needed doctors and aid, the U.S. deployed 22,000 troops and Canada sent 2,000 troops to maintain “security”, along with military ships, planes and helicopters. U.S. forces took control of the Port-au-Prince airport and prevented flights carrying aid from other countries or organizations like Doctors Without Borders from landing.
Another result of the United Nations disregard for Haitian lives started in the months following the earthquake, when raw sewage from a UN base leaked into one of Haiti’s most heavily utilized rivers, causing a cholera epidemic. The UN initially refused to investigate the source of the outbreak and took six years to acknowledge its role in the outbreak. More than 10,000 people died from cholera since 2010, and over 800,000 were infected.
Cuba in Haiti: A Good and Human Example
For those that argue that Haiti needs our international support and aid, we have already seen what this looks like when with imperialist interests at heart. However, Cuba has shown what real humanitarian aid and assistance looks like. While the U.S. and Canada send troops and police, for decades Cuba has been exporting its best resources to Haiti – healthcare and education. Cuba’s example was impossible to ignore following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. As a December 26, 2010 headline in the British Independent newspaper put it best, “Cuban Medics in Haiti put the World to Shame”. Following the earthquake, Cuba’s medical brigade of 1,200 operated across Haiti, which was the largest foreign contingent, treating around 40% of all cholera patients.
Cuba’s medical assistance didn’t start or end with the earthquake though – Cuba already had 350 healthcare workers in Cuba, where Cuba had been since 1998. Today Cuba has almost 600 medical staff in Haiti, who are responsible for 21 community referral hospitals, 31 rehabilitation wards, 14 health centers, an ophthalmological center, a comprehensive care room, an ortho-prosthesis workshop and an electromedical workshop. (Statistics from the Cuban Medical Brigade in Haiti)
Cuba is also committed to training the future of Haiti’s healthcare system – as of 2010 Cuba had trained 550 Haitian doctors for free at the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba and has since trained hundreds more. Beyond healthcare, in January 2013, Cuba and Haiti signed eight bilateral agreements to expand their cooperation, including agreements for development in the agricultural and industrial sectors and to continue Cuba’s commitment to health and education.
The positive impacts of Cuba towards Haiti are undeniable, from a country guided by the principles of revolutionary internationalism that are a cornerstone to Cuba’s socialist revolution, in contrast to the profit-seeking and destructive impacts of imperialism from Canada, the U.S. and France.
Canada Hands Off Haiti!
As the Haitian people are struggling to strike a path free from foreign domination, it is with the solidarity of social justice and peace-loving people here in Canada. Although Justin Trudeau is trying his best to disregard those trying to hold him responsible for his support of Moïse and Canada’s shameful role in Haiti, Haiti’s supporters are becoming more difficult to ignore. On September 30, 2019, Justin Trudeau’s Montreal campaign office was occupied by 15 Haitian community members, supporters and activists for over three hours, and other actions have aimed to bring Canada’s role in Haiti to the spotlight.
The government of Canada must be held to account for its criminal actions in Haiti, for supporting the corrupt puppet president Moïse and for years of intervention, occupation and exploitation against the Haitian people.
US/Canada/France Hands of Haiti!
All Foreign Troops and Police Forces Out of Haiti Now!
US/Canada/France must compensate the Haitian people for damages since the 2004 coup!
Follow Janine on Twitter: @janinesolanki
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