Haitians fear democracy is slipping away; thousands are taking to the streets protesting

By Rumi Samuel Published on April 06, 2021
Haitians fear democracy is slipping away; thousands are taking to the streets protesting

Haiti emerged from the brutal and dynastic Duvalier dictatorship to democracy 34 years ago. Now, many Haitians fear a return to autocracy as President Jovenel Moise has been steadily amassing power.

Jovenel Moïse was elected president six years ago with less than 10% of the vote but the United States firm support. By law, he should have left office one year ago but is instead promoting a referendum on a new constitution that would allow him to run for another consecutive term and permit a foreign citizen to be Haiti's president.

Under Moïse’s leadership, the country has seen a massive increase in violence, with rapes and kidnappings becoming more frequent. The economy has collapsed. Hunger is a serious and growing problem for the working class, most of whom — as much as 80% — live on less than $2 per day. That is not enough to feed one person, let alone a family.

While the masses in Haiti are desperately poor, a handful of the big bourgeoisie, the lackeys of the big imperialists who control Haiti, manage to siphon off bits and pieces of the vast wealth that has been and is being extracted. They live in splendiferous luxury.

"He's made some worrying moves, but there's still freedom of the press, with people accusing Moise of all sorts on the airwaves and dozens of political parties with different views," said one diplomat.

Thousands have been taking to the streets nationwide in a new wave of anti-government protests, chanting 'No to dictatorship! And calling for Moise's immediate resignation and a transition government. The protests have shut down schools and businesses, exacerbating a humanitarian crisis in a country.

"This country cannot live anymore in dictatorship, murders, and repression," said Kelly Bastien, a former opposition senator, taking part in a protest. "Respect for the constitution! Down with dictatorship! Down with decrees!"

Moïse Jean-Charles, the political leader of Ti Desalin, gave the wrap-up speech at the Champ-de-Mars in Port-au-Prince. He said: “We are in the streets because there is a dictator in the National Palace who is planning to change our constitution for the benefit of the system, for the benefit of the bourgeoisie and the embassies of imperialist countries. We are not going to give up; we will continue the mobilization until Jovenel Moïse leaves power.” 

The second day of protests had much the same spirit as the first, but the signs and banners were more political. Slogans included “Jovenel Moïse terrorist,” “Down with the United States, Long Live Russia,” “The U.N. + PHTK + OAS = misery,” and “Long live a socialist Haiti!” PHTK is the Party of Tet Kale, which currently runs the government.

Neighboring countries have warned the situation could worsen as the referendum and presidential election approach, threatening the Caribbean's stability.

The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti but has a gross domestic product per capita six times greater, said last month it would build a wall to keep out trouble.

"It's something that we are very actively looking at," Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a congressional hearing this month, adding that he shared concerns over "some of the authoritarian and undemocratic actions that we've seen."

Rumi Samuel

Rumi Samuel

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