By the Haiti Action Committee
July 28, 2023
July 28th, 2023 marks the 108th anniversary of the US marine invasion of Haiti. This invasion, occupation, and subsequent foreign interventions are at the root of the crisis today in Haiti.
Immediately following the 1915 invasion, US marines “seized the customs houses, imposed martial law, instituted press censorship, and outlawed dissent. The US installed a compliant president, imposed a “treaty” that was ratified only by the US Senate, disbanded the legislature, and rewrote the Constitution eliminating the ban against foreign land ownership.” A brutal 19-year occupation followed, subjecting the Haitian people to Jim Crow segregation, conscripted labor, and corporate land grabs. US soldiers– disproportionately whites from the Deep South– slaughtered thousands of Haitian civilians and peasants who attempted to defend their lands and rights, including resistance leader Charlemagne Peralte. James Weldon Johnson, the NAACP Black Executive Secretary, issued a scathing report in 1920 documenting some of these racist abuses.
The National City Bank of New York– known today as Citibank– had already seized control over Haiti’s national reserves in 1914. The bank was a key lobbyist for the 1915 invasion and benefited greatly from it, taking over Haiti’s “debt” collection from France.
By the end of the occupation in 1934, the US had funded and trained the Haitian military that would proceed to terrorize the impoverished majority in favor of the interests of US corporations and the Haitian oligarchy. The Haitian military became the backbone, along with the US-backed paramilitaries known as the Tonton Macoutes– of the subsequent Duvalier dictatorship that ruled Haiti from 1957 until 1986. It was the mass movement of the Haitian people, known now in Haiti as “Lavalas” (flood), that uprooted this dictatorship and created the conditions for the first truly fair and free elections in 1990. These elections resulted in the landslide victory of President Jean-Bertrand Arisitde. During the years leading up to these elections, the Haitian military and Tonton Macoutes continued to terrorize the population, as with the case of the notorious Jean-Rabel massacre in 1987 in which Macoutes slaughtered at least 139 peasants to protect the interest of a local land oligarch.
Unfortunately, foreign intervention in Haiti did not stop after the 1990 elections. Instead, the US backed a military coup against President Aristide a mere 8 months into his presidency. During the following 3 years of military dictatorship that followed, the US-funded Haitian military and US-funded paramilitary death squad known as FRAPH killed thousands of Haitians. FRAPH leader Emmanuel (Toto) Constant was on the CIA payroll during this reign of terror, threatening to restore the old order.
The democratic resistance by the Haitian people, joined by intensive international solidarity– including the then newly-formed Haiti Action Committee– were able to achieve President Aristide’s return to Haiti and an end to the coup regime. The popular, democratic Fanmi Lavalas governments headed by President Aristide– in power at two intervals between 1994 and 2004– pursued development policies that were created and driven by the Haitian people for the benefit of the Haitian people. These policies involved refusing to privatize national resources, increasing the minimum wage, literacy campaigns directed especially towards uplifting women, investing public funds in healthcare, education, and cooperatives, subsidizing access to vital resources, and much more. The achievements in poverty reduction and human rights during this decade of popular democracy were undeniable, explaining Aristide’s vast, ongoing popularity with the Haitian people. Yet these achievements, just like the brief opening to democracy in 1990, would be destroyed in a second US-backed coup in 2004, waged against President Aristide and thousands of other democratically elected officials on all levels.
Since this second coup in 2004, Haiti has, once again, been under a brutal foreign US/ UN occupation reminiscent of the US marine occupation earlier in the 20th century. Under the US/UN occupation, Haitians– particularly in impoverished neighborhoods that are bases of pro-democracy, pro-Lavalas activism– have been subjected to relentless massacres: first those perpetrated directly by UN occupation forces such as the 2005 massacre in Site Soley (Cite Soleil), and in more recent years those perpetrated by the US-funded/ trained Haitian National Police (HNP) and heavily weaponized paramilitaries, most notably the G9 Family and Allies, working with the PHTK dictatorship, such as the 2018 Lasalin massacre (see this video) and the 2019 massacres in the Tokyo and Site Vensan (Cite Vincent) neighborhoods.
Predictably, the current ruling regime of the Haitian Tet Kale Party (PHTK), installed by the US in 2011, has been seeking to further open up Haiti’s vast mineral wealth to foreign investors. Meanwhile, there is not a single elected official left today in the entire country since the PHTK regime has failed to hold, nor is capable of holding, fair and free elections. The deterioration of basic living standards under this dictatorship has now reached such a point that 4.9 million Haitians, nearly half of the population, are in acute hunger. Paramilitaries, frequently working with the US-funded Haitian National Police, reign supreme. Despite these genocidal conditions, the Biden Administration has only doubled down on its support of the PHTK dictatorship while methodically attacking Haitian refugees. In fact, the Biden Administration has deported more Haitians than the last 3 Presidents combined. And the Biden Administration continues to call for yet another foreign military intervention in Haiti to restore order, pressuring the CARICOM countries to likewise make such a call. The threat of a new foreign military intervention looms large.
Haiti’s popular mass movement, embodied by Lavalas, is not backing down, continuing to oppose foreign intervention and to push for a genuine transition government free from US and Core Group control. Now, more than ever, we call upon all friends of Haiti to take action.
This past May 18th, Haitian Flag Day, HAC organized an International Day of Action. Protests occurred throughout the US and the world, making these demands of the US government. Call or email your Congresspersons with the same demands to keep the momentum going. If we organize and stay the course, we can win!
- Stop using US tax dollars to fund the brutal Haitian police and affiliated death squads such as the G-9 responsible for gross human rights violations.
- Stop supporting the Ariel Henry dictatorship.
- Stop attacking and deporting Haitian refugees.
- No more foreign intervention in Haiti. Support the right of the Haitian people to establish their own transition government free from US and Core Group interference. Oppose the fiction– being perpetuated by the Biden Administration– that the Ariel Henry dictatorship is capable of organizing fair and free elections.