Violence and political upheaval have flared up in Haiti over a constitutional crisis caused by a presidential term dispute. Demonstrations have intensified on the streets of Port-au-Prince amid demands Haitian President Jovenel Moïse step down. Opposition leaders, a cross section of civic groups and a growing number of international activists and observers agree his five-year term ended February 7, 2021. Mr. Moise, however, maintains his term expires in February 2022 and won’t leave office.
Tens of thousands of Haitians responded by taking to the streets and facing police repression, bullets, beatings, tear gas, and persecution of opposition leaders. The people are fed up, said activists.
“What’s happening right now in Haiti is definitely hitting a hightide of intensity by the people for true national liberation and real democracy,” said Seth Donnelly, author of “The Lie of Global Prosperity.”
Resistance has been building since the 2004 United States coup against then Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide, who Haitians saw as a leader that genuinely represented the poor majority, he argued. “Ever since then there has been a succession of U.S.-UN regimes that are effectively dictatorships,” said Mr. Donnelly.
Observers say Mr. Moise’s defiance of the will of the people is the latest in a line of grievances.
“What you have is a mass movement along all sectors of society that is saying—enough,” said Pierre Labossiere of the Haitian Action Committee, an advocacy group.
In a strongly worded condemnation of the Moise government, the Haitian Action Committee is advocating for an end to all support and recognition of the Moise government and funding of the Haitian police and security forces. “We stand in solidarity with the resistance and resolve of Haitians in and outside of Haiti to get rid of this criminal regime,” said the group.
The Moise regime came to power through a U.S.-UN supported election in 2015 that was widely denounced in Haiti as a “electoral coup,” and fraudulent. Mr. Moise’s claim to more time is based on a year-long delay in his taking office amid the disputed results.
The same day of the demonstrations and call for Mr. Moise’s removal, 23 people, including a Supreme Court judge and a police official were arrested Feb. 7 and charged in an alleged plot to assassinate Mr. Moise and overthrow the government.
“There was an attempt on my life,” Mr. Moise said, while announcing the allegations.
In statements to journalists, Haitian Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe said weapons and a prepared speech belonging to the detained judge, Yvickel Dabrézil, were found.
The speech was for use if the coup succeeded and Mr. Dabrézil was to become provisional president, claimed Haitian authorities. Mr. Dabrezil called the charges of a coup a ruse to justify harassment of opposition figures organizing around ending Mr. Moise’s term in office.
Mr. Dabrezil was released on a technicality and gave remarks Feb. 17 in a Miami Herald interview.
“It was a coup that they prepared for the seventh of February to discredit the opposition,” he said. “The names of three judges were being circulated, and since I was the one whom they found, they reacted. If they could have eliminated all three of these judges, they would have eliminated them,” said Mr. Dabrézil. In a controversial move, Mr. Moïse removed him from the bench along with two other justices named by the opposition as potential transitional leaders.
According to the Herald, Mr. Dabrézil said the “speech” found was actually an outline he prepared after opposition leaders floated his name as a possible interim president.
According to press reports another Supreme Court judge, Joseph Mécène Jean-Louis, was named by opposition groups as an interim leader.
Although the constitutional crisis was a main catalyst for turmoil in the streets, the crisis is coupled with a history of corruption, foreign meddling, and unchanging poverty. Haiti’s struggle for democracy and justice has reached another difficult period.
Although today’s issues stem back to the 2004 coup, Haiti watchers told The Final Call the uprisings and the unending destabilization of Haiti go far deeper. The root of the woe reaches back to the Haitian revolution in1804 that established the world’s first Black republic after defeating the Spanish and the French. Haiti, since that victory, has been the target of White supremacy fighting to stop any repeat of that history. The same resilient strength is in the soul of the people resisting today, they said.
Contextually speaking, Haiti has been in a state of flux since the assassination of its founding father, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, said Yusef Makhandal, a lawyer and Nation of Islam representative to Haiti.
“The enemy has never forgiven Haiti for having had the audacity, not only to hope, but to implement their hope and desire in becoming an independent nation without the permission of the enemy,” Mr. Makhandal said.
The attorney said Haiti’s enemy has been busy undermining the sovereignty of the Caribbean nation to demonstrate Haitians’ “alleged ineptness” in running their country and managing Haiti’s affairs.
On the constitutional crisis, he said Haiti is not really a sovereign state but an occupied territory.
If Haiti was indeed a sovereign state the Supreme Court of Haiti, which should be the bridge to interpret and resolve conflict, should have been triggered to settle the issue, argued the attorney.
“Unfortunately, we do not have this exercise of sovereignty … self-determination in Haiti,” argued Mr. Makhandal. “What we have is a group of Haitian organizations, whether in the Diaspora or in Haiti seeking direction from the United States,” he added.
“Just imagine a people that was the bastion and the champion of freedom, justice and equality that really gave birth to those high principles by defeating three ‘superpowers,’ the British, French and Spaniards,” said Mr. Makhandal.
Now Haiti is at the mercy of these same powers it checkmated, which is by design, said advocates.
It was the influence of the Haitian example that Whites feared Blacks worldwide would duplicate, explained Mr. Labossiere.
“Haiti had to be destroyed,” Mr. Labossiere said. During the decolonization struggles in the Caribbean and Africa, Haiti had to be made an example of and a showcase of the price paid by anyone rising for independence, he added.
There is growing opinion that Mr. Moise is on a dangerous and “increasingly authoritarian” trajectory after issuing a series of decrees that included forming an extra-constitutional intelligence force, said critics. Mr. Moise has been ruling by decree since creating an imbalance of power after legislators’ terms expired, and his government failed to hold scheduled parliamentary elections in October 2019.
Observers note these actions are reminiscent of past anti-democratic abuses Haitians endured with the approval of Washington.
Brocchit Edmond, the Haitian ambassador to Washington told the Guardian newspaper, “Most of the attention is on the current situation after February 7, but at the same time we just don’t want the international community to lose focus on the big project while we are pushing for a new constitution.”
“It is a project that has been around for 15 years, but President Moïse wants to have it done by the time he leaves office on February 7, 2022. He wants to leave to have that as a legacy,” stated Mr. Edmond.
Opponents argue Mr. Moise is power playing to change the constitution, formulate more “fraudulent” elections and attempt to become president for life. They say Mr. Moise’s moves are redolent of the 29-year terror reign of the U.S. and France backed Duvalier family. François “Papa Doc” Duvalier ruled Haiti from 1957-1971. After his death, power was transferred to his son Jean-Claude Duvalier, who ruled 1971-1986.
In 1964 the elder Duvalier revamped the constitution and declared himself president for life. He formed the notorious Tontons Macoutes security force, responsible for terrorizing and assassinating regime foes.
In response to the current crisis, the Biden administration, along with the United Nations and the regional Organization of American States backed Mr. Moise’s claim that his term ends next year. Those positions added fuel to worsening Haitian animosity toward the UN and the U.S. as imperialistic meddlers.
In a joint letter Feb. 6 to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, some U.S. lawmakers implored Washington to “unambiguously reject” the “undemocratic actions” of President Moïse to retain power.
Several federal lawmakers led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) called for establishing a transitional government.
Not parsing words, the letter said Mr. Moïse has lost credibility, rules by decree, pays homage to forthcoming elections, but with dubious constitutional reforms. “The time for a Haitian-led democratic transition is now,” said lawmakers.