Faced with a fuel blockade by the country’s most powerful gang and with a mass movement demanding solutions to the growing economic crisis, the Henry regime in Haiti is hanging by a thread. Led by the United States, the imperialists are openly discussing a military intervention to defend the Henry regime and restore order. An intervention and occupation by imperialist troops will be a disaster for the workers and poor of Haiti, and must be opposed.
In November of last year we published an article on the situation in Haiti. It is remarkable how similar the current situation is to that of almost one year ago.
President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July 2021 and Ariel Henry took power with the backing of U.S. imperialism. With escalating political and economic turmoil, and suffering the impact of the global pandemic, Haiti was in its third year of recession. The country’s GDP growth was -1.7 percent in 2019, -3.3 percent in 2020, and -1.8 in 2021. Inflation had been rising for nearly a decade reaching a high of 22.9 percent in 2020, before decreasing slightly to 15.9 percent in 2021. This deteriorating economic situation massively increased the misery of the people, in a country where nearly 60 percent of the population lives in poverty, nearly half (4.4 million) need immediate food assistance, and 1.2 million suffer from extreme hunger.
Gang violence was spiralling out of control, with brazen kidnappings, murders, and assassinations. Gangs engaged in open warfare for the control of territory, terrorising entire neighbourhoods and becoming involved in the assassination of activists and journalists. With the collapse of Haitian capitalism, the gangs were growing and spreading like cancer.
The most powerful of these, the G9 gang led by Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, was believed to be closely allied with former President Jovenel Moïse. It had publicly supported Henry’s taking of power, but when Henry was implicated in the assassination of Moïse, Cherizier turned against him and blockaded Haiti’s main fuel port, the Varreux terminal outside Port-au-Prince, demanding Henry’s resignation.
The blockade in 2021 eventually came to an end. The lack of fuel, food and water had created an acute social crisis, leading to a potential political explosion on the part of the masses. The situation was untenable and G9 backed down. The rotten Henry regime plodded along, unable to do anything to solve any of the problems Haiti faces. There was never any resolution to the problems facing the masses. The economic and political situation continued to deteriorate, which led to the situation today.
The more things change…
The situation today appears very similar, only everything is that much more acute. Despite promising elections (which had already been delayed repeatedly), Henry dissolved the Provisional Electoral Council. Elections have been postponed indefinitely, Henry himself has never been elected, and the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies are no longer meeting. Like Moïse before him, Henry rules by decree and presides over a de facto dictatorship.
Haiti is now in its fourth year of recession. GDP growth this year is -1.2. Inflation has nearly doubled, skyrocketing to 26.8 percent, making life nearly impossible for the working class and poor. The gang violence has only gotten worse. It is estimated that gangs now control 60 percent of the capital of Port-au-Prince.
The Henry regime cut Haiti’s fuel subsidy in early September. Haiti has been under imperialist pressure for years to cut the subsidy. Previous attempts had been made to cut the fuel subsidy, but the Haitian regime was always forced to back down in the face of mass demonstrations.
On the one hand, the Haitian regime cannot afford to purchase fuel at world market prices and then subsidise consumption at home. This is especially the case with the current high price of oil. On the other hand, given the low wages and crushing poverty, the Haitian people cannot afford to pay world market prices for fuel. Once the subsidy was cut, the price of a gallon of gas (3.8 litres) rose from $2 to nearly $5.
Haiti doesn’t have a functioning electrical grid, so most people and institutions rely on diesel generators for fuel. Haitian workers and the poor need gasoline, diesel and kerosene for lighting and cooking at home, and to get to work, etc. Increases in the cost of fuel also push up the cost of transport, which affects the price of other goods such as food and water. The price of food has risen by 52 percent as a result. Cutting the fuel subsidy was a disaster for the Haitian people. The masses simply can no longer afford the cost of living in Haiti. The increasing poverty made life that much more impossible for the overwhelming majority of people. Mass demonstrations erupted across the country, with the people protesting the fuel subsidy cut, growing and worsening poverty, as well as the ever-increasing and brazen gang violence.
The G9 gang is well armed and considered the most powerful gang alliance in Haiti. It has been involved in numerous massacres, including the La Saline massacre in 2018, attacks and massacres in 2020 across Port-au-Prince, and an attack in the Bel Air neighbourhood in 2021.
Cherizier, the leader of the G9 gang, has presented himself as a sort of ‘revolutionary’ strongman who can save the country from the crisis. To protest the fuel subsidy cut, the G9 gang blockaded the Varreux fuel terminal and demanded the resignation of Henry the day after the cut was announced.
With the country’s main fuel terminal blockaded since then, there is now a fuel shortage. People don’t have fuel for their homes or for transport. Gas stations are closed, hospital generators are out of fuel forcing cutbacks and cancellations of medical services and procedures, banks and grocery stores are on restricted hours or closed altogether.
Businesses and factories are shutting down due to the lack of fuel, such as the Caracol Industrial park, a manufacturing park where some 15,000 people work. The Haitian press reports that most businesses are closed and hundreds of thousands of workers have been laid off or sacked, exasperating the already dire circumstances for these workers and their families.
The lack of fuel has brought the transportation of food and water to a halt. Haiti is now facing famine conditions as a result, and the lack of clean water has led to a cholera outbreak. Haitian society is in fact on the verge of collapse.
There seems to be no end in sight to the fuel blockade. The Haitian state is outgunned and outmanned by the gangs, and in reality can do very little about the situation. Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, as the saying goes. Based on his powerful, well-armed gang, Cherizier has recently proposed his own plan for stability. He has demanded seats in Henry’s cabinet, and is demanding that the regime grant amnesty and void arrest warrants against G9 members. In the final analysis, the state is composed of special armed bodies of men – and in Haiti, the gangs have more men, with more and better arms, than the Haitian state.
The current situation even raises the prospect of a gang-led coup. Cherizier and G9 effectively have more power than the state and control the situation through the blockade. The state is paralysed and cannot even carry out its basic functions. The Henry regime does not have the means to deal with the gangs. There are also corrupt elements in the police that have close connections with the gangs, complicating any serious police operations. Cherizier himself, for example, is a former police officer.
Henry regime calls for international military aid
During last year’s fuel blockade, the Haitian government requested help from the UN to deal with the gangs. These calls largely fell on deaf ears. There is not a great appetite among the imperialist countries for another military intervention in Haiti. The US imperialists and their allies hoped that, with Moïse out of the picture and Henry coming to power, the situation would stabilise. Of course, the Henry regime could never stabilise the situation. Outmatched by the gangs, it was incapable of dealing with the kidnappings and the violence of gang warfare. The Haitian state, reflecting the interests of the ruling elite, can do nothing about the crushing poverty and dire economic situation. The Henry regime was always doomed to preside over a continually deepening crisis.
The economic and political situation in Haiti has now deteriorated to such an extent that the imperialists are seriously concerned about a total collapse of the Haitian state. This is why they are now considering Henry’s request for international military aid. The imperialists are worried that gang warfare could escalate into a civil-war type situation, leading to the collapse of the government. A bigger concern is that the mass demonstrations could transform into an insurrectionary movement and overthrow the Henry regime. In any case, the regime is hanging by an extremely frayed thread.
The imperialists are also worried that the political instability in Haiti could spread throughout the region. On the one hand, revolutions spread like wildfire and the entire region could be engulfed in a revolutionary wave emanating from Haiti. On the other hand, increasing political chaos and gang violence, the collapse of the Haitian regime, a coup of some sort, etc., could also lead to a mass exodus of refugees, which is something the US imperialists and the Mexican government are particularly concerned about.
A foreign intervention in Haiti comes with a number of financial and political risks for the countries involved. Military interventions are costly, and the imperialists would receive very little in return for military adventures in Haiti. There is scant financial reward to be had, and the best they can hope for is temporary stabilisation, based on the presence of foreign troops.
With the world crisis of capitalism deeping at all levels, sending troops to Haiti could cause serious political problems at home. A military intervention to shore up the Henry regime and to deal with the gangs could embroil foreign troops in a long-term, ugly conflict. US imperialism is particularly concerned about getting bogged down in a long-term occupation in Haiti. The gangs are well-armed and entrenched in Haiti’s cities, especially the capital. Breaking the gangs means urban warfare, which could easily escalate and could mean opposition at home. Open warfare with the gangs on the streets of Haitian cities could also spark mass opposition in Haiti. Foreign military support for the Henry regime would also mean conflicts with the mass movement. Scenes of imperialist troops putting down mass demonstrations risks sparking an uprising in Haiti and mass demonstrations at home.
Hands off Haiti
The United Nations Security Council has already approved the sanctions on Cherizier proposed by the United States and Mexico. The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has publicly called for a special international “rapid action force” to help Haitian police deal with the gangs. As reported by Reuters, “Guterres is not suggesting that the force be deployed by the United Nations. He said the 15-member Security Council should simply welcome such a force and notes that he may boost UN capacity to support a ceasefire or humanitarian arrangements and ensure coordination of efforts with an international force.”
But the United Nations cannot be reliably used by the imperialists for a military occupation in Haiti following the ‘United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti’ (MINUSTAH) from 2004-2017. The United Nations has zero legitimacy in Haiti. The previous UN mission is rightly seen as a foreign occupation by Haitians. The MINUSTAH mission was designed to protect US imperialists interests in Haiti. The UN occupation forces prevented President Aristide from returning to the country after the coup organised by the US and Canada that removed him from power, and prevented his party Lavalas from running in elections. The UN mission was specifically designed to counter “resurgent populist and anti-market economy political forces”. UN troops involved in the MINUSTAH mission left in their wake a sex abuse scandal and cholera outbreak. Thus, a UN mission in Haiti would not be well received and is a not viable option for the imperialists.
The United States and Canada have already delivered armoured vehicles to the Henry regime, providing military support for the de facto dictatorship. Officially, the armoured vehicles are to help the Haitian police to fight the gangs, but they can of course be equally used against mass demonstrations.
The Trudeau government in Canada has spoken of the need to remove the gang blockades. But true to form, Trudeau has been vague about specifics. The United States has proposed the rapid deployment of an international military force to Haiti. But the future of this proposal is in doubt. The Biden government doesn’t want to send US forces and wants another country to lead the mission. US imperialist military forces would be about as well received in Haiti as a UN force, and with Biden facing midterm elections soon, a military intervention in Haiti brings too many risks.
The depth of the global crisis of capitalism means that almost all countries are facing economic and political instability. In this context, sending troops to Haiti represents many risks for any countries involved. Hoping to stymie U.S. interests in the region, Russia and China have expressed concerns on the Security Council about sending foreign troops to Haiti. France has refused the idea of providing troops, and the Canadian government is also reluctant. Brazil, where elections will also be held soon, has expressed scepticism and won’t commit to sending troops either. So far, only the Bahamas has confirmed it would be willing to send police or troops if asked.
Despite these setbacks for the US proposal, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that the Biden regime remains confident it will be able to establish the proposed international military force, although it remains to be seen who will lead it and when it will be organised.
The threat of an imperialist military intervention in Haiti should not be downplayed. The Biden regime may currently be having some trouble organising such a force, but the fact is that the imperialists will be increasingly motivated to intervene as the situation continues to deteriorate. In terms of protecting their interests, the imperialists are coming to believe that the risks of not intervening are beginning to outweigh the risks of doing so. Any serious threat of the Henry regime collapsing or being overthrown would be a further impetus.
The Haitian masses must oppose any foreign intervention. There have been several military interventions and occupations going back to the 1990s, which have never solved anything and always make everything worse. Imperialist troops come to Haiti to support and preserve the status quo, and will defend the current regime. In this context, foreign troops would arrive to support the Henry dictatorship. This might mean a conflict with the gangs, but would also mean defending the regime from mass demonstrations.
Many Haitians are already opposed to an intervention led by the UN or the US, and rightly see such an operation as an occupation by foreign imperialism. We reported in our previous article that many anti-imperialist slogans and placards were visible at the demonstration on 17 October, Dessalines Day. Protestors were seen carrying a coffin with a picture of Henry on it and draped in US, Canadian and French flags, for example. Demonstrations against an intervention by imperialist troops should continue and be expanded across the country to clearly demonstrate that the people are opposed to such an occupation.
In some cases pro-Russia, or pro-Putin placards and signs are also visible at demonstrations. In part this also reflects the rejection of U.S. and Canadian imperialism by the Haitian people, but in other cases may also reveal a misguided belief that Russian or even Chinese intervention could lead to a different result than one led by the U.S. Given that Haiti is considered to be in the “backyard” of the United States, a mission led by Russia or China is unlikely. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine still ongoing, there is no chance that Russia could intervene, and such an intervention would be seriously opposed by the United States and its allies. In any case, a Russian or Chinese mission would have the same intention and same result as a mission led by the United States – defence of the status quo and of the Henry regime.
There is no solution to the problem of the gangs under capitalism. The general sickness of capitalism in Haiti has allowed the gangs to grow and metastasise like a cancer. Politicians and the bourgeoisie have funded and employed the gangs to further their own interests. The corruption runs so deep that the entire capitalist system, including the political framework, has become criminalised and gangsterised.
Imperialist troops might be able to defeat the gangs militarily, at great cost to the Haitian masses, but even this will provide no long-term solution to the problem. An occupation by imperialist troops will do nothing to solve the root causes that have given rise to the gangs. Imperialist troops will not provide jobs, decent wages, housing, education or healthcare. Meaningful and significant improvements to living conditions are the only way to deal with the problem of the gangs in the long term.
Even if an imperialist military intervention leads to the breaking of the G9 blockade and the defeat of the gangs, with no fundamental change in Haiti’s economic and political situation, with the same conditions of poverty and misery, the gangs would arise all over again and the Haitian masses would quickly find themselves in the exact same situation. This would mean a potentially long-term and brutal occupation by imperialist forces to keep the gangs in check.
Despite the crushing poverty and difficult conditions, despite the gang violence, terrorisation, killings, kidnappings and assassinations, the mass movement has continued in Haiti. This is a remarkable achievement in and of itself, considering how intense the daily struggle to survive is. Significantly, this mass movement has also not suffered any major defeats, despite everything.
Mass demonstrations have been an almost constant feature in Haiti for years. Demonstrations have continuously erupted: against the Martelly regime and electoral fraud, against the cuts to the fuel subsidy, against corruption and the Petrocaribe scandal. During the Moïse regime these demonstrations even developed an insurrectionary character at times. The people came out onto the streets to protest his counter-reforms and authoritarian moves at every turn. The masses have clearly demonstrated their willingness to fight and to determine their own fate.
Because of the difficulties of life in Haiti and the terrorisation of the gangs, many important figures and leaders of the mass movement have been killed or disappeared. Prominent activists and neighbourhood leaders are a frequent target of the gangs. The Henry regime (like the Moïse regime before it), with the help of the gangs, has tried to decapitate the movement to prevent it from growing and succeeding. This poses certain challenges for the movement. No revolutionary leadership has emerged that can unite it around a common programme.
No solution will be found among the various bourgeois and reformist parties, who one by one have capitulated to the Henry regime or to the interests of imperialism. The foundation of a revolutionary organisation of the masses, united around a socialist programme, is an urgent necessity.
The Henry regime will not be able to deal with the gangs. Foreign troops are no solution either. The people, the mass movement, will need to deal with the gangs themselves. This is a daunting task to be sure. But it is possible on the basis of a mass movement united around a revolutionary programme. The gangs, like the Henry regime itself, would be powerless in the face of a genuinely mass revolutionary movement.
A key task for the mass movement in dealing with the gangs will be the establishment of revolutionary action committees to defend neighbourhoods and workplaces. The workers and poor must be able to defend themselves from kidnappings and assassinations. Gangs must be prevented from fighting for the control of neighbourhoods and territory, which always means the casualties of innocent bystanders.
Capitalism has utterly failed in Haiti. What is needed is a total revolutionary sweeping away of all the corruption and rot of Haitian capitalism. To that end, the Haitian bourgeoisie must be expropriated and their failed regime overthrown. The expropriation of the ruling elite will be a key step in overcoming the powerful connections of the gangs.
An insurrectionary mass movement in Haiti must develop an economic, political and social programme that can eradicate the poverty and misery that leads many to join the gangs. Good jobs, decent housing, adequate food, water and healthcare are the political weapons that can be used to fight the gangs.
Given the lack of fuel, water, and food due to the G9 blockade, the mass movement in Haiti must develop a plan to collect and distribute basic goods, as well as the organisation and defence of transportation, education, and healthcare. The Haitian state has proven itself incapable of providing even these basic services, but the masses could do so on the basis of the democratic planning of resources.
A revolutionary uprising of the workers and poor in Haiti would be an inspiration to workers and youth around the world. This would provide the basis for an internationalist appeal by the Haitian workers and poor for solidarity and support. This would galvanise class solidarity for the Haitian masses throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, North America and the world. Class solidarity throughout the region and the world is how a military intervention by imperialist forces could be stopped in its tracks.
There is no way forward under capitalism. No solution will be found under an imperialist occupation. Imperialist troops will defend the status quo, defend the Henry regime and enforce the continued rule of the elites. The economic and social crisis will continue and worsen. This means condemning the masses to continued poverty and misery, with no end in sight.
Overthrowing the rotten Henry regime and entire capitalist system in Haiti is the task of the Haitian workers and poor themselves. The time is now to build a united revolutionary organisation and to develop a programme of socialist revolution. This will be the only way out of the crisis for the Haitian masses.
Hands off Haiti!
No to an imperialist occupation!
Overthrow the Henry regime!
Fight for revolution!