Brazil in fact passed seven days in Haiti at the invitation of popular organizations and movements. During the visit, more than 20 human rights organizations were heard and they were all unanimous in stating: the escalation of violence in the Caribbean country is stimulated by agents external to the island and will probably be the justification for a new military intervention – rejected by civil society of the country – commanded by foreign forces and endorsed by the United Nations (UN).
Another common criticism from activists is the international press coverage of the country. Exuma Emmanuel, communicator for Rádio Resistência and the Haitian Popular News Agency, a community and popular web radio based in Port-au-Prince, is incisive:
“The type of international coverage given about Haiti has many negative effects for those who live here, one of them is selling the image that it is one of the worst places in the world to live in and this also has an effect on Haitians who live outside the country .”
“Outside the country, Haitians are afraid of presenting themselves as Haitians. There are other political effects on Haiti, since independence, negative news forms an image”, he adds.
Camille Chalmers, economist, professor and representative of the Platform for Alternative Development of Haiti (PAPDA) asks: “how do people talk about the crisis in Haiti? The dominant discourse in the international press is always about wars and the need for humanitarian aid.”
“This discourse dates back to the 19th century because the imperial powers never accepted Haiti’s independence. The country helped with many independences and the (other) countries were afraid of the Haitian revolution”, says the professor. Camille also highlights the permanence and originality of the Haitian popular movement and its anti-imperialist consciousness.
Increase in violence and armed groups
The country’s situation is complex with an increase in violence driven by armed groups that today control more than 50% of the territory, data confirmed by organizations. The most critical situation is in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Armed groups control several popular neighborhoods, often involving murders and kidnappings.
Still according to Exuma Emmanuel, “the stimulated violence wants to impose a new occupying force on the country.”
“The weapons used by armed groups in popular neighborhoods come from the United States. The Haitian people are not just a people in despair, they are in struggle”, says Emmanuel, who explains that the gangs control strategic areas, installing a climate of terror and preventing people from organizing.
According to a United Nations report on the situation in Haiti, violence intensified in 2023 and the number of murders recorded in the country increased by 21% this year, rising from 673 in the last quarter of 2022 to 815 between January 1st and March 31st. The number of kidnappings grew by 63% in the same period, from 391 to 637 registered.
Cases of rape of women and girls are also among the main complaints from organizations heard by Brasil de Fato. An Amnesty International report, presented at the beginning of April, points out that 40% of the country’s population is in a food emergency, which corresponds to five million people going hungry.
According to the UN, Hatian authorities recorded 1,014 kidnappings in the country between January and June this year.
Haiti has the third highest inflation among Latin American countries (behind only Argentina and Venezuela), at around 30%, and a volatile exchange rate. Fuel increased by 260% in two years and the country is facing a new migration crisis with a flight of qualified labor. The majority of the population does not have access to drinking water, medical care and adequate housing.
For the coordinator of Rádio Resistência Reyneld Sanon, the international community supports a “criminal government”. “Everything they do is to justify Haiti as a chaotic entity,” he asserts.
Since the murder of Jovenel Moïse, in July 2021, the presidency has been vacant and there are no plans for new elections. After the president’s death, Ariel Henry was appointed as prime minister. Popular organizations claim that his appointment was made through direct interference from the Core Group (Central Group) made up of the embassies of Germany, Brazil, Spain, USA, France, Canada, the European Union, and the special representative of the Organization of American States and the representative special meeting of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
At the moment, there is no parliament or higher courts functioning in the country.
The group of popular movements and organizations that work to defend human rights propose the establishment of a transitional government, as one of the ways out of the crisis. The proposals were systematized in the “Montana Agreement” which is opposed by the Core Group.
The agreement was proposed in August 2021 by the Commission for the Search for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis. The group brings together non-governmental organizations, popular and religious movements, political leaders, intellectuals who came together after Moïse’s murder. The name Grupo Montana refers to the place where the group held its meetings, the Hotel Montana, in the capital Port-au-Prince.
“The transition of power can be one of continuity or rupture, but the current government is illegitimate and illegal”, analyzes Camille Chalmers on the challenge of the historic moment Haiti is experiencing.
Regarding the possibility of a new foreign intervention, Neidyson Cèzaire, communicator, producer and activist rejects: “International aid from Western countries has never helped a country to develop. The path for Haiti is to prioritize South-South cooperation. Western countries hate Haiti, they want to make us pay for being responsible for breaking the world order of slavery.”
Chalmers concludes by saying that “we need real solidarity. American imperialism is one of the actors driving the crisis. We do need to build international support networks, but not military intervention.”
Unlike popular organizations and movements that work directly with the population, Prime Minister Ariel Henry asked for international military help to combat armed groups in October 2022 and has not yet received a response. However, there is an expectation that at the next meeting of the UN Security Council, on September 14, there will be statements and a possible definition on the matter.
The Brazilian government has already shown interest in the Brazilian Federal Police training the Haitian police, but is waiting for the Security Council to approve a multinational police force in the country.
History and Independence
Haiti was the first colony in the Americas to gain independence and the only independence revolution carried out by black and enslaved people. The Haitian revolution began in 1791, when the then French colony was called Santo Domingo. After a 12-year struggle, in 1804, independence was proclaimed and the country was renamed Haiti, a name of indigenous origin. The Haitian revolution combined the fight for the independence of the metropolis with the fight for the liberation of the enslaved.
However, the history of Haiti in the 20th and 21st centuries is marked by successive foreign occupations: the American occupation from 1915 to 1934; the Duvalier military dictatorship that lasted almost 30 years from 1957 to 1986. With the end of the dictatorship, the 1987 constitution brought several advances, including the establishment of Creole as an official language along with French.
There were two coup attempts against the progressive-oriented former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in 1991 and 2004.
Also in 2004, the occupation began by Minustah, a multinational UN force, commanded by Brazilian military personnel, which lasted until 2014. One of its commanders was General Augusto Heleno, head of the security cabinet in the government of Jair Bolsonaro.
In recent Haitian history we still have the devastating earthquake of 2010, which greatly inflamed the country’s social and economic crises, and Hurricane Mateus, in 2016.
“Each intervention had serious consequences and interrelationships.” We arrived in 2016 with an important cycle of demonstrations led by peasants and which were harshly fought by gangs”, concludes Chalmers. Another cycle of important popular demonstrations took place during 2022, already protesting against Ariel Henry’s government and the increase in violence.
The report attempted to contact the special representative of the UN General Secretariat for Haiti, but had not received a response by the time the report was closed.
Editing: Rodrigo Durão Coelho