Welcome to another episode of 1919Radio. In this episode, our host Caleb Yohannes is joined by Dr. Jemima Pierre and Dr. Kevin Edmonds to discuss the ongoing colonial and manufactured political, social, and economic crisis in Haiti. Dr. Pierre and Dr. Edmonds are community organizers, distinguished scholars, and hold a lifelong commitment to learning, grounding, and continuing to struggle for Haiti’s independence.
In this episode, our guests analyze Haiti’s current crisis and the illegal propping up of puppet president Jovenel Moise through a lens that discusses western led imperialism, the UN and Minustah occupation, forms of counter-revolution and neoliberal hegemony, and the history of propaganda and cultural warfare in Haiti from 1804 until today.
At the end of the episode, our guests share their thoughts about how we can support and lead an international Pan-African solidarity movement against the growing oppression of Black people everywhere.
1919Radio Intro audio clip 0:00
I never experienced anything like the conditions we are currently experiencing.
I am mentally spiritually physically, emotionally, intellectually and academically developed and acutely aware of the condition of African people throughout the entire world.
We don't want fortune, we dont want popularity we want power, power. And power comes only from the organized masses.
My name is Caleb Yohannes. I'm an organizer with 1919 as well as the founder. I'm lucky and honored to be the host for today's conversation on 1919Radio on the current political crisis in Haiti, in addition to a sharp commentary and historical analysis on the legacies upon legacies of colonialism Haitians have endured in pursuit of self determination. Joining me today, as our co speakers and leaders for this conversation is Dr. Pierre and Dr. Edmonds. Dr. Jemima Pierre is an anthropologist at the Department of African American Studies at UCLA, is an organizer with the Black Alliance for Peace, and is also the author of The Predicament of Blackness: Post Colonial Ghana and The Politics of Race. Dr. Kevin Edmonds teaches at U of T specializing in Caribbean political economy, histories of alternative/illicit development foreign intervention and the region's radical political tradition. He's also an organizer with the Caribbean Solidarity network here in Toronto, and a faculty sponsor for the Caribbean Student Association at U of T. Kevin has also recently successfully defended his dissertation, legalize it, a comparative study of cannabis economies in St. Vincent and St. Lucia, so big up Congratulations to you, Kevin.
Thank you Caleb, much appreciated.
Of course, anytime. So that was a little bit of a brief intro but before we get into some of my questions, can you both tell our listeners about who you are, and how you're coming to this conversation, and then I'll also add in afterwards.
I am Jemima Pierre, I teach here at UCLA, my research actually is on the African continent and knowledge production, racial formation, and white supremacy. You know, the histories of that on the African continent. I am Haitian born so Haiti is always on my mind and in my heart, and I traveled there all the time, I still have family there. My side project, which has actually now become my academic project, has always been about writing on Haiti and Haitian politics for a while now, and really paying attention to imperialism, US imperialism, and writing about Haiti outside of the context of like, focusing on like, you know, the black despots, and really more focusing on white supremacy and US and European imperialism. So that's, that's who I am. Over the past eight months, I've been working with the Black Alliance for Peace and I actually worked with them on the US out of Africa team to oppose the militarization of the African continent through Africom. It is through that we decided to have a separate Subcommittee on Haiti in particular. I'm happy to be here. Thank you so much, Caleb, for inviting me and happy to be in conversation with you and Kevin.
Caleb, in terms of what I've been doing, mostly from a solidarity perspective. This is someone you know, Caribbean background, Caribbean roots, mainly because of St. Lucian roots that the Creole, kind of, when I would hear Haitians on a TV, I didn't really get it at the time, but when the earthquake had happen, it was mostly the coup in 2004 when that happened, and I was at York. I was like, sounds like it's my family talking, right. So it was always that kind of connection that drew me into the history and as you start learning about Haiti, you learn a lot about the rest of the world, right. So I think, and I always say that to students or anyone that's willing to listen, is that, if you actually want to understand how the world works, how imperialism works, white supremacy neocolonialism, you want to name it, food politics, you can look at Haiti and you'll learn so much about how things are deployed there, tweaked but also exported to the rest of the world. I've been, you know, drawn to the country, had the opportunity to visit there after the earthquake in 2010. That really kind of turned the light on for me in terms of connecting with some of the grassroots movements down there and seeing what they have been doing and continue to go through in order to, you know, fulfill these ideals that were put forward prior to the revolution. But, when they were put onto paper, when their revolution was successful. So doing that and Caribbean solidarity network, we're comrades with Haiti and the Haitian people and are trying to get the word out about what's what's going on. But that's it.
You said that really well because I think that kind of touches on how I kind of come into this conversation, which is a little bit of a full circle moment for me, because in 2017, it was in Kevin's Caribbean Foodways in the Diaspora class, that I first got introduced to Haiti, through a lens that analyzed it's condition with a sharp focus on race, class, colonialism, and global capitalism, like you mentioned but this was really fundamental for me, like, honestly. I know we've talked about this a couple times but this fundamentally changed who I was and what I wanted to know, and sent me on my own political journey. Which led me to the African Studies faculty and a number of other Caribbean studies courses, as well as a lifelong commitment, like you said, to learn about and struggle over Haiti. So big thank you for bringing that material to your students, I was lucky enough to be one of them, and also taking part in this conversation outside of school. Thanks to both of you, you guys are both excellent examples of what Walter Rodney so brilliantly describes as grounding.
Your heaping praise on us, but you probably don't want it, but to shout you out as somebody that has stood out for a long time and had, you know, this commitment to radical black internationalist politics that, and turning it into and working with people to make 1919 happen,
you know, a youth led media organization and more than that, but, you know, respect to you and all the folks that are involved on your side, too, right.
Yessir, Thank you, Thank you, Kevin. I really do appreciate that.
Let's, dive right in with the first question and that is, Haiti offers one of the clearest examples of how perpetual conflict is a central pillar of imperialism. Can you reference the historical context of imperialism in Haiti, and how this agenda has been executed in a myriad of ways from political and economic destabilization to cultural and social directives aimed at co-opting Haitian thought and sovereignty? We can start with you Dr. Pierre.
Well, there was a time, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, the Haitian anthropologist once said that Haiti is the longest Neo colonial experiment in the modern world and he's absolutely correct. There's this long history from the moment of the revolution of everyone, especially the white supremacist European powers, trying to keep Haiti down. So if you go from 1800 Saint-Domingue, which actually ended up, enriching a lot of people. The city of Philadelphia, much of Philadelphia's early wealth came from the profits of plantations from Saint-Domingue. I don't know if you know about this, and as the revolution began, and the French were running away, you had this guy named Stephen Girard, who was the wealthiest man in the US in the late 1800s or the mid 18 hundreds. They gave them all, a lot of the rich planters gave him their riches to hold for them, and then he kept them and moved to the US and so this way, you have the beginnings of the Philadelphia wealth. So there is that.
In 1825 you have the indemnity that the French came, and forced Haitians, they surrounded the island with their gunships and threatened another war, if Haiti did not pay reparations, which is in the amount of these days, well back then $21 billion when Aristide tried to get it back. Then after that, you have the 18th century carpet guard factories that came in there, trying to get the wealth and then the 1915 US occupation on behalf of Citi Bank, right, in taking the gold from Haiti's coffers, putting it on a boat and taking it to New York, which is incredible, right? So you have a 19 year occupation, and then you have the support of Duvalier and the rewriting of the Haitian Constitution, which before that said, that no foreigner could own land in Haiti. Then, in 1915, the US military, re-wrote Haiti's Constitution, the US government rewrote Haitis constituion that opened it up. Then you have Duvalier and then you have, you know, coup d'etat after coup d'etat. Then one of the biggest plunders, is what happened after the 2010 earthquake. Where you have this, you know [Earthquake], that completely opened Haiti up for a complete fleecing of the so called international community. So the destabilization that we see in Haiti, and the conflict, the deposing of an elected president, and then installation of two presidents in a row, all that is part of creating a destabilized area, but also putting in place people that will open up this space for more plunder and more control of Haiti's riches and also Haiti's people. So I think, that's where we need to begin.
I agree with absolutely everything that Jemima just said. I would say that, just looking at Haiti in a larger context, you know, zooming out, in terms of what had been said before about Haiti being the longest running neocolonial experiment. Within that, you can see how Haiti has actually made alliances amongst a lot of enemies at times. How it could have brought a lot of colonial powers to, you know, they were in stiff competition with each other, to come to agreements with each other, to put aside their wars, you know, the Seven Years War, 100 year war, these petty things that they were fighting in Europe, apparently, to deal with Haiti. It's the site where a lot of the racism, the neocolonial use of debt, isolationist politics, embargoing, kidnapping leaders, all of this would become institutionalized, and then spread around the rest of the world. So if you take it to the continent, you're gonna see other examples, whether it's in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Libya, you see elements of this and its like, that's Haiti, that's Haiti, or Cuba, right. Thats Haiti. Or what they're doing with Bolivia, or Honduras
Definitely. Haiti was where it started, because if you look at what Haiti wanted to do, they didn't just say, okay, we're free. That, you know, even if it's imperfect, and we're being isolated, what we're gonna do is, we're gonna do our best to spread revolution and freedom amongst the hemisphere. Whether that was even, buying people that have been enslaved in the United States to get their freedom to come to Haiti to be free, or fighting with the British and slave owners about a ship, to say the crew is free, because they touched foot in Haiti, that you can't take them back. They're not your property once any African people or indigenous people come to Haiti, they are free.
Then extending that to, you know, Simone Bulevar, who would go and liberate a lot of, what's now Colombia, Venezuela. On the condition that you eliminate slavery, right, that's a huge risk for Haiti to take, you know, they had guns pointed to them. They could have said, you know, we'll just keep to ourselves, right. They didn't, they kept pushing for it and they've always been doing that. Whether that has took the form of a single political leader, it hasn't. It's been a movement, though, that Haiti has always represented, even though sometimes it can get derailed or becomes a bit quieter, or less visible to people on the outside, that force has always been there. I think that's why Haiti means so much to people that are studying the radical tradition, the black radical tradition. You need to understand Haiti and where it fits from that initial moment, up until the present. That's why I really am glad that you're talking about this topic today because there's so much going on and we're not talking that much about Haiti. I mean, we are, but broadly, we need to talk about what's happening a lot more.
I wanted to add quickly, you reminded me Kevin, I recently was TAing and I had a Greek student who basically reminded me that the government of Greece, the only country that gave it's support when it came for independence in 1821, was Haiti. In fact, just last month, their Parliament passed a thing a law, it's not a law, but to actually recognize Haiti's support for its independence, which is incredible, right? And to think about this, this was back in 1821, or is it 1825, one of those two years, but the Greek government recognizing Haiti for it's support, that tells you the consequence of this Haitian revolution for the rest of the world.
I didn't even realize that.
yeah, in fact, and the other thing is when France lost Haiti, one of the things that it [France] did was when it invaded Egypt, It [France] said that they wanted to recreate a Saint-Domingue in Egypt. This is like late 1800s, right after Napoleon was defeated and so part of that, is they wanted a little Saint-Domingue. They wanted to recreate that on the African continent. So that tells you just the reverberations of the Haitian Revolution.
Wow, yeah, I didn't know that as well. Even in that anecdote you hear, what Haiti meant for France, you know, as this prosperous colony not only enriching France, but like you mentioned, Philadelphia and other Metropole centers in the Empire. So that's, that's really interesting. Thank you both for that.
Continuing on the cooptation, A lot of this work has been led by the Organization of American States, which is a multinational group of nations, including most notably US, Canada and France, and who have been at the forefront and intervening and destabilizing the Haitian quest for self-determination multiple times. What role does the OAS play in the present destabilization of Haiti and propping of Moise and does either Canada, US or France have a significant political or economic interest today that is different than what it was in 2004 when they ousted Aristide?
Yeah, well, I guess the first thing I wanted to say, just in case, your viewers don't know, what's going on in Haiti is the fact that there's a president, so called, that's refusing to step down after his term has ended. He already had no mandate, because he was installed by the OAS, the core group, and the US. I think those things are important for us to know and beforehand, his predecessor was also installed, which created this political party. Moise, has no mandate and he's been ruling by decree since last year, his mandate ended in February. He also got into power under a lot of protests, under 20% of the population voting and the same with Martelly [his predecessor], who himself was imposed by Hillary Clinton, who left the Middle East during the Arab, so called Arab Spring, I call it the African spring because it's on the African continent, but that's another conversation. So who left the African spring, flew to Haiti, and threatened the sitting president, the same treatment, they would do Aristide, which means that they said to the sitting president, that we have a plane for you if you don't accept the OAS changing of the the election results. We have a plane for you that we can fly you out to Africa, the way we did Aristide. This is all in the wiki leaks papers, so you might want to check it out, It's really fascinating. So this is the importance of OAS, right? The Organization American States is an organization of 34 states representing supposedly the Western Hemisphere. The US has complete control over it because it provides more than 60% of the funding and it's always been long served as a tool of US imperialism, back to Cuba, not recognizing the Cuban Revolution. It does this through the so called idea of election monitoring, supervising, funding, and so on.
So for Haiti, it overturned the election results in 2010, which is crazy, right? And if you think about it, they went and they removed balotts, stuffed balotts, and stopped the largest party from voting, from running. This is the Lavalas, Aristide's party. The US provided the $38 million to run these elections, which they forced on the people and so they overturned the election that's what OAS does. Most recently, the thing about Moise is that he's refusing to step down, the only way he can get away with that is because he has full support of the United States government, along with the core group. I don't know if people know the core group, the core group is an unelected group convened by by the UN Security Council in 2004, once they invaded Haiti, and established this occupation. The group has members that we don't even know, it's member states, Brazil, which we need to talk about, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the US, the European Union, the OAS, and the United Nations. These are the members of the core group, an all white group, if you look online, they're the ones that actually meet and decide what happens in Haiti. The core group, which includes the Canadian government, the US government, and so on the OAS, they all do that decision. What that tells us then, this is a major form of destabilization or maybe usurpation of sovereignty of Haiti. This is where actually our actions should be targeted, right towards these groups who are meddling and doing everything they can to stop Haiti from, from asserting its sovereignty.
I don't have much to add, beside from the fact that Canada does play a big role in the OAS. I think this is how US and Canadian imperialism in the hemisphere can kind of get like a shadow or ventriloquist, right, they'll look at the puppet and not the person that's that's operating it. The OAS will be used as a mouthpiece to give policy anouncements and then the US will be like, oh yeah, we like that we're gonna follow with that, that sounds good. When the US had been feeding them those lines the whole time, right. If you look back, as Jemima pointed out, the numerous times from 2010, but even going back past that, like it goes back, the Cuba expulsion and non recognition of the revolution and any kind of, whether it's goes from progressive or radical, political experiment, they've been against this. There's never been any kind of concession given to them. It's always been foot on the pedal, when it comes to trying to wipe out or isolate or discredit or defund these kinds of movements. Because, again, you can look at Bolivia, what happened with the counting of the ballots too early when it was with Evo. Now with Mosie in Haiti, you don't have to have parliamentary elections, you can do whatever you want basically and we're gonna extend your term by another year. That's the OAS saying that, they have no grounds to actually say that.
That's something for domestic Haitian politics to sort out amongst themselves. It's quite clear the legal precedent with that because you see the hypocrisy there is that, it's the technical thing they're arguing about when the president should step down or end their term. Moise was supposed to be gone in February, right? The OAS is saying, well, according to our interpretation, there's a historical precedent with Aristide that was set, that even when he was gone for, I think, three ish years, that they said it doesn't matter, you don't get time back. You know, you did eight months, as President, we overthrew you and I think it was September, and then didn't get back for another three years. He only served a year in a bit, or whatever the math is with that, he didn't get to extend his term, right. There's no consistency on their behalf. It's just whatever fits at the time and suits their political agenda for for Haiti. So going to your point, if things have changed, not at all, their inconsistency is what's been the most consistent when it comes to dealing with Haiti and how it works. Because there's one set of rules with Aristide, or with even with Celestin, when he was there, or Neptune or whoever's there it doesn't matter. They have two sets of rules that they played by. They go by follow the book have elections when it's their opposition, not like their political opposition, in terms of the movement and who's in power versus their lackeys that, they have a lot of leeway with them. Right.
Yeah and the consistency is, you know, imperialism and white supremacy, right. Luis Almagro is one of the most right wing Secretary Generals of the OAS. People say, he was flown in on a private plane, to meet with Moise right before February 7, and then came out. You can go on Twitter, and you can see, when the statements come out by itself, like I just met with Moise and he's gonna hold elections, we're going to do this referendum, because that's the other thing that's happening, Moise is trying to rewrite the Constitution. Which the US is funding, supporting and what it says is that Haitian presidents cannot run for more than one term, because we're trying to stave off the long history of dictatorship. He's trying to rewrite that so he can run another term, but also give himself complete immunity, but also increase the power of those of us in the diaspora to have a say, in Haiti, which is actually ridiculous. You know, I'm in the diaspora, I don't want to be able to have that much power, but then that will allow them to control Haiti from outside, right. The US is completely behind that, the UN, who we really need to talk about as well, because that's an occupation. We're an occupied country. Amalgro has been horrible, he's been horrible towards Bolivia. What happened in Bolivia, he was definitely behind that and I think we need to hold all these people accountable for what they've been doing in Haiti. It's not just about Moise, it's about Canada, the US, and Luis Almagro in particular I think.
Yes, yes, absolutely. There's so much there and I think we're going to get to talk a lot about it as well. So thank you both for shedding light on a little bit of the factors and the context and commentary on what's going on right now.
In juxtaposition to the imperial war waged against Haiti, Haiti has been a site and symbol of resistance movements and revolution from its inception as the first independent Black republic. Presently, Moise as well as the Haitian elite have benefited from the arming of gangs and rogue police officers to fuel proxy conflicts within Haiti that are directly infiltrating and setting a counter movement against the popular organizing of an anti-imperialist and pro democracy struggle. Can you expand on this counter revolution more and how it has become such a popular tactic of manipulation not just in Haiti but across the continent and other places?
Well, first of all, you have to know who the Haitian elite are. The Haitian elite is a group of very light skinned and white, mostly from the Levantine nations and from France, and from Italy. Some of the families are the Bigio's, the Bretts, the Apaid they're white elite. It's fascinating and they're like about 10 families that own the ports that own all the major infrastructure and a lot of land in Haiti. In fact, one of the things that Moise did to pacify some of the elite, was one family in particular, was giving them 27,000 acres of land in the middle of the country, so that they can give Coca Cola a contract to get 25,000 acres, 27,000 acres in the middle of the country to grow stevia, the sweetener for their coke. Then gave $25 million, the Apaid family as if they needed more, in order to run the plantation that they're trying to build with Coca Cola. The elite is fascinating, the elite has always been, there's a dark skinned elite in the north an Agrarian elite, which I think has been surpassed by the new elite, which is a newer elite, which is like these foreign born, their generations now, but they're a white elite in Haiti, that own everything. The elite actually really did have a come up after the earthquake, because what happened is, a lot of the times they were land rich and cash poor, and they've been there for a long time. With the earthquake was what Naomi Klein calls, what do you call that disaster?
Disaster capitalism! When you say Haiti's open for business, Bill Clinton came in and hooked up the elite, because they got money to build ports money to build hotels, and so on and so forth. The elite have always been able to import arms, military equipment, and arm very poor gangs, right, to go do its dirty business. The other thing that happened in Haiti is under Aristide the military was dissolved. The military was dissolved, because when he came back the second time after the first coup d'etat the military was not trustworthy, right, the military was infiltrated. We know this, the US government does this all the time. The militairy was infiltrated so they dissolved the military. Once they got rid of Aristide, if you look at the WikiLeaks papers, one of the things that the US and the UN did was basically try to reintegrate the military, the former rogue people into the Haitian National Police. Then the other thing they did was basically allow Martelli, to reignite the military. So now there's a military again, after the military had actually been disbanded. What you have then, is the US and the UN supplying that military because there's no money, all the money comes from, the UN and the US. In fact, I remember when somebody sent me a list, when the UN supposedly, lowered its numbers and a lot of the military people left, turning over to the Haitian government in the same way that the US government, through the 1033 program, give military equipment to the local police, well they did the same thing to Haitian police.
They gave ammunition, tear gas, all that stuff that the UN had, they turned it over. Not only that, in the summer, they're all these military tanks and all this stuff mported into the country by Trump, for the Haitian government. In addition to that, the elite control the ports, all the major ports. Every once in a while, it'll break the mainstream news that they're like tons of guns caught at the ports in Haiti and that's the Elite controlling the guns because you see all these young boys like 18-19 carrying these, massive machine guns, and you're like, Where's all this coming from? It is part of this process of counter, what you call it is true, a counter revolution, of trying to create and wreak havoc within the country in order to actually stop the flow of protests against imperialism. That's really what's happening in Haiti and we see it everywhere. We see it on the African continent, and especially these days, right, once NATO and the US took down Gaddafi. The infiltration of arms and pitting one group against another is working perfectly in Haiti, in the sense that, it's creating fear, it's creating a lot of violence, but they're targeting very specific people and we have to really be aware, that this is really a manufactured violence thats happening.
What I would just add in terms of that, the history with paramilitaries or gangs in Haiti, it goes back to Duvalier's the Macoutes, terroizing people. Whoever was in opposition, or proceeds to be an opposition, they would make sure that either you didn't speak or if you did speak, you wouldn't speak for long, right. Either you'd be killed, put in prison, or you go into exile or tortured, right. The sad thing about that is that it worked to a degree because eventually the dictatorship fell. So it doesn't mean that you can silence everybody, but what we're seeing now is the use of the gang and the understanding that, having both formal ways to get around people with politics, and the stalling and the OAS on your side, another way to get people to stop coming out in the streets is by just threatening them with violence and not just threatening, following through with those threats of violence. As Jemima pointed out, it's targeted, it's not like there's gang warfare all across the capital. In this sense or in this concentration, there is targeted communities that have been these long time, strongholds for opposition, whether that means during the Lavalas period of Aristide that they were Lavalas communities, but now they were just like anti-martelly, anti Moise communities where they have a tough time, you know, enforcing their rule there, they don't get a lot of popular support there. So they're looked at as the enemy.
That's where a lot of these gang wars have taken place. It's to take out people that are organizing in the communities, to take out a lot of people that wouldn't be rallying, these communities to come out in the streets, like with the end of March, there were a couple rallies that were held, and it was these communities where they're pulling people out. And the result is that once they see that you're bringing people from lastaline, or you're bringing people out from Belair in particular, those communities get attacked, right. We saw at the end of March, beginning of this month that both the police and gang activity in those communities resulted in a loss of a lot of life, like those things aren't disconnect. At least from the president, you can say that's not me, I don't know what's going on, we've lost some control. So on the other side of things, if we look how Aristide's so called connection with the gangs or the shimmers and particularly in his second term, he couldn't escape any of the accusations were so heavy, so consistent, saying that he has this private army of people to terrorize and you know, put tires around people's necks and do all this kind of stuff. What's happening now in Haiti is exponential. Now you have this alliance and you have former police officers that are openly admitting people that are responsible for massacres. There's these three figures Jimmy, the last name, Cherizier. Openly going around and admitting that yeah, we were responsible for killing 70 to 80 people in Lastaline, because we wanted to terrorize that community to enforce the political voice of the government, to make sure that they followed suit and didn't go out and protest. Because the other thing that can kind of get lost is that the protests that are happening now, happened last year, the year before, it was from when Moise basically came into power. He had about a year where people were still pissed off, but then in 2018, things really kicked off when they got rid of the fuel subsidies. Since then, he's been using the gangs in a very strategic way to try and silence the opposition, right, and then obviously, COVID hits and stuff like that, and things kind of calm down.
He's been reorganizing his forces and having these alliances between gangs, it's not coincidental, it's not an accident that this is happening. This is another way to control because there was a thing before where Martelli and even Moise were not paying the police. They were going on strike about, we're not receiving our pay, but the gangs get paid. They're also less accountable to these corruption investigations or things that are gonna follow, and you do have some overlap between the two. That's been allowed to happen, because the whole time that the UN had been in Haiti, there were calls, occupation is illlegitimate. But saying if you are here to stabilize, which meant the UN supporting the assassination of community organizers, which also fits into this in a longer term perspective about how you do it formally and informally.
He tried to control the popular movement in Haiti. You're not taking out necessarily a political party but it's the grassroots activists wing. Whether they affiliate with a party or not, they can be organizing in the community for water, or access to electricity or health care, things like that. But by doing that, you're also against the state, for the most part, because they're not helping you with those things. They're leaving you alone, despite them getting money, they're funneling it to get arms in people's hands and do these pet projects, like building sweatshops in the north coast of the island next to the Dominican, where there was no earthquake damage. This is a way to use violence to maintain control and it's successful, but it's also not because you see there's these breaks between and what's really terrifying is that the only way to really go against that is to fight fire with fire and the amount of loss that will lead to terms of people's lives, which is really scary, but it seems that's where it's at. Because there's no talk of holding Moise accountable for what what's happening right now.
You're absolutely right. I do want to say, the gang thing has always been used in a particular way, now it's terrible, in the sense of having pitting gangs against each other. The gang thing was used, the UN when it first got there, it was and Bel Air. Where they used this idea of these gangs terrorizing people in order to raid poor towns were Aristide supporters were. There's a one thing that happened in 2006, where 1400 Munistah soldiers, Minustah was the UN occupation, fired 22,000 bullets towards this one tiny, really enclosed poor area of Bel Air and killed a bunch of people. Supposedly in search for gangs and gang leaders, right. They've always used the gang in a particular way, to demonize Haitians and to make Haitian people seem like, they're heartless, and cruel and so on. But this time, the fact the sitting president, that's supported by the US, supposed President, I call him the dictator in the making. Now that he's deploying the gangs in particular ways, also opens up the space for them to go in but I actually think it's opening up the space for another invasion. I mean, that's really what's happening. The point is that they're arming different gangs, the police's paying gangs, and then what's going to happened is, Haiti's too destable, Haiti's a mess. We need to go in and send more more troops and that opens up again, Haiti to occupation.
Right, right. Thank you. Thank you both. I think Dr. Pierre you really touched on what Kevin said earlier, the inconsistencies and before it was used as a tool for demonization, and now it's used as a tool of proxy conflict.
The constant agenda that fuels just the total domination of people and land like Fanon said, which is what colonialism tries to do.
Continuing on, As a result of a thriving neoliberal system of governance that creates hegemony through the deployment of a diverse array of political instruments and tools led by NGOs and organizations such as the UN, World Bank, and IMF, USAID among others. As a result of this, global south countries experience colonialism in a myriad of different ways. Can you expand on some of the different ways colonialism manifests in Haitian material realities such as food security, public health, land degradation, climate change/disaster, and disaster capitalism, which we kind of touched on a little bit already.
All the things that you mentioned, they have a long and unfortunate history within Haiti. If we could put it up like a timeline, if I had a way to do that right now, you can look at how these controls have been instituted at different times in different ways trying to get the same result, which is the extraction of wealth from Haiti. Also to limit that influence, like I said, that longstanding fear of an independent sovereign, self determined black Haiti, from basically being able to get itself on its feet and as an example, to the rest of the people around the world within the United States, within Canada, it's not just a global south thing it's across the board. You can look at how it's changed from, full out invasion Napoleon sending the armies, that's a traditional thing that imperialist's would do and then they switch it up, they do the trade embargo, right, and then they do the debt, then that takes us into the early 20th century and then there's another occupation, as Jemima had mentioned. Then you rewrite the constitution, and then you install a dictator and then after that breaks down, you have elections for a brief moment, and then you have a coup. What was really big with that coup, and what followed as well, particularly with the second one was the use of media. And again the inconsistency is there, because people have been talking about you could have the UN. When the Minustah was sent to Haiti in 2004, the same argument, I forget who made it, but they said that if we're using this basis of insecurity and violence in Haiti as the reason why we need to intervene and send the occupying military force to Haiti.
You would have an occupying force in Washington DC, you would have one in Dade County, you would have one all across the US. So, where are you getting this from and that kind of fear and WikiLeaks exposed it, of a populist anti market left I think that was what they termed it. It's just saying that Haitians should have control of their own economy. If that means we have to use NGOs or we have to use a foreign occupying army to do it, or we're going to use sanctions, or we're going to use the media to demonize them or anything that we can do, we're going to try and do it so that we can make it seem like we're helping, no matter what we do. We send the UN we're helping. We're starving you we're helping, we're giving you food aid we're helping now. We're decimating your farmers, we're helping. Right, so they're always able to take this supposedly, I mean you can see through the bullshit, but it's like this moral high ground where you're helping. Right. Whereas, they're never taking from Haiti and that's one of the things I think a lot of people kind of get confused about what's happening with Haiti because they're like okay, they're not growing sugar anymore. You know, they don't have oil, what's happening, there's that example of Haiti but then there's also, very much. There's a lot of mineral resources that's there. There's a lot of labor power, there's a lot of disgusting studies that have come out from, you mentioned it USAID, about this new thing that we always talk about comparative advantage in economics this is a way that countries will build themselves up. You're going to embrace your comparative advantage whether you have oil, sugar, lithium, whatever it is, what they rewrote for Haiti was that poverty can be the comparative advantage of Haiti.
That it can be where the sweatshops can consolidate, again after the earthquake, because poverty will allow them to actually make money because they'll sell their labor for so cheap, Mexico can't compete, Honduras can't compete the Dominican Republic can't competeGuatemala can't compete. And it's so close to the US. That was the idea they've had so they're trying to bring, jobs back from China, their geopolitical enemies and put it in Haiti. For the most part it's not working. You just see a lot of these ideas and theories they're thought through, but they use Haiti as this laboratory for it to go through and it gets deployed to other places. That's why Haitian history is so important or understanding Haitian politics because you'll see trends, you'll see patterns or policies emerging from there and deployed elsewhere.
Yeah, I mean there's so much going on. Thank you, Kevin, because there's so much and I want to start with your point about the UN invasion of Haiti in 2004. Because there is a distinct difference of sending the UN so called peacekeeping mission under Chapter six verses chapter seven. One of the key things is that they sent the UN under Chapter Seven, which meant that it did not need the permission of the Haitian state to use force, and to do whatever the hell they wanted. So, let's think about what that means, this means that this is a foreign occupation, this is colonialism. When you can be in a country, and you have no say to what happens in the country and which is why when they brought cholera; so let's talk about the UN dumping their dirty water, their shit water into the main water source in the middle of Haiti. They dumped feces and dirty water in the main river source, cholera is a dirty disease, right, so then it fits the thing of Haitians being dirty because, if you have cholera, you know you cannot control your internal movements and people die from that. So, it killed like 30,000 people and sickened almost a million. The UN never really apologized never compensated Haiti and they said they didn't have to, because that's not their, they don't owe the Haitian people that. That's thinking about climate disaster health, you know, what does occupation means for people, right, and how genocidal it is right, in that particular way.
We can also go back to the Haitian pigs. In 1981 for example, there was a Creole pig in the Caribbean right, it's a black pig and it can survive throughout the island. That was what really was saving the farmers, it doesn't need a lot of support, it can survive off or whatever and that was the main thing. Some of the pig stocks were infected by what they call, the so called, they always called it African swine flu Right, right. So, Reagan with the help of these so called international institutions are working together. The OAS, the US government come together through the USAID and they're like, you guys have to kill all your pigs. So they slaughtered hundreds of 1000s of pigs and replaced them with what? A white pig, coming from the US, I mean the symbolism is just ridiculous right. This white pig was so weak that they required a lot more food, a lot more treatment, a lot more medicine and even the farmers were saying that these pigs eat better than we do! They need more help, right, and so the farmers were barely compensated right for that.
Then you have rice! In 1987, and Bill Clinton apologize for this but what are your apologies when you've already decimated the agriculture of the country. The other way that they got to the farmers were, Haiti produced it's own food, it had it's own rice, it's clothing and so on. In 1986 right after Duvalier left, the military Junta was supported by the IMF with a loan, in return for killing tariffs on imports, shifting Haitian agriculture to export, and basically opening up the port to US foreign goods. At the same time the US was giving its rice farmers in Arkansas, this is Clinton right, major subsidies so that they can sell the rice below market value. Haitian government now does not have tariffs, so they flooded the Haitian countryside with American rice. They called it Miami rice in Haiti because it was being shipped from Miami. Within 10 years 75% of local rice production was done. We have to think about how the USDAID, the IMF, the World Bank, the US government the OAS, they all work together. Even through a military Junta, the IMF is still giving money. If you look at the Haitians now, if you look at the Haitian government's budget, the money comes from the IMF. These people are making money because the International Development Bank, just decided that, you know, $61 million for COVID in Haiti. Haiti does not have a lot of COVID, theres not a lot of COVID cases. Then your like where does that $61 million go? Who's getting this money, there's money that's being sent that is spent on Haiti and none of it goes to the people. Right.
The other thing I just saw, just yesterday, is that Haiti has received zero COVID vaccines. At the same time they've received arms, they've received supplies they've received visits from the State Department. The US government said Columbia police to go train Haitian police. So they're receiving all kinds of stuff to ferment violence but nothing to help with COVID, not one vaccine has been sent to Haiti. That tells you, this is a neocolonial, I don't even know if it's a neocolonial, it is a colonial situation.
Something I'll just add, because a lot of times they'll talk about there's no resources for for Haiti when it comes to public infrastructure. Water, even telecommunications, electricity, those kinds of things. Ministuh, on average was funded close to a billion dollars a year.
2017 they left, right, so that would have been over $10 billion, that could have gone because they had the money, it came from somewhere. They could have given to Haiti to build these kinds of things and there were proposals that were made by the Cubans after the earthquake. Where they said that we can build a primary health care system across the island, and they said they costed it was like just under $2 billion. It's not hospitals everywhere but primary clinics and to help with hospitals training, those kinds of things. They also costed it after the UN admitted guilt for cholera but then just said, so what are you going to do about it. I think it was for the whole island for the Dominican side and Haitian side, again it was like $1.6 billion for the entire island to get sanitation and clean water infrastructure put in place. But yet, you have $10 billion to have Uruguayan, Brazilian, Sri Lankan, Nepalese soldiers come there shoot at students that are protesting, introduce cholera which the strain was from Nepal. How many Haitians are traveling to Nepal and back? To a small village in Nepal to catch a stain right.
Well you know what they did build was prisons, the Canadian government built a prison in Haiti, the US government built two prisons right after the earthquake. The things they built in Haiti were prisons and hotels. Right, so what does that tell you.
It's the signs of the very unequal societies. They say you want to get rich you invest in the dollar store and luxury brands right because everyone in the middle is gonna be getting screwed. It's the same in Haiti, you got prisons you got hotels so what's happening here? They're setting up the infrastructure for the continued pillaging of Haiti but those people have more comfortable conditions. They're going to be staying at five star hotels and stuff like that now. I don't know if they're going to do that now because you can do all your pilfering from zoom apparently, you dont have to be in person so.
Right, right. Thank you. Thank you both. I think there's so many things you guys touched on that really emphasized imperials as well as was political domination but this has real material effects. There are millions of people in Haiti who feel the effects of a UN World Bank, IMF, US led occupation. So, Thank you. I think that was really good.
For the next one then will go to; Not only has the Haitian revolution and history been completely erased by western institutions and curriculums, but imperialist media corporations in these western countries have participated in the demonisation and censorship of Haitian popular struggle for freedom and self-determination. Can you expand upon how successful and insidious the cultural warfare and systems of propaganda waged against Haiti's quest for self-determination has been?
Sure so, its a big question, you’re coming with them Caleb!
Very good questions by the way.
When we think about how history is told to us. We need to be very careful about how we're taking it in, because even if we were to look at something like liberal democracy. I'm not taking credit for this, I saw something like that yesterday, where they were talking about how we even learn about liberal democracy, anything that's good about it came through, violent, illegal struggle. Right. Then we'll look at that and say okay this is how we got to where we are now so everything's perfect. If people are protesting in the streets now, no more, no more of this protest no more of this struggle that's going to happen. We're told that even liberal democracy, how we have it now is very peaceful and organized through certain means and institutions to have what we have now. I'm not a fan of it, I'm not defending it. What I'm saying is that if you look at the Haitian Revolution then, that becomes something that they don't even want to begin speaking about, right, because then it's like, what happened?
That the revolution was successful, you had the first instance where it was African peoples that had beat a colonial power they had their own Republic, they beat Napoleon's army, which we forget at that time, was busy and conquering the rest of Europe. Going eastward, right, and then they come to Haiti, and then people their had their machetes and finished them. They couldn't go there, even if they're trying to invade from the Dominican Republic, they made alliances with the United States with France, or not with France, with England, stuff that you never see happen. Haitian people were able to beat them. That lesson in and of itself if the revolution just stopped there, 1804, nothing else happened. That lesson for people about taking history and matters into your own hands to free yourself; It's something that they don't want people to get, that you need to be like what happened with the rest, not the rest, but most of the Caribbean, that your independence is granted to you, where you have a nice ceremony change over the flags, the Queen does a little thing in her convertible and all your flags look like Scottish flags and stuff like that, it's no no big difference. The reality, the material reality, the economic connections don't change. What Haiti did is they severed those ties and they've been punished for that, obviously.
When people talk about what the revolution has achieved since, you take the good parts but the bad parts, the bad parts are not on the Haitians, that's on the international community and how they received the Haitians, they didn't want to receive them. The good things that they couldn't contain was that example about self determination, fighting white supremacy, fighting colonialism, spreading freedom to other people. Then people were like okay, they could do it then, they didn't have the internet, they didn't have news, telling each other what's happening. They have cell phones. They organized and built networks, if you start studying the Haitian Revolution it's fascinating. How they were able to coordinate across the islands have the Maroons with the militaries, the more formal militaries. A lot of women were involved in it, I think it was up to at least 1/3 who were fighting were women. There's a lot of positives and negatives out of the constitution that emerged, but they said, one of the most important things is that Haiti is going to be a sovereign black land.
That there not going to allow foreign investment to come in because that's the way that you can recolonize us. There's so many things just within that initial moment that, Haiti knew what was up knew what was up. What was gonna happen in Jamaica in 1962, is that you allow the foreign investment, it never goes away. You can have your flag, you can have your national anthem, you can have Ackee and saltfish and you can have the John Crow as your bird or whatever. When it comes to what actually matters, the land and the money, it's ours. It's not yours, we can call the shots, whenever we want. You see similar things happen with the United States with Cuba like the platt amendment stuff. You can have your independence but when it actually comes to something that matters, we will intervene militarily to do it. Haiti had set that precedent for all of the other countries, where they're very weary about it. Haiti took the whole piece of the pie, right, and normally what you're supposed to get is the crumbs. That scared, all of the colonial powers afterwards, and trying to figure out new ways to engineer control over their colonies because they didn't want another Haiti to happen. The Egypt example is incredible, now I'm thinking in my head about when the French went to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, those places they're probably trying to do the same thing. I wonder if that was something in their head because, it [Haiti] was so profitable to them. Even though it was so brutal for everyone else that they just couldn't imagine it, not existing anymore. Right. I think that's really powerful because that's what people were able to do, is to take that control back. Right.
That's very true and there's something to be said about Napoleon, saying this is not about money. This was about, not letting these blacks have power and he came out and he said that. Thank you for covering all that because I think there are two things I think that's work to demonize Haiti to make people dehumanize Haitians. There's Voodoo, which is always you know black magic, and we see it in US propaganda like the serpent and the rainbow if you remember that. I just remember like even reading through the Wiki Leaks files when the Vatican was against Aristide talking about, how he's not a real Catholic priest and how these people are Satanic and Voodoo. The Vatican is talking about Voodoo, like this Voodoo country right, this idea of demonizing African religions. By the way, that is a Voodoo flag behind me [Laughs]. Talking about African religions as something that's so backwards and demon and they're worshipping demons. It is a way to link black people with everything that's bad and whatever, so Voodoo has always been used against Haiti. Also by the Catholic Church early leaders who were embarrassed by the fact that these Haitians practice African religion, including other countries in the Caribbean. Who always still have this stereotype of Haitians, as these Voodoo, these super black practicing satanic religions so there's that.
More recently, what's really shifted the discourse around Haiti is the fact that the US has gotten away with demonizing Aristide. As the first elected man of the people. The most popular figure in Haitian history in a long time and also the largest party of the poor people. I don't know if you remember this Kevin, but after the first coup d'etat, which was backed by the CIA, there are all these stories in US newspapers about how Aristide is crazy, he has mental illness, he's doing all this. He's telling people to go and burn tires and he was running games. There are all these stories you can look back 90-93, all these stories about how crazy Aristide is, he's like lost his mind.
The demonization of Aristide was so powerful that it actually impacted the way that the Haitian diaspora sees Aristide. A lot of US leftist's, North American leftist's, turned on Aristide buying into this demonization, all the propaganda war against this one man. That to me was the most effective form of propaganda against the Haitian struggle for freedom and self determination, because you take this one person and his party, and you turn him into this evil monster, and then you link him to like Duvalier. Make it seem like he's similar to a Duvalier, or even to Martelly. We still hear a lot of this stuff amongst some of the left, the older generation, including the Haitian left who really bought into this demonization, and some of them supported the 2004 coup d'etat. I really want to push back against that, and the Haitian intellectual elite as well, who went after, including Raoul Peck, who turned on Aristide. There's a middle class elite who never felt comfortable with this poor preacher and his support among the really poor. There's a intellectual elite, an Elite elite, they all bought into this demonization and they were embarrassed by Aristide. Embarassed by these poor people. The man who said we're going to be poor, but we're going to live with dignity. I do think that, itself, has really been very effective propaganda wise for the West in really killing this really large movement for self determination that Haitians have had since 1986, with the oust of Duvalier.
For the last question I think this will be something to kind of internationalize it a bit and just to talk about Haiti in general and our current context where we live, Canada. I know Dr Pierre you're in the States. So, how do we lead, and more significantly support, an international Pan-African solidarity movement, how do we fight and struggle in our homes and maintain the fight and struggle for others globally? Additionally, with so many struggles occurring right now or recently in Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Ethiopia, Somalia, Haiti, and the americas amongst many other places outside of africa; is the growing oppression against Black people everywhere, the stimulus needed to command an international solidarity movement?
Yeah well you know I'm a pan Africanist so I always see these struggles connected. When I think about Haiti, the first place that's a comparison to me is Somalia, because the destruction of Somalia. After this Somali embarrassed the US in 1991, took down that Black Hawk and killed the occupation force. The US has never gotten over that, we have movies, we have, sorry I'm about to curse, about Somali pirates. First of all, the idea of piracy is ridiculous in terms of, they're stealing fish off the waters they're doing all this but they're calling the Somali the pirates right not that European trawlers that are stealing fish and and taking stuff from them. That's become normalized in academic discourse, theres books of Somali piracy, when we know the original pirates are the Dutch, who were stealing Africans from from ships in the Caribbean. That's where the pirates were, the Europeans stealing people and doing all of that, I've gone on a tirade.
The point though is that these are very much connected and my worry now is the entrenchment of the US military throughout the African continent. My other worry is Haiti is very significant, as always, for the US and its pivot to China which happened under Obama, because one of the things is theres Mole St Nicolas, which is an island which is owned by Haiti but it's north of Haiti. What the US always wanted for a military base and they got Guantanamo Bay, but I think they're gonna have to return Guantanamo. I think they're looking for a place to put that and Haiti is the perfect location, because from there you can have access. You can have the Indo Pacific, the US Southern Command, which is the command region to go against Venezuela, all the leftist governments in the Americas. Then to go through the Panama Canal to get to Asia. So then you start seeing the connection between AFRICOM, which is the Africa Command which is in 54 countries right now, with bases under humanitarian guise, whatever, we're bringing aid for cholera. Not Cholera, were bringing aid for COVID, why do you need a military? why do you need military exercises for aid for COVID?
They're already entrenched so think about the proxy wars that are going to happen on the African continent, on behalf of the US as they fight against China. The empire is done, the US is done, let's be real. You have rising China, so you have that. It's like the African proverb when elephants fight it's the grass that suffers. Were the grass right and we're the people, upon which these powers are going to fight. They're going to use us and I think in the moment thought, this is the moment where we need solidarity the most.
I think we need to support what's going on on the African continent, I think black people are at the bottom of thi structure. We are set up to be the ones that are going to suffer the most from this and we can see it in relationship to what's happening to Haiti, Somalia. What happened in Libya, right, and then also all the proxy stuff that's happening on the African continent right and these Neo colonial governments, these puppets that are put in to sell off all the minerals. The Green Revolution, for example, the green New Deal is about extracting more resources from the Congo and then Bolivia because of lithium. My thing is we need to come together and realize that this is a global struggle, you can't do it within a national framework. I've never thought the nationalist frame of works for us, because those of us living in settler colonial states, we don't have a stake in these states. Our liberation comes through linking with other oppressed people throughout the world. I think that's what we first need to do is recognize that these are very similar struggles, that we're all in this position because of this modern moment of European hegemony throughout the world. The first thing we need to do is come together and destroy it, right. That's the goal for me. That's one of the main reasons for example I joined the Black Alliance for Peace, because I live in the heart of empire. Those of us who live in the heart of empire, in the heart of these settler colonial states, need to attack these states from within. We have access to them. We need to talk about them and we need to tell them to leave the rest of the world alone and then reach out to our brothers and sisters in these other places.
What can I say? [Laughs]. That was incredible, I was writing stuff down. I'm like this is stuff that we need to spread, because the sentiment about pan Africanism and not taking this national framework which I feel a lot of times, I get it, but I'm also repulsed by how neoliberal they can become. That these movements for black lives and stuff that they,
They don't see people pass themselves, what's happening in Haiti, or what's happening in Sudan or what's happening in Zimbabwe or Brazil, it's like that's off the map. I think that's a real disservice to people because you only see yourself and then it's like if we can move up in that corporate diversity and inclusion representation kind of mind frame, nothing's gonna change. That's what I think a lot of people want and the alternative that Jemima and yourself Caleb, that you're pushing out there by doing these kinds of initiatives, I think like keep doing what you're doing and what people have been doing. I mean, obviously, the forces that be we're outnumbered, but it's always been that way. I think it's about organization and keep building and bringing people in and putting that alternative on the table, because I think a lot of times that people fundamentally understand that things are wrong, like racism is a given, but then when you can point to, a global system and how it works, it's hard to ignore that. To be like you know you don't want to be integrated as an equal into a very shitty system.
Our goal should be to surpass that. We're thinking forward. That's what we need to do and that's why talking about Pan Africanism talking about revolution and being quite open about it. I think it's, we're not asking for anything that's unreasonable, for people to have dignity, self determination, to have democratic practices however we define them. If it's through elections or if not, through direct democracy and through other ways of cooperating. None of the things that we're asking for are crazy. If it's talking about being able to have food, not being able to go to work and still not being able to feed your family or to worry about being kicked out of your house. Look at the continent, look at Haiti, how much Haiti had made for France and for all the other exploiters. Now, for Haiti to be put in that position where people have to struggle to be able to get a meal or that food aid is even a thing. That doesn't make sense unless you can understand that system, because then you'll just look at Haiti or you're looking at Haitians and say that's the problem. It's not how the richest colony, I think for its size that ever exists, could be immiserated in that way. You need to understand the system. Right. That's why I think Haiti is so important on opening the door, like the continent, what's going on there, Congo. That's the second example I'll give to people, you want to learn how the world is off the rails. Look at the history of Congo, from the beginning to now and you'll learn so much about that.
I think getting those examples out to people because US history is incredibly important for the movement and how it's done, but the people that have been most impactful in my opinion, have those that have always stepped passed and had that internationalist perspective. Whether it's when Malcolm, ends up stepping into that framework where he no longer is like a nationalist he becomes an internationalist right, through his traveling to Africa, the Black Panther Party. Even Garvey, if you look at it in that sense about talking about, even if there's black capitalism stuff like that, the idea is seeing people as more than just what we are in this one place. That's something that needs to be embraced a lot more, and I think the media projects y'all involved in is really central to doing that. You can see the reaction that there is to it like Hood Communist getting taken offline.
It’s like why you worried about this stuff? Because they're spreading that kind of message about pan Africanism and a revolutionary alternative. People will just say, aw it's a bunch of leftists in their basement banging away on the keyboard, but people are listening, and they're afraid. You know. That alternative has always been kind of squashed right and they hope that you don't reach pass the university. That you'll just keep it on campus because that's a relatively sheltered place but if you take it out to the streets or you expand your reach then thats trouble.
Posted July 18, 2022