By Travis Ross, Black Agenda Report, March 15, 2023
Haitian trade unions and civil society groups are united in demanding sovereignty for their nation and an end to foreign interference.
A coalition of trade unions in Haiti recently published the “Ouanaminthe Declaration.” This followed a two-day gathering by members of The Confederation of Haitian Workers (La Confédération des travailleurs haïtiens - CTH) and the Confederation of Public and Private Sector Workers (la Confédération des travailleurs et travailleuses des secteurs public et privé - CTSP).
The gathering was held in Ouanaminthe, Haiti. Located near the Dominican-Haitian border, on January 25 and 26, 2023.
The declaration was drafted a few days after the announcement of de facto PM Ariel Henry’s “December 21 Accord” - the National Consensus for an Inclusive Transition and Transparent Elections. It is a tacit rejection of Henry’s coalition.
The Ouanaminthe declaration calls for “international solidarity generally, and trade union solidarity in particular.”
It also rejects international military intervention. Stating that “any international armed intervention would go against the right to self-determination of Haitians.”
The Ouanaminthe declaration doesn’t offer many details regarding governance. The declaration does state that the signatories are “actively participating with other civil society actors”. Their aim is to “establish a transitional government, based on a broad national consensus of the representative forces of the country, which finally guarantees the conditions for the organization of legitimate, transparent and democratic elections”.
The two-day meeting was also attended by representatives from trade unions in Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Spain, France, Italy, Panama, Dominican Republic and Sweden.
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Regional Vice-President for Quebec, Richard Delisle attended the meeting. Heeding the call for international solidarity between trade unions, Delisle said that “CUPE has written to Foreign Affairs minister Mélanie Joly calling on the Canadian government to respect Haitian democracy and self determination, and to stay away from military intervention.”
More calls for solidarity with Haitians against an intervention appeared soon after the Ouanaminthe declaration.
On February 14th, 2023 a letter was published on Haiti Watch addressed to the leaders at the CARICOM biannual meeting. The leaders welcomed Prime Minister Ariel Henry to their biannual meeting . Canada’s Prime Minister Justin was also invited. While Caribbean leaders refused to endorse a military intervention in Haiti, several leaders endorsed the framework of “supporting the Haitian National Police.” Although no national leader has as yet offered to lead such a mission.
The letter was signed by representatives from dozens of Haitian civil society and solidarity groups.
The letter calls out the “undeclared war which the imperialistic powers are waging against the Haitian people”. Explaining that this war “is entering its final stage of implosion, whereby the fundamental rights to security, freedom of movement, food, education, health and life itself are all being systematically denied to the Haitian people.” The letter refers to Ariel Henry as “the CORE group’s Prime Minister” and a “traitor.” The signatories accuse him of “high treason” for “requesting foreign military intervention on our national soil”.
The letter pleads to the nations of CARICOM, saying “ it is time for the Caribbean to stop being the amplifiers of the former colonial powers, who are today’s imperialistic powers, and instead rediscover the meaning of active solidarity.” The letter ends with a global call for solidarity with the Haitian people.
The Canadian Foreign Policy Institute published a statement of solidarity with Haitians a few days later. In the statement, the Institute’s director, Bianca Mugyenyi, points out that “Haitians have been calling for the US and Canada to respect their sovereignty”. Mugyenyi argues that “If Justin Trudeau wants to help Haitians, he should withdraw Canada from the Core Group and stop propping up Ariel Henry who has contributed to the country’s crisis”.
Two days later, another call for solidarity with the Haitian people came from the Caribbean Organisation for Peoples Empowerment . Their letter to CARICOM leaders argues that the calls for intervention have “nothing to do with protecting Haitian people from gang activity and everything to do with reinforcing the control of Haiti by the self-appointed CORE Group. ”They claim that the goal of this intervention is to “shore up” the “CORE group imposed government of Ariel Henry’s Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (PHTK) and suppress the struggle of the Haitian people against it.”
The letter demands CARICOM leaders call for “the disbanding of the Core Group and ending the interference of this group’s members in Haiti’s affairs.” The letter also demands CARICOM leaders demand Henry step down and “facilitate an all-inclusive dialogue between all sections of Haitian society”.
Competing Political Parties and Coalitions in Haiti’s Political Class
These declarations and statements all point towards the central problem of US and CORE group policies towards governance in Haiti - their unrelenting support for de facto PM Ariel Henry.
A few months ago, it seemed like Washington was favoring the Montana Accord leadership as the next Washington-approved interim leaders of Haiti. Think Tanks, diplomats, journalists, and activists were promoting the Montana Accord as the best choice for leading a broad-based, Haitian-led interim government. Montana is Henry’s main rival in Haiti.
It is unclear why Washington continued to support Henry as the leader for the transitional government. He is deeply unpopular in and outside Haiti. He also remains a prime suspect in the assassination of his predecessor, Jovenel Moise.
When Henry announced his “December 21 Accord ”, Washington could have used that opportunity to shift support to the Montana Accord . Instead, it used this announcement as an opportunity to publicly renew their support for him.
Regional organizations like CELAC, the OAS, and CARICOM also made clear they recognize Henry as leader. Recently, CELAC and CARICOM even “welcomed” Henry’s Dec. 21 Accord while the Organization of American States (OAS) called it an “important step forward.”
Henry also announced a new “High Transitional Council” whose members he appointed . They are tasked with organizing elections in a year's time. He also recently appointed eight Supreme Court Justices by decree, in direct violation of the Haitian constitution. Cementing his role as a US and CORE group-backed dictator.
On January 30th a new declaration was published. Signed by eight political parties - Pitit Desalin, UNIR, Kontrapèpla , OPL, MOPOD, LAPEH, GREH, &, the PHTK - the declaration calls for continued mobilization and renews demands for Henry to step down.
A week before this joint-declaration was announced, PHTK president Liné Balthazar stated on Magik9 that the PHTK thinks Ariel Henry’s bad policies have made Haiti ungovernable and is leading the country “straight towards disaster”. He argues that Henry’ “bad governance” has “put state institutions in danger.”
The PHTK previously had a vote on the Montana Accord’s National Transitional Council (CNT). As did UNIR, Pitit Desalin, MOPOD, and the OPL. This no longer seems to be the case.
The Montana Accord began losing support when the CNT began the process of nominating interim leaders - a President elect and a Prime-Minister elect - back in 2021.
OPL general coordinator Edgar LeBlanc Fils, a signatory to the declaration, was Fritz Alphonse Jean’s main rival for the position of interim President elect for the Montana Accord’s coalition. The CNT elected economist and former Haitian central bank governor Fritz Alphonse Jean as their interim President elect.
Several Trade Unions in Haiti - some of which are signatories to the Ouanaminthe declaration - previously backed the Montana Accord when it was first released in August 2021. Since then, some withdrew support . The declaration does not mention the Montana Accord, but does mention a “transition de rupture” project (transition through the rupture). The declaration also mentions the need to build a “broad-based coalition” before moving onto elections. The phrase “transition de rupture” is sometimes used by signatories and proponents of the Montana Accord. Possibly signaling that while the signatories do not support Montana’s leadership, they do recognize the broad-based coalition that initially supported the Montana Accord.
Commenting on withdrawing support from the Montana Accord , MOLEGHAF’s leader, David Oxygène, said Montana leadership “never believed in mass mobilization”, favoring bureaucracy instead. According to Oxygène, Montana’s claim to want a Haitian-led solution “was a lie which they fed to the nation so that they could cohabitate with their bosses, the U.S. imperialists.”
Fanmi Lavalas (FL) departed the Montana coalition after withdrawing support for the CNT, criticizing CNT leadership of factionalism. Since then, Lavalas’ role in coalition-building seems to be nonexistent. The party continues to publish statements that are vague and offer no concrete proposals.
In their February 28th statement translate to English and posted to the Haiti Info Project’s Twitter page , FL states that “the problem of insecurity that worries Haitians” could be the “starting point for a dialogue that would make it possible to reach a broad and solid consensus for immediate actions, and guidance for the long term.”
FL representatives met with Jamaican President Andrew Holness, who led a one-day delegation to Haiti to meet with leaders from various political parties and civil society organizations on February 27th. This followed the biannual CARICOM leaders meeting. FL spokesperson Jodson Durogène declared it had “drawn the attention of CARICOM to the fact that the strengthening of the National Police of Haiti (PNH) should first be a Haitian initiative.”
FL is now in agreement with Ariel Henry and the Montana Accord leadership that international support for the PNH is required. They just do not, however, agree on who ought to be in leadership when the “support” arrives.
The risk in allowing Washington and the CORE group to have any role in supporting the PNH was made clear when former U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Pamela White, in the Dec.2 Washington Post, explained her plan for the Biden administration to send “2,000 armed law enforcers” to Haiti. To avoid the optics of thousands of armed U.S. soldiers landing in Haiti, White proposed that Washington “send in a couple of hundred at a time, over six months, with little fanfare.”
“Support for the PNH” could easily evolve into a “special military intervention” by another name.
The Looming Threat of the American Global Fragility Act
In a recent statement , OPL leader Edgard Leblanc Fils warned that Haiti’s slide into authoritarianism has put the country at risk for partnership with the U.S. government under the Global Fragility Act (GFA).
Proponents of the GFA describe it as “an opportunity for the United States to posture itself to reduce violence and fragility in a manner that positions America to secure short-term interests.” Haiti was named the first “partner” under the GFA. The GFA was signed into law under the Trump administration and has full bipartisan support, including congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
The GFA allows for the U.S. government to negotiate bilateral, 10 year long “planned security assistance” deals with so-called “fragile states”. Fundamentally, the GFA fundamentally represents a repackaging of interventionist policies that will maintain U.S. hegemony over Haiti.
Canada also supports the GFA
Nou Pap Domi (NPD) is a foundational member-organization of the coalition that created the Montana Accord. One of its members and spokespersons, Emmanuella Douyon, recently offered support for the GFA at a recent Alliance for Peacebuilding conference . She concurred with Kalinda Magloire , who also endorsed the GFA. Magloire is a “technical director for peace and stability” at Management Systems International (MSI). MSI implements USAID projects worldwide.
Douyon, previously worked for the National Democratic institute - an organization funded by the U.S. State department, USAID , and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Later, she received a grant from the NED to found Policité , a “think tank” that conducts surveys and offers consultation services.
Another guest speaker at the conference, analyst Jeffsky Poincy said that he was “glad Haiti is part of the GFA”. Poincy is a program manager at Partners Global, a consultancy firm funded by the U.S. State Department, the Canadian government, the Open Society Foundation, and USAID.
As a general rule, people and organizations receiving funds from the American government do not challenge the framework of U.S. foreign policy. Washington’s continued policy is to maintain Haiti’s neo-colony status. The GFA is one tool for doing that.
Douyon’s comments can be interpreted as further compliance for U.S. imperialist domination of Haiti. In contrast, Montana spokesperson Jacques Ted Saint Dic recently claimed to oppose “international power.” During a recent interview on Magik 9, Saint Dic did a complete reversal on his earlier claims that the U.S. has a “powerful and important role” to play “in helping get democracy back on track in Haiti.” In the interview, he said Montana is “an opposition force to international power,” saying “the Americans hold the real power in Haiti” and that “Montana intends to seize power through negotiation, through social and citizen mobilization.” Belying the current size of Montana’s coalition, which is evidently greatly diminished and fractured.
Coalitions, Declarations, a Fractured Political Class, and Haitian Sovereignty
The signatories of the January 30th declaration claim to be focused on gaining popular support and mobilizing citizens to prevent Henry from consolidating power (and possibly negotiating “security assistance” under the GFA). They also claim to want to build a broad-based coalition.
In an interview posted February 10th to Twitter, Fils makes it clear that he rejects an intervention by a special military force. He explains that their view is that gangs are a consequence of the conditions generated by Ariel Henry and oligarchs who back the gangs. These conditions, Fils argues, have made election a year from now - as the December 21 Accord outlines - technically impossible.
The political class remains fractured. A clear plan on how to address gang violence that doesn’t involve armed conflict in the poor neighborhoods of Haiti is elusive. Calls for amnesty, collaboration with vigilance brigades - any strategy for improving the security crisis and reducing gang violence - remains outside public discourse.
No plan has emerged from the political class on how to actually remove Henry from power. No coalition as yet seems prepared to challenge U.S. hegemony in Haiti. Haiti will not break free from its current status as a neo-colony of the United States unless Ariel Henry is expelled from power and a transitional government that represents the Haitian people takes power.
The public recognition by Fils that the GFA and a subsequent 10-year “security assistance” deal - occupation by another name - by a Haiti leader is a positive step. Encouraging a public discourse on the nature of the GFA is also important.
As Kalinda Magloire explained during the conference at the Alliance for Peacebuilding conference, the GFA still needs a “credible interlocutor.” A national leader, coalition, or organization who can successfully convince Haitians that the GFA is a good policy for Haiti. So far, U.S. - funded organizations like OCAPH, Kafou Lespwa, and Initiative de la Société Civile have been unable to generate enough attention to manufacture consent for the GFA in Haiti.
Fils’ warning that Henry could negotiate a bilateral agreement with the United States under the GFA on his own is ominous. Henry does enjoy diplomatic support from Washington, the CORE group, and many other leaders and regional groups. And has requested an intervention to address gang violence and shore up his deeply unpopular regime.
Washington’s efforts to groom sectors of Haiti’s political class, inside Haiti and in the diaspora, are ongoing. Perhaps one of these individuals will fill the role of “credible interlocutor” for the GFA? Whoever ends up taking the role as promoter for this imperialist policy, opposing efforts by Washington and its interlocutors to frame the GFA as a good policy for Haiti is crucial.
This, as CARICOM published its statement by the heads of the Caribbean community on Haiti March 6, promising they have “agreed to “work with the Governments of Canada and the United States as well as the UNDP [the United Nations Development Plan] on the ongoing issues”. In addition, they promised to “approach” the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank “to ascertain what further assistance they could provide to Haiti”.
CARICOM seems determined to assist in keeping Haiti trapped under Washington’s hegemonic control.
International Solidarity with Haiti
Solidarity activists outside Haiti determined to assist Haitians break free from this hegemonic control should heed the calls for international solidarity as outlined by the trade unions behind the Ouanaminthe Declaration. They also ought to continue calling for their leaders to withdraw support for Ariel Henry, and look for opportunities to get the attention of leaders from regional and economic bodies like BRICS, the African Union, and the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. Growing relations with representatives of the nations who are members of these regional and economic organizations who oppose U.S. imperialism is a possible strategy for helping Haiti to escape the hegemonic control of the United States and CORE group.
It is understood that the flood of weapons gangs use to terrorize Haitians are coming through privately owned ports in Haiti. Port Latifo, the largest port in Haiti, is privately owned by billionaire oligarch Gilbert Bigio . Bigio is the target of Canadian sanctions and accused of supporting and arming gangs.
It is wishful thinking to believe that Washington will take serious action against weapons smuggling they have deliberately allowed to flourish in the region. Only large, regional and international bodies can enforce an embargo and cut-off the flood of weapons into Haiti.
The series of sanctions slapped on Haitian politicians and oligarchs by the UN, Canada, and the U.S. have also failed to dislodge Henry or address gang violence. Henry, in fact, welcomes these sanctions, telling VOA news in an interview that they are “helpful.”
The Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) and Haiti Liberté (HL), accomplished two of the most effective acts of international solidarity with Haitians in recent memory. They effectively helped to block American efforts to occupy Haiti, under the guise of a “special military force,” at the UN.
The Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) delivered an open letter to the Representatives of the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation in October titled “No to Foreign Military Intervention In Haiti! Yes, to Haitian Self-Determination!”. Delivering a similar message, Haiti Liberté’s editor Berthony DuPont wrote an open letter to ALBA. Weeks later, journalist Kim Ives delivered a statement to the United Nations Security Council. Ives’ statement prompted Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia to say that “The historical responsibility” for the current situation in Haiti “rests not only with Washington, which has repeatedly interfered in Haiti’s internal affairs, including by armed force, but also with Paris.”
These former colonial powers, he explained, “have changed their methods, but their colonial approaches have remained the same. Interference in Haiti’s internal affairs occurs by means of imposing foreign solutions and putting in place political figures outside of Haiti’s legal mechanisms. Lasting international involvement in Haitian affairs have instilled in some local elites the feeling of dependency and permissiveness and made them think that their future would be contingent, not on a popular vote, but on the benevolence of external patrons and sponsors”
This unusual and welcome development at the Security Council is a direct consequence of BAP and HL’s efforts. For the meantime, the UN is no longer a vector for imperialist domination of Haiti. Explaining the U.S. and Canada’s efforts to recruit a national leader at CARICOM to lead a mission into Haiti to “support the PNH.”
Similar efforts to leverage the power of other nations or organizations in a multipolar world may also bear fruit and aid in preventing continued imperial domination of Haiti by Washington and the CORE group.
Travis Ross is a teacher based in Montreal, Québec. He is also the co-editor of the Canada-Haiti Information Project at canada-haiti.ca . Travis has written for Haiti Liberté, Black Agenda Report, TruthOut, & rabble.ca. He can be reached on Twitter.
Posted March 18, 2023