Twelve years after the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010, which killed an estimated 160,000 people, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere remains in political and economic crisis. The Haitian people today are confronted by a deadly cholera epidemic, gang violence, food shortages, and rampant inflation, a situation that has only intensified since President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July.
For weeks, protesters have been in the streets demanding the removal of Haiti’s acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who in mid-September eliminated subsidies that caused gas prices to more than double. After fuel prices spiked, Haiti’s most powerful gang “G9 Family and Allies,” led by former police officer Jimmy ‘Barbecue’ Cherizier, dug trenches to block access to the country’s largest fuel terminal, vowing not to leave until Henry resigns and prices for fuel and basic goods decline. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Henry appealed to the international community to send in a military intervention force, a position rejected by many of Haiti’s civil society groups.
In response to the crisis, the United Nation’s Security Council unanimously passed a resolution on Oct. 21 that imposed sanctions on Cherizier, including an assets freeze and travel ban. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Jemima Pierre, co-coordinator of the Black Alliance for Peace team on Haiti and associate professor of African American Studies at UCLA. Here, she discusses the current crisis in Haiti and explains why her group is opposed to foreign military intervention.
JEMIMA PIERRE: One of the key reasons for the major protests on the street was economic. You know, we’re suffering inflation here in the U.S., but inflation in Haiti is about 40 percent. And they’re saying it might be up to 50 percent by next month. And one of the key reasons for that — in addition to the global crisis — is that the U.S. through the IMF has been trying to get the Haitian government to remove fuel subsidies from the Haitian people.
And when Moise tried to do it back in 2019, everyone took to the streets to protest and he couldn’t get it done. But (Prime Minister) Ariel Henry, exactly eight weeks ago, removed fuel subsidies. And, you know, most countries provide subsidies for everyone. Farmers in the U.S., farmers are subsidized and so on. In Haiti, (fuel) is the only thing “subsidizing,” that’s the only subsidy Haitians get.
And so all of a sudden, you have gas prices go from about $3, $4 a gallon to about $6, $7, $10 a gallon when the average minimum wage, the daily minimum wage in Haiti is about $2. And so there’s really two main causes of people being on the street. It’s protesting this illegitimate government, but also protesting the increased economic distress that the removal of the subsidies has brought to people.
SCOTT HARRIS: Dr. Pierre, I wanted you to comment on some news that I was reading about earlier today, and that is the United Nations Security Council is considering what to do, if anything, in the crisis here in Haiti where in addition to the violence and protests, there’s also food shortages. What is your position and the Black Alliance for Peace in terms of foreign intervention, which the United Nations Security Council has in the past ordered and could order again?
JEMIMA PIERRE: Our position has been clear from the very beginning. We follow the Haitian people who absolutely do not want foreign armed soldiers on the ground. You know, Haiti has been invaded many times by the U.S. government. 1915 was a 19-year occupation. And then you’ve had the 1990s, multiple times where the U.S. Marines would come in and invade the country.
And every single time it’s been complete brutality, rape. An NGO had to basically sue the U.N. for all the children that were fathered when they raped these young girls when they were occupying Haiti. They brought cholera. They dumped fecal matter in the main river of the Artibonite River in the middle of Haiti, which sickened a million people and killed about 30,000.
And so the last thing people want is to have these soldiers going around with guns and tanks pointing at them, right? And so our position is to follow the Haitian people. We work with local organizations on the ground, and no one in Haiti wants a foreign intervention except for the puppet government that thinks that having foreigners shoot at people on the ground will protect them.
And our position is that we need to respect Haitian sovereignty. How is it that Haiti is the only country in the region that doesn’t get to have sovereignty.
And we also call on all the so-called leftist governments in the region to speak out. One of the key problems for us is the fact that AMLO, the Mexican Manuel Lopez Obrador, whose supposedly leftist government, is the co-pen holder in the U.N. writing this resolution for bringing a foreign force into Haiti.
And we also have to remember that it was Colombian mercenaries that assassinated Haiti’s president and that the current prime minister, which people don’t want, is implicated in this murder. So Haitians, all they see in foreign occupation is misery and death and a loss of sovereignty. And no one should stand by and allow that to happen. And so our position is the Haitian masses’ position against occupation.
SCOTT HARRIS: Dr. Pierre, there is a lot of misery, violence, hunger in Haiti at this critical moment. What could or should be done to alleviate the situation immediately and assist the people of Haiti in a transition to democracy?
JEMIMA PIERRE: Right. But the thing is, the way that this question is always posed is as if Haitians need someone to help them out. And the reality is, we don’t. The thing that we need is to be left alone. We have not been left alone by anybody. You know, Haitians had a whole set of solutions. They came together and that was completely sidelined.
And what Haitians want is, it’s the same people that caused the problem are the same people presenting the case for our savior. It’s like the arsonist then becomes the firefighter.
I mean, you know, even at the U.N. meeting, you had the Haitian case being presented by Helen La Lime, an unelected head of the core group, which the Haitians had no say in imposing on us.
And so what we want, what everybody wants is to leave us alone. And there is a deep racism, I think, when it comes to talking about Haiti. You know, Haiti is more than its poverty.
For more information, visit the Black Alliance for Peace website at blackallianceforpeace.com.
Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Jemima Pierre (14:59) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.
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