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Imperialism and resistance in Haiti

Haitians protest the coup that toppled Jean Bertrand Aristide
Sid Lacombe

February 28, 2019

The people of Haiti are in revolt. The immediate reason for the uprisings is the pilfering of billions of dollars by former President Michel Martelly from Petrocaribe, a fund set up to provide discounted fuel which was set up by Venezuela.

Current president Jovenel Moïse, who has been widely accused of vote rigging to get elected has continued the trend and the people are fed up.
On the streets, protestor Jean-Robert Roland told the Associated Press, “We are protesting so we can come out of misery. The country is in a hole, and the government keeps stealing our money.”
This is another chapter in the long tragic history of of the country. But it needn’t have gone this way. It is the direct fault of the imperial powers who have never really forgiven Haiti for it’s revolution more than 200 years ago.

As the site of the first successful rebellion against slavery in 1804, Haiti represented a dangerous precedent that that needs to be constantly undermined and attacked. The French, who were unceremoniously kicked out of the country by Toussaint Louverture, blockaded the country and forced the Haitians to pay reparations for the loss of their slaves which were listed as property in the French calculation.

Haiti had to pay these reparations for fear of being wiped out and they kept paying until 1947.
This left the country in a desperate state which made it open to pillaging by other industrial powers like the US and Canada.

Canadian led coup
In 2004 Canada played a crucial role in the ouster of elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide who had scared the imperial powers by suggesting that, among other things, Haitians be paid a reasonable wage for their work. The corporate giants who had been running Haiti like a giant open air sweatshop wanted to end this threat to their profits.

The Ottawa Initiative on Haiti, a meeting of representatives from Canada the US, France and other European nations in 2003 laid the groundwork for an invasion to oust Aristide. No Haitians were actually invited to the meetings, not even the right wing leadership in the military. After Canadian special forces group Joint Task Force 2 secured the airport in Port Au Prince, US marines kidnapped Aristide and flew him to the Central African Republic where he remained under house arrest.

Canadian forces remained in the country as part of the UN mission after the coup. And what did they do? They provided cover while the police and right wing death squads attacked supporters of Aristide and union activists throughout the country. Thousands were killed.

And since then Canada has sent $100 million in “aid” to support the Haitian military and police.

Those authorities have attacked any people or groups that would cut into the profits of western corporations. Gildan Activewear, a Montreal based multi-billion dollar clothing company has been notorious in it’s activities in Haiti, punishing union organizers and sacking anyone who rocks the boat at their subsidiary companies.

The Globe and Mail spoke to Charlotin Odinel, a worker in Port Au Prince who was fired for his union activities from a company under contract to Gildan. His story, like many thousands of people is one of bad wages - or stolen wages, poverty and misery while working for a company that makes upwards of $300 million in profit each year.

Haitian workers make the lowest wages of and face the harshest working conditions of anyone in the western hemisphere.

And the government of Canada has repeatedly sided with the corporations who want to keep millions of Haitians in poverty. We need to stand in solidarity with the people of Haiti against all imperial meddling in their country.

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