From the March-April 2019 issue of News & Letters
“[Haiti] has taught the world the danger of slavery and the value of liberty. In this respect she has been the greatest of all our modern teachers.”
Hundreds of thousands of Haitians took to the streets Feb. 7, calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moise. People are enraged at rising prices for food, gas, and other necessities, which have more than doubled in recent months. At least seven demonstrators were killed in protests that lasted over two weeks.
This uprising has come against a long-simmering background of anger at government corruption that has resulted in the waste or disappearance of billions of dollars in international aid and potential investment funds. Haiti has seen protests, year after year, over this scandal, which includes the misuse of $3.8 billion in Venezuelan loans.
The corruption in Haiti is hardly unique. It mirrors the corruption that has been rife across Latin America, as with the multinational scandals surrounding Brazil’s Petrobras oil and Odebrecht construction giants, or the bolibourgeoisie’s plundering of Venezuela’s state-owned PDVSA oil firm.
The centuries of racist oppression visited upon Haitians for daring to achieve the world’s first successful revolution against slavery, and the resulting dire poverty, simply make it worse.
DEMANDING AN ACCOUNTING
The people’s indignation isn’t only directed at the current administration. Haitians are demanding an accounting from past administrations as well. The protests also have a class content that has seen the symbolic torching of some of the $150,000 SUVs driven by the wealthy elite.
These vehicles are driven through poor neighborhoods where the average income is $350 per year, and people receive only 87% of the minimum daily requirement of calories.
It can be said Haiti has embodied the conscience of the modern world. The Haitian struggle for justice continues and will, as Douglass said, “like the star of the north…shine on forever.”