The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Boat People Flee Hell!

Apr 11, 2022

This article is translated from the March 26th issue, #1282 of Combat Ouvrier (Workers Fight), the paper of comrades in Guadeloupe and Martinique, two islands that are French overseas departments in the Caribbean.

A rickety boat carrying more than 300 Haitian migrants capsized March 6 off Florida’s Key Largo. Nearly 100 swam to the beach near a luxury hotel. The Coast Guard and swift attention from people ashore let the castaways meet up … before they were expelled back to Haiti.

That same week police intervened when three boats grounded while carrying Haitians trying to reach the U.S.

The number of people who perish by drowning during these crossings is not counted. The mirage of a better life is always attractive to those who have nothing left to lose—people for whom nothing is worse than living in the Port-au-Prince area or country towns where gangs rule the streets.

Prime Minister Hariel Henry’s government knows how to unleash its police against demonstrating workers or high school students, but is unable to face up to the armed gangs. He funds some of them. The barest public safety is no longer maintained. Everyone has to fend for themselves. Life is filled with pressure by neighborhood gangs. Survival is dependent on rules unique to each neighborhood and the gang that controls it. There are daily scenes of panic during downtown kidnappings, as people scatter to avoid stray bullets. Some try to escape this horror by taking an illegal boat.

Despite all, the population offers some reactions. Two doctors were kidnapped from their offices on March 2. The Haitian medical association launched a strike from March 14 to 16. A delegate went with a ransom. The doctors were released. But the gang detained the delegate to demand another ransom.

Sometimes people refuse to submit to gang oppression. We saw this during demonstrations by workers at the Sonapi industrial park, where their massed numbers kept the gangs at bay. And there is the example of young people from Jacques Roumain High School. The director was kidnapped on March 11. For three days students demonstrated downtown. The police dispersed them. The director and his wife were finally released on March 17 after paying a ransom. But their driver was held for another ransom.

There are always sharks who take advantage of these situations. Since gangs block southern roads, escape by airplane to the city of Les Cayes has increased in recent months. Sunrise Airways flights and passengers increased a lot. The price of tickets suddenly soared. From March 19 to 21, residents and passengers blocked the runway at Les Cayes’ small airport to protest. They explained that Haitian Senator Hervé Foucand owns two of the airplanes. He socializes in the Senate and does nothing to free up the southern roads. This brings him money! Residents planned to demonstrate again.