The Spark

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

Haiti:
A President Assassinated, Workers Caught Between Disinterest and Worry

Jul 19, 2021

Translated from an article by comrades of OTR, the revolutionary workers organization active in Haiti.

News of the July 7th assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse struck Haiti like a shock wave. At every level of society, fear has been the foremost reaction. In the capital, all the stores, factories and public services have remained closed, with the streets completely empty.

There was no uproar in response in working class neighborhoods, like there was after the coup against Aristide in 1991, or even when the U.S. forced Aristide into exile in 2004. The response: people shut themselves in, fearing confrontations between different armed groups.

No one shed a tear for Jovenel Moïse in these neighborhoods. For them he represented five years of heavy-handed rule: price hikes on necessities, lower wages and increased poverty. Moïse offered only empty promises for 24-hour electricity, schooling for children from the population, food for all thanks to his banana fields.

They held him responsible for the growth of armed gangs that control the poor neighborhoods. His death looks like “just desserts” for the club he brandished against the poor. So, no one in these neighborhoods regrets his death– it’s even become the butt of jokes. They remember him declaring, on February 7th, when he refused to step down from power: “Certain presidents have been overthrown, exiled, killed, but me, I’m going to stay there, caught like a fishbone in your throat!” In one town in the provinces, they even held a mock burial for him.

Fear remains, fear that the power struggle to come will rebound against the poorest. No one is fooled by the comedy put on by the police, who run from the gangs, and then the day after the assassination have arrested a commando team of twenty heavily armed ex-military veterans. If these are the killers, who are their commanders? Is it Moïse’s party? Is it the Haitian oligarchy, who had had enough of their puppet? Or is it the United States, through their embassy? Moïse’s home lies only a few minutes from the ambassador’s house. It was threatened a few hours before the killing, without any reaction from the Americans.

Neither Moïse’s death, nor the answers to these questions, will change anything for Haiti’s poor. The streets remain under the control of armed gangs which ransom, rape, kidnap and kill. That’s why more than 5,000 had to flee their neighborhoods in the South of Port-au-Prince, to take refuge in a sporting complex, or at someone’s home, waiting to be able to return to their own home.

People continue to worry about the possible reactions of these gangs, armed in the service of the political clans that contest for power. For the moment, the different parties are working to nominate a president and a prime minister to organize new elections. They call for the population to remain calm—and for the workers to go back into the factories for exploitation!