The Spark

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

Haiti:
Facing the Dictatorship of Gangs

Oct 11, 2021

The following text is taken from the September 28 editorial of Workers Voice (La Voix des Travailleurs), the monthly published by the Haitian revolutionary workers group, Organization of Revolutionary Workers.

Gangs don’t officially hold power, but the situation is not far from that. For now, the main leaders of the criminal gangs are establishing and expanding their domination over the country. These armed gangs have turned the government and the political class into a peanut gallery, despite all their institutions and the international leaders in the CORE-Group who endorse them.

The gangsters live out their fantasies and freely carry out their macabre plans in the capital. The National Police are reduced to their own shadow since the workers it usually oppresses now are armed. The police suffer defeat after defeat. The police force was already plagued by corruption and riddled with internal conflicts. It has never been able to fight the gangsters. Quite the opposite: those cops who do not join these mafia groups are singled out and murdered. Throughout the capital, the police stations where they are assigned are attacked.

Law enforcement being neutralized, the whole country lies at the mercy of armed gangs. In the Martissant neighborhood and around the southern entrance to the capital, the armed bands control National Road number 2. No fewer than four provinces are regularly isolated from the rest of the country. It is the same on the north side of the capital, with the 400 so-called Mawozo gangs in Croix-des-Bouquets and G9 in Cité Soleil and Bas-Delmas.

The distribution of petroleum products—the heart of Haiti’s economy—is jeopardized. For the past six months or so, refueling at a gas station has been difficult. With their power to disrupt everything, the gangs decree temporary ceasefires at their whim to let hospitals stock up on fuel or to let NGOs rescue earthquake victims in the south.

As the government disintegrates, the gangs consolidate their bases, grab new turf, recruit new young people, and acquire sophisticated weapons. To finance themselves above what they make from kidnapping, arms trafficking, and drugs, the gangs hold small merchants and independent businesspeople for ransom.

The inhabitants of the neighborhoods are constantly monitored under the rule of the gangs. They are forced to swear allegiance to these bandits. Those who refuse are considered enemies, and risk death. This process takes place everywhere, in neighborhood after neighborhood and from one city to another—sometimes with the complicity of politicians in office and of opposition politicians.

But, despite their ferocity and the terror they bring to the people, these new thugs—like the Tontons-Macoutes thugs of fallen dictator Duvalier—are only a minority. As in the past, they won’t have much weight faced with the revolt of the entire population. Ordinary people can become determined to regain their freedom and safety.