(Bogotá, December 5, 2023) – In a distressing turn of events, Haiti, situated in the Caribbean, is grappling with a deteriorating security situation, prompting peasant movements affiliated with La Via Campesina to issue a fervent call for robust international solidarity. Over the past three decades, gangs have unleashed terror on the lives of the Haitian population, particularly impacting rural and peasant communities. The situation is anticipated to escalate, underscoring the pressing need for immediate international solidarity. This urgent call emanates from Haitian peasant organizations, including Mouvman Peyizan Nasyonal Kongre Papay (MPNKP), Tet Kole ti Peyizan Ayisyen, Mouvman Peyizan Papay (MPP), and Mouvman Peyizan Acul-du-Nord, MPA (a member of MPNKP), as they raise their collective voice at the 8th International Conference of La Via Campesina, held from December 1 to 8 in Bogotá, Colombia.
The gangification of Haiti traces back to the early 1990s, stemming from the 1991 coup against former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The notorious Front Pour L’avancement et le Progrès Haïtien (FRAPH) emerged from the void, forming an armed and paramilitary faction that traumatized the population advocating for a democratically elected government. Following Aristide’s ousting, these armed gangs persisted, and as elections gained prominence in Haiti, political aspirants deployed armed individuals, including young and sometimes underage participants, to disrupt voting centers and secure electoral victories. The subsequent regimes of Michel Martelly and Jovenel Moïse further organized and armed gangs to attain and retain power. Even after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, the international community, represented by figures like Helen La Lime, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Haiti, has collaborated with the status quo in Haiti, reinforcing gangs in the populous neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince. With impunity and a lack of justice, these gangs remain shielded by the incumbent illegitimate government.
Severe Impacts on Peasant Farmers and Food Availability
As gangs scatter across various provincial cities and extend their reign of terror to new areas, this situation in Haiti significantly impacts the lives of ordinary people. It limits their freedom of movement and has led to incidents of kidnapping, murder, extortion, and other atrocities. This crisis poses a significant threat to the country’s food security and has devastating effects on the livelihoods of peasants.
“There is a decline in agricultural yield because there are very few seeds available in the market. Farmers cannot access the market to procure seeds. The most fertile areas are occupied, as seen in the Artibonite Valley, a national rice production hub, which is now under the control of gangs”, said Ketty Alexandre, from MPNKP.
There are cases where gangs invade and seize peasants’ lands, hindering agricultural production. “This land grabbing by the gangs happens in collusion with the illegitimate government”, Ketty added.
Additionally, the supply of agricultural products to local markets is exceptionally challenging due to the occupation of all major roadways in the country by gangs. According to Ketty, to transport agricultural goods to certain local markets, trucks and public transportation must pay fees to the gangs who control the streets, essentially creating toll points on the roads”.
“This situation is further exacerbating the soaring cost of living in Haiti, leading to rampant inflation due to the hindrance of peasants’ mobility into major cities. Notably, the Artibonite department possesses the potential to sustain the entire country with its rice production. Nevertheless, the current presence of armed gangs is preventing peasants from engaging in agricultural activities. These gangs resort to burning the houses of the local population, compelling them to seek refuge elsewhere. Consider the plight of a peasant who has endured life for 50, 70, or 80 years, only to be forcibly displaced from their home by gangs one morning,” emphasized Micherline Islanda from Tet Kole.
According to Jusléne Tyresias from MPP, the Haitian bourgeoisie and powerful politicians exploit the situation, contributing to its worsening. “It’s becoming increasingly evident that there is complicity within the state, either through a justice system that fosters impunity or through those in power seeking to maintain control. This is done to instill fear in the population, discouraging them from mobilizing,” she explained.
A Orchestrated Crisis: Exploiting Chaos for Haiti’s Resources
Haitian peasant movements assert that the ongoing security crisis in Haiti is not an accident but a result of deliberate collaboration between the international community and the illegitimate ruling government, working hand in hand with armed gangs. “This de facto government lacks popular legitimacy, yet it enjoys unwarranted support from global entities, including the United Nations and various states, notably the U.S. government. The strategic orchestration of political machination by the government involves encouraging armed gangs while avoiding solutions to the insecurity crisis, paving the way for potential intervention. The underlying motive behind any potential military intervention in Haiti is seen as an attempt to recolonize the nation and exploit its abundant, yet untapped, natural resources”, said Doudou Pierre Festile, a leader from MPA.
Haitian movements believe that the intentional creation and empowerment of armed gangs serve as a calculated tactic to stifle popular demands, quash protests, and disrupt vital agricultural production, particularly in areas like the Artibonite. This dire situation is not merely an outcome of happenstance but a deliberately exacerbated scenario, manipulated by the international community and incumbent governments as a pretext for military intervention in Haiti.
Furthermore, peasant movements in Haiti question the origin of the weapons fueling gangs, and a resounding answer emerges: the United States. Consequently, they see this as one of ways in which the imperialist nation bears responsibility for the current situation.
But movements in Haiti are not responding passively to these challenges. At the same time that they are addressing the immediate needs of their communities while building toward food sovereignty for the long-term, they are organizing their communities to put a stop to the current surge in violence. “We are actively engaging communities, especially the youth, urging them to be vigilant and report any suspicious individuals in their vicinity. It is crucial for them to grasp the harsh reality and not shield even their own sons. Reporting such individuals is essential, as demonstrated in a municipality where we operate. The population’s mobilization in that area successfully resisted and achieved victory by eliminating numerous gangs. Consequently, the gangs were forced to retreat. We are tirelessly working to mobilize people across all regions to unite, actively participate, and enhance their resilience to counter these threats,” stated Jusléne.
Rejecting Foreign Intervention: Advocating for Haitian-Led Solutions
Haitian peasant movements, along with various other grassroots organizations in the country, strongly oppose the United Nations’ proposal to deploy foreign forces, as announced by the UN Security Council in October. They argue that the nation is not in a state of war, emphasizing the need for a local Haitian solution as the primary and only viable course of action. La Via Campesina has echoed these sentiments, vehemently denouncing the new imperialist offensive by the ‘Haiti Core Group’ composed of imperialist forces. This rejection of foreign intervention was also endorsed by the Kenyan Peasant League in response to the East African country’s expressed willingness to send a military contingent. Recently, a Kenyan court extended a temporary order preventing the government from deploying hundreds of police officers to Haiti, deeming the deployment unconstitutional.
Haitian movements stress that a foreign occupation would only bring devastating consequences, like in other cases in Haiti and elsewhere, where UN military missions were characterized by abuse of power, disregard for local security forces, and exploitation and sexual abuse of women and children. Furthermore, prior military missions brought diseases previously nonexistent in the country, such as cholera, which killed many Haitians, especially peasants.
International solidarity from La Via Campesina and other popular formations is crucial at a time when Haitian small-scale peasants face the imminent threat of losing their lands, jeopardizing their existence as food producers.
“As we stand in solidarity with Palestine and other nations grappling with international conspiracies, we now call upon La Via Campesina to support us in advocacy efforts at both national and international levels. Our primary goal is to urge the international community to withdraw support from the illegitimate ruling regime, which has only fueled the rise of gangs and criminal elements. Haitian peasants refuse to remain passive, unable to cultivate and secure food sovereignty. The solidarity within La Via Campesina holds immense significance for us,” emphasized Doudou.