By: Carlos Aznárez / Source: Resumen Latinoamericano / The Dawn News / September 30, 2016.
In the framework of the International Seminar held recently in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Resumen Latinoamericano interviewed the Haitian economist and political leader Camille Chalmers, secretary of the Haitian Platform for the Defense of an Alternative Development (PHADA) and member of South Jubileum. Chalmers is an active militant against the presence of United Nations troops in his country and vindicates the urgent need for the self-determination of his people.
What’s the current political stage in Haiti like, regarding the preparation of the new elections?
Camille Chalmers: Haitian people are suffering a violent aggression by imperialism and this has been a structural problem since the 1915 intervention, which transformed the political system in order to coerce it to submit to the permanent domination of the State Department.
But, more recently, we are witnessing an example of what we call “disaster capitalism”. After the earthquake, the national troops took advantage of the situation to seize control over strategic economic areas. They seek to do it with mining too, and now they are trying to introduce agro-export systems and “free-trade zones”.
All of this aims at transforming the Haitian economic system, through using the power of the UN troops: the MINUSTAH. They have used the pretext of the “political crisis” to install the MINUSTAH in the country. They are a force that is supposed to maintain peace but they are at the service of the interests of the U.S. global strategy, not only in the military process of the West Indies but also to choke and kill every attempt of popular construction in the country. They attack every economic progress in favour of the population. The Haitian people is fighting against the military occupation and against North American imperialism. It’s fighting against the Haitian oligarchy who since 1986, when a massive uprise of the popular movement began, decided to kill that liberation process of the country to install neoliberalism, a system that has destroyed a great part of farm production and the economic capacity of the country. This is why the struggle is vital and we want to connect it with the process of the Haitian revolution in 1984 that subverted the system at a time when slavery was considered a mere part of the productive and accumulation process. I believe that the Haitian peasants’ movement, the movement of the youth, of the women, of the people, are claiming this revolutionary legacy to constitute it as an alternative to the domain of the capital and the empire.
Does the Haitian people actually believe that the polls have been convened by the current government?
Camille Chalmers: No. During the past few years we have witnessed the electoral process being discredited time and time again. It was manipulated, twisted and controlled by the United States and we all know that the electoral result in 2010 didn’t reflect the people’s will. In 2015 they attempted a coup against the Haitian people in a very clumsy way. That coup was ill-received by the people and so they responded with a mobilization to demand the holding of new elections. The next elections will be held on October 9. We are experiencing a process with a strong anti-interventionist feeling, a very strong opposition against the leadership that attacks the people’s dignity but at the same time the people knows that elections can’t solve the structural problems of the country. In fact, on the last two elections, in 2010 and 2015 (where there was fraud), the attendance rate was really low (15% to 18%), which means that the Haitian people know how to start a process of struggle to fight not only against neoliberalism but also to transform the State, and not accept that imported democracy that they are trying to impose on us with the excuse of it being a solution to a humanitarian crisis. We know that the crisis is much deeper and that it demands political instruments that match the liberation process we need now.
A few months ago there was a semi-insurrectional process, which included methods of direct action and violence against the sectors that are considered to be oppressive. What is missing to understand that this resistance can turn into a massive and organized offensive, what is missing in the people and in the Haitian left to unite and defeat the government, and give power to the people?
Camille Chalmers: We must point out that the presence of the MINUSTAH is a source of permanent violence against the people. For example, the introduction of cholera by the troops has already killed more than 10,000 Haitians and affected almost 800,000 people. It’s a terrible situation and we demand restoration, justice and indemnization. Since the years 1984 and 1985, social and political movements have fought against Duvalier’s dictatorship and have started building not only a social and combative movement but also a movement that promotes State transformations. That movement was met with the violence of imperialism and oligarchy as a response, which then lead to military interventions with 23,000 foreign soldiers, the 1991 and 2994 coups d’Etat and also the corruption and the co-opting of leaders through different strategies. So now, to resist this violence, our current challenge is to re-organize the popular movements, which are very divided, and to recruit other political groups such as Aristide’s supporters. It’s a process of reconstruction, liberation, and autonomy for a movement that is basically anti-imperialist in nature. We are in a favorable juncture because we work to transform the sense of collective heritage in the anti-imperialist consciousness and one of our main mechanisms is the Popular Court Against the Hundred Years of Occupation, which started on July 28, and will last a whole year.
Which is the role of International Solidarity in the struggle for Haiti’s liberation?
Camille Chalmers: We must say that when the Haitian nation was born, the first leaders clearly realized that the future of the country depended on the building a strong internationalist alliance to fight against slavery: Bolivar said this when he left Haiti to support the struggle against Spain. But the imperial answer was to isolate Haiti and the result was that the struggle of the Haitian people, the revolution and its legacy are unknown. So, for us, the reconstruction of the bonds of solidarity is a priority.