By: María Torrellas / Source: Resumen Latinoamericano / The Dawn News / November 14, 2017
Interview with Henry Boisrolin, member of Haitian Democratic Committee, that currently lives in Córdoba, Argentina.
-Haiti is now in a difficult situation because, while the UN occupation force MINUSTAH left the country, another one arrived. The country is indirectly ruled by the United States and private corporations and is going through a new intervention, what’s your take on this situation?
Your description of the situation is accurate. First of all, the framework of occupation is still there, it’s just the name that changed. The militaries and all of the components of the MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) are also in the MINUJUSTH (United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti), which is the new name for the instrument of intervention and tutelage on our country.
Evidently, as we’ve said before, the current President (Jovenel Moïse) doesn’t have legitimacy, because he was chosen in fraudulent elections with a result that yielded around 400 or 500 thousand votes for him in a country that has 6.2 million voters. Which means he has no legitimacy. Besides, we know he’s the heir of Martelli’s government and that the people of Haiti can’t expect anything good from him.
His first measures proved his government intends to consolidate neoliberalism and the establishment—it’s neo-duvalierism. This also means they want to give power back to the armed forces and recreate the old Haitian army. Now, they intend to install a Permanent Electoral Council, which is based on their previous project for a Provisional Electoral Council, which was rejected by three quarters of the population.
-You’re talking about the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier and his family that came after him
The Duvalier family seized power in 1957 and decreed a lifelong presidency. Before his death, Duvalier transferred power to his son, who was later overthrown after a great popular movement in 1986. From then on, that irruption of the masses in Haiti’s political scenario, was always present, because the masses haven’t really gotten real solutions to their demands. So there’s no way to solve any problem of the masses in Haiti without breaking the chains of imperialist domination. Haiti’s dependant status is a key element we must take into account in order to understand the impoverishment of the country. So in the face of this situation we can’t under any point of view believe that Haiti is headed towards a period of peace, of transition, etc. That’s a lie. And many people are aware that the solution is on the streets.
-What are the main demands of the people who protest in Haiti?
The common demands of these sectors of society are: first of all, the resignation of the current president; secondly, the end of occupation; and thirdly, a transition government that is able to answer to some of the changes that the people demand, a National Conference of the political forces of the people and a Constituent Assembly.
-A Constituent Assembly like Venezuela’s or Bolivia’s?
Similar but not the same, because the circumstances are different in each country. Our 1987 Constitution has many problems, and it has been violated thousands of times, so many people believe that there are new issues in our times that aren’t contemplated in the Constitution.
-It would mean spreading the struggle throughout the country
Exactly. Besides, the current protest movement, unlike the movements of the last few years, is attempting to nationalize the struggle. This means not only protesting in Port au Prince, but in other cities too.
-Is the goal to block the entire country so that the interventionist government can’t function?
Yes, that’s the goal, to block the country, because we can’t reach a solution with this government that lies time and time again. Workers received an insignificant pay raise, which insulted the needs of the people. The situation is the same in the rural area. The youth also have problems finding work. Every day hundreds of young Haitians migrate to Chile–In just one year, over 100,000 people migrated to Chile. This is very serious. There’s no more hiding the fact that youth are fleeing due to the dire situation that the country is in. Haitian society is in crisis and there’s no sign of hope whatsoever, it is a very deep crisis. That’s why we’re always calling for the solidarity of Latin American movements, to tell them that the problems they are facing can’t be solved individually.
-I agree, when we are together, challenges are less difficult. Recently, there were big protests in many parts of Haiti.
That’s right, in the cities of Hinche and Port au Prince, there were protests with 10 heads, that is, protesters gathered at 10 different meeting points and converged in the road that leads to the international airport, and blocked the air traffic of the country. This opens up new possibilities, but there’s a lot of repression. They have armed people dressed as civilians who shoot at protesters with live ammunition from State vehicles without license plates. This is a situation that leads to bigger and bigger confrontations. Some are even talking about the real possibility of a civil war. I believe our aim must be to overthrow the government, to form the Constituent Assembly and to kick the occupation forces out of the country once and for all.
-Recently, you were in New York and visited the Black Panther Museum. This movement fought in the 60s and organized people in black neighborhoods for self-defense and culture, until they were dismantled by the US government by way of planting drugs and incarcerating them for crimes they hadn’t committed. What did you see when you went there?
I thought that after so many years I would encounter people who had a feeling of defeat, and what I saw was the opposite. I found people who have a critical and self-critical view, and who have reorganized themselves. They are doing political work in Harlem (in northern Manhattan), where there’s currently a problem because the so-called “rich white people” are buying apartments and reforming them, which means they are destroying emblematic places of the movement and destroying the history and culture of black people. They are raising awareness about this. In the training courses I participated in, I saw them study in depth the mistakes made by the Black Power movement. The role of drugs, like you said, was one of the elements the government used to destroy the movement from within. Besides, they also had problems due to infiltrations by the government and the personal limitations of some of the leaders who fell into a sort of lumpen-proletariat form of life. Every one of these issues has been researched and discussed.
Now, in the context of Trump’s presidency, I saw that people feel the need to fight against the resurgence of open racism, which never really disappeared in the US. Also, what I learnt from the is that there is a clear link between this issue and the class issue. And realizing this is a qualitative jump. Even Martin Luther King, who in the beginning advocated peaceful struggle, began to see the issue of class (though perhaps not at the same level as Malcolm X) and because of this they decided to murder him.
-Around that time, youth became more radical and Martin Luther King became more radical too, and his fight became not only concerned with race but also with class.
Exactly. I believe it is important to see this in the United States. I met people who haven’t lost hope in that everything will be better, and know that all positive changes must emerge from struggle. I went to the Cultural Center many times and saw an interesting level of women’s participation, even in leadership positions. There’s a woman in charge of the photography exhibition of the Museum, and there was a woman in charge of the preparation of the Conference.
I saw little participation of high-school-age youth, although there was youth participation in a broader sense of the term. And I don’t know the reason behind this. Another thing I found interesting is that there were not only intellectuals in the movement but also workers, so there’s an interesting class content. Another thing I observed is that on the main avenues of Harlem (Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, etc) there were up to two churches in the same block, and this is another thing that was imposed to ideologically influence the people who live there–I’m talking about protestant churches, who try to dominate and control Harlem’s people.
The Harlem I saw these days is pretty different from the one I knew years ago. I saw more class mixture, that means there’s a policy of expulsion of black people from their historical places, but the people are resisting and I hope they achieve a fair victory.