Chanting “We are back to dictatorship! Down with Moise!” hundreds of Haitians marched through the streets of Port-au-Prince Feb. 7 demanding that President Jovenel Moise resign. Police fired tear gas at the demonstrators and journalists at the action and arrested over 20 people.
Thousands more again marched there Feb. 14.
These demonstrations are some of many protests that have rocked Haiti for more than a year, as the government has become more tyrannical and the capitalist economic crisis takes its toll on working people there. After decades of U.S. imperialist exploitation, Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the world.
Moise was voted into office in a 2015 poll, but because of election fraud the vote was shelved and an interim government put in place. Moise was elected again in 2016 and sworn into office on Feb. 7, 2017. He claims that since he lost a year in office, his presidency doesn’t end until February 2022, but protesters say it expired this month.
Moise’s administration issued an executive decree Feb. 8 “retiring” three Supreme Court justices who opposed his remaining in power another year. One of them had been arrested as he participated in the protest the previous day. Washington, on the other hand, backs Moise remaining in office for another year.
Since January 2020 Moise has ruled by presidential decree. He suspended two-thirds of the Senate, the entire lower Chamber of Deputies and every mayor throughout the country. He is seeking to change the country’s constitution over the coming months to expand presidential powers.
Working people in Haiti are still dealing with the effects of the catastrophic 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew that struck the country in 2016, as well as a cholera epidemic spread by U.N. military forces posted there. Over 60% of the population has no access to electricity. The official unemployment rate is 40%. And 60% of the population makes less than $2 a day.
“I don’t have a life,” Jean-Marc Francois, who works in construction and at warehouses, told The Associated Press. “I don’t have any savings. I have three kids. I have to survive day by day with no guarantee that I’ll come home with bread to put on the table.”
Over the past two years there has been a growing proliferation of gangs, many with ties to the government, that have targeted opposition neighborhoods and attacked protesters demanding better living conditions.
The government “is filled with kidnappers and gang members,” 57-year-old driver Zamor, who gave only his middle name out of fear of retribution, told the New York Times.
The only respite for Haitian toilers has been Cuba’s contingents of doctors who have volunteered there for over 22 years, helping meet a succession of health crises. Over the last year a special contingent has come to join in combating the COVID-19 pandemic at the Port-au-Prince hospital. They take responsibility for those who develop the most severe symptoms.