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220 years after the Haitian Revolution: the labyrinth of a modern neocolonial model!

  • March 27, 2024
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On the 220th anniversary of the Triumph of the Haitian Revolution (1804) which would mark and give radicality with its example of radical equality to the Bolivar project and to any emancipatory project on our continent…

Interview with an internationalist activist. Lautaro Rivara (1991) is an Argentine left-wing activist, professor, sociologist, writer, poet, analyst, journalist and researcher. He holds a PhD in History from the University of La Plata, Argentina (UNLP) and is a postdoctoral researcher at the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He is a critical intellectual who writes and reflects from his situated experience in the field. He was a member of the international brigade in Haiti (2018-2020). Author of works such as “The new Condor Plan. Geopolitics and Imperialism in Latin America” (2022) and “Internacionalista” (2022) from the editorial Batalla de Ideas, and several collections of poetry, including “Ayibobo”, a collection of poems in Spanish and Haitian Creole which will be published soon, in which is added “Haiti here” also in progress.


We are in Latin America in years when important dates and milestones are celebrated. historical milestones that have influenced the evolution of our present. I am referring, for example, to the 220th anniversary of the Triumph of the Haitian Revolution (1804) which would mark and give radicality with its example of radical equality to the Bolivar project and to any emancipatory project on our continent, then it been drowned out by many factors and as a culmination this insulting debt that Haiti had to pay to France and continues to pay, for having emancipated itself. Recently, 200 years have passed since the development of the “Monroe Doctrine” (1823), which took place last December, with a guideline that would define the political relationship of the United States towards Our America. This year also commemorates the bicentenary of the historic Battle of Ayacucho (1824) which symbolized the almost complete emancipation of continental America from European colonialism. I say “almost complete” because the Caribbean and the Greater Caribbean (if we include the Guianas) have been left behind, with a particular history of colonialism and neocolonialism that spans the entire 19th century and part of the 20th. We continue within the framework of the 50 years of the coup d’état in Chile (1973), which will take place in September 2023, against the socialist president Salvador Allende and this year we will remember the 70 years of the coup d’état against president Jacobo . Arbenz in Guatemala (1954), 60 years against João Goulart in Brazil (1964), 20 years of the coup d’état in Haiti (2004) against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, 15 years of the coup d’état in Honduras which deposed president Mel Zelaya (2009), and today we celebrate 45 years of the Triumph of the Grenada Revolution (1979) led by Maurice Bishop and the Nueva Joya Movement which ended with the coup d’état of B. Coard and the assassination of Bishop and his collaborators, as well as an American military intervention (Urgent Fury, 1983) which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year.

The history of Latin America is, to a large extent, the history of direct and indirect interventions by the United States, of coups d’état to satisfy its interests, of revolutions as a response to neocolonial conditions and to give continuity to an unfinished emancipatory project, the history of the attempt to break the chains of the different mechanisms of colonialism and neocolonialism by Latin American elites who conform to the Washington Consensus.

IN: Comrade Lautaro. I greet you fraternally and it is an honor that our media can exchange some ideas with you. I would like our readers to meet him. In what context were you as an international brigadier in Haiti? What knowledge did you have as a Latin American activist about Haiti before traveling? What resistance movements and organizations did you know?

Lautaro Rivara (LR): Well, I was a member of the international brigade in Haiti from 2018 to early 2020, I was as part of a Permanent Brigade of International Solidarity that international movements Vía Campesina and the articulation of social movements towards ALBA. My previous knowledge of the country was like that of almost anyone who approaches Haiti, quite limited and precarious, with the stories and anecdotes of a few former “brigadistas” who had been there and who were from my city and my organization. Of course I had a certain imagination built around the Haitian Revolution, I am deeply interested and in love with the history of our continent and the first successful revolution in this continental history. This is a step that no one has the right to ignore. The Brigade had several good objectives which evolved over time. At first, when it landed, these were rather emergency tasks, so to speak, related to a truly critical situation in the country, which had suffered an earthquake of enormous proportions that caused more than 300 thousand dead, which had also suffered from a cholera epidemic introduced by contingents of “blue helmets” (Peace Forces) and a fairly devastating hurricane in the south of the country. In this context, there were tasks related to water collection, work with peasant organizations and, initially, work related to ecological production and reforestation of the country. The Haitian territory is going through a very serious climate crisis due not only to climate change but also to local deforestation. When I arrived, we began to develop another series of tasks and to give the Brigade not only a rural and peasant character, but we also began to explore and better articulate with the movements of the metropolitan area of ​​Port -au-Prince, which is the capital of the country, and I began to work and develop a field that the Brigade did not have until then, linked to political communication abroad, particularly in contexts of acute crisis and also the training of local communicators, in particular by stimulating the growth of a small local agency of social movements in the country, as well as the articulation of the various community and peasant radios which already existed in this country. Thus, during these years there and during my subsequent travels, I had the immense privilege of knowing, in practice, all the organizations of the countryside and the cities and of knowing their enormous accumulations and experiences of struggles.

IN: What was the political context in this country during your work as brigadier? What was the scenario of a post-coup country, a secret military occupation (MINUSTAH), cholera epidemics, an earthquake of enormous magnitude, hurricanes? What was the opinion of the social movements of MINUSTAH?

LR : I arrived in a context that quickly changed radically, I arrived in Haiti in March 2018, in July an attempt to increase fuel prices promoted by the International Monetary Fund produced the most significant popular insurrection in contemporary history of Haiti and the most important in the entire hemisphere, if we consider the last decades, and if we consider the percentage of the Haitian population who mobilized in the streets, we estimate between 1 and 2 million people in the largest protests, which took place with enormous regularity during the month of July 2018 and at least until the first months of the following year. Then this country suddenly transformed, there was in fact a rise in Haitian popular consciousness with a clearly anti-neoliberal and increasingly clearly anti-imperialist and anti-North American character. Haiti was then practically crushed by an international occupation, that of the infamous MINUSTAH which landed in 2004, taking advantage of a local political crisis. Haiti, when I arrived, was still an occupied country, with MINUSTAH having given way to a replacement mission known as MINUJUSTH. I had the opportunity to witness the last major military deployment of this mission, with contingents of troops from several countries around the world deployed, for example, on the main avenue of the capital. The mobilizations that I witnessed were a sort of social remobilization that came to shake off the yoke of this occupation, at a time when the mission visibly had fewer police and military capacities to repress the local population. The local sectors’ assessment of this occupation is extremely negative, suffice it to mention that its sad history includes participation in systematic networks of sexual abuse and exploitation of children and women, as well as the commission of a series of massacres in the working class neighborhoods of the country, particularly in those which had higher levels of organization and also, as I mentioned previously, the introduction of a cholera epidemic which would have caused more than 80,000 deaths and more than 800,000 people. Cholera outbreak that occurred due to the bad practice of the Nepalese contingent, which dumped a truck containing contaminated fecal waste into the main waterway of the entire country, causing a profoundly humanitarian disaster that really only few precedents in world history.

IN: Do you share the impression that there has existed or has existed since our Latin American peoples, a lack of knowledge of the stories of struggles of the Caribbean islands, a somewhat distant political vision of the Caribbean in general and of Haiti in particular? We have Cuba very present in our imagination, which is a Caribbean country and whose Revolution continues to resist, but in my opinion this is not the case of other processes which should be more articulated from our struggles, like the colonial situation of Puerto Rico or Haiti. What do you think ?

LR : Yes, the general ignorance about the Caribbean region and in particular about the islands of the Greater Antilles and the Lesser Antilles is truly overwhelming, and it must even be said and recognized, even if it has gone through a very important wave of integration. Latin America and the Caribbean region are often left aside. In fact, I think that in my generation and specifically among us who live in the Southern Cone, we have an even more pronounced lack of knowledge. It would be total if we did not have, for example, a figure like Hugo Chávez Frías, who, I believe, was the first major Latin American leader to fundamentally put the Caribbean at the center of the debate and even begin to appoint. Before Chávez, the Caribbean was not even named that, perhaps the obvious exception being that Cuba is not known for its exemplary revolutionary history and for obviously also being a Spanish-speaking country. However, we know very little about Puerto Rico, practically nothing about the Dominican Republic and not to mention, if we refer to territories like French overseas departments, Dutch special municipalities or other types of non-self-governing territories, which exist there are really many of those that we have in the Caribbean. So we really have a big challenge: to succeed in integrating the history, politics and geopolitics of the Caribbean with those of the region as a whole. This is what the United States itself does, which considers the Caribbean as a geostrategic region and it is there that it today deploys the largest number of military spaces in the entire hemisphere.

Lautaro Rivara a militant of the gauc he argentinian, professor, sociologist, writer, poet, analyst, journalist and researcher

IN: A general question. What are the characteristics of the Haitian political system in recent years? What are the main structural problems of the Haitian state? Who are the main progressive or left-wing political actors who can promote a revolutionary and popular project against the neocolonial status of Haiti?

LR : The Haitian political system has its particularities, anchored of course in the singularity of the Haitian social formation, absolutely incomparable with others, even in the region itself, given that the Revolution of 1804 fundamentally divided history into two and built a sui generis society, the first was made up of former slaves and former workers of the plantation system, then its state configuration, its society has really very particular characteristics that would take a long time to develop here. There is a series of structural problems, generally evident and quite repeated, linked to some of the most unfavorable socio-economic indices in the entire hemisphere, in terms of poverty, in terms of inequality, in terms of hunger and insecurity eating. , and precariousness and also rural exodus and exodus of young people with a large diaspora which is in different parts of the hemisphere and which also moves around the world. We have here a series of very diverse political actors. I must say that the Haitian political tradition has generally been predominantly peasant, its major revolutionary movements took their origins in rural areas until the massive displacements that occurred in the 1980s. In the city, they generated new social subjects, precarious young people , without expectations and very close to the urban peripheries, perhaps a subject more similar to that which we know in other large cities on the continent, which were beginning to play an increasingly political role. . . outstanding. We have very massive social movements, as I told you, the most important thing is that they continue to be in the countryside, but there is an enormous capacity for urban mobilization which is perhaps less organic and less structured into stable political organizations. The party system is a very weak system, very fragmented, very pulverized, there are dozens or hundreds of parties with very little capacity for mobilization and which essentially revolve around small personalities, leaderships or prebendary systems. The overall role of these political parties has not been very significant, at least in recent decades.

IN: Given the recent resignation of interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry (Inite), are we continuing the open cycle after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021? Or is it the continuity of a longer period opened with the military intervention of 2004?

LR : We are experiencing a great historical cycle, which began with the overthrow of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, first president of the Latin American progressive cycle, former priest of liberation theology, elected twice president, is not recognized, because he should be. and overthrown twice by military forces, with financial and logistical support from France, Canada and the United States. Since then, since the last legitimate and transparent elections held in the early 1990s, Haiti has not experienced any kind of democratic elections and has instead suffered every imaginable form of imperial intervention. First, these military coups in a format perhaps a little more classic, closer to the format of the coups that governed here during the Condor Plan, then Haiti underwent a series of economic war mechanisms driven fundamentally by the International Monetary Fund, which above all sought and succeeded in destroying the last vestiges of the country’s productive capacity, especially its agricultural and agri-food production capacity. Then we also had the cycle of international interventions, Haiti has been occupied by 12 international missions from 1992 to date, missions of all kinds, of a civil and military police nature, obviously the best known and the most infamous was MINUSTAH which occupied the country. between 2004 and 2017, but there have been many others. When this cycle of international intervention also ended, it was seriously delegitimized by the crimes of MINUSTAH, we see the commitment to paramilitarize the country based on models that we already know well in Latin America and in the Caribbean. So over the last 5 years the infiltration began, we studied and verified it with former marines and hitmen of North American origin, who were essentially equipping, financing and training local criminal groups until ‘then very weak, who conquered power in terms of operational capacity. , in structure and which have even federated, constituting authentic gang relationships, which today control a good part of the metropolitan area of ​​Port-au-Prince. Therefore, I believe that we continue in this open cycle, with coups d’état and military interventions and it is worth emphasizing that we have not had elections in Haiti since 2016, that there are no type of legitimately constituted authority, even former president Jovenel Moïse was assassinated, but at a time when he was already de facto president.

YN: The murder of Moïse shocked us all, US based paramilitary companies as well as Colombian paramilitaries were behind the events, but the treatment by the media was, in my opinion, insulting, they presented it as a phenomenon of “normalized violence”. ” “, as something almost “cultural”, if I can use the expression. Is there still racism and a colonial perspective when we try to talk about Haiti? Is it a strategy aimed at dispossessing or making invisible the resistance, the agency of Haitian social and popular movements, to then justify the invasions at the international level?

LR: For my part, I had to work with the international media and I continue to do so in close connection with the Haitian situation, and yes, I can affirm that the representations of the country which are typical in the major international press, in the conservative press In the political sectors and sometimes not only in the conservatives, or in the NGOs of the Academy, there continues to be a deeply stereotypical, colonial and racist vision, which considers that the ills of the Haitian population are linked to a sort of “genetic incapacity” to govern itself. . In fact, in recent days we have seen a series of fake news stories circulating, carefully orchestrated, to justify a new round of intervention, which showed alleged Haitian cannibals eating human flesh, videos tested and proven false, which are mobilized essentially because there is a deeply rooted belief that views this type of behavior as at least plausible among the Haitian population. It’s really a shame, because this type of consideration leads to making visible, not only an exemplary history of struggle, which left a universal legacy with what was the Haitian Revolution, but also a series of generations of writers, poets , musicians and intellectuals like those that the country has given who are very extraordinary and deserve to be known.

IN: What do you think of the phenomenon of gangsterism in Haiti? Is this a recent phenomenon or is it part of the political system itself?

LR : Well, the issue of gangs, armed bands or paramilitary groups, depending on how they are called, is today a very pressing debate in the country and even internationally. At least I maintain that what we are experiencing is a politically organized crime, that we do not find simply wild, spontaneous criminal phenomena, because if we look at the recent history of the country, despite the fact that it has a very unfavorable socio-economic situation very high, high inequality indices and rates, Haiti ​​until a few years ago and its capital Port-au-Prince, were relatively safe places with low crime, if we look at it compare, for example, with large Latin American capitals like Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Lima or any other that can be cited. This crime has a social intention, a very close coexistence between the PHTK government party, the Haitian state, and these criminal groups, and as I mentioned, the infiltration of paramilitaries who went to reinforce these groups, who had a very political function. specific. For example, I was able to interview residents of Bel-Air, a neighborhood where one of the most emblematic massacres perpetrated by these criminal groups was committed, in a context of massive mobilizations and with a modus operandi that does not correspond to a normal criminal group, basically what the residents of the neighborhood told us is that when there were mobilizations called at the National Palace, these criminal groups arrived in the working-class neighborhoods, blocked them, prevented people from entering and to go out and shoot people. . to any person who violates these imposed regulations. Its clear and obvious function was therefore to prevent massive social mobilization. Obviously the paramilitary phenomenon is a very complex phenomenon, it has already occurred in other places in Latin America and the Caribbean, these armed groups equipped from the outside, by the political class, then of course gain in operational capacity and also gain political autonomy. Therefore, it may even happen that they turn against their own creators, then we are talking about sectors with obscure interests, whose behavior is in reality very difficult to map or predict.

IN: Can the main contradiction in Haiti be reduced to a conflict of actors, between the gangs, the government and a possible military intervention? Or is it a problem of contradictions in a clientelist, neoliberal and neocolonized model, supported by imperial agents like the United States, Canada and France?

LR : I think what is happening now is that the paramilitary phenomenon is somehow beyond the control of its own creators. There is an attempt to normalize, even if it is apparent or forced, the situation in the country. Let’s keep in mind that the United States is in an electoral campaign, that in the United States there is a significant community not only Haitian but also Caribbean and that what happens fundamentally influences North American administrations. They know, and it is common knowledge, that everything that has happened in Haiti over the last 30 years is linked to the US State Department. Thus, in this context, voices are being raised again in favor of a new military intervention. In fact, we know that Joe Biden first tried to build a sort of MINUSTAH 2.0, and that he even called again on Brazil and President Lula da Silva for his country to exercise military command of this new mission. . Brazil and other Latin American countries refused to make this mistake, so the United States began looking for other partners and allies who would somehow allow it to outsource this occupation and to socialize the costs, more than economic, political and operational, of deploying an analytical force with a record as imperfect as that of the to MINUSTAH itself. In this context, if a country like Kenya or a country like El Salvador agreed to send troops to Haiti, the political leadership of this organization would continue to be under the orders of the Department of State and would be an outsourced mission of the States -United themselves. . I think there are organizations that, historically, have played a perhaps a little more progressive role in relation to Haiti, such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), but I think that unfortunately, Lately, they may have been concerned about new waves of migration that might occur. In their own country, they today play a much more complex role, much more ambivalent, even conservative, to the point of proposing to send Caribbean troops to intervene in Haiti. I must say that this has been supported even by analysts and lawyers from Kenya itself, that neither Kenya nor other countries like El Salvador have the capacity, nor the trained troops to take on heavily armed gangs, on a hostile territory, in a country and in a culture he does not know. Even a Kenyan jurist rightly said: why would we succeed where countries like France, the United States, Canada and Brazil have failed, countries which are more powerful, more politically relevant and whose armed forces and Are the police forces much more trained than ours? So I think it’s very interventionist, it’s already failed and it’s really going to come back, why try again?

IN: And to conclude this long interview, what future holds for the new Transitional Council, promoted by the very people who pillaged the country? What can we expect from the Haitian resistance 220 years after its Revolution?

LR : Finally, I believe that if this mission was not carried out, due to internal resistance from the United States itself, or from the countries which offered to send troops at that time, or even due to the Haitian mobilization protests, Basically we have mobilizations against the possibility of a new invasion, I think the other possible bet is to form again a kind of permanent transitional government, achieved through agreements between small leaders political and without any type of support. As I mentioned, Haiti hasn’t had an election since 2016, it has no executive power, its parliament closed in 2020, and its main courts have intervened. In my opinion, the only solution to this drama is political and there is no way to build the basic legitimacy of the Haitian State which allows an effective fight against armed bands if elections are not organized beforehand and the the election of a legitimate authority, or at least of a coalition government truly representative of all popular sectors of the country and not just on the part of certain major American, French and Canadian businessmen and interests.

Rebellion March 18, 2024

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Yohan Nezcarv