A Year of Growing Revolution: A Retrospective on 2019

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Thousands of Haitians demonstrated almost non-stop for three months, demanding, not just Jovenel Moïse’s resignation, but “system change.”

If 2018 was the year that the uprising against President Jovenel Moïse and his Haitian Bald Headed Party (PHTK) began, 2019 was the year that it grew to become a full-scale revolution in the making.

As PetroChallenger Gilbert Mirambeau, Jr. (whose viral August 2018 Tweet helped spark the “Where is the PetroCaribe money?” movement) said in a recent interview: “This is not a struggle against a government. It is a struggle against a system.”

Indeed, “system change” is the watch-word one hears often from the youths skirmishing with police patrols. The threat that 2019’s “lock-down” mobilizations present to the capitalist system in Haiti, where factories and businesses have been shuttered for weeks on end, has motivated many leading figures of Haiti’s comprador bourgeoisie – like Reginald Boulos or Bernard Craan – to fund and posture in support of the revolt in an attempt to salvage the system. The intransigent Jovenel, with his backing from an equally pig-headed U.S. President Donald Trump, is threatening to bring the whole kit and kaboodle down, they fear.

September through November saw almost non-stop demonstrations with the regime playing pure defense. But in December (when, historically, popular mobilizations slow down for the holidays), Jovenel, the U.S. Embassy, the OAS, UN, and Vatican ramped up their counter-offensive of pushing for “dialogue” and “compromise,” calls they eschew in Venezuela and Bolivia.

Interim Prime Minister Jean Michel Lapin, formerly Culture and Communication Minister, took over Haiti’s government on Mar. 21.

The magic date, they think, is Jan. 13, 2020, when Haiti’s Parliament will expire because elections have not been held. At that point, Jovenel Moïse will be able to rule by decree and impose any kind of Prime Minister and government that he chooses, since Parliamentary ratification will be moot. The two PM candidates he has proposed – Jean Michel Lapin and Fritz William Michel – since Jean Henry Céant’s ouster were never ratified.

But, as the Haitian proverb says, this may be a case of “byen konte, mal kalkile” – counting well but calculating poorly. By removing all brakes on Jovenel Moïse and any buffer between him and the enraged Haitian masses, U.S. strategists may only make the situation worse. Jovenel has already canceled plans to speak, as tradition dictates, at the Jan. 1 independence ceremonies in Gonaïves out of fear for his security and large demonstrations.

Meanwhile, as the crisis persists, Haitian progressives are slowly but surely building the political organizations and parties which will hopefully soon be able to convert Haiti’s giant mobilizations from human waves crashing against rocks into organized and disciplined armies fighting for social and system change.

The following is a brief review of significant events in Haiti and its diaspora from the past 12 months.

Rally and press conference outside the Brooklyn Courthouse before the trial.

Jan. 7, 2019Haïti Liberté, Family Action Network Movement (FANM), and nine other plaintiffs bring suit in Federal Court in Brooklyn against the Trump administration for violating the law and procedure in terminating Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians in 2018.

Jan. 10, 2019 – For the first time, Haiti votes against Venezuela at the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, finally succumbing to U.S. pressure that it condemn Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro as “illegitimate.”

Jan. 31, 2019 – Haiti’s Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes (CSCCA) issued the first of two reports on government corruption and malfeasance in pulling money from the PetroCaribe Fund, fed by revenues from the sale of Venezuelan oil from 2008 to 2018.

Sur fond de scandale Petrocaribe, des manifestations réclamant la démission de l’actuel président Jovenel Moïse ont symboliquement repris le 7 février, date anniversaire de la chute de Jean-Claude Duvalier « Baby Doc » en 1986

Feb. 7, 2019Giant demonstrations demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse rock cities and towns across Haiti, fueled by the CSCCA report and Haiti’s betrayal of Venezuela. For the next 10 days, the “Ayiti Lòk” (Haiti Lockdown) mobilization paralyzes all businesses, government offices, and schools across the nation.

Seven foreign mercenaries in Haitian police custody.

Feb. 17, 2019 – Haitian police arrest seven heavily-armed foreign mercenaries near Haiti’s central bank in the capital. They were there, a joint investigation by Haiti Liberté and The Intercept revealed, to steal $80 million from a Venezuelan PetroCaribe escrow account in the Bank of the Republic of Haiti (BRH) and transfer it to an account controlled by President Jovenel Moïse. Through U.S. Embassy intervention, the mercenaries are illegally freed from jail and flown back to the U.S., where they are never charged with any crime.

Feb. 25, 2019 – Experts from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) begin a 12-day visit to Haiti during which they structure a $229 million three-year no-interest loan to Haiti. But so far, there is no government to receive it.

Feb. 26, 2019 – After having been arrested for arms trafficking on Oct. 26, 2018, former chief of the Haitian National Police Godson Orélus is freed by an appeals court in Gonaïves.

Prime Minister Jean Henry Céant is ousted by Haiti’s deputies.

Mar. 18, 2019 – In cahoots with President Jovenel Moïse, Haiti’s Chamber of Deputies ousts Prime Minister Jean-Henry Céant.

Mar. 21, 2019 – President Jovenel Moïse nominates Céant’s former Culture Minister Jean Michel Lapin to be his new Prime Minister.

Mar. 26, 2019 – Haiti’s Chamber of Deputies raises Haiti’s minimum wage in various sectors. For assembly factory workers, it rose from 420 gourdes ($4.43) to 750 gourdes ($7.92) per day.

The founding ceremonies of the new opposition front called Progressive Opposition Forces (FOP) on Mar. 27 in Port-au-Prince. Credit: Elysée Luckner Vil

Mar. 27, 2019 – A new opposition coalition, the Progressive Opposition Force (FOP) is formed in Port-au-Prince.

Apr. 9, 2019 At the OAS, Haiti again votes with Washington against Venezuela, recognizing the ambassador of self-proclaimed President Juan Guaido.

Apr. 11, 2019 – Federal Judge William F. Kuntz issues a preliminary injunction blocking the Trump administration’s 2018 decision to end TPS for Haitians.

May 5, 2019 – At a FOP press conference in Port-au-Prince, Jean André Victor of MOPOD proposes that the Haitian opposition establish a self-proclaimed president and parliament. The idea doesn’t get far.

May 9, 2019 – In Limbé, Haitian police arrest 53 alleged members of infamous criminal Arnel Joseph’s gang for illegal possession of weapons.

May 20, 2019 – Haiti’s judges, lawyers, and other justice workers go on strike nationally demanding back salaries, better work conditions, and the repair of courthouses. Interns at the capital’s Hospital of Haiti’s State University (HUEH) and several other hospitals around the country also went on strike that day demanding back wages and better conditions and security.

May 31, 2019 – The CSCCA releases its second report on PetroCaribe corruption. This one is an even greater bombshell than January’s because it reveals that two companies (that were in fact one in the same) belonging to Jovenel Moïse received close to $2 million in pre-paid no-bid road repair contracts that were never carried out.

Jun. 4, 2019 – Workers at the General Direction of Taxes (DGI) go on strike to demand a wage increase.

Haitians are taking to the streets to demand systemic change because they have lost faith that another election alone can bring about a more representative government.

Jun. 9, 2019 – Outraged by the latest CSCCA report, thousands take to the streets around Haiti demanding the president’s resignation.

Jun. 10, 2019 – Journalist Pétion Rospide of Radio Sans Fin is fatally shot in his car in Port-au-Prince. The opposition lays responsibility for the killing on the government.

Journalist Pétion Rospide

Jun. 16, 2019 – Led by journalists, thousands march in the capital to protest the assassination of Pétion Rospide and demand Jovenel’s resignation.

 Jun. 19, 2019 – Washington’s ambassador to the OAS, Carlos Trujillo, led an unauthorized and widely denounced delegation to Haiti to show support for President Moïse.

Jun. 21, 2019 – Haiti’s largest opposition coalition baptizes itself the Consensual Alternative to Reestablish Haiti (ACRH) in a press conference at the capital’s Oloffson Hotel.

Jul. 2, 2019 – The Petro-Challenger group Nou Pap Dòmi (We’re not sleeping) unveils a 13 point program for change that differs from the traditional opposition’s strategy.

Jul. 13, 2019 – Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen makes a four-hour pit stop in Haiti, underlining the Haitian regime’s fragility.

Infamous gang leader Anèl Joseph shown just after his capture by Haitian police in the southern town of Cavaillon at a hospital where he had gone to treat a leg wound.

Jul. 22, 2019 – Haitian police arrest infamous gang leader Arnel Joseph in Aux Cayes. The same day, Jovenel Moïse proposes former Finance Ministry chief of staff Fritz-William Michel for prime minister, Lapin having failed four times to garner parliament’s ratification.

August 2019 – Fuel prices spike as gas shortages are felt throughout Haiti because the Haitian government cannot pay what it owes gas distributors.

Aug. 23, 2019 – President Moïse replaces Haitian National Police (PNH) chief Michel-Ange Gédéon with Normil Rameau.

Les grands dirigeants du Forum à partir de la gauche: Josué Mérilien, Dominique Saint-Eloi , Camille Chalmers, Edgard Leblanc Fils et au centre avec le micro Chavannes Jean-Baptiste do Mouvement Paysan de Papaye

Aug. 29-30, 2019 – Opposition groups meet in Papaye, on Haiti’s Central Plateau to map a strategy and establish the Patriotic Forum of Papaye.

Aug. 31, 2019 – Wearing a pink party dress, Sarah Poisson infiltrates and disrupts a pro-government gala in New York, featuring former president Michel Martelly, by holding up a sign asking “Kote kòb PetroCaribe a?” (Where’s the PetroCaribe money?), thereby creating a viral sensation on Haitian social media groups.

Sep. 1-3, 2019 – Category 5 Hurricane Dorian hits the Bahamas’ Great Abaco and Grand Bahama, killing dozens of Haitians and leaving thousands of them homeless and facing deportation.

Sep. 2, 2019Major demonstrations provoked by fuel shortages and price hikes rock Haiti, again demanding Jovenel step down.

Prime Minister nominee Fritz William Michel was approved by Haiti’s Chamber of Deputies on Sep. 3. He is now scheduled to appear before Haiti’s Senate on Sep. 12.

Sep. 3, 2019 – After three postponements during August and despite the room’s trashing by opposition deputies, Haiti’s lower house votes to ratify Fritz-William Jean for Prime Minister. However, the Senate never votes, and he soon fades from view.

Sep. 8, 2019 – The Consensual Alternative to Reestablish Haiti (ACRH) holds an official launching congress in Mirebalais.

Sep. 15-17, 2019Burning barricades, flash demonstrations, and a general strike paralyze Haiti as demonstrators demand lower fuel prices and Jovenel Moïse’s resignation.

Sep. 16, 2019 – Haitian police execute in cold blood Vladimir Fédé, 30, in Port-au-Prince’s Diquini neighborhood.

The PHTK Sen. Jean Marie Ralph Fethière firing his pistol outside Parliament on Sep 23. He wounded two. Credit: Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters

Sep. 23, 2019 – Ruling party Sen. Jean Marie Ralph Fethière fires his pistol wildly outside the Parliament, wounding two, as businesses close, demonstrations rage, and buildings are burned in the capital and other towns. The president cancels his travel to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly.

Sep. 24 – Oct. 12, 2019 – Haiti is once again “locked down” for over two weeks – its streets bare, businesses, government offices, and schools closed, embassy personnel grounded –  as demonstrators mount barricades and demonstrations to demand Jovenel’s resignation and to warn against foreign intervention. Police and paramilitaries kill dozens of demonstrators and militants.

Eight of the nine members of the Consensual Alternative for the Refounding of Haiti’s “Commission for the Transfer of Power” tasked with planning “the immediate and orderly departure of Jovenel Moïse.”

Oct. 8-13, 2019Rival opposition coalitions name their committees to ensure a transition from Jovenel’s regime to a provisional government.

Oct. 13, 2019 – In one of Haiti’s largest demonstrations ever, tens of thousands turn out to a demonstration organized by Haiti’s most popular musicians demanding that Jovenel step down.

On Oct. 15, President Jovenel Moïse gave an outdoor press conference, saying it would be “irresponsible” for him to resign.

Oct. 15, 2019 – After weeks of absence from the public eye, Jovenel Moïse holds a brief Palace press conference to say that it would be “irresponsible” for him to step down. He claims to be fighting “against a system,” an attempt to coopt growing calls for systemic change, not just Jovenel’s ouster.

Oct. 15, 2019 – The UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) finally leaves Haiti, ending 15 years of foreign military occupation of Haiti. It is replaced by the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti ( BINUH), a purely advisory mission.

Oct. 20-22, 2019 – Giant demonstrations demanding Jovenel Moïse’s resignation and no foreign intervention rock towns across Haiti, involving the Christian religious sector and students.

Oct. 22, 2019 – A new opposition coalition named “Mache Kontre (Walk to Meet Together) is formed, made up of Haiti’s social-democratic parties.

Les policiers protestent le dimanche 27 octobre

Oct. 27, 2019Hundreds of police officers march through the capital to demand a wage hike, better work conditions, and the right to unionize.

Oct. 28-29, 2019 – Demonstrators hold two days of “bare streets” mobilization to force the government from power.

Nov. 3, 2019 – In Brooklyn, NY, close to 200 Haitians march down Nostrand Avenue from Eastern Parkway to Newkirk Avenue to demand Jovenel Moïse’s resignation and condemn U.S., UN, and OAS support of his regime. Similar marches take place in Montreal and Miami.

Nov. 5, 2019 – Yet another opposition coalition, the Democratic Bloc for National Recovery, is formed, composed of 37 organizations.

Tout le beau monde de l’opposition traditionnelle était au rendez-vous à l’hôtel Marriott à Turgeau, Port-au-Prince.

Nov. 8-10, 2019 – Haiti’s five principal opposition coalitions meet at Port-au-Prince’s Marriott Hotel in an effort to hammer out an operational unity.

Nov. 12, 2019 – Arriving on an American Airlines flight, Haitian-American U.S. Marine Jacques Yves Sebastien Duroseau tries to smuggle into Haiti three rifles and five pistols in six pieces of luggage. He is discovered, arrested, and jailed.

Nov. 17, 2019 – Haitian police officers hold a second demonstration in the capital to demand better wages, working conditions, and a union.

New U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft delivers a statement following a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Nov. 20, 2019 – U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, visits Haiti in an attempt to broker dialogue between the opposition and Jovenel Moïse.

Nov. 28, 2019 – Former MINUSTAH chief Edmond Mulet proposes militarily reoccupying Haiti at a conference, which did not include Haitians, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic entitled “Destabilization of Haiti: Obstacles and Challenges.”

Dec. 5, 2019 – Under the leadership of former Senate president Déjean Bélizaire, a second bogus accord, which would deliver a “consensus Prime Minister” was signed by regime allies at the Kinam II Hotel in Pétionville. One analyst characterized is as an “accord of dupes.”

De gauche à droite: le président haïtien Jovenel Moise, l’ambassadeur haïtien à Washington Hervé Denis, le sous-secrétaire d’Etat américain aux affaires politiques, M. David Hale et l’ambassadeur américain en Haïti Mme Michèle Sison

Dec. 6, 2019 – David Hale, the U.S. State Department’s Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, visits Haiti to, like Craft, promote dialogue between Jovenel and the opposition.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaking on Dec. 14, 2019 at the 17th Summit of ALBA.

Dec. 14, 2019 – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announces that his nation will resume the PetroCaribe Alliance in the first half of 2020, but a Venezuelan official says that Haiti has “excluded itself” from the cheap oil and generous credit program.

Dec. 16, 2019 – Under the leadership of U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State of Western Hemisphere Affairs Cynthia Kierscht, a conference of Haitian and Dominican businessmen was held in Miami to discuss cross-border commerce, among other issues.

For the past 18 months, Haiti’s masses have been in a state of almost permanent mobilization to demand Jovenel Moïse’s resignation. The push for his removal will likely sharpen if Haiti is excluded from the relaunched PetroCaribe alliance.

Dec. 18-19, 2019 – The BINUH and Vatican hold a meeting at the Vatican’s office with opposition members and government allies. At the end, the BINUH issues the results of a supposed poll it undertook, saying that “nine out of 10 Haitians support dialogue as the best way to get out of the current situation.” The Haitian opposition denounces the report as another attempt to bolster Jovenel Moïse, issued the same day that Kierscht arrived in Haiti to meet with the president and business leaders. They vow that the mobilization to oust Jovenel Moïse will continue in 2020, starting Jan. 1, Haitian independence day.

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