Haiti: Black Despots and White Rulers

By Dr. Jemima Pierre on February 17, 2021

SF Demo in support of Haiti Photo: Bill Hackwell

The horror story in Haiti since 2004 is not really about despotic Black government, but is the consequence and crime of global white rule.

The past week has seen growing protests against the contested presidency of Haiti’s Jovenel Moïse. An unpopular figure who has ruled without a mandate, and, increasingly, by decree, Moïse refused to relinquish power when his presidential term expired on February 7, 2021. While claiming that his term ends in February 2022, Moïse has lashed out against his political rivals, arresting his critics, members of opposition political parties, and Supreme Court judges, all the while consolidating his draconian, some would say dictatorial, rule over Haiti.

How Haiti arrived at this moment is predictable and unsurprising. Moïse’s election was marred by fraud, extremely low voter turnout, and protests challenging his candidacy. He was handpicked by his predecessor, Michel Martelly, a neo-Duvalierist and former member of the notorious Tonton Macoutes who himself was installed by the Obama administration. As with Martelly, Moïse’s path to the Haitian presidency was paved by U.S., Canadian, and French funding and support. And like Martelly, Moïse has been credibly accused of corruption, embezzlement, and the theft of national funds. Moïse has also followed Martelly’s lead in expanding the revived Haitian military. He refused to organize parliamentary elections, allowing the terms of parliament to expire in January 2020 in order to rule by decree. Moïse’s administration has been exceedingly brutal in its repression of Haitian activists groups, widening and deepening death squad style repression across the country, allegedly funding and emboldening groups such as the “G9” – a violent gang led by former police member, Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier  – which has been terrorizing pro-democracy activists.

Yet, it is all too easy to demonize Moïse. As calls for his removal increase, many critics have fallen into a typical trap when it comes to Haiti: focusing on one individual – the invariably “Black despot” – as the source and root of all evil in Haiti’s politics. By doing so, rarely are important questions asked about how Moïse came to power, how he has been able to get away with his increasingly autocratic actions and, until now, how he has survived calls for his ouster, let alone the curtailment of his powers. To ask such questions is to recognize that Moïse is not a sovereign political force. Instead, Moïse is the product of a broader system blocking Haiti’s democratic path and sovereignty, a system that is built and maintained by the white rulers of the world.

To understand how white rule functions in Haiti is to recognize that Haiti is and has been under foreign military and political control. The second occupation, following the first occupation from 1915 to 1934, began in 2004 soon after the U.S.-France-Canada-backed 2004 coup d’état against the popularly elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide. This coup d’état led to the establishment, in June 2004, of a multinational military occupation force under the auspices of the United Nations (with changing acronyms and shifting mandates over the years). It is an occupation that is led and controlled by a group of white nations and white-dominated institutions: the United States, France, Canada, the United Nations, and the OAS. This is in conjunction with the CORE Group  – a group composed of special representatives from the UN Secretary-General and the Organization of American States, as well as ambassadors from Brazil, Canada, France, Spain, the European Union, and the U.S. The Core group appointed itself as arbiters of Haitian politics.

It is these white rulers of the world who continue to fund and supply the Moïse government with arms, ammunition, and tear gas. It is the white rulers who spent millions building prisons in Haiti and funding and training the Haitian police and military. It is the whiter rulers who have turned a blind eye to the atrocities of the Moïse administration. It is the white rulers who have condoned the lack of parliamentary elections, the ruling of the country by decree, and the rewriting of the Haitian constitution. Most importantly, it is the white rulers who have affirmed Moïse’s illegal extension of his ruling mandate.

The fight for Haitian sovereignty is against these white rulers of the world. Indeed, it is easy to focus on the Black despot – Moïse as the dictator in the making. But we cannot ignore that there is a global white supremacist structure that creates the condition of possibility for someone like Moïse. This is the structure that exacts its power with laser precision, without regard to human rights or sovereignty. Especially when it comes to Haiti.  It is also a structure that can easily replace Moïse with another despot when he is no longer useful to the white rulers.

At this moment of intensifying crisis, the questions confronting us should be: what does it mean to speak of elections, the rule of law, democracy, and constitutional mandates in Haiti when its people have no rights – the Haitian nation-state, no sovereignty – that the white rulers are bound to respect? What is a constitutional crisis – what are elections – when a nation is under full political and military occupation?

And how do Haitian people demolish this diabolical system and banish its white rulers once and for all?

Jemima Pierre is a member of Black Alliance for Peace and a professor of Black Studies and Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Source: Black Agenda Report