Haiti: Prime Minister Henry Resigns as Regime Collapses

A gang-led coup in Haiti has led to the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry. US imperialism is scrambling to regain control of the situation and has organized negotiations to create a transitional council to take power. But with the Haitian state in utter disarray, the gangs are moving to solidify their control of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

There had been a brief decline in gang-driven killings and kidnappings after the emergence of the Bwa Kale movement in April last year. Bwa Kale was a spontaneous uprising of neighborhood self-defense groups that erupted across the country to defend against the gangs.

But the Bwa Kale movement was decentralized and very heterogeneous. The movement did not manage to coalesce into a national movement with a united political program. Some neighborhoods, such as Canape Vert, remained relatively peaceful after the armed people had driven out the gangs. But in other areas, the neighborhood self-defense groups got caught up in the gang wars and allied with this or that gang to drive out other rival groups. In other areas, some of the neighborhood self-defense groups have transformed into gangs themselves.

Some of the gangs have threatened and retaliated against Bwa Kale. Other gangs have taken a different approach, such as G9, the most powerful gang alliance led by Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier. Since May of last year, he has tried to co-opt Bwa Kale, and has been seen in public wearing Bwa Kale T-shirts and has even encouraged people to join and support the movement. He would love nothing more than to bind the Bwa Kale movement to his own powerful gang.

By the end of summer last year, the gangs had recovered from the shock of the Bwa Kale movement. Gang violence was on the rise again. In August, an armed protest against gang violence organized by a church was attacked by a major gang in broad daylight. A prominent prosecutor was then assassinated in September.

Bwa Kale Image Dan Cohen Twitter
The Bwa Kale movement was decentralized and very heterogeneous. / Image: Dan Cohen, Twitter

In late September 2023, as plans were being solidified to send Kenyan paramilitary police to Haiti as part of a United Nations mission, Chérizier called for an uprising and announced that his gang was, “launching the fight to overturn Ariel Henry’s government in any way,” adding that, “our fight will be with weapons.”

By January 2024, the gangs were in control of around 80% of Port-au-Prince. The gangs launched an attack against the Solino neighborhood in Port-au-Prince. This was seen as a major offensive by the gangs. Controlling Solino would give them easy access to Canape Vert and other neighborhoods that had previously driven gangs out.

Henry overthrown

Henry’s regime had become increasingly weak and isolated. He had assumed power in the wake of the assassination of Jovenel Moïse but had never been elected. His regime had no legitimacy in the eyes of the people (or really in anyone’s eyes—with the exception of the imperialists, of course).

Henry repeatedly promised elections that were never held. The Haitian police and the military are outmanned and outgunned by the gangs. While the Haitian police tried to launch some operations against them, the state was not in a position to do anything substantial to stem the rising tide of gang violence.

The last lifeline of the Henry regime was a potential international force organized by the United Nations. US imperialism has been trying to organize a UN force to support and stabilize the Henry regime for years.

Kenya had agreed in October 2023 to lead a UN force to Haiti, but Kenya’s High Court had declared the UN operation unconstitutional. In February 2024, Henry travelled to Kenya to sign an agreement designed to meet the objections of the Kenyan Courts.

A new gang alliance, “Viv Ansanm,” emerged and quickly launched a coordinated assault on the Haitian state while Henry was out of the country. Within days, the gangs had attacked and torched some 30 state institutions, more than 600 homes, and over 500 vehicles. Thousands were left homeless and tens of thousands were forced to flee the capital in the wake of the attack.

UN Haiti Image public domain
The last lifeline of the Henry regime was a potential international force organized by the United Nations. / Image: public domain

Chérizier announced his plans to capture the chief of police and government ministers to prevent Henry’s return. Attacks by gangs at the country’s main airport and cargo port had more or less shut the country down. On March 2 and 3, gangs attacked numerous police stations and stormed two of the largest prisons in Haiti, with some 5,000 prisoners escaping. Many of these prisoners were former or current gang members who promptly swelled the ranks of the gangs.

With the airport shut down, Henry was unable to return to Haiti and was stranded abroad. At this point, US imperialism had concluded that the situation with Henry in power was untenable. Thus, Henry announced his resignation on March 12, 2024.

Transitional council

US imperialism, along with other Caribbean countries, announced a plan for the creation of a transitional council to replace Henry and take power. The plan was to create a nine-member council with seven voting positions. As reported by France 24:

Votes were offered to Pitit Desalin, Jean-Charles’ party; EDE/RED, a party led by former Prime Minister Claude Joseph; the Montana Accord, a group of civil society leaders, political parties, and others; Fanmi Lavalas, Aristide’s party; the January 30 Collective, which represents parties including that of former President Michel Martelly; the December 21 Agreement, a group that backed Henry; and members of the private sector. The remaining two nonvoting positions would go to a member from Haiti’s civil society and its religious sector.

It seems unlikely that this transitional council will ever be in a position to take power. Even if the imperialists are able to announce such a council, it is even less likely that it will be able to stabilize the situation. The proposed council would be composed of the establishment political parties. These parties are all discredited and, along with the Haitian state in general, have next to no legitimacy in the eyes of the people. Moreover, in terms of special armed bodies of men (the real basis of political power), the gangs are more powerful than the forces of the state.

The proposed transitional council in Haiti would be immediately faced with attacks from gangs. In fact, the plans for the transitional council are already falling apart. The final composition of the council was to be determined by Wednesday March 14. But many of the political parties refused to participate and Jean Charles Moïse, a prominent member of Pitit Desalin, has allied with Guy Philippe, who helped lead the coup against Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. They have announced their own three-person council.

On March 14, Chérizier also issued a message threatening to attack the leaders and political parties that were to form the transitional council. Gangs then launched an attack on a police academy, and the national police chief’s house was attacked and set on fire. Chérizier also said that Henry’s resignation was only, “a first step in the battle.”

Hands off Haiti!

The situation in Haiti rests on a knife’s edge. The gangs have essentially taken control of the capital. The gangs already outnumber and outgun the police and military and are spreading their reign of terror throughout the rest of the country.

Haitians gather on the streets of one of the many tent cities occupying the area of Leogane. Sailors and Marines are on the ground throughout Haiti providing disaster relief. The amphibious assault ship USS Batman along with amphibious dock landing ships USS Fort McHenry, USS Gunston Hall and USS Carter Hall are participating in Operation Unified Response and are providing military support capabilities to civil authorities to help stabilize and improve the situation in Haiti in the wake of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12.
The situation in Haiti rests on a knife’s edge. / Image: public domain

Following Henry’s resignation, Kenya has announced that its plan to send paramilitary police as part of a UN security force is now on hold. US imperialism is still looking to organize a force but doesn’t want to send its own troops. Canada and France, along with a number of other countries, have already rejected the idea of sending police or troops.

As the situation in Haiti continues to deteriorate, US imperialism will find it increasingly difficult to organize this international force. Everybody can see that a UN security force would face an impossible situation in Haiti. There is little financial reward and plenty of risk for the imperialists.

A UN force would be forced to go to war with the gangs and prop up a non-existent regime. The United Nations has zero legitimacy in Haiti. UN troops involved in the MINUSTAH mission left in their wake a sex abuse scandal and cholera outbreak. Thus, a UN mission in Haiti would not be well received by the Haitian people and is a not viable option for the imperialists.

The imperialists are particularly concerned about getting bogged down in a long-term occupation of Haiti. The gangs are well-armed and entrenched in Haiti’s cities, especially the capital. Breaking the gangs means urban warfare against an enemy that is difficult to identify, with no clear front lines. Such a conflict could easily escalate and mean opposition at home. Open warfare with the gangs on the streets of Haitian cities could also spark mass opposition in Haiti. Foreign military support would likely also mean conflicts with the mass movement.

However, a UN mission to Haiti cannot yet be entirely ruled out. The imperialists also worry that the political instability in Haiti could spread throughout the region. The Biden regime and other governments in the region are concerned about a mass exodus of refugees from Haiti. The Biden regime has already announced that it is prepared to use the navy to counter any such wave of refugees.

The more the situation deteriorates, the more the gangs threaten to take absolute control, the more pressure the imperialists will feel to do something about it despite the risks and lack of rewards.

Overthrow capitalism to fight the gangs

The problem of the gangs and the social collapse in Haiti cannot be resolved through police and military action. There is no solution to the problem of the gangs under capitalism. The general sickness of capitalism in Haiti has allowed the gangs to grow and metastasize like a cancer.

Politicians and the bourgeoisie have funded and employed the gangs to further their own interests. The corruption runs so deep that the entire capitalist system, including the state and the police, has become criminalized and gangsterised.

Imperialist troops might be able to defeat the gangs militarily, at great cost to the Haitian masses. However, even this will provide no long-term solution to the problem. An occupation by imperialist troops will do nothing to solve the root causes that have given rise to the gangs. An occupation by imperialist troops will not provide jobs, decent wages, housing, education, or healthcare.

Jimmy Barbecue Cherizier Image public domain
Chérizier is the leader of the most prominent gang alliance and appears to be the most powerful figure on the ground. / Image: public domain

Meaningful and significant improvements to living conditions are the only way to deal with the problem of the gangs in the long term. Even if an imperialist military intervention leads to the breaking of the G9 blockade and the defeat of the gangs, with no fundamental change in Haiti’s economic and political situation and the same conditions of poverty and misery, the gangs would arise all over again, and the Haitian masses would quickly find themselves in the exact same situation. This would mean a potentially long-term and brutal occupation by imperialist forces to keep the gangs in check.

Chérizier is the leader of the most prominent gang alliance and appears to be the most powerful figure on the ground. It is possible that Chérizier’s gang will take control of the capital although the establishment of a national regime based on the power of the gangs seems unlikely at the moment. Chérizier has presented himself as a sort of “revolutionary” strongman who can save the country from the crisis. It is clear, however, that Chérizier is no savior and that no stable regime will ever be established under the control of the gangs.

Capitalism has utterly failed in Haiti. What is needed is a total revolutionary sweeping away of all the corruption and rot of Haitian capitalism. The Haitian ruling class must be expropriated and their failed regime overthrown. The expropriation of the ruling elite will be a key step in overcoming the powerful connections of the gangs.

An insurrectionary mass movement in Haiti must develop an economic, political, and social program that can eradicate the poverty and misery that leads many to join the gangs. Good jobs, decent housing, adequate food, water, and healthcare are the political weapons that can be used to fight the gangs.

There is no way forward under capitalism. No solution will be found under an imperialist occupation. Imperialist troops will defend the status quo of capitalism and the continued rule of the elites and their imperialist allies. The economic and social crisis will continue and worsen. This means condemning the masses to continued poverty and misery, with no end in sight.

Overthrowing the entire capitalist system in Haiti is the task of the Haitian workers and poor themselves. The time is now to build a united revolutionary organization and to develop a revolutionary program. This is the only way out of the crisis for the Haitian masses.

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