by Yoav Elinevsky
Lavalas (Creole for flood or avalanche), later also a political party called Fanmi Lavalas, emerged as a mass movement during the 1980s struggle to free Haiti from the brutal Duvalier dictatorships. In two landslide elections in 1990 and 2000, it carried Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the presidency, although both of democratic victories by the people of Haiti were violently suppressed. A 1991 coup removed Aristide from power and unleashed a brutal campaign of repression targeting leaders and supporters of Lavalas. In 2004, a US/French invasion of Haiti put an end to the second presidency of Aristide, and once again unleashed a campaign of terror on supporters of Lavalas, this time with the active participation of foreign troops.
In 2005, unexpectedly because of years of extreme violent repression, Fanmi Lavalas won the elections that led to the presidency of René Préval. To prevent Fanmi Lavalas from winning future elections, the government, supported by international forces, banned the party from participating in the legislative or presidential elections in 2009-10, in what former president Aristide called “an electoral coup d’état.”
The survival and even growth of the Lavalas movement comes from the deep roots it has among the poor Haitian working class, who are similarly forced to fight to survive every day under an oppressive system designed to benefit the tiny local elite and a group of imperial powers (the United States, France, Canada) instead of the Haitian people.
On July 31, 2021, after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, Fanmi Lavalas issued a statement about the ongoing crisis in Haiti and what needs to happen politically to move Haiti forward. The statement includes the following:
“Since the electoral coup d’etat that put in power the legal bandits of the PHTK party (Tet Kale/Skin Heads), Haiti has been experiencing progressively worse conditions: repression, corruption, kidnappings, and federations of gangs that are spreading terror by massacring residents of working-class neighborhoods, burning down their homes and forcing people to flee their neighborhoods. One of the PHTK’s last-ditch moves is to now hastily organize another election/selection so that they can remain in power. This means that they will succeed themselves on the corpses of the people.
“Things are indeed grave, but the majority Haitian population, including all sectors of society, are conscious of the calamitous situation that the PHTK and its international partners have brought upon the country, and they have decided to fight to change the system. The determination and resistance of the population remain steadfast, but the enemy is powerful.
“For Fanmi Lavalas, overturning the cauldron means the destruction of this predatory, criminal and imported government, and replacing it with a government that works to provide needed services to the people, improves living conditions, facilitates the return home of the daughters and sons of Haiti and regains our dignity as a sovereign people.”
For the complete statement, see https://haitisolidarity.net/voices-from-haiti/fanmi-lavalas-position-statement-july-31-2021/
Massachusetts Peace Action Stands in Solidarity with the People of Haiti
On March 29, joining a Global Day of Protest to mark the anniversary of the 1987 Haitian Constitution written after the 1986 overthrow of Jean-Claude Duvalier, MAPA organized a rally outside the JFK Federal Building in Boston to protest US government support for the repressive regime of the then-president Moise and of US neo-colonialism in Haiti. The rally was well attended and included members of the Haitian community in the area.
On July 28, MAPA organized a rally outside the Haitian consulate in downtown Boston in support of the right of the Haitian people to self-determination and in opposition to a foreign military invasion and occupation of Haiti. July 28 is the anniversary of the 1915 US invasion and occupation of Haiti, which led to deep harms still felt today.
At the end of the rally, participants Shey Jaboin and Brian Garvey met with Hans Charles, the Consul General of Haiti in Boston. Consul General Charles stated that his biggest concern was that gangs in Haiti were creating violence and instability across the country. He suggested that peace activists in the US focus on preventing firearms and bullets from being sold, legally or illegally, to Haiti. He said that Haiti does not manufacture firearms or bullets and that the weapons being used to create violence in Haiti are not coming from other countries in Latin America either. Rather, the come from the United States.
While MAPA supports ending the export of American weapons to Haiti, the Consul General failed to acknowledge that his illegitimate government, under Moise, had collaborated with armed gangs to kill and terrorize the leaders, activists, and supporters of the Haitian popular movement. The effort to silence the popular democratic opposition and ensure the continuation of a brutally unjust economic and political system in Haiti is ongoing. The prevalence of gangs is a product of exclusion and extreme poverty–not the root cause of the unrest in Haiti. Decades-long efforts by American and local elites to protect and reinvent this oppressive system by any means possible, including coups and military invasions, will not stop Haitians from fighting for and winning their freedom and independence, including their right to create their own political and economic system that benefits the majority of the Haitian people.
In August, MAPA established the Haiti Solidarity Subgroup, which is part of the Latin America/Caribbean Working Group. The new subgroup will organize educational and solidarity activities with Haiti, including a campaign–Justice for Haiti–to demand that France repay the $28 billion it extorted from Haiti in 1825, and pay reparations for the slavery and colonialism France imposed to enrich itself. Everyone is welcome to join our Haiti Solidarity Subgroup. For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 617-354-2169.
— Yoav Elinevsky is co-chair of Massachusetts Peace Action’s Latin America/ Caribbean Working Group and chair of its Haiti Solidarity Subgroup