Haiti: End the Silence over Erosion of Democracy

The international community is ignoring one of the worst humanitarian and social crises in the history of Haiti, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In recent years, the Caribbean nation has seen a complete disintegration of public services, the breakdown of the rule of law and widespread human rights abuses.

The current administration of Jovenel Moïse has brought about levels of endemic corruption not seen since the end of the Duvalier autocratic regime in 1986. Last year, Haiti’s Court of Auditors documented the embezzlement of 1.459 billion Euros from an oil agreement with Venezuela, originally intended for development and infrastructure projects. Haitian businesspeople, the political class and the president himself are involved.

As law enforcement is corroded and criminal gangs take control, horrifying massacres have become increasingly common in the country. In 2018, 71 people were killed in the massacre of La Saline, a poor neighbourhood in the capital Port-au-Prince. Independent investigations have pointed out the connection of the government to the bloodbath, but most of the perpetrators have never been charged. Three similar atrocities have occurred since then, including an episode in early September when 12 people were brutally murdered.

Trade unionists are faced with systemic repression, with a wave of dismissals, arbitrary arrests and death threats targeting the few sectors where workers have been able to organise unions such as in education, the public sector and in Export Processing Zones. Attacks on unions by government ministers are common, with the Education Minister transferring leaders of the Education Union, against whom arrest warrants have been issued. The Public Works Minister, seeking to rush through privatisation in the electricity sector, has ordered arrest warrants against electricity union leaders.

A further example of the endemic corruption and abuse concerns credible allegations of systematic sexual abuse of girls at the national football academy and confiscation of their passports. The president of the national football federation, Yves Jean-Bart, and three other officials have been suspended by FIFA as investigations continue.

Moïse rules as a de facto dictator, since last year’s scheduled legislative elections never took place and the country currently lacks parliamentary representation. He is on course to seize even more power having recently called a referendum to reform the constitution, which, under the current conditions, cannot be done freely or legitimately.

“The international community has been sitting on their hands while the working people of Haiti endure relentless abuses and hardship by a violent and corrupt elite. Moïse has personally benefited from the apathy. He feels empowered to continue ruling by force without fearing any consequences coming from abroad”, said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary. “Only by breaking the silence at the international level will Haitian civil society be able to gather strength to restore democracy”.

Responding to the need for action, the ITUC and its Haitian affiliates, CTH and CTSP, are co-signatories of ‘Stop Silence Haiti’ a new international coalition of human rights organisations demanding the end of impunity in the country and rejecting Moïse’s power grab. Find out more about the campaign on here.