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Haitian Community Defenders Fight US-Armed Death Squads

Above photo: Movement of Equality and Liberation for All Haitians (MOLEGHAF) organizes an event in Port-au-Prince in February 2024 against the genocide in Gaza. Movement of Equality and Liberation for All Haitians.

And Puppet Governments.

Haiti does not suffer from a lack of leadership; it suffers from foreign-backed repression of its talent and potential.

As the stars illuminate the dark alleyways of Solino, Ezayi’s heavy beige Timberlands stomp across the cracked concrete. He is on a mission. The night lookouts who stand guard at the western barricades against the marauding paramilitary gangs of the mass murderer Kempès Sanon do not have money to eat. When the night watchmen don’t eat during their shift, they get weak, drink kleren (moonshine) to trick their hunger and have a higher tendency to shirk their duties, or worse still, fall asleep. The enemy armed with modern weapons by the U.S. lurks around the corner. Washington bullets lull children, parents and grandparents to sleep under whatever furniture will protect them. Family members in the diaspora from East Flatbush, Brooklyn, to Little Haiti, Miami, call at all hours of the night, just hoping to hear a familiar voice.

The Haitian Bald Headed Party (PHTK) has tyrannically ruled Haiti since 2011. Now, as the guards sleep, warlord, escaped convict and mercenary Sanon prepares his next invasion of Solino, the second-biggest neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, after Cité Soley.

Ezayi, one of the coordinators of the Brigad Vijilans (self-defense brigades), makes the rounds to amass the 1,000 gouds ($7.63) needed for the dinner for eight of the people’s soldiers. A family two kilometers away deep in the Ri Ti Cheri area of the community responds that they can give 500 gouds. He calls Marius, a comrade who moonlights as a motorcycle taxi driver, and they complete the task. Ezayi is a leader of the Movement of Equality and Liberation for All Haitians (MOLEGHAF) who some call the Black Panthers of Haiti.

Solino’s son is always focused. Someone jokes about how his girlfriend has been looking for him for the past week. He does not bat an eyelash. The old crew teases Ezayi, calling him by his nickname, “Zizi, you haven’t seen a barber in a few years.” Another longtime friend chimes in: “Don’t bother him. He has no time to smile.” Ezayi has a singular focus: the defense of his first and only love, Solino.

The situation in Haiti is dynamic and popular leadership of organizations like MOLEGHAF, Fanmi Lavalas and Tèt Kole Ti Peyizan are spinning on a dime in order to respond.

The Fourth Pending U.S.-Led Invasion Of Haiti In 100 Years

The U.S. State Department, who unilaterally picked Ariel Henry to be Haiti’s prime minister in July of 2021, has now decided Henry no longer fits their interests and has forced him to step down. The Miami Herald reported that the Biden administration contacted Henry midflight urging him to form a transitional government. Henry was prevented from returning to Haiti on March 5 by paramilitary gangs who attempted to take the Toussaint Louverture International Airport, opening fire and hitting a plane bound for Cuba. Just as easily as the U.S. installed Henry against the people’s will, the FBI may have detained him in Puerto Rico. Perhaps the foreign policy establishment thinks that by sacking Henry and framing him as the fall guy they can convince an angry, hungry populace that this somehow represents change.

The imperial forces responsible for over half a million illegal U.S. guns in Haiti that fuel this unparalleled violence are now preparing their next move to keep Haiti subdued. For the past 18 months, the Biden administration has sought to facilitate what will be the fourth U.S.-led foreign invasion and occupation of Haiti in the last 100 years by deputizing Kenya, Benin, the Bahamas, and other western neocolonies to carry out the occupation. The U.S. will supply the money and weapons; the African and Caribbean colonial cannon fodder will provide the bodies. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has led a meeting of the CARICOM nations, a proxy force for U.S. power in the Caribbean, to appoint a transitional government and carry out the foreign invasion. The only Haitian representatives that can be considered for the U.S.-led transitional government have to agree to the occupation. The CIA remains active as well seeking a neocolony the U.S. can deputize to carry out this invasion.

Ezayi and his community see colonialism as Haiti’s number one enemy. In a February public statement analyzing the current political situation they wrote:

The American imperialists and their allies weakened all political strategies available to the oppressed.… Then they denigrated all symbols of sovereignty, undermining all means for national life. This is one reason why, until today, there is no political party capable of challenging Ariel Henry at the head of the country. It is a form of totalitarian power, where the poor masses are subjugated under the grip of the PHTK. Even democratic words have lost their value.

On March 2, paramilitary forces stormed the Haitian National Penitentiary and another prison helping over 4,000 prisoners escape. Among the escapees, there were prisoners accused of petty crimes years ago who had never seen a judge, and there were others convicted of violent and sexual crimes. A group of Colombian mercenaries imprisoned for their involvement with U.S. intelligence and the assassination of former President Jovenel Moïse begged for their lives. Footage emerged of thousands of the escapees gathered in Vilaj de Dye, the seaside slum where the notorious PHTK-affiliated Izo is in charge. As a massive crowd chanted “Ariel: Izo has gotten rid of you,” analysts were left to wonder if this power move by the paramilitary forces was meant to buttress their ranks with more shock troops with an immanent U.S.-sponsored military invasion just weeks away.

Bwa Kale Is Personal

Bwa Kale was the impromptu name given to the organic self-defense movement that sprang up in Port-au-Prince on April 24, 2023. Gang boss Ti Makak’s Laboule death squad was moving in on Kanapé Vè, a stable, better-off-than-most neighborhood in Port-au-Prince.

The police intercepted the kidnappers and assassins and arrested them. A local crowd realized the intentions of Ti Makak’s homicidal crew, who were high on kleren, and dragged them out of the police truck, stoning and burning them. The citizen’s self-defense movement known as Bwa Kale had officially begun.

Exasperated by mercenaries raping, looting and massacring their communities, neighborhoods set to kicking the sanguinary criminals out. The decentralized movement exploded, inspiring neighborhoods across the sprawling city to take every measure to defend themselves from government-linked death squads.

Bwa Kale’s momentum was transformative for Solino. Located on the border of the Kempès and PHTK-dominated Belè, Ezayi’s neighborhood has been the number one target of the PHTK as it sought to expand west across Port-au-Prince. The families of Solino, like the Republican families of the Spanish Civil War and the Red Army families during the Nazi onslaught of the Soviet Union, have but one slogan: “No pasarán!” (They shall not pass!)

During Kempès death drive in the summer of 2023, Ezayi’s father sought to escape with his life. Like many residents swarmed by U.S. bullets and the stampede of fleeing community members, his father was murdered. It is this loss and love that contextualizes Ezayi’s superhuman, hyper focus on his singular mission — to save Solino.

A Nation Full Of Leaders

Haiti’s enemies censor the very memory of ancestral resistance.

One of the many subtle racist tropes against Haiti seeks to deceive us into thinking “there is no leadership” or “all leaders are corrupt,” as the cliches go. The more accurate framing is that all United States and PHTK-sponsored leaders are bought off and manipulated. As investigative journalist Jake Johnston’s recently released book Aid State: Elite Panic, Disaster Capitalism and the Battle to Control Haiti shows, U.S. policy empowers and works with corrupt political leadership in Haiti because they can be relied upon to do the U.S.’s bidding. The U.S. has economic, diplomatic, military and political interests in Haiti. (Paul Farmer wrote The Uses of Haiti to address this very question.) Economists inform us, for example, that Haiti has the second-largest deposits of the rare mineral iridium in the Southeast Department. Bill and Hillary Clinton and their foundation have been two foreign personifications of foreign meddling in Haiti under the guise of humanitarian aid. It was Hillary Clinton who flew into Port-au-Prince in 2010 to offer the U.S.’s full endorsement of neo-Duvalierest Michel Martelly as president even though he had no popular support. The Haitian people teach us that in the paramilitary continuum that has led to the quagmire of today, Washington has supported three iterations of the paramilitary state, first under Martelly, then Moïse, and up until March 11, Ariel Henry. The U.S. will oversee the next handpicked successor. The media fury around U.S.-trained 2004 coup leader, Guy Philippe, indicates that Washington may work through him.

Meanwhile, those leaders who refuse to sell out to imperial interests are repressed and murdered. Peter Hallward’s Damming the Flood: Haiti and the Politics of Containment documents the U.S.-engineered coup and 2004 military invasion that saw the democratically elected president kidnapped and 7,500 elected officials booted from office. Haiti produces leaders like it produces mangos, coconuts and children’s smiles. But like Ezayi, these anonymous global heroes are under the gun. This researcher asked every witness and family member available who pulled the trigger on March 21, 2023? Was it G-9, G-Pèp or the police? Every answer contradicted the last.

There are dozens of engineers, doctors, mothers, organic intellectuals, teachers, youth cultural workers, masons, feminists, students and cultural workers across different neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince who lead their communities every day. Haiti does not suffer from a lack of talent; it suffers from the active repression of its talent and potential. The millions of sitwayen angage (engaged citizens) were architects of the February 7, 2021, national uprising that sought to remove the Haitian PHTK’s second dictator, Jovenel Moïse, from power. There are too many organic leaders to count.

How much easier is it to subscribe to racist tropes that every politician is corrupt in Haiti than to stand with the nameless, faceless, internet-less, electricity-less, social media-less leadership that resists every day?

In one interview with a foreign reporter, Ezayi explained that the modern-day “gang phenomenon” started with Washington’s imposition of dictator Michel Martelly in 2011. The ruling PHTK bragged about being “legal bandits” above the law and employing murderous gangs to do their enforcement because unlike the military or police, they could not be held accountable. The armed bands transformed almost overnight into government death squads armed with hundreds of thousands of U.S. weapons. Veteran Haitian community organizer and educator Jafrik Ayiti has pointed out some of the smoking guns linking the gangsters in flip flops down below in the oppressed communities and the Haitian state and business interests hidden away in the pristine hills of Petyonvil perched atop the city.

It is the incorruptible leadership of regular Haitians that the imperial U.S. government and its underlings most fear — and consequently target for liquidation.

At a meeting off Avenue John Brown in downtown Port-au-Prince, Naydi, Ezayi’s right-hand man, a MOLEGHAF leader and an agronomist, laid to waste the old paternalistic colonial myth. “Look at us. How many leaders are gathered right here? We have educators, doctors, lawyers, journalists. Men anpil chay pa lou (With many hands, the burden is lighter). Pipi gaye pa fè kim. (Dispersed pee-pee does not make foam),” he told attendees. “We are all leaders or we are all dead. We don’t have the luxury of quarreling with one another about who is a leader and who is not. We are all leaders.”

While Haiti’s exploiters and enemies repress and bury such examples of popular sovereignty, the internationalist movement needs to elevate their voices and examples to build global solidarity with the nation of 12 million people.

Baz La (The Base)

Any comrades who have to do an errand outside of the 27 neighborhoods of Solino are expected to check in every hour. If Ezayi has not heard from one of his trusted lieutenants, he gets nervous and starts calling them frantically. Tèt fwèt lè bagay cho (Keep a cool head when things heat up) is one of his guiding slogans.

In Fò Nasyonal last month, he spoke at a semi-clandestine meeting one neighborhood away. “We don’t need Kenya to invade us. We don’t need Taiwan to invade us. We don’t need a fourth U.S. occupation. If these foreign powers really wanted to help us, why don’t they support us so we can defend ourselves?”

“The paramilitaries have all the high-powered U.S. weapons while we defend ourselves with machetes, bottles, Molotov cocktails and handguns, if we can get ahold of them,” Ezayi said. “They want to disempower us, yet again. They make it look like we cannot help ourselves. If the U.S. would just get out of our way — for once!”

Two men appear on a motorcycle outside the meeting. Unknown to the young comrades serving as lookouts, they ask for Ezayi and another leader. The second line of defense perceives something is wrong. Microseconds and centimeters save lives in 2024 Port-au-Prince. The MOLEGHAF security signals the security detail inside the locked doors. The unknown assailants draw guns and bogart their way into the meeting. Ezayi is long gone, scaling a wall in the back where the formatè yo (trainers of cadre) painted a Che Guevara and Jan Jak Desalin mural.

Later on, back at the base, passing a small cup of bwa kochon (pig wood) moonshine around, Ezayi explains that, “If you don’t have a plan B and C in this city, you won’t last long. Port-au-Prince is Sniper City.” Afraid of death, he chuckles with the zetwal, as he mentally outlines the 20-some-odd tasks that await before night falls.

The Stars

Ezayi knows how to deal with foreign reporters. He knows they have mastered the art of getting the scoop they want by throwing some dirty dollars around and ignoring any inconvenient details. On this day, he was not in the mood for any shenanigans. A Haitian fixer, Wachlèt, had brought two reporters from France 24 to Solino. The foreign network had paid him handsomely. More than one Haitian journalist has been murdered trying to get a hot take for foreign networks. With the goud at 131 for one U.S. dollar and skyrocketing inflation, hunger leaves the Haitian employee no choice. The fixer knew the agreement. He could make his living, but he had to invest some of the money he received from foreigners, or he would be forced out.

Ezayi had a bad feeling about these reporters. He used Wachlèt to translate. He asked them what they knew about Haiti. He quizzed them on their thoughts on France and European nations’ support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza. The reporters failed the test. Ezayi asked for the money, gave Wachlèt his cut, took the rest and threw it in their chests. He told them they had five minutes to exit Solino.

Ezayi stays put behind the barricades, responding to interview requests if his cell phone signal cooperates. On Radio Ibo, one of the biggest radio stations in a country where electricity is rare, took to the airwaves to ask a question of the PHTK government: “Where is the Petro Caribbean money that you stole from us? Do you know how they answer us? With massacres. Kidnappings. Rape. Human rights violations. They make us refugees in our own city. They assassinate us. This is the government we are dealing with. That is the function of these paramilitary gangs. To take power away from us. To depopulate our poto mitan, the neighborhoods that have long been the backbone of resistance.”

Later in the evening, neighbors, local kids and comrades in arms yell to him “Anfom Zizi? (What’s good?)” when he passes by. They aspire to one day fill his Timberland boots. He jumps into the next interview confident the ancestors will hear the people’s prayers.

One night, he sees two neighborhood kids begging for some loose change. He calls their attention. “Evans and Emmanuel: Get over here!” he demands. “What did I tell you about begging, you rascals? Come on, let’s go!” He put his arm on each of their shoulders and walked them to the sausage cart. “When you’re hungry, come talk to your uncles. We Haitians have never begged, and never will.”

He tells them to look up at the stars with him, dropping ancestral, love-life lessons on the 10-year-old orphans of the paramilitary war: “You see those stars up there? You see how clearly they illuminate the sky for us? The blan [the imperialists/white man] and aloufa [oligarchs] cannot see those zetwal [stars]. With all of their Hollywood, Times Square and lights, they are too full of themselves to care about the peace of others and appreciate God’s beauty.”

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