Haitian activist, musician and member of the Rasin Kan Pèp La socialist party, Chango Bastia, talks to Kosmodromio about the social and political situation in Haiti following the assassination of president Jovenel Moise, the US presence in the country and the music as an instrument of class stuggle. Watch the whole interview on our YouTube channel.
How has life changed in Haiti since Jovenel Moise’s assassination and what do the average people say about it?
First of all, we have to understand that after the fact of Jovenel Moise’s death there is a sense of threat all around the country. Τhere is a fear, people are feared, we don’t know what will happen next. The situation is a little bit better know, because the funeral happened yesterday [Friday 23/7] morning, but the most important thing is we don’t feel a real change, it is fear what we feel more than change. That is because during Moise’s presidency there is a lot of people particularly in the poor neighbourhoods living in that situation of threat –by the gangs, the police etc.- everyday.
So we need to understand that fear is not a new feeling. The PHTK regime tried to present Jovenel Moise as a defender, as a savior of the poor people. This a joke, we have to understand that Jovenel Moise was a child of the oligarchy, a child of the bourgeoisie in Haiti, and the bourgeoisie gave him all the means so he can make his campaign during the election. Imagine that he was the only candidate having a helicopter to travel around the country for his campaign, no other candidate had this privilege.
What we need to make clear is that after Moise’s assassination the US embassy, the State Department, the US imperialists are more present, getting more power during this crisis, doing pretty much everything they want. It was like that before, after all Haiti remains a colony of the USA, but now it’s getting worst.
Could you give us a general idea about the political situation in Haiti? What are the main political parties in your country?
PHTK, Moise’s party is the official party of the oligarchy, but all the main political parties in Haiti are linked with the oligarchy. Even if their origins are different and their discourse and structure is left-wing (like Fanmi Lavalas or Platfòm Pitit Desalin for example), when they come in power you don’t see much difference.
That is why my comrades and I tried to create a new political party since 2009, named Haitian Socialist Party or Rasin Kan Pèp La, to make sure we have a new voice for the working class, for the poor people. We don’t want a political party just fighting for power, but we fight for power so we can change something. Because we have this experience, political parties talk about change, the working class, the poor etc. and when they are in power they change their mind, becoming the tools of oligarchy. We are also trying to create a space of dialogue, a platform between the many small leftist political parties and organizations so we can be more powerful to fight against the parties of the oligarchy.
You described the situation after Moises’s death as a situation where the USA have the upper hand more than they did before in their relationship with Haiti. How was this achieved on behalf of USA?
Let me give you an example. The source of the power in Haiti today is the police. And unfortunately the police is totally controlled by the US embassy, the State Department and the FBI. Also, right now in Haiti we have political groups – both left-wing and right-wing- and a civil society, meeting and organizing more than a month, trying to give a Haitian solution to the crisis. But, the US ambassador and the representative of UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) try to avoid this solution and they try to make sure that nothing’s gonna change.
So you are saying that the structures of power are determined by Washington and that in Washington prevails the perception that “Haiti is my colony”?
Yes, exactly. They say that Haiti is an independent country, but they treat Haiti like a colony. They control almost everything, they don’t allow Haitian people to give a solution to the crisis. They send a new special representative from the State Department in Haiti, trying to make sure as I told you that nothing is going to change and they created the organization called Core Group – composed of ambassadors from USA, Canada, France etc.- to support Moise. Although that during Moise’s term the whole country transformed into a gangster country, with the Human Rights Organisation releasing reports that proved the link between the gangsters and Moise’s regime and despite the fact that the evidences were clear, the US continued to support him until his death.
This is a fail of the UN, of the US embassy, a fail of the neocolonial project in Haiti. Finally, the only claim of the US project is election, they say ‘’we need to go to election’’. They do that because they want to be sure that we have a bad election, full of protests, violence and irregularities, because instability keeps the US happy. Happy cause Haiti is a space where the white supremacy project who control the black people around the world can say ‘’You see them, black people can’t govern themselves’’. Haiti is a metronome to control the whole region in terms of black people view.
So you say that there is a sense of vengeance in US policy, they want to revenge the black liberation movement that Haiti represents?
Exactly. Cause when Haiti made the revolution (from 1791 to 1804), when we claimed our independence, when black people were in slavery in the US. Therefore, the Haitian revolution was a threat to the whole white colonial-slavery system. Haiti is also the first country in the world experienced embargo and after Haiti’s revolution it became a formula, ‘’when you make revolution you will be blockaded’’, like Cuba, like Venezuela.
Everywhere, when you make revolution, when people try to decide their future, the global neocolonial capitalist system puts blockade on this project, they don’t want it to be successful cause it will give hope to all people around the world, even the working class inside those Western countries.
What is the reality with the armed gangs in your country? Do they have a role in the political system?
During Moise’s regime we had more than 10 massacres in the country, particularly in the capital. For example, a couple of days before Moise’s assassination we had a massacre in Port-au-Prince, where they killed 15 people in one night, including our comrade Antoinette Duclair, but Jovenel Moise didn’t even made a tweet to say ‘’we are sorry, we are concerned, we are trying to solve the problem’’. But a couple of days later we will tweet to say ‘’Happy Independence Day to the USA’’. Can you imagine that? It’s incredible!
We have to understand that PHTK regime is a regime of gangsters and drug dealers. Everyone in Haiti knows it, it’s the party of the drug dealers, the party of the corruption, it’s clear, it’s not a secret. For me –of course maybe I am wrong- but the more plausible hypothesis is that Moise was assassinated by a group inside PHTK, there is no other scenario capable enough to explain the assassination.
When we talk about oligarchy in Haiti we talk about ship owners, big agriculture, or what?
Trade and services, secondarily manufacture. Our oligarchy doesn’t have any kind of relationship with the country, they just extract our wealth, there is no production. Nothing is going to be build here for the Haitian people, so they can work and live a better life here. Even when it comes to transport they don’t invest in Haiti, our transport system is one of the worst transport systems around the world.
Haiti also has minerals, and natural resources, like gold, oil, iridium. At the same time Haiti is a good costumer of the gun industry, there is a whole lot of guns in the country. And when you have a small country like Haiti full of weapons, the people doesn’t have time to discuss about the serious issues of the country, they just focus on insecurity, on poverty. At the same time the government gives the certificate to the mining companies to exploit the mining in Haiti. This is a pro-oligarchy exploitation project.
This is the reason why we in the leftist organizations and the civil society generally propose a new deal, a new relationship inside the country. What we say is that we don’t want election right now. We want election, election is important for democracy, but election doesn’t mean democracy. Haiti had a lot of election in the past years, but still there is no democracy in Haiti. What we need is a period of transition for at least two years, to make sure that we will create enough space for dialogue among Haitian people and that we will have an election without drug money, without corruption money, without kidnapping money.
As a musician and an activist how the recent events affect you? Do you consider your art as an instrument for the political purpose of a more democratic and equal Haiti?
My music is at the same time my struggle, these are not two separate things. My music is about mental decolonization. My music talks about the need for a new liberation, about the need of solidarity. If you look at the cover of my new album, it depicts a man cutting the chain in his mind. Because right now the chain is on our minds.