The Lasalin Massacre in Haiti
LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN, 22 Apr 2019
Was it an accidental event, a fight between rival gangs to control an area, or a calculated and planned political act?
Lasalin, a shantytown in the capital of Haiti, is crossed by two main thoroughfares, which make it a strategic area coveted by several economic and political groups for many reasons. On one side is Jean-Jacques Dessalines Boulevard, with Lasaline Boulevard on the other. Facing Lasalin are truck terminals and private ports that receive goods and merchandise from abroad. The center of the shantytown is situated directly across the terminals and ports. For one of the powerful ruling social groups, whose origin and methods of operations will be discussed later, Lasalin is considered to be a menace.
This is a view that is generally shared in the oligarchy, which is determined at all costs to force out the residents of the community and take over the land to enlarge its economic empire. Edouard Baussan, the owner of Unibank, now controls these terminals after buying out the other shareholders. For this group to achieve its dream, it must remove the people who live in the shantytown of Lasalin. The majority of the residents are active members of Fanmi Lavalas Political Organization who always publicly declare their great appreciation and loyalty to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who implemented many projects in the area for the residents of Lasalin to live in dignity.
It is no secret that these economic groups are connected with wealthy businessmen in the international community, particularly in the US, who supported and helped them install PHTK (Haitian Tèt Kale Party) to power; they continue to provide support in order to defend their interests. It is easy to understand why major international media provide very little coverage of the political crimes—massacres committed against the Haitian people; it is similar in the case of the local Haitian media that they control. If it were not for the network of social media – Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp – the world would not know what had occurred in Haiti on November 13, 2018, when hundreds were killed, scores of houses were burned, young women raped, and children and elderly mutilated with machetes.
Let us take a little time to examine the origin of the disadvantaged class in Haiti.
The struggle of the popular masses – the black descendants of enslaved Africans – throughout the history of Haiti, to claim their rightful place in the nation, goes way back to the time of slavery. The war for physical, economic, political, and cultural independence had forced all social classes in the colony of Saint Domingue to unite their forces so that the struggle could be easier for them, as each social class had interests that differed from the others.
The massacre on November 13, 2018 is not the first to have taken place in the community of Lasalin. In 1957, in order for General Antonio Thrasybule Kebreau  to stage elections to install dictator Francois Duvalier as president, he massacred many supporters of President Eustache Daniel Fignole, who lived in working class neighborhoods such as Lasalin, Bele, and Site Soley. They did not want to obey and accept the coup d’état that the Haitian Army had committed against President Fignole which sent him into exile. On September 11, 1988, the Haitian Army in the service of the Haitian oligarchy enabled paramilitary affiliates to massacre parishioners during a mass officiated by Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide at St. Jean Bosco Church in Lasalin. And during the first coup d’état against President Aristide that started on September 29, 1991, the Haitian Army, together with paramilitary affiliates, massacred many activists in working class neighborhoods, particularly in Lasalin, over the course of several years. On February 29, 2004—the date of the second coup d’état against President Aristide—the working class neighborhoods were once again victims of the enemies of democracy. The Haitian people and the neighborhood of Lasalin were not spared; many activists were killed.
Can we consider the enslaved population as a social class in the colony of St. Domingue? Social classes have traditionally been defined as:
- Bourgeoisie – The whites who possess a lot of money, wealth, plantations, and land.
- Middle class – The small landowners, “mulattos,” and freedmen who do not possess a lot of money, wealth, plantations, or land, but who are living comfortably.
- Working class – Among which are blacksmiths, shoemakers, tailors, teachers, shopkeepers, etc
- Enslaved population – In which class belongs the enslaved who owned no plantations and riches, those who were not workers because they were not paid for the work that they did? For these reasons we speak of social group instead of social class. In his book Haïti-Haitii: Philosophical Reflections for Mental Decolonization, Dr. Jean-Bertrand Aristide references “Article 22 of the Black Code” which explains how the enslaved were treated. 
Why do we speak of “physical” independence? The behavior and actions of a number of officials in Haitian society shows plainly that, to this day, they still have in their mind that they are dependent on the countries of the former colonizers. Moreover, they believe that any action they take has to be blessed by the colonizer. These officials act as governors who are at the beck and call of the metropole. This means that to this day, “mentally,” they think and act as slaves. This behavior is favorable for the Haitian oligarchy in the “mulatto class/group,” in organizing a system of corruption and repression that assassinates and massacres people—the working class—any time they take a stand to demand their fundamental rights, such as the right to food, education, health care, housing, and work.
If the struggle for physical independence forced a unity, for the moment, between the various social classes, group interests and personal interests led to division after the victorious War for Independence. Each group fought to maintain and defend their interests and to enlarge the economic empire of their particular group.
In all of these social groups, only the enslaved group spoke words such as “creating a nation,” “equitable distribution for all the people of the land,” and “live free and independent or die.” However, the other social groups saw it differently. Black people coming out of slavery were not considered human beings; they had no rights in the new nation. They were not part of the societal project. Alexandre Pétion was a leader from the mulatto group, which started behaving as the new masters. They built no schools or hospitals. In short, what was needed for a state apparatus to function in the service of the population was not in their interest. If the descendants of the enslaved learned to read, they would have a lot more clarity on what is happening in the world. They would become a threat to the system. For these reasons, the Black Code continued to be implemented under a different guise to maintain the people in misery.
The “mulattos” considered the colony as a place to conduct business and make money. They considered themselves French citizens or subjects. It was the black officers, the formerly enslaved in the indigenous army who, raising the problem of exclusion, demanded inclusion for all, in particular for the formerly enslaved. We can cite the following examples: Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Henri Christophe, Francois Capois—those who spoke for total, unconditional independence, economic independence, political, cultural, and physical independence.
It is this same group, the formerly enslaved, who throughout the history of Haiti have been fighting a continuous struggle to claim their rights in this brand-new nation, to live with honor and dignity and the right to work; the right to healthcare; the right to food, education, justice, and good housing. From this standpoint, Jean-Jacques Dessalines stated, “What about the blacks whose fathers are in Africa? There will be nothing for them?” This declaration is one of the causes for the killing of Jean-Jacques Dessalines. “All for them, nothing for the masses of the people.” From this time on, this class of assassins has always come together to crush the majority population—the formerly enslaved, the marginalized, those kept on the margins of society.
The ruling elite which not only controls the economy but also the local media, engages in lobbying foreign governments and international media, in order to tarnish the image of the struggle of the majority population. Local and international lobbyists have concocted a variety of names throughout the history of the majority population’s struggles to free themselves from unparalleled misery and from the label of the poorest and most corrupt nation. Lobbyists have labeled them with derogatory names: kamoken, chime, bandi, dechouke, rat pa kaka, kidnape, ravet….This is part and parcel of a psychological war to work on public opinion, so that when they commit a politically-motivated massacre, the rest of society will conclude that the police are killing bandits and criminals.
No nation can develop if it is not politically independent; it will find it impossible to choose the leadership that the people want to govern. When other people are choosing, it is not in the best interest of the population. The enslaved understood this. Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Christophe understood it, too. The disadvantaged group understands it, and this is the motivative force for the struggle for independence – political, cultural, etc – that is being carried out today. One of the better ways to wage this struggle is to mentally decolonize all the groups and classes of Haitian society who are still colonized.
In these modern times, there is a different approach to slavery, but the results remain the same. This is why it is referred to as modern-day slavery. Working class neighborhoods like Site Soley, Lasalin, Solino, Raboto, Sentelen, and Jalouzi are considered by colonialist countries as “warehouses for modern slaves.” If one reads the Black Code that states how to manage slaves in the colony of St. Domingue, if one reads the book by Dr. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haïti-Haitii: Philosophical Reflections for Mental Decolonization, it becomes understandable and easy to observe that while it is the same politics, the methods have changed – they have been modernized. We see the silence of the big media and the international community as massacres are taking place in Haiti, particularly in working class neighborhoods that they consider to be slave warehouses. And yet, it is not only the working class neighborhoods that are viewed as slave warehouses, but the entire country of Haiti. If not, can anyone explain why a Haitian worker is expected to live on a minimum wage that is less than only five dollars a day for a full day of work?
The bourgeois class in Haiti includes descendants of mulattos and freedmen, with nationals from the US and countries of the Middle East and Europe such as Reginald Boulos, Sherif Abdallah, Reynold Deeb of the Deka Group, Andy Apaid, Dimitri Craan, Gilbert Bigio, and Handal.
Members of the bourgeois class invest a lot of money in the campaigns of candidates for parliament deputy, senator, and president, favoring people involved in criminal acts and corruption. Thus, they can participate in contraband, corruption, illegal weapons trafficking, crime, drug dealing, and kidnapping. The political connections of members of the bourgeois class are strengthened by investments in the campaign of selected candidates, making possible their great influence in the state apparatus to impose ministers, directors-general, and members of the electoral council. They also benefit by receiving duty-free status, paying no taxes on their imported merchandise that is later sold to the population at inflated prices.
For all these reasons each group that is part of the Haitian oligarchy has its own clique within the Haitian National Police—for example, Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier and Gregory “Ti Greg” Antoine – that works with armed civilians such as Serge “Ti Junior” Alectis to eliminate adversaries. Whether political, economic or social, the December 21, 2018 assassination of Alain Douge, who was working on a new labor code for Haiti, stands as an example. With the complicity of the police, government officials, senators, and deputies in the parliament, using their private customs office right across from Lasalin, these groups from the oligarchy can easily bring any type of weaponry into the country. How can anyone explain that a poor person living in Lasalin or Granravin – who cannot even afford to eat and receiving a wage as little as $3 for a full day’s work – can buy a weapon that costs several thousands of dollars, not to mention cost of the bullets?
The politics to maintain monopolistic control lead to these economic groups becoming very violent, stopping at nothing to defend their interests. Presently in everyday language, one hears of Groupe Bigio, Groupe de Bourdon, Groupe Acra, Groupe Unibank, and Core Groupe.
Thus various groups seek to have at their disposal an armed militia under the cover of a security service. They make alliances with a few outlaws in some of the working class neighborhoods, provide them with money and weapons, creating groundless rivalries that conveniently allow for the elimination of political adversaries. The assassination of Paul “Ti Koton” Ambroise allegedly by Gregory “Ti Greg” Antoine is a clear example. Ambroise was a potential candidate for mayor of Port-au-Prince under the banner of Fanmi Lavalas; he was assassinated in plain view of the police after attending a soccer game at the Silvyo Cator stadium.
In conclusion, gang warfare does not exist and has never existed in Haitian society, especially in Lasalin, Granravin, and similar working class neighborhoods. If working class neighborhoods are viewed as warehouses for modern day slavery, we have to conclude that it is all the people of the country of Haiti who are viewed as a slave warehouse by a particular sector of the international community. It is not surprising that there is no coverage of the massacres that are occurring in various areas of Haiti, in order to maintain a system that is built on a new Black Code that is no different from the old one. Two-hundred-eighty-three people were killed in Lasalin during the month of November 2018 alone, according to community residents and various human rights observers. What gang would have the capacity to carry out such a massacre without the complicity of the government and the police? What gang would have enough money to buy all of these weapons of war. The Lasalin massacre amounts to slaves killing other slaves, as colonialists white and black are implementing the theory of William Lynch.
What do Barbecue, Ti Junior, Ti Greg, Vlaw, Ti Je, and Arnel Belizvaire represent in the struggle? Without a doubt they are the “weapons” placed in the midst of the enslaved that the bourgeoisie can use whenever needed. What do Boulos, Edouard Baussan, Andy Apaid, Baker Charles, Dimitri Craan, Sherif Abdallah and Bigio represent? The oligarchy. If Lasalin, Vilaj de Dye, Matisan, or Granravin become a political obstacle, it follows naturally that the oligarchy will try to eliminate all of their political adversaries, in order for the field to be wide open in advance of the next elections. Since the majority of community residents these neighborhoods is Lavalas, it is repression against Lavalas itself. The Lasalin massacre was neither an accidental occurrence nor an intergang turf war. It was a political act, calculated and planned.
- “Article 22 [of the Black Code]: ‘…Every week, the slave master must give every slave that is 10 years old or more 2 and a half pots of manioc flour, according to measures used in Paris, or else 3 cassavas that each weigh at least 2 and a half pounds…and 2 pounds of salted beef or else 3 pounds of fish….As for infants, once they are weaned and until the age of 10, they will be given half of the quantity of food indicated in article 22, every week.’” Aristide, Jean-Bertrand. Haïti-Haitii: Philosophical Reflections for Mental Decolonization. Paradigm Publishers. 2011.
The Haiti Action Committee is a Bay-Area based network of activists who have supported the Haitian struggle for democracy since 1991.Our members travel frequently to Haiti and are in close touch with Haitian grassroots activists, legal and human rights workers, and victims of repression. Through demonstrations and civil disobedience, Congressional lobbying and educational events, publications and community organizing, we are working to build a strong Haiti solidarity movement.
This article, originally written in Haitian Kreyol for Haiti Solidarity in February 2019, was translated by Haiti Action Committee.
Tags: Haiti, Haiti Action Committee, Latin America Caribbean
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