Mass Mobilizations Repudiate Moïse Government and Referendum on Constitution

The Haitian people undertook two days of mass mobilizations across Haiti on March 28 and 29, as well as amongst the diaspora abroad. Their actions are based on the fundamental demand that the Haitian people must be able to exercise their right to decide their own future, within which the people are demanding an end to foreign interference and the removal of the illegitimate regime of de facto president Jovenel Moïse who remains in power with the backing of the U.S., Canada and other countries. Besides these demands, the two days of protest specifically denounced the plans of the de facto Moïse regime for a referendum aimed at amending the 1987 Constitution.

Pastor Gérald Bataille, one of the initiators of the March 28 action, expressed alarm over the situation in the country. "The homeland is in danger. We are under the stranglehold of dictatorship, persecution and insecurity. We're being run by an illegal government. This president's mandate ended on February 7. That's why we're in the streets. To cry out in distress and anger," he told Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste. He affirmed that Haitians can govern themselves and that no problem facing the country is going to be resolved with Jovenel Moïse in power. "Dialogue is the starting point for all solutions. However, no dialogue is possible with this man [Jovenel Moïse]," he opined.

The protestors expressed their demands for better living conditions, security and respect for human rights across the country, and denounced the climate of criminality in the country, fuelled by the federation of armed gangs known as G9 and the inability of law enforcement to keep them in check.

Le Nouvelliste spoke with a woman in her forties during the March 28 protest in Port-au-Prince, who denounced the Moïse regime's "calamitous" management. "The situation has deteriorated with Jovenel Moïse in power. Schools can no longer function as before. We're no longer able to move around freely. My sons are forced to return to the provinces because of the insecurity. I can no longer carry out my activities at the Croix-des-Bossales market because of the shootings," she complained.

Another protestor told Le Nouvelliste, "We don't have a constitutional problem in the country. This referendum is a strategy used by the PHTK [Tet Kale Haitian Party] to renew itself and stay in power. It's a waste of time. The people will and must oppose this gruesome project. We have other more urgent problems such as unemployment, insecurity, the high cost of living. We must know how to choose the priorities."

Various political figures took part in the March 28 protests. Former presidential candidate Jean-Charles Moïse asked Haitians to defend the 1987 Constitution. "This Constitution is 34-years old. We cannot allow a dictator to change it. We're against this referendum. We therefore ask the people to mobilize against this dictatorial project, against this dictator and against the foreigners holding the country hostage," he shouted out.

Schultz Simpssie Cazir, General Secretary of the Movement of the Third Voice Party, decried the situation in the country. "My presence in the streets today is to denounce and vigorously protest against insecurity, political persecution and intimidation, corruption, impunity and multiple cases of violation of the Constitution by an illegitimate power acting in complete illegality. For me, marching peacefully today expresses my rejection of Jovenel Moïse's dictatorial plan to impose a constitution on us through an unconstitutional referendum, without any broad consensus within the country's forces," he said.

Maryse Narcisse, spokesperson for the Fanmi Lavalas party, told Le Nouvelliste that President Moïse has no legitimacy to change the Constitution. "He's a de facto president. He has no right to call a referendum to change the Constitution," she declared, while calling for intensifying the mobilization against Moïse.

March 29 marked the 34th anniversary of the 1987 Constitution, and protestors remained on the streets. Some brought copies of the Constitution with them as a sign of their commitment to defend it. "Down with a phony referendum. Down with a fake constitution," they chanted. They were met with police using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them in the Champ de Mars area of Port-au-Prince.

A sit-in was held at the entrance to the communal market of Jacmel (the main city of the southeast department of Haiti), to demand respect for the Constitution."The Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) = [Haiti's] operating system. Haiti will not return to dictatorship. No to insecurity," were among the messages on the banners at the sit-in.

The protesters said they will shut down the country if the de facto regime proceeds with its plans for a new Constitution that it has unilaterally drafted.

(With files from Le Nouvelliste and Resumen Latinoamericano. Quotations translated from original French and Spanish by TML. Photos: G. Mirambeau, P. Solages, redfishstream, J. Feray, C. Olivier, E. Bruyer)

This article was published in

Volume 51 Number 4 - April 4, 2021

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