Haiti Action Committee is honored to publish this transcript of the talk given by Fanmi Lavalas Executive Committee Members Dr. Maryse Narcisse and Joel Edouard Pacha Vorbe on April 6, 2024 at Eastside Arts Alliance in Oakland, California as well as live-streamed.


Good afternoon. Pacha Vorbe and I (Maryse Narcisse) of the Fanmi Lavalas Executive Committee are honored to be part of today’s event. We are here to discuss the crisis that now engulfs Haiti, twenty years after the coup d’état that overthrew the democratically elected administration of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and to commemorate the continued resistance of Haiti’s grassroots movement.

Thank you to Haiti Action Committee for organizing this meeting and for continuing to be in solidarity with Haiti, fighting for freedom, justice, dignity and democracy.

Thank you Walter Turner for moderating this conversation on Haiti.

Thank you to the EAST SIDE ARTS ALLIANCE for hosting.

And thank you to Justice Vanguard for technical assistance in broadcasting this event. We also thank all media that are providing coverage of this event.

I want to thank everyone in the Bay Area who has been in continued support of Haiti.

Special thanks to the other participants in today’s event: Dr. Rama Ali Kased, Marvin X and Andrew Reynolds for their solidarity with the Haitian people. This is the kind of international support and collaboration that the world needs. Fanmi Lavalas stands with the people of Palestine and condemns, in the strongest way possible, the genocide that is being waged against Palestinians. Antoine Izmery, one of the earliest supporters of the Lavalas movement, was a man of Palestinian descent who stood firmly with the people of Haiti in the struggle for human dignity. He was a brave man, ultimately killed by forces that have always opposed progressive change in Haiti.


I think it would be helpful to start today’s discussion with an overview of Fanmi Lavalas. Fanmi Lavalas is a grassroot political organization. Our mission is to work with the poorest, marginalized people, in a shared struggle for a better life, dignity, justice and freedom. The struggle is for real and deep changes in Haitian society. Access to education, health, food, housing and economic opportunities for all.

Fanmi Lavalas is trusted for several reasons:

  1. Its commitment and orientation towards a real and deep change in the standards of living of the poorest and the excluded who constitute the overwhelming majority of the population.
  2. Its systematic refusal to subordinate the interests of the majority to those of individuals groups.
  3. The formal inclusion of Dignity and Sovereignty of the Nation in our political objectives
  4. The loyalty of Fanmi Lavalas that is recognized by the masses and the implacable coherence between political speech and political choices or actions.
  5. The National Representative of Fanmi Lavalas, Dr Jean Bertrand Aristide, who, through a lifetime of service, leadership and education has never abandoned his commitment to the poorest.

Today, President Aristide’s vision is still the same: EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION. Education is the stepping stone towards our goals. Education without exclusion! Education aimed at Excellence! One of the most effective strategies in combating the crisis in Haiti is investing in education.


To understand the crisis in Haiti, we must refer to our history, the hierarchies and prejudices embedded in our societal fabric, and Haiti’s geopolitical and global context. Haiti is the first independent black republic. We achieved our independence at the beginning of the 19th century through an unprecedented revolution: an uprising by an enslaved African population. Because Haiti was surrounded by countries and colonies powered by slave economies, our independence was not recognized for many years. Our country faced political isolation and economic blockades.

In 1825, under the threat of war and re-enslavement, France forced Haiti to pay a crippling indemnity in exchange for formal recognition of the new Republic. This debt set Haiti on a course of extreme poverty and political instability. According to estimates from the NY Times’ one year investigation in 2022, payments to France have cost Haiti’s economic development between $21 and $115 billion in losses over two centuries, or one to eight times the country’s gross domestic product in 2020.

Understanding the crisis in Haiti today means understanding that for more than 200 years, Haiti has been facing the designs of a coalition of Western powers to put the country under some kind of guardianship. Indeed Haiti has gone through more than two centuries of exploitation and extensive international interference in its internal affairs under various different labels: occupation, foreign intervention, coup d’état, support of rigged elections and dictatorial rule, lackey governments in the service of foreign powers. Regardless of the label, the aim has always been to control the state and to make sure that there would always be alignment with Western interest.

Understanding the crisis in Haiti means fully appreciating the social contradictions to emerge on day 1 after the country’s independence in 1804. That is, the emancipatory social vision for all held by the father of the nation, Jean Jacques Dessalines, versus the class interests of the retrograde forces of the country, a conflict which ultimately led to Dessalines’s assassination. Ever since this shattering of Dessalines’s humanist dream, the Haitian oligarchy and leaders have transformed the Haitian state into an instrument at their service. A system of pillage, corruption and impunity – which was established without any concern for the development of the national economy and the development of the population – persists today.

Understanding the crisis in Haiti means also understanding that Haiti did not choose to be poor. Haiti still suffers today, in various ways, the effects of a “modern” form of neo-colonialism harmful to its emancipation and its sustainable economic development.


In 2004, when Haiti celebrated the two hundred year anniversary of its independence with pride and dignity, the Western powers, assisted by their local allies, once again made the Haitian people pay for the arrogance of their ancestors for having broken the chains of slavery. Moreover, the Aristide Government in place at that time had been democratically elected by an overwhelming majority. It was not a client state of the West. The policies pursued by the government – increase in minimum wage, greater access to education and health care – prioritized the overwhelming majority of Haitian people, not Western interests.

And finally, it was the Aristide Government alone that was willing to demand restitution from France for the indemnity Haiti was forced to pay in 1825.

The 2004 coup d’état was another manifestation of Western powers’ designs to regain control of Haiti. On the very night of the coup d’état of February 29, 2004, the United Nations Security Council authorized the immediate deployment of a multinational force in Haiti.

The 2004 coup represents the desire by the western powers to break the efforts of Haitian nationalists to bring the country out of its state of underdevelopment, and to transform into reality the demands of the Haitian people for a State at the service of the population where “Tout moun se moun, tout moun dwe viv tankou moun.” Every person is a human being, every person should live like a human being.

The 2004 coup is characteristic of the refusal by Western powers and their local allies to respect the principles of democracy and self-determination of peoples to decide for themselves. The forced departure of President Aristide was unconstitutional and against internationally recognized rules of law.

Under Haiti’s Lavalas governments important achievements were made to address the basic needs of the population in many areas such health care, education, women’s rights, housing, economic justice. In Health Care: a greater percentage of the national budget was allocated to health care than had any previous government in Haitian history. Education/Literacy: For the first time in its history, Haiti began implementing a Universal Free Schooling Program. 20% of the national budget was dedicated to education. Lavalas built 195 new primary schools and 104 new public high schools and began the first school bus program. 70% of government subsidies were granted for school books and uniforms and 700,000 hot meals were served every day through school lunch programs.


These gains were wiped out by the 2004 coup. The coup has largely contributed to the situation we are experiencing today and the living conditions of the population have only gotten worse. Successive elections were riddled with irregularities and outright election-fixing by foreign powers. In the 20 years following the 2004 coup, Haiti endured foreign occupation, state sanctioned repression and terror, and a wave of neoliberal economic policies that have created the disastrous situation we are now living in Haiti.

But this coup did not stop the daily struggles of the Haitian people against economic inequalities and social policies imposed by a local and international exploiting class. Indeed, the armed militias and gangs that have grown in force and numbers in the past several years emerged precisely to stop the massive demonstrations protesting government policies, fraudulent elections, rising prices of food and fuel, and demands for accountability for the stolen Petro Caribe Funds.


The Haitian crisis is catastrophic, multidimensional, and aggravated by institutional vacuum.


Since the fraudulent elections of 2016, no elections have taken place in Haiti at any level of governance. As a result, all elected positions have not been renewed leading to

– The lapse of Parliament (no Senate or House of Deputies seats are filled)

– The Supreme Court is not functional

– The presidency and the Prime Minister position are vacant

– Not one elected mayor in Haiti’s 146 counties


In addition to the country’s political instability, we are facing the worst insecurity crisis in decades making the daily life of Haitians filled with stress and fear. According to a January 2024 report of the UN Secretary-General, there were 4,789 reported murders in 2023, i.e. a ratio of 40.9 homicides per 100,000 population; 2,490 cases of kidnappings in 2023. Violence, especially sexual violence and gender-based violence, is a practice used by armed militia and gangs to control populations. All these were underestimated due to community stigma, and threats of reprisals. Deaths of civilians caught in the crossfire of gangs fighting between themselves for territory or with the police were also reported.


Attacks and violence by heavily armed gangs across the country have escalated, supported by an unprecedented flow of weapons and ammunition flowing into the country, mainly sourced in the US. The gangs have been involved in spreading terror, murders, kidnappings, burning houses, rapes of women and young girls in impoverished neighborhoods and as a consequence, people have been forced to flee their homes to escape violence. Deaths of civilians caught in the crossfire of gangs fighting between themselves for territory or with the police were reported.

  • Heavily armed militia/gangs have also been involved in massacres, looting and destroying businesses, banks, and schools mostly in impoverished neighborhoods.
  • Attacks on the ports and looting of shipping containers, looting and burglary of stores and banks.
  • Vandalism, burglaries and closure of health centers including the best equipped hospitals in the country.
  • Fires in several police stations.

All these crimes have been carried out with impunity. Gangs are now controlling the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince and continue to proliferate into other urban centers. They easily get new young recruits because of few economic opportunities. Gangs in Haiti are reported to have strong connections to political and economic elites and maintain ties in the police and the criminal justice system, which explains the impunity. This is anarchy.

  • Mass prison breaks which set 4000 inmates free (Port-au- Prince and Croix des Bouquets), and riots at the Prison of Jacmel causing 6 injuries and 3 deaths
  • Police force repression: The police force is understaffed and with a lack of training has not been able to restore security in response to the escalating violence by armed gangs
  • The suspension of all flights at the country’s main airport following shootings at airplanes
  • The forced closing of all schools and universities, now extending into the 8th week
  • The government’s decision to declare a state of emergency throughout the territory


  • Forced repatriations:

From July 2023 to Jan. 2024, 118,228 Haitians were repatriated by the Dominican authorities, 406 Haitians from the United States, 596 from the Bahamas, and 1,649 from the Turks and Caicos Islands

  • Internally displaced persons:

As of 31 December 2023, 146,584 people are internally displaced (BINUH) due to gang violence. It is estimated that 30,000 additional people have been internally displaced between January and March 2024. More than 30 refugee camps have been identified in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince where people live in subhuman conditions.

  • A massive migration of Haitians to the United States, Canada, Latin American and Caribbean countries: 126,000 Haitians migrated to the US between Jan. and Dec. 2023 (Custom and Border Protection Report as of 1/31/2024)
  • Food insecurity: From August 2023 to February 2024, 44% of the analyzed population is experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity of which 14%, or nearly 1.4 million people, are classified as IPC Phase 4 (Emergency) and 30% (about 2.95 million people) as Phase 3 (Crisis) i.e. 44% of the population in need of urgent action (IPC Analysis of Food Insecurity-Haïti).

Haiti’s hunger crisis is unseen as headlines focusing on gang violence hide the 4.3 million people facing extreme hunger. Gang violence and restrictions of movement have limited the humanitarian response.

Massive corruption is widespread at all levels of the society (government, business sectors Haiti’s police and justice systems etc.) given the existing impunity.



Poverty has reached inhumane limits. Hunger is rampant throughout the country. Some estimates put Haiti’s unemployment rate as high as 70 percent. The cost of living has skyrocketed due to political instability, gangs restrict access to and from Port-au-Prince to the rest of the country. There is a vertiginous acceleration in the price of basic necessities. The inflation rate is 29.0% as of July 2023. In addition the reduction of money transfers to families also had a significant negative impact because of distrust in the authorities keeping $1.50 on each transfer. Haiti remains one of the poorest economies in the world, and one of the most vulnerable to climate change, where more than half of the population lives below the poverty line and suffers from chronic food insecurity.

In addition Haiti is also vulnerable to devastating natural disasters. This global situation (political instability, insecurity, economic catastrophe) has impacted agricultural harvests, food availability making food prices too high for the most vulnerable households.


  1. Inter Haitian dialogue

There is no entity in Haiti that has any real OFFICIAL legitimacy. So there is a basis for all of them to humble themselves and work together on urgent matters such as the problem of Insecurity, hunger — even while they engage in dialogue about longer term matters such rebuilding the institutions, reviving constitutional order, a stable transitional government to organize free, fair and democratic elections.

In 2018, Fanmi Lavalas issued the following statement: In total agreement with the demands of the people, Fanmi Lavalas made the decision to have discussions with all sectors because we believe that it is through an exchange of ideas with all the political organizations and those within civil society that we will find a common agreement on how to address the problems of Haiti.

Just like the broader population, Fanmi Lavalas believes that the real solution to the crisis can only come through changing the system, meaning real, deep changes in the society. Meaning a complete break with the old system which brings only poverty, hunger, corruption, gangsterism. The people are not interested in band-aid solutions.

  1. Addressing insecurity must be at the top of the agenda

It is everyday insecurity that most Haitians see as their top concern. Haitians see insecurity as their top concern and want a more stable and secure environment, The effective and lasting solution that we must find to the country’s security problems is not going to come only from yet another multinational force. Our recent history is full of these costly initiatives.

And today we are painfully suffering the consequences of their failures.

The solution is first and foremost Haitian and involves multiple interventions targeting various dimensions of this crisis such as strengthening the capacity of Haitian security forces, reinforcing the justice system.

The National Security Council, led by the Transitional Council and the Prime Minister, will be created and responsible for developing a National Security Plan, ensuring its application and monitoring in consultation with public, civic and security stakeholders, as well as with international experts. It will have to develop modalities of cooperation relating to international security assistance.

To achieve social peace we will need support from public opinion with the active participation of the population, political parties and groups, human rights defense organizations and civil society organizations.

  1. A transitional government

The position of Fanmi Lavalas has always been very clear on this since November 2018 when we made public our document on the search for consensus for a Haitian solution to this multidimensional crisis that is suffocating our country. This document, titled “Crisis and Solution,” reflects the demands of the national majority, and its’ aspirations for reclaiming our sovereignty and dignity. In this document, we propose a disruptive transition aimed at reconciling the people with the State, with a government of public safety implementing a consensual Roadmap bringing together the priorities of action which will make it possible to lay the foundations of a new form of State by specifying the contours of the new republic which must be fair, united, and participatory. We absolutely need a functional consensus, for a new transition with a view to reorienting the Governance of the Country.

This consensus should be able to be structured around certain key points:

1.- A Presidential College and a Prime Minister chosen by consensus between stakeholders according to predefined criteria

2.- A government of Public Safety integrating ministers chosen on the basis of criteria of competence, credibility, honesty and commitment to change.

3.- A body for monitoring government action including representatives of all the vital forces of the nation, including the diaspora

4.- A consensual Roadmap bringing together the action priorities and reforms to be undertaken by this Government of Public Safety in various areas such as:

– Security

– Emergency measures to improve the living conditions of the population

– Economy

– National Conference

– Justice

– Constitution

– Electoral Council

– Electoral law and electoral infrastructure

– Free, inclusive, and credible elections

A stable transitional government that works to provide needed services to the people, improves living conditions, facilitates the return home of the daughters and sons of Haiti, and regains our dignity as a sovereign people. This new political leadership has no choice but to act transparently and within the law.

Without a stable transitional government issued of a political agreement, it is unlikely that attempts to fight the sources of violence and insecurity, to end impunity, to reinforce the rule of law will succeed.

Things need to change. It is at this crossroads that we have arrived. And history is looking at us!



Today, despite the insecurity, despite the gangs threatening people in the poor neighborhoods, the struggle continues. This war has not weakened the determination of the population and will not succeed in making them accept the unacceptable.

To succeed in the struggle for the development of our country, we must question the models and habits inherited from the colonial system. This mental decolonization involves several aspects: it includes the decolonization of political structures, legal and administrative systems, mental attitudes, lifestyles. This must be done through education, hence the need to invest in people. The choice to invest in people implies respect for human rights, the modernization of our institutions and democratic governance. I invite you who have always accompanied us on this journey to continue to stay engaged.