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Haiti: unions demand return to democracy

12 March, 2021Unions in Haiti, the most unequal country in Latin America, are demanding a return to democracy and an end to human rights violations and union repression.

38 trade union organizations in Haiti have signed a joint statement calling for respect for the 1987 Constitution, and restoration of the rule of law and democracy in Haiti. The unions accuse President Jovenel Moïse of extending his mandate in violation of the constitution.

CGTP, the union centre to which IndustriALL affiliate GOSTTRA belongs, is among the signatories. GOSTTRA coordinator Reginald Lafontant says:

“The situation for Haitian workers is intolerable. It is the duty of the union movement to commit to the respect of the constitution."

The Higher Council of the Judiciary of Haiti stated that Moïse's five-year presidential term ended on 7 February this year. Moïse has governed by presidential decree since 2020 after dissolving the parliament. No elections have been organized and Moïse has declared his intention to stay in office until February 2022.

There have been numerous protests demanding that Moïse respect the constitution and resign. People protest against living in poverty and hunger, under a corrupt government unable to provide basic services.

According to the unions, the presence of armed gangs supported by the government is growing. The gangs started by attacking people who protested to demand better living conditions, but have moved on to arson, kidnapping opponents, threatening union leaders and even raping women.  

Trade unionists face systemic repression, with a wave of dismissals, arbitrary arrests and death threats directed at the few sectors where workers have been able to organize, like in education, the public sector and in the Export Processing Zones.

Moïse has said that he considers the current constitution to be too liberal and has decided to change it on 25 April. Trade union centres in Haiti stress that those who dare to say “no” will be under threat, especially trade unionists.

Global unions have issued a joint statement and have launched a solidarity campaign with the Haitian people, sending letters to governments to withdraw support for Moïse.

In a letter to Gosstra, IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches says:

“We stand in solidarity with the people of Haiti in their struggle to establish democracy, rule of law and respect for human and trade union rights. We are outraged by the systematic violation of rights by the government. We strongly denounce the damage caused at all levels by the people in power in Haiti."