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Edito: This is not an irrigation canal... but a unique social movement

Nearly 130 kilometers from Port-au-Prince, the Haitian social movement is back on track. In a spectacular, unexpected and original way. It took the form of the construction of an irrigation system. Building is rarely associated with fighting. But as this work takes shape, as cement, iron and breeze-block mingle, we can see the rhythm of making a journey together.

In the public arena, however, the idea of the zombie people had resurfaced. People would no longer rise up. The gangs would win. This is without forgetting that protesting everywhere and at all times has relied on popular inventiveness. You can give the middle finger without using your fingers. Therein lies the beauty of the protest gesture.

As is often the case, it didn't take much. The struggle seized on the old recipe that - over 200 years ago - gave Toussaint Louverture himself headaches. A martyr, by the name of Moses (created from scratch this time). The land, because you can't be Haitian and get rid of it. And people, many people, who follow no leader, no current other than that of collective well-being.

As was the case with Louverture and his nephew, the Massacre River movement highlights the profound contradictions of a system based on oppression. In this case, it's the international community that is called into question, friends who claim to be helping a country that they have systematically denied the right to eat its fill, by imposing deleterious policies that have driven it into misery.

It would be nice to fight the gangs, to have legitimate leaders through credible elections. It would be even better to be able to decide when, how and what to produce, consume and trade. A security mission will probably intervene against the gangs. An elected president and parliamentarians will be installed at some point. But then what? Are we going to keep taking the same things over and over again?

In Haiti, the heart of social movements has rarely been the most affluent. It's interesting to see that, after the movement against the squandering of petrocaribe funds, led by urban subalterns, and the protests launched by the Church up to its neck in the worst trafficking, the protest has retreated to spread far from the republic of Port-au-Prince, controlled by unprecedented violence.

This protest in Ouanaminthe embraces the essence of peasant struggles (food sovereignty). It points the finger at neoliberalism and its transnational tools, and borrows various strategies of struggle such as spectacular voodoo rituals or scandal (the rape of a Haitian woman in front of her son by a Dominican immigration officer).

The main issue now, therefore, is not whether there is a crisis between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, or whether the border will reopen tomorrow, but how this movement might spread, become institutionalized and redefine the political arena dominated by violence, corruption and international subservience.

Francesca Théosmy


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