On the Shoulders of Ancestors: Haiti’s Postdictatorship Generation Fights Corruption



In this text, Fania Noel introduces us to a new generation of Haitian activists born after the end of the Duvalier dictatorship 33 years ago. Following some of their ancestors, they are not afraid to face national and international opposition despite the weight of the establishment.

The crowd cheers and waves. In the distance, a man dressed as an 1804 Revolutionary soldier advances on horseback with a flag in his hand. It’s June 9, 2019 at 11 AM, 32° C, but feels like 40° C. Thousands of people are gathered at Carrefour Airport. In a few moments, the demonstration will begin. The protestors are demanding legal action against everyone implicated in the embezzlement of PetroCaribe funds and calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse, investigated in the Court of Auditors’ report. PetroCaribe, launched on June 29, 2005 in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, is an oil alliance between Caribbean countries and Venezuela in which the latter sells oil on preferential terms of payment. In this program, the benefits obtained by countries such as Haiti must be invested back into social and economic development projects. Haiti’s PetroCaribe Fund is estimated at 3.8 billion U.S. dollars.

For almost a year now, a grassroots movement has emerged on a scale we have not seen since the end of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986. Known as “Petrochallengeur,” the movement demands for transparency on the use of PetroCaribe funds and legal proceedings. Petrochallengeur also catalyzes many other calls for justice. Among the most active members of the movement are young people born of the post-1986 generation. Nou Pap Dòmi, one of the groups setting the tone of the movement, has been central to the latest mobilizations and analysis of the Court of Auditors’ report.

In January 2010, Haiti faced a deadly earthquake that killed more than 100,000 people and left thousands wounded and homeless. The media machine and the humanitarian industrial complex set off for Haiti to conveniently settle the nation as a republic of NGOs. Hundreds of millions of dollars passed through the various NGOs. The capital’s streets swarmed with expatriates and cars stamped with logos of Oxfam, World Vision, Action Aid, and USAID. The NGO expatriates could be found in the capital’s restaurants (with prices listed in U.S. dollars) to discuss their missions and mandates while their drivers waited in their cars outside. Every humanitarian NGOs wanted to be in on the action.