This Week in Social Justice: ExxonMobil vs. The Environment & Haiti's Past, Present & Future

Posted by News Beat on July 13, 2021  •  18 min read
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The president of Haiti has been assassinated—merely the latest casualty in a brutal legacy of targeted hits, coups, economic devastation, natural disasters, colonization and U.S. imperialism spanning hundreds of years. Secret recordings of an ExxonMobil lobbyist confirm what we've all known for far too long: Big Oil and Big Money own U.S. lawmakers, and thwart any progress we hope to achieve in the ongoing, life-or-death grudge match being waged against climate change. 

Wait—so after kidnapping, torturing, and sexually abusing Indigenous children for more than 100 years, Canada is going to let their descendants and families reclaim their ancestral names?! But the government's only going to pick up the tab till 2026?!?! 

Yup, folks, it's been another packed week of corruption, propaganda, mass murder, bureaucratic B.S., and much more—and the News Beat podcast crew has got you covered!

In this latest episode of the acclaimed and vastly superior livestream 'This Week in Social Justice,' we break down all the social justice, civil liberties, and human rights issues you never heard about on mainstream media, and explain why all this matters.

To quote Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (the subject of our very first podcast episode):

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

Worddd. On with the show. Joining News Beat Nation on the July 7 show is Dr. Louis Herns Marcelin, professor of anthropology and director of global health studies at the University of Miami, and executive committee chair and chancellor of the Interuniversity Institute for Research & Development (INURED)

Marcelin broke down Haiti's long, complex history with the United States and global community, recent presidential assassination, plight of its people, and what has to happen for the island nation to move forward, successfully. 

Below are several passages from his extraordinary interview, edited for clarity.

NEWS BEAT PODCAST: So we're very happy to welcome Dr. Louis Herns Marcelin. He's a professor of anthropology and director of global health studies at the University of Miami. He also runs a group down in Haiti. He's the executive committee chair and chancellor of the Interuniversity Institute for Research and Development. And we're so pleased to have him, and one of the reasons, as many listeners know, we we cover human rights, we civil rights, here in the United States, and internationally. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and we pride ourselves on shining a light on on issues and topics you're just not going to hear on mainstream media. And Haiti is one of them. The United States has a long and complex history with Haiti. And you're just not going to see that or hear about that in these news reports. So, professor, if you could please just break down a little bit of the U.S. history with Haiti. And if you could put this assassination into some context for listeners and viewers.

DR. LOUIS HERNS MARCELIN: "Thank you very much, again, for giving me this opportunity. And I think that the American viewers deserve to have an in-depth understanding as to what is happening, because in the mainstream media, the way they treat this, they treat it as an event on its own, as if there is no history, there is no process. And Haiti is a troubled country, each time that you hear about Haiti, it's about misery, poverty and violence. So this is what you see—but behind what you see, you have much more than that that is going on. Will remember that Haiti was controlled by the United Nations for more than 15 years after the coup d'etat against our state. So from 20[04] until 2019, a minister was the sole power, that they you know, which its mission was to help Haiti, organize its institutions, organize its security institutions, its rule of law institutions, in a way so that democracy in democratic politics can be possible, and also in a way so that human life can be protected. And, you know, a market can be created and prosperity, you know, can be advanced, you know, and human development can be possible. MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti] spent 15 years in Haiti. When they left Haiti, they left Haiti without any of these institutions they were supposed to help us with.

"And then what they did, what they left us with MINUSTAH, which is a new version of the United Nations minister. In that new version, the objective of that new version and the mandate of this new version, was to help Haiti strengthen its rule of law aperitifs. That means its justice system, its present system. And all the judiciary processes. So that rule of law can exist and Haitians can have access to justice. Again, until today, MINUSTAH is in Haiti, and you can see a series of events that have been happening without any serious interventions, or commentary, from the international community on the state or situation of Haiti. So what you have here, you have under the eyes of all the Western powers, including the United States, during the last two to three years, we have a government that has been governed by decree, that has been destabilizing most of the key institutions that will serve as a balance of power within the country. 

"For example, we no longer have a parliament, nobody said anything. We no longer have the judiciary, nobody said anything. The president of the Supreme Court in Haiti, you know, died about two or three weeks ago of COVID. It was not replaced, and there is no process for that. And the minister, the prime minister that we have, in fact, we don't have just one prime minister, you may hear that we are having competing prime ministers, because they have named another acting prime minister, you know, two days or three days ago, and now the president is dead, assassinated. And you have an acting prime minister, that is not an acting prime minister, and one that has been promised to be prime minister and nominated, but hasn't been sworn in. 

"So the situation we are in is a situation in which the rule of law has been destabilized, and corruption has been destabilized. And all of these under the nose of the international community, United Nations, the United States, Canada. So what happens with the death of the president, it may be shocking, but it's not a surprise, because we already knew, during the last two years, and particularly during the last three months, there was a buildup of gangs, a fragmentation of society, a use of gangs in politics, to attack enemies. And when I say that, I'm not talking just about, you know, the criminal gangs that are acting out just because they are acting out, I'm talking about politicians, including those who are in government and outside of government, using gangs as political arguments, as political tools in order for them to achieve their objective. What I'm saying here is something systemic, that has ingrained Haiti, Haitian society. And besides that, you have also in the, you know, market sector, in the private sector, each of the big families in Haiti, they have a gang. When there is a competition, they send again, after you. When they want to attack somebody who wants to bring a new idea, they send somebody to kill you. So, Haiti has been like that. Why? Because we have been taken in charge by the international community. And they asked—and what they left after they stayed in the country for all these years, is just that empty promises with institutions that are incapable of fulfilling its prophecy, what they were supposed to do.

"So the problem that we have with the killing of the president, is not just an accidental killing, is not just because Haiti is violent, Haiti doesn't know how to govern itself, is that there is a culture, there is an infrastructure that maintains that violence in Haiti. And it is supported by the international community. It is not supported actively, it is supported by their silences, because all these things were happening, you know, and they keep saying, we will have to respect the legitimacy of the government, you have to have new elections, yet, you know, the situation of gang violence may put people in a position in which everybody is sheltered at home."


NEWS BEAT: Professor, what we always try to do, especially with international stories, is to try to get an idea of why America and why Americans need to think about what's happening in Haiti, and the importance of that. So can you just talk about that, and briefly explain how there was the Haitian Revolution, and then at the same time, you had potential slave revolts happening in the United States, but there were efforts to suppress the Haitian news, so the slaves in this country wouldn't exercise their powers and revolt. Can you talk about some of that?

DR. MARCELIN: "Yes. And then so all of these have their roots very deep in history. And as you know, Haiti is a product of you know, the colonial history and slave plantation society with an act, an extraordinary hell context for Haitians, for the slaves. 

"When Haiti became independent, when Haiti organized the revolution—it wasn’t a revolt, it was a revolution. And they organized the revolutions in order to not just proclaim that Haiti was independent, you know, from bondage and slavery, but humankinds, wherever you are, wherever you live, you should be free. You should be able to imagine the future. Think about your daily life, or vital for who depends on you, and then think about the future in a way that you can, you know, leave your positive mark on Earth. 

"When Haiti took its freedom, we had the revolution, it was a huge challenge for the United States and all the Western powers. What is it? Let's face it, a revolution has happened. Nobody, no power from outside has, you know, remote-control, access over what was going on in the revolution. A population that has been kept under bondage now is creating the path for liberation for its own people, for its own to take itself instruction, to think about the possibility of having a sovereign nation, a sovereign society. This has scared the hell out of all the power in the world. Great Britain, which was, you know, a global Empire, the United States was a slave empire. Well, it wasn't an empire yet, but it was emerging, you know, as a new slave country. And Europe, all those countries, including Latin America, Latin American countries. 

"So in the revolution, a challenge. So what was happening since the revolution in 1804, was that all the international politics, have been to contain Haiti, first. That means that to prevent a spillover of the revolution from Haiti, to Latin America, from Haiti, to the Caribbean, from Haiti to the United States, that's the first time. It was here, too. We were having enslaved individuals, enslaved people and the plantation, you know—even plantation structure, was what maintained, you know, the whole foundations of American society. So they have to prevent that. 

"Second, they had to show that Haiti’s governance will never be something that will be fulfilled. Why? Because if Haiti can govern itself, that would mean that Black Americans also can take their own freedom and they can, you know, call for self, you know, self governance. Countries in Africa can also claim for self governance, can talk about sovereignty. All the countries under subjugation, you can do that. 

"So the Western powers, it's not just a United States issue, the Western powers, they organize a systematic and a kind of concerted effort to knock out all positive effort of governance that will come out of Haiti, because it will be a bad example, and then they have to show the world, these ‘niggers,’ between quote, do not know how to govern, and therefore, they are not deemed civilization and they cannot claim you know, the same right as a white person can claim, and then they are the one to rule us, not us to rule ourselves. 

"So now, this would be a simple story if it was just the foreigners preventing Haiti from building a society. Unfortunately, the way domination works, is that it trickles down, through a series of layers of people who have benefited from the system, including, Blacks themselves, who became free. African people, who became the people who invested in the state, who control the state. So what Haiti has done, those who have been able to control the state claim that they are the people who carry the legacies of civilization, the legacies of Western Europe, the legacies, you know, of the colonizer, so they become colonizers of their own people. 

"So Haitians’ governance, since the beginning, Haitian governance, that was, you know, codified through the state, was a governance that was against the nation. You have the nation, in one way, you have the state in one way. And the state’s challenge in Haiti has always been to find ways to continue to maintain the subjugation of those who are former slaves. And as a result, what will happen, we will develop a political system that is unstable, because we fought for freedom, but we never achieve equality. So some people translate freedom in terms of the right to govern. So you have a class, a dominant class in Haiti, that is composed of both Mulattos—and it's important that I insist in the color tone, and the Blacks. 

"So the Blacks and Mulattos, we realize, they fight among themselves, to know who has the right to rule the rest. That's the first thing. Second, they fight among themselves to know who will the Westerners use as the conduit of Western knowledge. So they’ll become the representation of the master in their country. So throughout Haiti's history, until you know, we came to recently to, you know, to all the movement that happens until we have U.S. occupation, Haiti was a kind of—Haiti has developed an internal colonization, using the same resources of the people and the same resources that people put available for everybody.

"And around that, you have your Western powers that reinforce these people, particularly, when we come to the 20th century, when the United States, we have the United States’ invasion at the beginning of the 20th century. 

"And what they have done, they have reorganized the country, they have shifted the country, or wired the country in a way that we remain totally dependent. So a political class in Haiti will take a political decision only if Washington tells them to take that decision. Okay. And this—irrespective of who you are talking to, whether it's Black, or it is white. Whether it's in the left, some of the left, not everybody, what really is indirect, certainly indirect. So in Haiti, every single people fighting for power, you know, has a white Westerner behind him or behind her to defend, to intervene, whenever they lose power, in the name of human rights, they will intervene to restore exactly the very same people that have been committing the problems. So recently, what had happened since devaluation fell, you had had a succession of governments that have been, you know, that emerge in Haiti. And all these successions of government, until we came to [ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, have been successions of government that was supported by the United States. 

"And when the United States doesn't support you, like it was in the case of Aristide, what they do, they destabilize you, and they destroy you. 

"And after I said, they organize themselves in order to have United Nations, you know, taking the word of the he occupier, for reconstruction. Reconstruction was never done, and what the United Nations has done instead through minister was to create puppet governments, from Martinez—the former president before the one working—and will give us this one. And all of this with the consent of Washington, all of this with the consent of the United States. So that's the situation we are in."


NEWS BEAT: Now, professor, you just outlined a whole universe of obstacles in the Haitian people's way, from the assassination of the president, you had the dissolution of the legislature. I think you said the Supreme Court Justice died of COVID recently. You have the global community, sort of just continuing to step on Haiti's throat, if you will, keep them suppressed. And then you have the internal fighting among the different classes. So, in your opinion—and after this question, I'd love for you to talk a little bit about your group, because you are on the ground in Haiti—what needs to happen in Haiti?

DR. MARCELIN: "What needs to happen in Haiti is a very important question that calls for a realistic approach here. Because we have to know, who are the power, who are the players at play. First, the international community is a huge player in this game, because we know, as a neo-colonized country, and politics within the nation states, you know, does not happen just because of the wants of those who are in that nation states. 

"So we have to count on the international community. What do I mean? I talked about first, the United States, because that's the global power. And that's the power that has the capillary power to reach whoever, you know, the US wants to reach. And the U.S., again, because the US in one way or another, you know, has leveraged involution as leverage in the game, in the sense that all groups or parties or institutions in Haiti, you know, in one way or another, they receive their money, their visa, you know, their children go to school, in the United States. The United States is the lifeline. 

"So, there is no choice on that one. And besides, we have a huge Haitian diaspora, which I will talk about that later. 

"Second, you have also a United Nations, although United Nations, you know, didn't do what they came to do in Haiti, we have no choice. United Nations is the global institution, you know, that has the legal framework, that of which Haiti is a member of. Haiti participated in the construction of this—so Haiti has the responsibility to guarantee the rights of its citizen, to guarantee the lives of its citizen, and to create space. 

"So then its decision can resolve. So United Nation has coercive power against Haiti. Not because of the fact that we are calling for United Nation to tell Haiti what to do, but we are calling on United Nations to reinforce, to help Haiti reinforce the institution for which Haiti signed up for. 

"So United Nations can do things, particularly because they are also on the ground, with ministers. You also have, of course, fundamentally, the mini-actors here, are the Haitians themselves. The first—we have those remnants of the government—there is no choice. We have to address the situation, immediately. 

"So those who are in power now, regardless if they are illegitimate or not, you know, regardless your position, political vision in relation to them, they are the one controlling the police, they are the one controlling the public administration, and so forth, and so on. So, they are an actor. Second, you have different sectors in the private sectors, including those big, you know, networks of families that are responsible for where the country is in the first place. We have no choice, we have to dialogue with them. Okay. And third, the political parties. The political parties are fragmented in Haiti. 

"You know, you have as many political parties as you have people aspiring for being president. But these are what make the reality that we have. We have to learn to sit down with those actors. And third, we have the community-based organizations. Most of the things that have been done in Haiti have always been done without Haitians themselves, without community-based organizations, human rights organizations, peace organizations, study organizations, churches, you know, all those institutions that are vital for the country. Okay. So what I think can happen is for the United Nations to create a conduit. I'm not saying for United Nations to go back to Haiti. Because I just told you exactly what happened. If we are expecting United Nations to save Haiti—so Haiti is already dead. Right? So we are saying that for the United Nations to use its authority to create the conduit, and the United States to use its power, at least for one time for good in relation to Haiti, to engage Haiti in a different way, not to impose what Haiti has to do. But to lead Haiti to do, to sit together. We need that. And third, we need those forces, also, and those forces that are the forces that we call the Western forces that are friends of Haiti to be able to provide the support for the Haitian National Police, because we are dealing in Haiti with more than 165, gangs, criminal gangs, and political gangs, and all of them are armed. 

"And the police in Haiti is so corrupt, and so weak, those good guys who are in the police, they are not enough. So they need some support, policy and support in order for them to do their work to reinforce institutions. 

"So those steps are not difficult, but I doubt that they will happen. Why? Because the United States are going to have election in two years in less than two years. The Democrats, you know, are very fragile, the position of the democrats of Biden's in power is very fragile. And Haiti is a hot potato. They don't want to give—so then, you know, you know, Haiti can become a problem for them. So up to now, the United States has no strategy in relation to Haiti, out to the moment I'm talking to you. They have no strategy, what to do. 

"What—the political courage for the Biden administration to take a stand, and then to engage Haiti on a different basis, not sending soldiers in Haiti, we don't want their soldiers. It's not the point here. But we want police, we want to train police, we want to have forces to back up our police officers, so then they can dismantle the gangs. But this decision, will it be done? I'm not sure. The United Nations, also, I don't either. I don't think that will take the decision. And you know why? Because the legacy that the nation left to Haiti is a legacy of cholera. With more than 1 million people affected, they have promised that they were going to, you know, give some financial support to the people who are affected. And that was never done, except for a little small portion that they have put forward to a United Nation leader taking responsibility. 

"The other problem that the United Nations left us is a bunch of soldiers, that made a bunch of pregnant girls—you know, it’s sexual violence and all of these things. But still, again, we have to work with what we have. United Nations has the obligation to force Haiti to reinforce its institutions by using the ministerial mechanism it has in Haiti, reinforce its objectives, reinforce its mandate, so that it can accompany the country, forward. 

"And what are the forces that we have? We have the Haitian diaspora, which is extremely fragmented, but still—that's what exists—in the United States, in Canada, in Europe, particularly in France. There are a lot of organizations of Haitian diaspora. In this dialogue, we need to engage all those actors in order for Haiti to at least stabilize the situation. And then we can breathe to see how we are going to re-imagine the future of the country."

Dr. Louis Herns Marcelin joined us for the 'This Week in Social Justice' livestream on Wednesday, July 7. We typically rock the videowaves every Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET via News Beat podcast's Facebook, YouTube and Twitch pages.

Among other issues we discussed:

  • State prisons are experiencing alarming rises in suicides, homicides, and drug- and alcohol-related deaths, according to new data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)—a disturbing trend Team News Beat has been covering extensively for quite some time.
  • Minneapolis Police killed Leneal Frazier—the uncle of Darnella Frazier, the teenager who filmed George Floyd's murder—during an unrelated car chase. Fatalities from police car chases are climbing, and could be higher than records indicate, reports McClatchy.
  • Canada has initiated a limited-time program to waive the fees associated with Indigenous people reclaiming their ancestral names on federal identification. Countless Indigenous families were stripped of their original names when the government and various religious denominations executed a sustained genocidal campaign to eradicate Indigenous people through forced assimilation and indoctrination within so-called 'residential schools.' Thousands upon thousands of Indigenous children never returned.

News Beat Podcast will continue to cover the aforementioned social justice stories, and many, many more.

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For more, watch the full episode of 'This Week In Social Justice' featuring Dr. Louis Herns Marcelin, professor of anthropology at the University of Miami.


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