Leftist Haitian economist and political leader. During his years in exile in Mexico, he became known as one of the highest caliber intellectuals in the entire Caribbean region.
was born in Jacmel, a small town on the southern coast of Haiti. From a young age, he showed an interest in social issues, and at age 16 he founded a labor union in the cement factory where he worked in the capital, Port-au-Prince. In 1959, along with others, he founded the Haitian Communist Party during the cruel dictatorship of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier.
Because of his communist ideas, he had to go into exile in Mexico, where he studied at the Autonomous University of Mexico, where he became a professor of Social Sciences and Haitian and Caribbean Economics and a researcher in the Social Research Institute. In Mexico, he lived an intellectual life, publishing various books about the problems of Haiti and the Caribbean, including Radiografía de una dictadura: (1969), Política y sociología en Haití y la República Dominicana (1974), Caribe contemporáneo (1981) and El pensamiento sociopolítico moderno en el Caribe (1985). He also taught at the prestigious The College of Mexico. During these years, he suffered from polio, and for the rest of his life he walked with the help of crutches.
He returned to his native Haiti in 1986 after the fall of Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. Not much later, Pierre-Charles joined Jean Bertrand Aristide, the priest who formed the political movement called Lavalás that struggled on behalf of Haiti’s impoverished masses. Aristide was elected in 1991 but was overthrown several months later. During his absence, Pierre-Charles turned the political movement into a disciplined political party, the Lavalás Political Organization. Aristide returned with the help of the United Nations and fulfilled his term. During this time, however, Pierre-Charles gradually distanced himself from the president’s leadership until he split with him in 1997. He publicly accused the president of turning his back on the poor and wanting to monopolize power and install a dictatorship.
Along with other defectors from the movement, he helped form the Struggling Peoples Organization, an opposition party to Lavalás, and he became the general coordinator. This party was the central entity in the Democratic Convergence that organized protests against the Aristide regime in 2001. After winning the elections that year, Aristide followers attacked and burned Pierre-Charles’ house, which also served as an academic research center and the central office of the party. In 2004, when an insurrection led by former members of the military and police arose against the Aristide government, Pierre-Charles maintained his position that the president should resign but he did not join the insurrection.
Pierre-Charles was known for his clear and analytical mind, which was something unusual in a setting where politics is lived and practiced emotionally. His followers began a campaign to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize. He died in 2004 in Cuba where he received medical treatment for a heart condition. He was married to Haitian historian Suzy Castor and they had three children.
Author: Luis Galanes
Published: May 04, 2012.
This post is also available in: Español