by Jim Hodgson
Haitians (whose own proposals for building a better country are persistently ignored) once again face an illegitimate government, one that has proposed a foreign intervention force to quell gang violence and to keep itself in power.
In reporting by many journalists from the global north, popular protest against the government, increased fuel prices, corruption and intervention is blended with reports of actions by the street gangs.
On Friday, Oct. 21, the UN Security Council approved its resolution authorizing a foreign military intervention and imposing sanctions on only one of Haiti’s gang leaders. (One might ask: when do gang leaders travel? Where do they go? Which banks do they use? Who sells them their weapons?)
The new intervention propositions emerged from the UN general secretary and Haiti’s “interim” prime minister: as if such interventions had worked in 1915, 1994, or 2004 to resolve the problems of people impoverished by the same imperial powers who are now invited to return.
Those powers misunderstand the present crisis. They can’t tell the difference between protest against the unelected government of Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the criminal activity of gangs. On Oct. 15, the United States and Canada delivered armoured vehicles for use by Haitian police.
Worse, the great powers continue to ignore the specific civil society proposals for a way forward that are contained in the “Montana Accord” (named for the hotel where the group met). The group told a visiting U.S. delegation that it opposes foreign military intervention.
Cholera – never really eliminated after being brought to Haiti by support staff to soldiers in a previous UN force – is back. There are proposals to bring vaccines, but Haiti was able to deliver COVID vaccines to just a few more than three per cent of the population. Only 41 per cent of Haitian children are vaccinated against measles and 51 per cent are fully vaccinated against polio. Effective management of the cholera outbreak would require some sort of humanitarian truce, and that would require negotiations with the gang leaders – pretty much anathema to the imperial powers who seem more inclined to use force.
The current debates over the legitimacy of the government, possibilities for new elections, getting back on track with humanitarian aid and a reasonable development agenda are addressed in a new letter to U.S. President Joe Biden by four U.S. senators and nine members of the House of Representatives.
Recalling “decades of US meddling in Haiti’s internal affairs,” the group lauded the Montana Accord, which proposes a transition period that will ultimately result in elections, adding:
“None of these weighty issues can be addressed effectively in isolation. Neither free and fair elections, nor effective delivery of humanitarian assistance, are possible until the violence is quelled. Yet the Haitian police conspire with the gangs, and past U.S. efforts to build a professional, accountable police force have failed. The violence can only be quelled by Haitian authorities acting consistently with the rule of law through impartial judicial processes.”
I’ll share a short reading list with you:
Edwidge Danticat (my favourite Haitian writer) in The New Yorker: “The Fight for Haiti’s Future.” The United States and its allies should withdraw their support support for Henry and the Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale (P.H.T.K.), the Haitian Bald-Head Party. “During the Party’s decade in power, Haitians have consistently taken to the streets to protest against P.H.T.K. leaders’ ineffectiveness and corruption, and to demand accountability for the funds misused, misappropriated, and pilfered through Venezuela’s oil-purchasing program, Petrocaribe. Accountability never came.”
If you read French and would welcome regular updates on what is going on in Haiti, I would encourage you to sign up for Info-Haïti. This is the monthly bulletin of Concertation pour Haïti, a Montreal-based coalition of civil society organizations. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow the Concertation on Twitter at: @haiti_pour.
A former U.S. ambassador to Haiti, Dan Foote, has warned that if the U.S. moves forward with the UN plan to send armed forces into Haiti, the result will be a predictable catastrophe.
And The New York Times has managed to produce pretty useful lesson plans for teachers about Haitian history and culture.