By Emmanuel Roy
Published First By Haiti Observateur
Since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise last July 7, Haiti has rapidly descended into near anarchy. A growing wave of gang violence and kidnappings has forced people to remain behind closed doors as much as possible, for fear of being kidnapped or killed. On October 16, 17 missionaries, including 16 Americans and one Canadian, were kidnapped by the “400 Marozo” gang, one of the most feared gangs in Haiti. Nearly a month later, they haven’t been released, their captors demanding $17 million.
The political instability, that led to the insecurity and the economic collapse, was not only created by the intransigence and corruption of Haitian politicians. American policy makers and other international actors (Canada, France, Brazil, and Spain) bear much responsibility for the Haiti crisis. For the last three decades, the U.S. government through the CORE Group practically ran Haiti, deciding who wins and loses presidential elections. Haitian Government ministers must receive the blessing of the American Ambassador in Haiti to implement any large-scale social program through a so-called agreement with the USAID. The U.S. government bears direct responsibility for the chaos in Haiti, and has no choice but to assist in resolving the problem it has created.
Nothing in the history of relations between Haiti and the U.S. reflects genuine American intention to foster a true and stable democracy in Haiti. A short review of recent history would support my contention. I would start with events in 1990. That year, the people of Haiti elected Jean Bertrand Aristide as President with nearly 70% of the votes. Aristide was the first freely democratically elected President of Haiti. A proponent of liberation theology, Aristide was not the choice of the United States. Marc Bazin, a former World Bank bureaucrat, a darling of the U.S., was the favored candidate, but the people chose Aristide instead.
Seven months into Aristide’s presidency, the State Department and Haiti’s merchant class orchestrated a coup d’état sending him into exile for three years.
In 1994 President Bill Clinton with the assistance of the late American General Colin L. Powell and President Jimmy Carter negotiated Aristide’s return with then Haitian Army General Raoul Cédras. An important caveat was for Aristide to forgo tariffs on imported goods, especially American rice, which resulted in destroying Haiti’s rice production. Aristide served the remainder of his term leaving office in 1996.
In 2001 the people of Haiti for a second time elected Aristide. Three years into his second term, the CIA with the blessing of President George W. Bush, used Guy Phillipe a former Haitian military officer to oust Aristide from power. Aristide was kidnapped and forced into exile, going first to the Central African Republic, Jamaica and finally to South Africa. He returned to Haiti in 2011 after seven years in exile with the understanding that he will not get involved in politics. In subsequent presidential elections, the U.S. continued to select the winner and looser, rather than allow the Haitian people to choose their own leaders.
In 2011 the U.S. State Department, under Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Organization of American States (OAS) chose Michel/Michael Joseph Martelly to be President, as opposed to the true winner of the election, Mirlande Manigat, with the understanding that Martelly would work together with the Clintons to further impoverish Haiti and its people, while enriching themselves and their acolytes. The Clintons amassed a fortune doling out multimillion dollar contracts to their friends. No explanation has been furnished for the $13.5 billion collected for Haiti by the UN and NGOs following the earthquake of 2010. Most of that aid has disappeared into the bank accounts of those who oversaw the reconstruction plan for Haiti. To this day, not one single government office has been built. Haiti’s National Palace is still under a big tent. The Red Cross collected $500 million and built three modest houses in Haiti. Where have the millions gone? And most of those made homeless by 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000, are yet to have decent housing, with some still under tents.
Since Aristide’s second removal, the country has slowly fallen into chaos. Now, heavily armed gangs control, not only Port-au-Prince, but large swaths of the nation. Making matters worse, the U.S. has contributed to the mayhem by repatriating thousands of would-be Haitian refugees and convicted felons, to a Haiti already facing widespread insecurity.
In the last ten years, the U.S. government repatriated more than 20,000 convicted felons to Haiti. Many of them came to the United States as infants and learned their criminal trade in the United States. Haiti does not have the capacity to deal with such challenges. Many of the gang members terrorizing the population, kidnapping people for ransom had served years in some of the most violent prisons in the United States. When they get to Haiti, they have no choice but to get involved in criminal activities, their specialty learned in the United States.
To this day, the U.S. Department of Justice continues to repatriate these violent felons to Haiti, further fanning the insecurity. It is unconscionable for the U.S. now wanting to wash its hands off and leaving it to Haitians alone to fix the problem. This is not to say that Haitian government officials and others have no part in the problem. They do. But the US has been a major accomplice and as such has a moral duty to see Haiti through this morass.
Last week, a high-ranking Biden administration official said the U.S. “has limits on how far it will get involved in the country.” This statement is laughable, considering that the U.S. has been deeply involved for years, controlling almost everything in Haiti, from selecting the president, to supporting the merchant class that controls Haiti’s economy, to condoning corruption.
“At the end of the day, it’s not going to be the international community that comes to Haiti’s rescue. It’s going to be Haitians, it’s going to be Haitian authorities and the Haitian National Police that’s responsible for the security in the country.” Said Todd Robinson, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs during a visit to Port-au-Prince and having met the de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry.
According to Robinson, Haiti’s government has set up a task force to address the ongoing challenges, and the U.S. stands ready to assist, but will not be taking the lead on the country’s growing security crisis. The Americans have been taking the lead in Haiti since the ouster of Aristide in 1990 and again in 2004. Obviously, the U.S. policy of dictating who becomes president has failed miserably. Exacerbating the situation is the American government policy of returning hard core criminals of Haitian descent to Haiti.
Since early October, the government of Ariel Henry, with an outmatched Haitian National Police (PNH), have been unable to deliver critically needed fuel to almost all facilities, including to the gas stations and places like hospitals. The gangs controlling the southern entrance to the capital in Martissant and Carrefour, as well as the northern sector in Cité Soleil, seize the fuel tanker trucks and divert them, with the fuel being sold on the black market. The gangs are so powerful, they even seized a tanker truck that was escorted by the police. This situation has made life nearly impossible for the people, as all activities get affected, whether hospitals, clinics, schools, banks, transportation, telephone companies, anything that depends on electricity to operate. The country itself is going totally dark.
It is too late for the Americans to wash their hands off Haiti. Haitians must find a political solution, but that will not address all the vexing problems that Haiti faces. American policy in the last 30 years since the fall of the Duvaliers had been designed to impoverish the land, to keep Haiti politically unstable, as echoed by Daniel Foote in his letter of resignation last September, as the American Special Envoy to Haiti. This policy must change. Haiti needs a 50-year plan that every elected president must follow. This plan must be created with the assistance of the Haitian diaspora, Haiti’s most valuable asset, in partnership with civil society in Haiti.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government can help to alleviate the security situation in Haiti by doing the following: First, by acknowledging that the PNH is outgunned by the heavily armed gangs. Even though there is a U,S, arm embargo on Haiti, gang members have been able to receive military grade weapons, even from the U.S. The American government can work to shut down the illegal arms traffic.
Second, the US government can provide logistical and operational support to the PNH, while simultaneously working with the newly reconstituted Haitian Army, to raise its capacity to assist the police in routing the gangs. A small contingent of US Special Forces can be deployed to Haiti to assist the PNH and the embryonic Army solve Haiti’s security problem in a matter of months. The Haitian government should make such a request immediately.
Email: [email protected]
The writer is the Executive Director
of the Haitian Diaspora Political Action Committee