By Nathaniel Ballantyne
In September 1991, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, first democratically-elected President of Haiti in modern times, was removed by a coup d’état orchestrated by Raoul Cédras, then General of the Haitian Army, during the George Herbert Walker Bush Administration. The American government’s policy vis-a-vis Haiti was that Democracy was good as a matter of process, so long as the people choose the right candidate, meaning an American-endorsed candidate. With his anti-imperialistic rhetoric, Aristide was found to be too antagonistic towards the interests of powerful Haitian fractions. He spent nearly four years in exile until Bill Clinton was elected president.
During the Clinton administration, the State Department changed its policy and demanded the return to the democratic order. Aristide was returned to Haiti October 15, 1994, under the protection of some 23 000 U.S. troops, after a long marathon of negotiations at Governors’ Island in New York City. On February 29, 2004, Aristide, who had been re-elected president in November 2000, was deposed again — under Republican President George Walker Bush, or Bush Jr.
During the Cold War, before the collapse of the Soviet Union, American foreign policy was generally bipartisan, especially when it came to NATO and the interests of European nations. But regarding countries like Haiti and African nations, American foreign policy has always been subjected to the whims of the White House’s occupant.
A Biden administration would have many global issues to address, including Haiti’s lawlessness, legislative elections, and extra-judicial killings by Haitian government-sponsored thugs. The many Haitians to whom I have spoken place their hope on a Biden win. They believe that the Democratic standard bearer would extricate the Haitian people from the grip of its current murderous chief, President Jovenel Moise. Elected president in 2016, Mr. Moïse’s term officially expires on February 7, 2021. Due to his disastrous administration, his opponents have sought his resignation and establishment of a caretaker government to organize elections. Consider that since January, Mr. Moïse has been ruling by decree, with no functioning Legislature, and the Trump administration has supported him! Moreover, he declares that he intends to rule until February 7, 2022, still with the blessing of the current Washington administration.
Of course, the support of the Trump administration did not come cheaply. President Moïse’s administration had caved in under U.S. pressure and joined the Americans when the Organization of American States voted to condemn President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, ousting the country from the hemispheric organization. Thus, the traditional friendship between Haiti and Venezuela has ceased since 2019.
Many Haitians are hoping that a President Biden would force the resignation of President Moïse. Sadly, they could be disappointed because a new Biden administration would most likely turn its attention to more pressing global issues, such as the extension of the New Start nuclear arms control treaty with Russia, a return to the Paris climate accord, a patching up of relations with the World Health Organization and even revisiting the Iran nuclear accord. Other pressing issues also are the much-needed reform of the World Trade Organization and attending to the less contentious G7 and NATO meetings. As it is, Haiti could be an afterthought, as Biden focuses also on pressing domestic issues.
Just as Trump did in 2016, earlier this month, Biden made several promises during his visit to the Haitian community in Little Haiti, in Miami, Florida. Haitian leaders in the Sunshine State, including Bernice Fidelia, the former Minister of Haitian Living Abroad under the Martelly administration, have been very supportive of Joe Biden and are actively campaigning for him. Earlier this week former president Barack Obama was in North Miami, just a stone thrown from Little Haiti, campaigning for Biden. This was the first time that a former president and a candidate for president visited Little Haiti within the same month. In 2016 Haitian Americans helped DONALD TRUMP win Florida, this time, Democrats are taking nothing for granted – they quickly realized the power of the Haitian American votes. In an interview with TrueNews Ms. Fidelia said “This is the most important election in my lifetime, in fact my daughter Sky just turned 18 and I took her to vote yesterday.” She added “The Haitian American vote in Florida is very important and Florida is a battleground state that could make the difference for Biden. We have been working with our community partners to make sure the community vote as a block for a candidate who will address our issues.” The Haitian Power-House, a newly formed organization is poised to represent the interests of Haiti and Haitian Americans in Biden administration.
Karine Jean- Pierre, a Haitian American, is the chief of staff for Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris and an advisor to the Biden-Harris campaign. Karen Andre, another Haitian American is a senior advisor to the campaign, in charge of Florida and national faith-based outreach. Ms. Andre is the daughter of Farah Juste, a Haitian singer. Both of these ladies will most likely join the administration, and many hope that their presence in the new administration would keep Haiti in the forefront. I will remind them, however, that Patrick Gaspard, a Haitian American, was a senior advisor in the Obama campaign in 2008 and had joined the administration as the White House political director and was later appointed American ambassador to South Africa. His presence at the table did little to help Haiti.
A Biden administration probably would be no different from that of Obama’s, with Haiti being treated as a nuisance. After the 2010 earthquake during which more than 250,000 people died, the Obama administration handed Haiti to the Clintons. Incompetence and corruption turned the “rebuilding Haiti back better” slogan in vogue then into a colossal failure, with billions of dollars never accounted for.
To my esteemed friends who believe that Haiti’s savior would be Joe Biden, clothed in magical
garb, holding a magic wand, imbued with the power to make Haiti a better and safer place instantaneously, I say WAKE UP! A Biden administration probably will not mean anything to Haiti, not unlike a Trump administration or its predecessor meant nothing. In fact, the only American president, in recent memory, who did anything for Haiti was Bill Clinton, and we know how badly that turned out.
Only Haitians can solve their problems. We should not be looking to others to solve the problems we have created because of intransigence, incompetence, corruption, and self-hatred. Regardless of who wins the presidential election on November 3, Haiti is poised to continue its downward spiral to hell unless, of course, we say C’est assez!But, please tell, when is enough really enough? Is it not when visionary and patriotic Haitians of all stripes remember the motto of our ancestors and decide to pull together to get the job done in the spirit of L’Union fait la Force?