New Foreign Intervention Would be Disastrous for Haiti’s People

U.S. Marines in Bel Air, Haiti, 2004. Photograph Source: LCPL KEVIN MCCALL, USMC – Public Domain

The United Nations Security Council on October 2 voted to approve a resolution prepared by the United States and Ecuador that authorized a multi-national force to be deployed to Haiti for a year “to combat armed bands and reestablish security.” The vote was 13 nations approving, Russia and China abstaining, and none opposing.

In mid-September at the United Nations General Assembly, U.S. President Joe Biden and Ariel Henry, Haiti’s acting president, called for a multi-national militarized occupation of Haiti. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres had done so earlier.

U.S. spokespersons say that $100 million is being sought from the U.S. Congress and the same amount, as in-kind contributions, from the Pentagon. Secretary of State Blinken promised “robust financial and logistical assistance” from the United States.

As of August 15, armed bands, or gangs, had killed 2.439 Haitians this year, according to a UN report.

Meeting in Nairobi on September 25, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Kenyan counterpart agreed that Kenya will provide 1000 “security officers” and will “lead a multi-national peacekeeping mission to Haiti.” According to the UN, 12 countries have committed to being part of the mission.

The Communist Party of Kenya issued a statement condemning the Kenyan government’s participation. It pointed out that U.S. power derives from “the enslavement of millions of African people, whose labor laid the foundation for [U.S.] economic prosperity.”

The United Nations itself is neither leading or organizing the intervention. For good reason: the UN force occupying Haiti in 2004-2017 violated Haitians’ human rights, abused women and children, and introduced a cholera epidemic that killed 40,000 Haitians.

We offer four explanations for why the proposed intervention will harm Haiti’s already beleaguered majority population.

One, previous foreign interventions have brought trouble. Nothing suggests this one would be different. Here’s the record:

• The aforementioned UN occupation

• NGOs invaded after the 2010 earthquake. They wasted donated funds.

• U.S.-assisted military coups in 1991 and 2004 removed the progressive Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

• The U.S. “Operation Uphold Democracy” reinserted Aristide in 1994 on condition that he enforce neoliberal rules.

• The U.S. government provided vital support to the father-and-son Duvalier dictatorship from 1957 to 1986

• The U.S. military occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934 was brutal.

• France required pay-back with interest for slaves having gone free, in all, $560 million (in 2022 dollars) and up to $115 billion in lost development.

• The U.S. responded to Haitian independence, proclaimed in 1804, with a trade embargo and diplomatic isolation, each lasting for decades.

Two, Haiti’s oppressed majority population needs a government, not a façade of one. A government in Haiti that served the people might provide a buffer between an imported, militarized foreign police and the Haitian people. One realizes that Haiti has no functioning government, much less one friendly to the people’s cause.

Michel Martelly became president in 2011, courtesy of U.S. manipulation. The last general election in Haiti, in 2016, allowed Jovenel Moïse to be president. The two wealthy politicians belonged to the rightwing PHTK political party. The elections they won were thoroughly corrupt and saw abysmally low-turnouts.

Moïse and others embezzled billions of dollars taken from the low-interest loans that President Hugo Chavez’s Venezuelan government made available to Haiti’s government. The funds were to have supported Haiti’s development and allowed for the government to purchase low-cost oil under Chavez’s Petrocaribe program and to provide subsidized fuel and food for Haiti’s impoverished people. The U.S. government sanctioned Venezuela in 2015 and loans and cheap oil stopped.

In response massive protests erupted against government corruption and waste of the Petrocaribe funds. What with increasing shortages and rising prices, they’ve continued since 2018. In a context of multifaceted conflict among Haiti’s oligarchs, Moïse was assassinated in July 2021.

There has been no president since, other than acting president Ariel Henry, whom the Core Group made prime minister shortly after the assassination. Representatives of the United States, Canada, several European countries, and the EU make up the Core Group. Haiti’s parliament has not functioned for over three years.

The distressed Haitian masses have no political party that reliably or effectively speaks for them. They have no say about foreign governments’ plans for them. They have no institutional resources or constitutional protections against potential abuse at the hands of foreign occupation forces.

Three, the gangs have ties with Haiti’s wealthy powerbrokers. It’s a relationship inconsistent with a simple story of interventionists taking on gangs. The association grew out of the recurring outbursts of social protest.

Haiti’s establishment sought protection from disorder and destruction triggered by the ongoing protests, primarily in Port-au-Prince. In the absence of an army, and with the police unable to cope, gangs came into existence.

They were to bring order to city neighborhoods. Some of the protesters joined the gangs. Wealthy Haitians have been funding them. The gangs took on the additional role of blocking agitation for political change. Funds flowed from local oligarchs and from abroad for that specific purpose.

There’s a sea of contradictions. In suppressing the gangs, the interventionist forces would be defying the wealthy classes that pay them. But those same wealthy classes, as represented by their political boss Ariel Henry, are calling for a foreign security force to defeat them. The struggling people of Haiti may not readily follow such convoluted scheming, but they are familiar with the likely outcome.

Four, the timing of the proposed intervention coincides with movement within the gangs toward a new kind of politics. One suspects that the proposed intervention represents a heavy-handed response to stirrings for political change.

Some leaders of some gangs appear to be disenchanted with inter-gang fighting and with dependence on the rich and powerful. They are making alliances and mouthing revolutionary sentiments.

Press reports center on veteran gang leader Jimmy Cherizier. They’ve latched onto his nickname “Barbecue,” assigned to him as a small boy; it evokes the specter of fiery violence. This former highly-regarded policeman brought other gangs into his “G9” alliance and now is reaching out to other gangs.

Cherizier, quoted by journalist Kim Ives, speaks his mind:

“We are a great people. Our national motto is ‘Union makes strength.’ Our objective is to once and for all overthrow the system that exists in Haiti and achieve the dream of [Haitian founding father Jean-Jacques] Dessalines, which is for the nation’s wealth to be shared by all its citizens … Our battle isn’t just going to be to demonstrate with people in the streets. We have guns, and we will fight with them… We took our independence with arms.”

Cherizier told Ives earlier that, ““this is a corrupt system; these people are using us to fight their political battles, and we do not want to be their cannon fodder anymore.”

Sabine Manigat, a sociologist at Haiti’s Quisqueya University, has the last word: The “image of Haiti portrayed in the foreign press, which highlights misery and insecurity, does not paint the full picture of a country where a social movement survives, people who are standing up and fighting and who require international solidarity, not intervention.”

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.