The fight for Haiti’s future

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On January 1, 1804, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, one of Haiti’s founding fathers and the first black head of state in the Americas, declared the country’s independence after a fourteen-year war with European colonial powers. The revolution separated Santo Domingo, as the country was then known, from French colonial rule. He also freed slaves and established Haiti as the world’s first black republic. “We dared to be free, so let us be by ourselves and for ourselves,” Dessalines declared, but his leadership of the newly autonomous nation would be short-lived: on October 17, 1806, he was assassinated by political rivals and left. behind a split country.

So there was an agonizing irony in the fact that, on the anniversary of Dessalines’ death this week, the United Nations Security Council met to discuss the deployment of foreign troops to Haiti. The meeting followed a request by Haiti’s de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry for a “specialized armed force” to deal with the country’s armed gangs and a growing humanitarian crisis. Outside forces would also likely help Henry maintain his claim to power. Henry was chosen as Prime Minister by President Jovenel Moïse before Moïse assassination last year, and he remained in office mainly thanks to the support of the Core Group, an alliance that includes the United States, France and Canada, as well as representatives of the United Nations and the Organization of American States. Under Henry’s leadership, Haiti has seen worsening inflation, fuel shortages, kidnappings, massacres, displacements and an escalation in clashes between heavily armed gangs, which are often funded by the political elite and commercial. In August, Haitians began protesting to demand that Henry resign.

Then, in September, Henry announced he was scrapping government fuel subsidies to raise money for government programs, and gasoline prices immediately doubled. In response, Jimmy (Barbecue) Chérizier, the leader of G9 Family and Allies, a federation of more than a dozen of Port-au-Prince’s most powerful gangs, blocked Haiti’s largest oil terminal, which holds seventy percent of the country. refueling. The blockade is now in its fifth week and has left schools, businesses, courts and hospitals closed or operating at minimal capacity. Food insecurity is increasing at an alarming rate. Drinking water is scarce and cholera has reappeared in Port-au-Prince, creating a UNICEF representative called a “time bombfor the outbreak of the disease across Haiti.

If Henry’s request is granted, it will be the fifth time in just over a century that Haiti has experienced a military intervention. The most recent was the investment of seven billion dollars over thirteen years United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, which lasted until 2017 and resulted in a cholera epidemic that killed around ten thousand Haitians. Last week, senior US government officials, including Assistant Secretary of State Brian A. Nichols, traveled to Port-au-Prince to meet with Henry, members of the business sector and representatives of a coalition of civil society commonly known as the Montana Accord. , who called Henry’s call for troops a betrayal. Since then, a major US Coast Guard vessel has been patrolling the Port-au-Prince coastline, and last Saturday the United States and Canada jointly delivered military equipment, including tactical and armored vehicles. At the October 17 UN Security Council briefing, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, called for unanimous support for two U.S.-drafted resolutions and Mexico. The first would impose financial sanctions on Chérizier — as well as others responsible for gang violence and arms trafficking — by freezing their assets and limiting international travel. The second would launch a non-UN mission led by a “partner country with the deep and necessary experience”. On Friday, the first resolution was adopted unanimously. The second has not yet been voted on.

Recently, I joined a protest at the White House calling on the US government to withdraw its support for Henry and the Parti Haitien Tèt Kale (PHTK), the Haitian Party of Bald Heads. During the decade in power of the Party, Haitians constantly took to the streets to demonstration against the inefficiency and corruption of PHTK leaders, and to demand accountability for misused, misappropriated, and stolen funds under Venezuela’s oil purchase program, PetroCaribe. The responsibility never came. Now, with the most decimated country in recent memory, as citizens struggle to find food and water, or are trapped in their homes, with the constant sound of gunfire nearby, Henry counts maybe on external reinforcements to bring what my fear relatives also hope, yon ti souf– a little respite, a respite. But, with international military support in place, Henry would be even less motivated to negotiate with civil society, let alone resign. He might even attempt to organize PHTK-controlled elections, which would start the disastrous cycle all over again.

I was in Haiti in the summer of 2018 when Moïse announced gas price hikes, triggering nationwide protests and shutdowns. The young people I spoke to at that time kept expressing their desire for a clean slate, for a reset, for a clean slate towards a more just and equal society for – as the saying goes an educator friend – “a generation of Haitians who have not yet known a peaceful political and economic situation. Four years later, the Haitians are not about to see this society emerge, and the very future of the country seems to be in jeopardy. Thu. After the DC protest, Vélina Élysée Charlier, a member of the Haiti-based anti-corruption group Nou Pap Dòmi, told me, “Historically, no US or UN intervention has really solved Haiti’s problem,” which is “social and economic apartheid” under which most of its citizens live. Why should Haitians believe that this time will be different? ♦

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