Politics

Biden Sending Aid, Guns, and Money Won’t Fix Haiti

FILE – A protester carries a piece of wood simulating a weapon during a protest demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, in the Petion-Ville area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Oct. 3, 2022. Source: Voice of America (VOA)

“U.S. Doubles Pentagon Budget for Multinational Haiti Force,” reports The Miami Herald. And just like that, the U.S. has another war on its hands, and soon the refugees will arrive. Despite Republican opposition blocking $40 million in security aid, $10 million is already on its way to buy guns for the Haitian police.

The situation in Haiti is unwinnable, and U.S. meddling has only made things worse. More U.S. money, weapons, and diplomatic support for any of the warring factions will just perpetuate the cycle of violence, coups, assassinations, and corruption that have rendered Haiti an effectively failed state.

In 2021, the Biden Administration backed Haiti’s unpopular Prime Minister Ariel Henry, a move that many feel helped to fuel much of the current violence. James Foley, a retired career diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to Haiti, remarked that the Biden Administration “rode the horse to their doom” by supporting the wrong man.

Now, the country has collapsed into chaos, with a figure known as Barbecue leading the country’s gang coalition. However, Barbecue has been excluded from a transitional governmental council established with the UN’s blessing.

Last year, under Henry’s watch, gangs killed an estimated 4,800 people. Between January and the beginning of March, an additional 1,200 were killed. The streets were littered with decomposing bodies, while gangs waged war for control.

Innocent civilians suffered; they were robbed, raped, or caught in the crossfire. Business owners were forced to pay for protection, and shortages of essential goods occurred as delivery drivers refused to risk their lives.

Kidnapping for ransom had become a mainstay industry. A humanitarian crisis exploded as doctors, nurses, and patients were afraid or unable to reach hospitals. More than 300,000 Haitians have been forced to flee their homes, while refugees have flooded into or attempted to flood into the Dominican Republic.

While Haiti burned, gangs demanded Prime Minister Henry’s resignation.

The gangs attacked police stations, raided a jail, and released 3,000 inmates. Already in control of 80% of the territory in the capital city, they laid siege to both the presidential palace and the interior ministry. The gangs were struggling to gain control of the country’s primary seaport and airport when Prime Minister Henry jumped on a plane.

He flew to Africa to meet with leaders there and also held meetings with CARICOM, the 15-nation bloc of Caribbean countries, trying to organize an international peacekeeping mission to restore order in Haiti.

However, those nations were not willing to step into the quagmire of trying to prop up an unpopular government in a country that has never had stability.

On his way back to Haiti, the situation had become so dire that it was no longer safe for him to land at the country’s main international airport. So, he attempted to find a friendly port to take refuge in.

Neighboring Dominican Republic, as well as other Caribbean nations, refused to let him in. Finally, the U.S. gave him permission to land in Puerto Rico.

Now a former police officer, Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, previously accused of participating in several large-scale massacres in Port-au-Prince, has emerged as the leader of a coalition of gangs attempting to negotiate the formation of a new government.

Aid groups estimate that 1.5 million people are now in need of protection and assistance. President Biden believes the aid should come from America, while many Americans hold a contrary opinion.

Haiti has never experienced stability, and the situation appears unresolvable at this point. By assuming the burden of fixing Haiti’s problems, the US would be stepping into another situation akin to Iraq or Afghanistan, which is deemed completely unwinnable due to a long history of dysfunction and numerous warring parties, all vying for control of one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries.

Between 1945 and 2023, Haiti witnessed 24 coup d’états, and six Haitian presidents were assassinated. The most recent assassination occurred in 2021 when President Jovenel Moïse was killed.

Following his assassination, Claude Joseph, who was the acting Prime Minister at the time of Moïse’s death, declared a state of siege in Haiti. However, there was a dispute over leadership, as Ariel Henry, who had been appointed as Prime Minister by Moïse just days before his assassination, claimed the right to lead the government.

Eventually, Ariel Henry was recognized as the Prime Minister by international actors, principally the United States, and took office, succeeding Claude Joseph.

On March 11, Henry finally resigned, and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his support for a transitional council that would appoint a successor to Henry until elections could be held.

The first problem with this plan is that Ariel Henry’s assumption of office as Prime Minister was initially intended to be temporary, with the goal of overseeing the organization of elections in Haiti.

After assuming office, Henry pledged to work towards holding elections and facilitating a peaceful transition of power. However, the situation remained tense as various factions did not accept Henry’s rule.

A systemic issue that has contributed to violence and instability is that each of the successive governments for the past 20 years or more has utilized street gangs as enforcers.

Consequently, the powerful and well-funded gangs demand a piece of the action. As soon as a government resorts to extra-governmental militias to enforce its policies, democracy is compromised.

Now that the genie is out of the bottle, Biden, the UN, and other well-meaning actors mistakenly believe that a democratic transition is possible.

The transition, which the UN approves of, was agreed upon in Jamaica by the intergovernmental Caribbean Community (CARICOM), along with representatives of Haiti’s government and opposition.

When the list of political groups was released by CARICOM, some Haitian political factions were enraged because they were not represented. Some rejected the list completely, while others criticized the fact that Haiti’s political class, which had steered the country into its current crisis, were to be brought back to power.

Barbecue, for his part, threatened to kill politicians and their families who participate in the council.

The situation is completely untenable. The gangs are not going to accept the interim government, and the violence will continue unabated. Biden needs to steer the US clear of this dumpster fire. The last thing America needs is another expensive and hopeless foreign military intervention.

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