U.S. and World Politics

Haiti’s Choice is Social Revolution or Foreign Intervention

By W. T. Whitney

With long experience of chaos, violence, and dysfunctional governance, Haiti looks now to be on the verge of new crisis in the form of foreign military intervention. U.S. and United Nations decision-makers have held back, but now they look to be moving, again.

The need all the while has been for change so that all Haitians might live decent lives. Whatever is in the works now offers little prospect for rearrangement of political and social hierarchies in Haiti.

Haitians for several years have faced high prices, recurring shortages of essential supplies, and deadly gang violence in cities that has converted Haiti into a war zone and is the focus of media and political attention from abroad.

Left-leaning political activist Camille Chalmers insists “there is a clear connection between these gangs and sectors of power, [which include] the far right” and the U.S. government. In an interview published on May 7, Henry Boisrolin agrees. This Haitian analyst living in Argentina states that:

“We have entered … a new phase in a spiral of violence characteristic of a crumbling neo-colonial system … The armed gangs are frankly death squads that are instruments in the hands of the Haitian oligarchy and the international community, mainly the United States. They want to subdue the popular movement in Haiti, sow terror, and put off an uprising.”

The government headed by Prime Minister Ariel Henry, appointed by President Jovenel Moïse just days before his murder on July 7, 2021, is a façade. The U.S. government and the supervising “Core Group” of foreign nations put him in office and are backing him now.

The last national elections were in 2016; the National Assembly has no legislators. Those elections, remarkable for minimal voter turn-out, gave the presidency to Moïse, a wealthy businessman.

Moïse overstayed his term of office, was accused of massive corruption, and was killed by paramilitaries who prepared in the United States. His predecessor, millionaire Michel Moïse, became president in 2011 only after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton intruded in the elections.

Affecting Haiti’s situation now are: death and destruction from earthquakes and hurricanes; UN military occupation for 13 years that that introduced cholera, killing tens-of-thousands; and billions of dollars stolen that were set aside to pay for oil from Venezuela’s Petrocaribe program.

The distant background shows U.S diplomatic and commercial barriers during Haiti’s first 50 years, unjust and massive debt obligations to France for over a century, U.S. military occupation and U.S. support for the Duvalier dictatorships during the twentieth century, and subsequently a U.S. hand in two coups that removed the progressively-inclined President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The United Nations Security Council on October 21, 2022, “demanded an immediate cessation of gang violence and criminal activity” and declared itself ready “to take appropriate measures … against those engaged in or supporting gang violence.” In January 2023, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres called for “deployment of an international specialized armed force to Haiti.”

On April 26 the Security Council deliberated on Haiti—19 speakers were heard. Maria Isabel Salvador, head of the UN’s “Integrated Office in Haiti,” indicated that almost 50 percent of Haitians require humanitarian assistance. “The Haitian people cannot wait,” she declared; a “specialized international armed force” is needed. Jean Victor Geneus, Haiti’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, agreed.

The U.S. government is ready to act, it seems, with plans aimed at implementing the 2019 Global Fragility Act. That law would “prevent and reduce violent conflict” abroad by means of “negotiating bilateral, ten-year-long “security assistance” arrangements with “fragile states.”

The State Department on April 1, 2022, released a document explaining rationale and methods for implementing the GFA. A year later, on March 27, the State Department explained that the GFA would be implemented through “ten-year plans … in partnership with Haiti, Libya, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, and Coastal West Africa, including Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, and Togo.”

An accessory document reveals that Haiti was being prioritized. It mentions a “sequenced approach for U.S. efforts” that will depend upon “political and security openings in the country.”

Kim Ives, veteran defender of Haiti’s sovereignty, commented that the plan “is essentially a new alliance of USAID ‘know-how’ with Pentagon muscle.” He foresees that the United States will be “returning the country from a neo-colony back into a virtual colony as it was from 1915 to 1934, when U.S. Marines occupied and ran it. Nonetheless, the U.S. would try to keep some Haitian window-dressing.”

Vassily A. Nebenzia, the Russian Federation’s Permanent Representative on the UN Security Council, received a letter on April 24 from 58 individual Haitians and representatives of Haitian political organizations. Russia is currently serving as the Security Council’s president.

Evaluating U.S. intervention

The letter claims that U.S. plans for Haiti’s future would violate the United Nations Charter. It calls for an independent commission to evaluate U.S. interventions in Haiti since 1993. The authors fear “a grave attack on the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and unity of Haiti.”

They also object to U.S. occupation since 1856 of the Haitian island Navase, the U.S. government’s manipulations in the 2010 presidential elections, and U.S. failure to prevent the weapons being shipped to Haiti for use in killings and crimes.

A month after President Moise’s murder in 2021, the “Montana group” of civic leaders proposed a two-year provisional government that would prepare for elections. The results have been nil.

De facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry in December 2022 announced a “High Transition Council” set up to arrange for elections. But eight political parties soon vetoed the project and very little has been achieved. Already in October, Henry had requested the U.S. government and/or United Nations to intervene militarily.

Whatever happens in Haiti promises little help for a severely distressed underclass; 59 percent of Haitians live on less than $2-a-day, the poverty rate is 60 percent, a quarter of the population has no access to electricity, 50 percent of Haitians are food insecure, 50 percent of Haitians must drink polluted water, 50 percent of Haitian children do not attend school, and two thirds of adult Haitians are unemployed or informally employed.

No social revolution is on the horizon and most Haitians, individually and collectively, are powerless. Power lies with Haiti’s business class whose impulse is for “invasion and occupation.”

These would be the richest ten percent of Haitians who control 61.7 percent of the country’s wealth. The billionaires in that class are conglomerate owners Gregory Mevs and Gilbert Bigio, worth $1.0 billion and $1.2 billion respectively, and Irishman Denis O’Brien, who is worth $6.8 billion and controls Haiti’s telephone services.

Henry Boisrolin, cited above, sees U.S. hypocrisy when he looks at U.S. sanctions against ten powerful families in Haiti that buy “tons of arms and munitions” for use in Haiti. This is a U.S. government that “does not allow a single syringe to make its way to Cuba” while claiming ignorance as to who sells those arms or that they come from the United States.

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

CounterPunch, May 11, 2023