A number of international powers have come to the conclusion that something drastic may have to be done to address the spiraling crisis in Haiti. But none of them are in any particular hurry to do it.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres concurred, saying in November that “armed action” would be needed to restore humanitarian access to areas controlled by gangs.
Looking for volunteers
This would be a tall order in a country with more than 200 political parties, and David Beer, a retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer who led the U.N. Police mission in Haiti in the mid-2000s, told Grid that Trudeau’s comments were probably “political talk for ‘We’re talking to the Americans.’”
At a recent State Department press conference, Grid asked deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel whether the U.S. had made any progress on finding a government willing to take part in an intervention. He replied that “the conversation continues to be ongoing with our allies and partners and other countries. I’m not going to get ahead of those ongoing discussions, but at the United Nations and across the U.S. government, negotiations continue with partners and other council members to set defined and specific parameters for a mission and find the most effective means to support, enable and resource it.”
Despite the lack of recent progress, several experts and policymakers who spoke with Grid expect some sort of international mission to be announced in the coming months.
Foote added, “If it’s done incorrectly, it’s going to be worse than doing nothing.”
Anatomy of a crisis
The problem with intervention
Monique Clesca, a Haitian civil society activist and writer who supports an opposition movement known as the Montana Accord, told Grid that Henry’s call for intervention is “nonsensical.”
“There is no military intervention being asked to go to Ethiopia, to go to El Salvador, to go to Honduras, to go to Peru,” she said, naming other countries in the midst of political crises. “I don’t see why there should be a military intervention to go to Haiti. It is a sovereign country.”
As Vicki Huddleston, a veteran U.S. diplomat who served in Haiti for several years, told Grid, “The problem is that we have an illegitimate president right now in Haiti. If we intervene now, we’d be supporting him.”
The path ahead
Georges Fauriol, an expert on Haiti at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Grid, “What’s been emerging, I think, over the last 90 days is sort of a wobbly sort of three-part plan” from the international community to help stabilize the situation in Haiti.
Whatever it’s called, the mission will have its work cut out for it. Beer, the Canadian former police officer, said the challenges of foreign security intervention in Haiti include the “complete lack of a functioning government and functioning justice system, the extent of corruption, the influence of the economic elite [who often have ties to criminal gangs] and the history of the participation of the government in illicit activities.”
In Beer’s view, a new intervention to tackle gang violence is “not going to succeed unless the international community, maybe the U.N., takes over the government for a few years, recreates public services, and government structure, and a judicial system that can stand on its own.”
He conceded that there’s little appetite either in Haiti or in the international community for this option.
A Haitian solution?
When Grid asked Clesca whether a basic level of safety would have to be restored before Haiti’s political paralysis could be addressed, she replied, “I think you’ve asked the wrong question. There should be a political solution first, and then you can talk about security. With Ariel Henry, it’s really clear that there will not be a real security solution, because ever since he’s been in power, it’s gotten worse.”
But, striking a rare optimistic note, Fauriol noted to Grid that “for all of the crises and problems the country is going through, there’s a fairly energetic civil society and political community that is still there and survives.”
Foote, the former U.S. diplomat, added, “We, the United States and the international community, needs to take a leap of faith with the Haitian people. We need to believe that the Haitian people can come up with a solution to resolve their own problems.”
For now, those problems are growing only more dire.
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