“Our policy of outreach to Haiti remains deeply flawed,” wrote US special envoy to that country, Daniel Foote, in his resignation letter last week. The argument raised by the diplomat is simple: Haiti, in the conditions that it is, cannot bear the massive arrival of thousands of people deported by Washington after having tried to cross the border with Mexico illegally.
Foote made his resignation a political act. In response, a week later, the Undersecretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Brian Nichols, and President Joe Biden’s top adviser for Latin America, Juan González, arrived in Port-au-Prince. In this official visit of the Democratic Government, they will meet with the Prime Minister of Haiti, Ariel Henry, and his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Claude Joseph, who held the position of interim prime minister since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse but ended up handing over to Henry. Too much attention for half a Caribbean island so ignored by the United States.
Why does Haiti end up being a stone in the shoe for the United States? Why is the United States responding or should it respond to the demands of this crisis? Why is there something in Haiti’s future that also depends on how the Biden administration responds?
A past marked by interventions
“If Haiti were to sink silently in the Caribbean or rise 300 feet, it wouldn’t matter much in terms of our interest,” then-Delaware Senator Joe Biden said in 1994, as he rescued. Ishaan Tharoor in an article published in the Washington Post.
Young Biden’s words came after the United States and its allies had just militarily occupied the country to restore democratically elected leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power.
Haiti’s past appears several times intertwined with the United States despite its apparent disregard for the western part of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with the Dominican Republic.
Both the United States and Haiti have been the first countries to become independent from America. But the results have not been the same. In fact, it took the United States nearly four decades longer than France to recognize Haiti as a sovereign nation. But the situation did not improve over the years.
The United States invaded Haiti in 1915 and remained there until 1934. It did so after another assassination, that of Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, facing the possibility that Rosalvo Bobo, critical of the deployment of United States commercial interests on the island, would arrive to the power. After the occupation, the United States imposed the signing in 1915 of a treaty that gave Washington control over Haitian resources and the Haitian economy, as well as having succeeded in repealing a 1804 law that prohibited foreigners from owning land in Haiti.
American influence continued for the rest of the century. From 1957 to 1971, the dictator Francois Duvalier ruled Haiti. There are historiographical currents that maintain that the United States tolerated Duvalier because he functioned as a counterweight to the advance of communism that sprouted from Cuba during the Cold War.
The 1991 Haitian coup ended the popular Jean-Bertrand Aristide, elected in 1990 but overthrown in a coup half a year later. Then the Democratic government of Bill Clinton decided to re-intervene the country militarily. In 1994, the UN force led by Washington occupied the territory with the argument of recovering democracy.
Ten years later the scenario would repeat itself. In 2004, in the northeast of the country, an armed conflict broke out that quickly ended up dominating the north of the Haitian territory. The situation led the UN Security Council to authorize the deployment of a force of 6,700 soldiers, the “blue helmets”, under the leadership of the United States.
A few years later, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush visited Port-au-Prince together to bolster Haiti’s rebuilding process after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 220,000 Haitians. Too much attention for a territory that, in theory, the United States cares little.
Two Americans implicated in the assassination
“We arrested 15 Colombians and two Americans of Haitian origin. Three Colombians died and another eight fled,” said the director general of the National Police, Leon Charles, the day after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise.
One of them is James Solages, 35, who came to work as security at the Canadian Embassy in Haiti. Originally from Jacmel, a city in the south of the country, Solages resided in Florida and would have been the one who shouted that the assailants were agents of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), as reported by New York Times. The other is Joseph Vincent, 55, about whom there is less information.
But also, according to the investigations released by the local police, the name of Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a doctor living in Florida, in the United States, appears. Sanon would have contacted a Venezuelan security company based in the United States to recruit members of the command that allegedly perpetrated the assassination.
It is to be hoped that the nationality of these suspects will cause a headache for the United States, whose delegation defined that before traveling to Port-au-Prince, they would pass through Miami to meet with Haitian-American actors.
“We are not going to Haiti to impose a solution or a roadmap, we are going there to listen and, in particular, to understand what we can do, from the perspective of the United States and the international community,” he said this Thursday, the recently appointed Undersecretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Brian Nichols, from Florida.
The immigration claim
Almost half of Haitians who decide to leave the country go to the United States, according to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). In Haiti, a fifth of the population, about two million people, have been forced to emigrate due to economic problems, fear of insecurity and the impact of natural disasters that hit the island.
The prime minister of Haiti recalled, at the last UN General Assembly, that the United States was built thanks to waves of migrants and refugees and said that the images of the deportation of Haitians on the border with Mexico “have shocked many people.” .
The Secretary of National Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, who confirmed that some 2,000 people were expelled to Haiti and another 8,000 returned to Mexico in addition to that some 12,400 immigrants were allowed to submit their case before an immigration judge to determine their permanence in the country.
However, the way in which they were pushed out of the country did not invite the resignation of the US diplomat who defined the response of the Democratic government as “inhumane.”
Aid is not development
Humanitarian interventions, many of them promoted by the United States, have also come under fire, including that of the Clinton administration, which historian Robert Tabe wrote, caused a crater in the Haitian rice market in the mid-1990s.
It is estimated that the donations that the country received after the earthquake in Haiti exceeded 9,000 million dollars, but the lack of controls on private companies that received these donations due to the lack of confidence in public institutions made any kind of hope for change in Haitian society has been dynamited.
So there is something about the future of Haiti that also depends on how the Biden Administration responds. Instead of military interventions or aid responses, Haiti needs from the international community and, especially from the United States, concrete responses, with a long-range view and that respect its autonomy.
Foote summed it up this way: “What our Haitian friends really want, and need, is to have the opportunity to chart their own path. I don’t think Haiti can enjoy stability until its citizens have the dignity to truly choose their own. own leaders transparently and appropriately. ”