Haitians Are United Against Another Foreign Intervention – and a Former US Diplomat is With ThemBreaking News
tags: Haiti, Caribbean history
International interventions in the nation of Haiti have never benefited actual Haitians. Here there has been a long and disgraceful history: from the 1915 invasion and occupation that set a dark precedent of military misadventures to come to the more recent United Nations mission that brought cholera to the country in a scandalous chapter that’s now returned to the news. So it’s no surprise that U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’s plan to send an international military force to Haiti has been met with resistance. The most broad-based coalition of civil organizations and political forces in the country doesn’t want foreign soldiers to come, and a former U.S. ambassador is warning that the move is partly the result of American policy failures and runs the substantial risk of ending in violent tragedy.
The latest news in this breaking story is that the U.N. Security Council is considering Guterres’s request to send “a specialized armed force” to restore order. The latest nationwide anti-government protests have lasted more than seven weeks, and gang violence has brought the capital, Port-au-Prince, and its environs to a standstill. The U.N. says it is responding to a request by Haiti’s so-called “government,” headed by an unelected prime minister, Ariel Henry. So far, the U.S. State Department says only that it is “studying” the request, but an informed source says the United States is likely deeply involved behind the scenes and that any such military force would probably have to include some American troops.
The Commission for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis, also known as the Montana Accord (named for the Port-au-Prince hotel where the group formed), issued a statement on October 7 opposing any foreign intervention. “History teaches us that no foreign force has ever solved the problems of any people on earth,” it said. The Accord is a coalition of more than 650 Haitian organizations and individuals, including labor unions, community organizations, Catholic and Protestant churches, women’s groups, chambers of commerce, and a range of political groups.
Not all of Haiti’s political forces are represented in the Montana Accord, and critics rightly point out that it is not an elected body. But the broad panoply of interests united under its banner still contrasts favorably with the de facto government, which has almost no legitimacy inside Haiti. Ariel Henry was not elected into office but rather appointed after President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in July 2021. Haitian democracy had, by that point, already flatlined: A full Parliament has not existed since 2019; Moise had been ruling by decree, and he had started dismantling the nation’s Supreme Court. Even more astonishing, The New York Times reported that there is credible evidence that Henry himself may have been linked to the killing of Moise. The murder investigation is, unsurprisingly, going nowhere.
Since July 2018, hundreds of thousands of Haitians have risked their lives to protest against the dismantling of democratic institutions and the concomitant rise of political corruption and gang violence. Protesters regularly excoriate the U.S. and the U.N. for propping up the Henry government. These pro-democracy protests have received scant coverage in the U.S. mainstream media (with the honorable exception of the Miami Herald). Had these demonstrators been on the march in, say, Eastern Europe, there’s little doubt that planeloads of American reporters would have raced to the scene.
Against the backdrop of this media blackout, Daniel Foote—a career American diplomat who resigned as U.S. special envoy for Haiti in September 2021—has offered a blistering, public critique of U.S. policy toward the nation. He follows Haiti closely and continues to sharply criticize his former colleagues at the State Department in his Twitter account.
Foote told me that he fears any foreign military force will be helpless to distinguish between genuine protesters and actual gang members, and the likelihood that troops will open fire on the wrong people is high. “There’s big risk with any kind of intervention because you’re sending foreign soldiers into an environment that they don’t understand,” he said. “If you send a bunch of soldiers down there with an objective to go after ‘bad Haitian people,’ there is enormous risk that they’re going to wind up confronting innocent civilians who are just trying to make their voices heard for a better life.”
Foote says that some Haitians are angrier than he’s ever seen before, so much so that any sort of foreign intervention will meet with a violent backlash, especially if the end result is Henry maintaining his hold on his despotic regime. “Foreign soldiers seen as an invading force, propping up a dictator, could be met by more than street protests,” he said. “There could be a bloodbath.”