March 14, 2024

Haiti

Uncertainty hung over Haiti's political future on Tuesday after its prime minister said he would step down, a move welcomed by many Haitians exhausted by months of escalating gang violence… Prime Minister Ariel Henry, stranded in Puerto Rico, released a video late on Monday night pledging to resign as soon as a transition council and temporary leader were chosen…

“Haiti declared a state of emergency this month as clashes led to two mass prison breaks, with the country's most powerful gang leader, Jimmy ‘Barbeque’ Cherizier, threatening to overthrow Henry… Heavily armed gangs dramatically expanded their wealth, influence and territorial control during Henry's time in office. Their turf wars have fueled a humanitarian crisis that has seen more than 360,000 internally displaced, while many areas have lost access to medical services and food.” Reuters

Both sides are critical of US policy regarding Haiti:

“[Henry] has never been a popular leader… Many Haitians saw him as at best weak, negligent, and silent in the face of abuses against his people. At worst, some speculated that his coterie was either complicit with or under the thumb of the gangs. He was never elected: He came to power in a provisional capacity, with the support of the United States, after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, and many Haitians have since seen him as a roadblock on the path to real electoral democracy…

“The United States has finally given Haiti what it has been looking for over the past two years: a possible route around the problem of Henry. But another problem remains: the United States itself, which, along with a broader group of institutions and countries that for the most part follow the Americans’ lead on Haiti policy, has made too many bad choices for Haiti in the past to inspire confidence.”

Amy Wilentz, The Atlantic

“According to his own former special envoy to Haiti, President Biden’s ‘chief reason’ for backing Ariel Henry was the new president’s ‘malleability and the fact that he agreed that he would take all the deportees that they wanted to send.’… While the U.S. publicly claimed to push for democracy in Haiti, the administration did not withdraw its support as [Henry and his predecessor] consolidated power and oversaw chaos…

“To be sure, all the blame for Haiti’s woes does not belong at the feet of the United States. But our carrots and sticks continue to benefit the political prospects of American elites more than the people of Haiti, and in the long run end up worsening a crisis on our doorstep, harming our interests, and fueling violence that claimed nearly 4,800 Haitian lives last year alone.”

Emily Jashinsky, The Federalist

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