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As armed gangs continue to rule over Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince, the United States and other countries are floating a proposal to send in armed troops.
For nearly two months, armed gangs have blocked the main terminal of Haiti’s capital city, cutting off access to humanitarian aid as protestors angry at high food and fuel prices call for the resignation of the nation’s most recent prime minister, Ariel Henry. Over the weekend, a politician and news reporter were both shot dead amid the violence.
It comes over a year after the assassination of Haitian leader Jovenel Moise in July 2021. He was murdered by Colombian assassins, some of whom were reportedly trained by the U.S.
In October, the U.S. and Mexico drafted a resolution for the United Nations Security Council that proposes “a limited, carefully scoped, non-U.N. mission led by a partner country with the deep, necessary experience required for such an effort to be effective,” U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield confirmed on October 17.
“If there was ever a moment to come to the aid of Haitians in dire need, it is now,” she said.
Haitians slam proposed military intervention
So far, however, countries have not voted on the proposal. It came in response to a request for aid from within the country.
Prime Minister Henry, who some Haitians regard as serving U.S. interests over its own people, has asked the international community to send in a “specialized armed force” to gain control of the situation, a request that many of his people fear, according to the Haitian Times.
“We should chain the doors of all offices of public institutions until Prime Minister Ariel Henry leaves,” said Ebens Cadet, spokesperson of Nou Konsyan, an anti-corruption activist group in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian Times reported.
“We do not accept the presence of foreign forces on our territory,” Cadet said.
Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s first free Black nation and its poorest, has faced a calamity of crises ever since freeing itself from French rule in 1804.
A brief history of U.S. intervention in Haiti
While many view Haiti as a nation beleaguered by natural disaster and undemocratic rule, critics of U.S. intervention argue that Haiti has survived amid attempts to destroy it.
As the only free Black nation on the side of the world dominated by enslavement of Black people, France forced Haiti to pay billions of dollars (today’s dollars) in reparations over a period of decades for cutting the European nation off from its source of free labor. As the nations around newly independent Haiti proved hostile and unwilling to trade, Haiti had no choice but to pay the funds under threat of annihilation.
U.S. interventions in the past haven’t done much to improve the conditions of the Haitian people.
Twice in the last century, the U.S. has invaded Haiti with the stated intention of saving the country from itself, though the aftermath of U.S. intervention has had opposite results.
After Haitian president Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam was assassinated in 1915, U.S. marines invaded the nation to “restore order.” For two decades the American military occupied Haiti, and while it succeeded in building the authority of the central government, it resulted in the establishment of several dictatorships.
Again, in 1994, the U.S. under President Bill Clinton returned with a military force to bring back to power the ousted leader Jean Bertrand Aristide. A slew of other UN missions have taken place since then, yet democracy continues to seemingly evade the Haitian people.
Ideas differ on how to help Haiti
Near the end of October, the 15-member UN Security Council adopted a resolution to sanction a notorious Haitian gang leader who goes by the name Barbeque, according to the Associated Press.
“We are sending a clear message to the bad actors that are holding Haiti hostage,” the U.S. ambassador said on Oct. 21.
Yet, it remains to be seen whether nations will go as far as sending in troops to quell the unrest. According to NPR, private discussions have focused on allowing other Caribbean nations, such as Guyana and Bahamas, to lead such an assault.
Ultimately, critics of the plan say sending in troops won’t address the larger issue of strengthening democracy in Haiti.
Some groups from within Haiti have sought to do just that.
According to the Haitian Times:
“The Montana Accord is an approach proposed in August 2021 by the Commission for a Search to a Haitian Solution to the Crisis, a group of civic, religious and political organizations and leaders that assembled after the assassination of Jovenel Moise left Haiti without a head of state.”
The leader of the Montana Accord, Fritz Alphonse Jean, has criticized the U.S. proposal as another attempt to make decisions for Haiti.
“It’s a national disgrace that in 2022, there are actors waiting with open arms for a military intervention,” Jean said in a youtube video published Oct. 7. “They are waiting for the foreigner instead of working to find a consensus to put the country on the path of progress and social peace.”