The Biden administration is again pushing for military intervention in Haiti, in part due to the fear of Haitian immigrants coming to the United States, but also as a result of an imperialist mindset that is focused on physically controlling Haiti.
The U.S. mainstream media constantly present Haiti as a country that is collapsing without presenting geopolitical, colonial and structural contexts regarding this collapse. Since de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry requested military intervention on October 7, the crisis has worsened. Most recently, gangs killed 12 people and set several homes on fire in Cabaret, a town in the northwest of Port-au-Prince.
The United Nations warns that Haiti is “on the verge of an abyss,” yet the world seems to just be watching. Back in November, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi tweeted, “The situation in #Haiti is getting worse: Violence and abuses are escalating; a humanitarian crisis is growing. Today I appealed to all States not to forcibly return Haitians to their country and to give them access to asylum procedures if requested.”
Notwithstanding Grandi’s plea, deportations of Haitians from the Dominican Republic have increased dramatically in recent weeks, with Haitians being deported in trucks with caged doors. The United States, too, has been deporting Haitians indiscriminately. In September 2021, Haitians were treated worse than animals at the Texas border, while in June of this year, President Biden welcomed Ukrainian children to the United States with smiles and hugs.
In all the geopolitical maneuvering surrounding the current situation in Haiti, the realities of everyday life in that country are often lost. Survival is the term that best describes Haitians’ state of being these days. Ensekirite (insecurity) has been a way of life for months now. In our conversations, my friends and family members in Haiti convey a sense of resignation. The day or the hour you just lived through is the only one you can count on. A close family member told me that many people have to check with a representative of the various gang members in the streets for permission before they can even attempt to leave their homes.
Yet in spite of the current situation, many Haitians are resisting another foreign intervention. I was able to gain some insight into how those in Haiti view the current request for military intervention by communicating with David Oxygène, secretary general of the organization MOLEGHAF (Mouvement de Liberté d’Égalité des Haitiens pour la Fraternité, or National Movement for Liberty and Equality of Haitians for Fraternity), an organization fighting for an anti-colonialist and classless society.
Oxygène emphasized that occupations are characterized by massacres, kidnappings, trauma, fear, attacks on opposing political parties, and the removal of people’s ability to mobilize and conduct grassroots organizing. He and members of other grassroots organizations in Haiti see this is a tactic used to create an atmosphere that will enable foreign powers to assume control of the country’s resources and economy, as well as its culture, and prop up leaders who are in the service of the colonizers.
“We have lived through occupation and military occupation three times already. Military intervention will birth military occupation,” Oxygène told Truthout via WhatsApp. Before the official occupation of Haiti began on July 28, 1915, when over 300 marines landed in Port-au-Prince, the National City Bank of New York went to the Haitian National Bank in December 1914 and seized $500,000 in U.S. currency. Military intervention is closely connected to economic control. “The military intervention started then,” Oxygène said. “We lived [through] military intervention in 1994 and in 2004, which led to crime, massacres and destruction. All military interventions bring about occupation and that is never good for any country; 1915, 1994, 2004, they all brought disease, hunger, poverty and destruction.”
He views the Global Fragility Act (the stated objective of which is to prevent conflict and support stability through a decade-long country plan) as a U.S. imperialist tool to intervene around the world and a structure that allows the U.S. to justify its interventions. People in Haiti do not trust that the Global Fragility Act will empower people and support an inclusive and citizen-centered government.
Oxygène argued that MOLEGHAF and other grassroots organizations “categorically oppose all types of intervention,” adding: “The masses have risen up against the kidnappings and gang violence, against the UN and [the Organization of American States], against the U.S. embassy and the CORE group. The people have been organizing through various grassroots organizations that include women’s organizations, unions, farmers and students.”
The CORE group is made up of largely white ambassadors from Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the United States and the European Union. The CORE group is viewed by many people inside and outside of Haiti as “a secretive colonial and imperialist alliance … that has deepened [Haiti’s] political crisis and pushed through elections denounced by independent observer missions as fraudulent,” as Yves Engler writes in Canadian Dimension. The CORE group has a history of meddling in Haitian political affairs.
We [in Haiti] understand the military intervention in a different way. Ariel Henry and his ministers are reactionaries who want to protect their interests and those of the imperialist powers, especially the United States. The solution that Ariel Henry should bring forth is a focus on the needs of the people. The military intervention is a way to prepare the terrain in order to have satellites as leaders and leave out the masses so that they do not have political rights in their own country. It will only lead to physical occupation…. People from the masses who understand what is really happening are mobilizing so that there can be a redistribution of the country’s resources.
As Oxygène makes clear, many people whose voices are not being heard reject the idea of intervention because they view it as a way for Ariel Henry to further maintain control, plotting against the working class and the masses. Since all the country’s institutions (judiciary, economic, political, social) are broken, they see Henry as attempting to gain control by inviting this intervention.
Many people in Haiti view the gangs as being under the control of the government that is supporting lawbreaking with impunity, including kidnapping, rape, exploitation, and all other forms of violence. It is not clear what exactly the foreign interventions in Haiti will accomplish beyond giving power to another group of gangs that will continue to maintain inequality and foment violence.
Will the foreign powers support free and democratic elections — something the majority of Haitians have been asking for even before the assassination of Jovenel Moïse? I seriously doubt it. The grassroots organizations in Haiti that are fighting for people’s dignity, respect and sovereignty have no faith that a military intervention will even attempt to resolve the ongoing issues that were in part created by these same neo-imperialists who want to “help” Haiti.
In the recent film Wakanda Forever there are two small scenes set in Cap-Haïtien, the northern part of Haiti. Unlike usual stereotypical depictions of Haiti, this film offers a possibility of what Haiti could be, as King T’Challa’s widow Nakia goes to find refuge there. Some have called this part of the film a love letter to Ayiti as the first Black Republic. Sadly, the real Haiti we are dealing with today is very different. However, grassroots organizations such as MOLEGHAF believe there is a possibility for a better Haiti, a Haiti that can govern itself effectively, if the imperialist vultures both inside and outside of Haiti are defeated. While the Biden administration recently extended and redesignated temporary protected status for Haitians who have been living in the U.S. as of November 6, 2022, this is similar to putting a Band-Aid on an open wound.
In a recent op-ed, former U.S. Ambassador to Haiti James B. Foley stated, “The United States in particular should spare no cost in helping Haiti to build a robust security force capable of quelling lawlessness; indeed, this ought to be a U.S. national security priority for years to come.”
Coalitions of Haitian civil society groups like the Montana Accord agree that there must be a transitional government that supports and respect Haiti’s constitution and sovereignty. There is no trust within the general population vis-à-vis the motive behind the military intervention. Haitians do not want a situation in which the U.S. and other foreign powers either support the de facto government via a military intervention or do not provide any support at all. Rather they are asking the U.S. and other countries to provide humanitarian help in ways that invite collaboration with civil society to build a just, equitable, sustainable and structurally sound society.