Reviews | As Haiti descends into pandemonium, the international community is silent

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As Haiti descends deeper into pandemonium, with much of the capital gripped by gunfire and gang warfare, it received recent shipments from the United States of two products that cannot contribute to its collapse: arms and deportees. These exports – one smuggled, the other overtly – are the latest symptom of the world’s senseless contempt and moral short-sightedness for the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Haiti has no functioning government, no democracy, no peace, no hope. And the response of the international community is silence.

Last month, in the midst of a spasm armed violence that left hundreds dead, injured or missing in the capital Port-au-Prince, Haitian customs officials seized shipping containers they said contained 18 “weapons of war”, more handguns and 15,000 cartridges. According Reuters, the items were sent from the United States to the Episcopal Church of Haiti. The church denied knowledge of the container, the contents of which were described on a freight document as “Donated goods, school supplies, dry food”.

A few days later, a deportation flight from Louisiana arrived in Port-au-Prince – the 120th such plane arrive in Haiti this year only. Few Haitian deportees have the opportunity to seek asylum in the United States. Since the Biden administration took office, it has sent at least 26,000 Haitian migrants to their home country, where life has been turned upside down since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last summer. Advocacy groups say about a fifth of the deportees were children; hundreds were infants under the age of 2.

The United States is not alone in its recklessness. The Organization of American States, whose stated mission is to prevent conflict and promote stability, has done little in Haiti beyond lukewarm questions statements of concern. The UN Security Council recently extended operations of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti a year, a measure that went unnoticed by most Haitians, and for good reason: it was totally ineffective.

The United Nations World Food Program has been routing deliveries of food to the country by sea, to better prevent its trucks from being looted by the gangs. Jean-Martin Bauer, Director of WFP Haiti, recognized gang violence means “people can’t work, people can’t sell their wares”. Food prices have soared by more than 50 percent over the past year, a devastating toll in a country where WFP estimates nearly half of the population of 11 million requires immediate food assistance.

No wonder since last October the US Coast Guard has prohibited more than 6,100 Haitians are trying to reach the United States by sea, a huge increase from recent years.

It is high time to reassess the convenient piety, voiced by diplomats, advocates and activists, that Haiti should be left to find a “Haitian-led solution.” The truth is that a “Haiti-led solution” is a pipe dream, and without strong international intervention, the country’s suffering will worsen. To ignore this reality is to be complicit in the world’s contempt for Haiti’s anguish.

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