On Oct. 14, 2022, the Miami Herald released a United Nations Security Council draft resolution from the United States calling for an “immediate deployment of a multinational rapid action force” in Haiti. This move came shortly after the Haitian government’s request for foreign military assistance following major rises in gang violence.
From July 8 to 17, thousands of residents were trapped in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, as the G9 gang fought rival gangs for local territory. During ten days of violence, more than 470 people died or went missing, and those that didn’t had no access to food or water.
That is only one example of Haiti’s destabilization, which has slowly occurred over the past decade. In 2021, a group of US-trained Colombian mercenaries assassinated former President Jovenel Moïse. They claimed they were hired to capture Moïse and hand him over to the US Drug Enforcement Administration. Who hired them is still unknown.
Both the Trump and Biden administrations publicly backed Moïse despite congressional resistance. Several representatives went on record calling Moïse an autocrat, including Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In December of 2020, he issued a joint statement with other representatives saying that “Moïse is pursuing an increasingly authoritarian course of action.”
Prime Minister Claude Joseph, and neurosurgeon Ariel Henry fought for power following Moises’s assassination. A group of ambassadors from the United States, Canada, Brazil, Spain, France, the European Union and the United Nations threw their support behind Henry a few weeks after the assassination.
“Let's be crystal clear: Nothing has changed in Haiti except the name of a Prime Minister. He is from the same PHTK [Haitian Tèt Kale Party] regime chaotically ruling for the last 10 years with US support. And it’s unconstitutional," tweeted Haitian journalist Monique Clesca on the influence of Western countries in Haitian affairs.
The tension between Haiti and the United States primarily stems from the U.S. invasion of Haiti in the early 1900s. In July of 1915, President Woodrow Wilson ordered an invasion of Haiti, citing socioeconomic instability. The assassination of the Haitian president, Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, at the hand of insurgents caused the intervention.
This tension between Haiti and the United States is ongoing. When the Associated Press reported on Oct. 7 that the Haitian government requested foreign military intervention, people took to the streets to protest any foreign involvement. Thousands of people marched in Port-au-Prince, calling for Henry’s resignation. Despite his administration being a mere year old, the nation’s inflation rate has nearly doubled from 16.8% to 30.5% since he took office. He also introduced a string of failed economic policies, including a decision to stop subsidizing fuel – an industry that accounted for 4% of the Haitian GDP.
In recent weeks, the Haitian National Police opened fire and used tear gas on protestors, reportedly killing a young girl. In the midst of the protests, the United States and Canada sent military to the understaffed HNP to “fight against criminal actors,” according to the US State Department. They did not specify if the criminal actors were the gangs or the mass of protesters.
The UN Security Council also sanctioned G9 gang leader, Jimmy ‘Barbecue’ Chérizier, invoking a travel ban and freezing his assets.
“There is no evidence that [sanctions] ever worked,” said Ibrahim Gassama, a professor at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law and the interim director of the Center for Human Rights. Gassama has also worked in Haiti monitoring elections. “[Gang leaders] don't bank with JP Morgan. They use cash, they use diamonds, they use things like that. And what happens is that there's a lot of performative behavior to show that we are doing something.”
With intervention looming, many activists have highlighted the tragedies foreign presence has caused Haiti in the past. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that rallied the international community, United Nation peacekeepers were accused of sexually assaulting and impregnating underaged Haitian girls.
UN peacekeepers were also the source of a Cholera outbreak in Haiti. The disease, which killed over 10 thousand Haitians, is spread through contaminated water and targets the intestines. The UN only admitted its involvement six years after they arrived in Haiti. The outbreak has yet to be contained over a decade later.
According to Gassama, while past US military interventions of Haiti have been illegal, if the US were to intervene in the coming weeks, it would be legal.
“Any country can ask for a foreign government to come in to help them under international law,” Gassama said. “The U.N. is also calling for intervention in Haiti, and that's the clear international legal authority.”
When discussing if military intervention would help or harm the Haitian people, Gassama referenced a study he is doing with his class at the law school.
“We looked at all the interventions since the end of the Cold War and the non-interventions, and we compared them,” Gassama said. “There is no difference whether you intervene or don't intervene.”
The UN has not yet reached a final decision on a Hatian intervention. But according to Clesca, “the intervention is a short-term solution for something that is not a short-term issue.”