“The situation has never been more serious. We are very affected, on a personal, family and professional level,” one of our local news sources, whom we contacted in Port-au-Prince, tells us. Haiti is experiencing an unprecedented crisis, worse, it seems, than the many it experienced throughout its history.
On July 7, 2021, President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated and a de facto government, headed by Ariel Henry, was installed with the endorsement of the U.S., Canada and other “friendly” states. Since then, there have been no legitimately elected republican institutions in the country. The exceptions are 10 senators whose term hasn’t yet ended (one-third of the upper house of Parliament is re-elected every two years), while the president of the Senate, Joseph Lambért, is the only elected figure currently holding office. Moïse had intentionally delayed local and parliamentary elections, pushing all national institutions beyond the legal term limits.
The country is effectively controlled by criminal gangs that are dividing up the territory, in the cities and on the main communication routes. They are linked to wealthy political and economic figures, and also finance themselves through the extensive use of kidnapping for extortion.
Since September 12 (in a repeat of what happened in October 2021), the powerful “G9 an fanmi ak alye” gang has been controlling and blockading the Varreux oil terminal in the capital’s port, which houses its fuel stocks. As a result, gasoline and diesel have become very difficult to get, with Premium hitting 5,000 gourd a gallon (about $9 a liter) on the black market. Thus, the country is paralyzed, transportation is at a standstill, schools have not been able to reopen, hospitals have begun closing wings, and offices are not working (as electricity is produced with diesel generators).
The government has done nothing to bring security back to the country, after it announced the doubling of fuel costs in the middle of last month (the second doubling after the December 2021 one). Since then, powerful street protest movements have begun, very often degenerating into looting and violence.
Most recently, since the beginning of October, the cholera virus has made its reappearance on the island, and cases of illness and deaths are multiplying, partly because of the difficulty, and sometimes the impossibility, of providing treatment due to the whole country being at a standstill.
At a government meeting on October 6, the government authorized the prime minister to “request and obtain from Haiti’s international partners effective support to the immediately deployment of a specialized armed force, in sufficient quality to stop, throughout the territory the humanitarian crisis caused, among other things, by the insecurity resulting from the criminal action by armed gangs and their sponsors.” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres turned the request for help over to the Security Council. This was an illegitimate request, coming from a de facto government, calling for a new military occupation of the country. An unconstitutional act, as several sectors of civil society and the political opposition have denounced.
A group created by civil society and some opposition parties on August 30, 2021, coming together under the so-called Montana Accord, had attempted a negotiation with the de facto power for a more consensus-based and constitutionally sound management of the crisis that degenerated with the assassination of President Moïse. By early 2022, however, the group had given up, given Henry’s resistance to listening to other sectors of society to reach a broader consensus on a transitional government.
It should be remembered that the military occupations of Haiti, by the U.S. between 1915-1934, the U.S. in 1994 then replaced by United Nations (until 1997), and again the U.N. blue helmets from 2004 to 2017, brought serious problems with them, did not solve the existing ones, and, in fact, helped bring the country to its current situation by increasing its dependence on foreign aid over the decades.
Between October 12-13, a U.S. delegation, led by Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian A. Nichols, met separately with the de facto government, the Montana group, and some representatives of the business and social sectors. Meanwhile, one of the U.S. Navy’s largest coast guard ships began cruising off Port-au-Prince.
Even though Haitians have shown great resilience throughout history, the population today is truly at the end of its rope. Hunger, violence, insecurity, and disease are affecting everyone. The risk, obvious to all, is that of a generalized popular insurgency. We could see it soon.