By W. T. Whitney Jr.

June 3 , 2024

 

Under U.S. arrangements, a so-called Multinational Security Support (MSS) force will soon be descending on Haiti. Its mission is suppressing gang violence. With their experience of earlier U.S. interventions, however, beleaguered Haitians can likely expect an aggravation of oppression, social disaster, and dependency.

Supplies will arrive from the United States, and a U.S. military base is taking shape near the Port-au-Prince airport for the task. Joining the 2,500-member police force on the way will be another 1,000 troops from Kenya and others from Benin, Chad, Jamaica, Barbados, Bahamas, and Bangladesh. Kenyan officers will provide leadership.

The United Nations Security Council approved the occupation force in October 2023, but U.N. organizational responsibility is lacking. The U.S. government is providing $300 million in financing plus administrative capabilities and supplies. During a three-day state visit to Washington by Kenyan President William Ruto in mid-May, Kenya was declared officially a non-NATO U.S. ally. There are 18 other such nations.

Haiti’s government barely functions. Authority centered on Prime Minister Ariel Henry from July 2021 until his forced resignation in April. The “Core Group” of nations appointed him to that office immediately after President Juvenal Moïse was assassinated. The Core Group has supervised Haiti’s affairs since 2004. It consists of the United States, France, Canada, other European states, and an EU representative.

With U.S. encouragement, the CARICOM alliance of Caribbean nations in April established the Temporary Presidential Council to provide Haiti with governance and prepare for elections in early 2026. National elections last took place in 2017.

Presidents Michel Martelly and Jovenel Moïse held office between 2011 and 2021. They took advantage of low turnout, corrupt elections, and, in Martelly’s case, help from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They presided over the massive plundering of the PetroCaribe oil funds.

The upcoming multinational intervention has antecedents: occupation by the U.S. Army from 1915 to 1934; U.S. military occupation from mid-1994 until March 1995, and a U.S.-endorsed U.N. multinational occupation force occupying Haiti between 2004 and 2017.  A militarized United Nations mission with U.S. participation remained there from 1995 until 2000.

The police personnel from Black-majority nations making up the new occupation force will be racially similar to the cruel security force serving Haiti’s Duvalier father-and-son dictatorship, in power from 1957 to 1986. The deadly Tonton Macoute paramilitary repressors operated with funds presumably taken from the $900 million the regime received from Washington in the name of anti-communism.

In Haiti, the U.S. government is again relying on proxy enforcers who are African-descended.

The rationale for the MSS occupation may go beyond gang violence. That some gang members are thinking about justice and new arrangements for Haitian society suggests stirrings of resistance.

Haitians carried out large street protests in 2018 and 2019 against high prices, fuel and food shortages, and governmental corruption. The rich and powerful, concerned about disarray and threats to their privileges, recruited gangs of impoverished, alienated young men to clear the streets. Arms arrived from the United States.

According to analyst Jemima Pierre, “The Haitian oligarchs have always used armed groups to settle business and political scores.” Some gangs later took up drug trafficking and now receive arms from Latin American cartels.

Critical thinking shows in at least one gang member. High-profile leader Jimmy Cherizier warned that Ariel Henry before he resigned, “will plunge Haiti into chaos.… We are making a bloody revolution in the country because this system is an apartheid system, a wicked system.”

Cherizier had already insisted that the gangs are seeking “stability in our communities, … stability for businesses to function without fear so that people in our community can live without fear and feel secure, potable water for everyone in the poor neighborhoods, good healthcare, and good schools for everybody in the poor neighborhoods.”

Aspirations for social change, worrisome to authorities, rate scant coverage in the Haitian and U.S. media. That’s no surprise, given the U.S. treatment of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

An opening for democratically-elected political leadership culminated in Aristide’s inauguration as president of Haiti on Feb. 7, 1991. His social-democratic political movement took power. The Heritage Foundation four days later mentioned that “The new government in Port-au-Prince may be steering Haiti toward a communist dictatorship, hostile to the United States.”

U.S. intelligence operatives and other agents engineered successful coups against Aristide and his governments in 1991, 1994, and in 2004. Then came the 13-year-long United Nations military occupation.

An enduring theme resurfaces, that of repetition of occupations and coups and no end in sight. U.S. interventions usually do not resolve the social and political problems of either country. In Haiti, they firm up a terrible status quo. U.S. relations with other Western Hemisphere nations are different.

In dealings with many of those nations, the region’s self-appointed boss often succeeds in accomplishing its political and economic purposes. The U.S. government even adjusts to mildly progressive political changes in a few countries. In others, it suppresses social and political ferment through reliance on psychological war, undercover actions, and/or intervention, either directly or with proxies. Some sort of resolution results in most instances.

Relations with Haiti are stuck, and for good reason. Interventions don’t prosper because potential allies naturally aligned with the United States may be reluctant. For one thing, their other transnational allegiances tend to distract Haiti’s business owners and wealthy class from building U.S. relationships.  Many have family, investments, and enterprises elsewhere overseas.

The population’s division by mulatto and Black identity has historically weakened ruling-class integrity. U.S. decision-makers might have found allies among Haiti’s mulattos, a minority like themselves that is associated with political power and wealth. But recruitment may have stumbled because, as in the past, mulatto attachment to the white establishment gets push-back from Haiti’s impoverished, restive Black majority.

U.S. interventionists may not warm to Haiti’s business and political class because of supposed corruption tendencies. Anti-Black prejudice infecting U.S. society also causes trouble. Stories linger of anti-white violence accompanying slave rebellion in Haiti.

By contrast, the existence in Latin America of a well-established, institutionally-attached, self-sustaining, and culturally-aligned wealthy elite encourages collaboration. That sector can lean upon U.S. counterparts for rescue from their own dispossessed, aroused, and rebellious compatriots. Similar possibilities in Haiti are stymied. U.S. intrusions are blundering, and society itself is hurt.

 

-W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

 

-This article originally appeared in the Peoples World.