In the middle of the night on July 7, a group of militants stormed into the private residence of Haitian President Giovenel Moise and shot him to death. This shameless murder shocked Haitian society. Although it is unclear who hired the killers and why they hired them, there are already clues to Colombian mercenaries, an American security company, and various opponents of Moise in the country.
The president was unpopular, and in an atmosphere of uncertainty, he tried to extend his term. In the coming weeks, Haitians will have to deal with the political impact of assassinations, power struggles, and the suppression of protests.
At the same time, the international media sees these events as yet another episode of “chaos” in Haiti’s “turbulent” politics, and the international community-namely the United States and the United Nations-will once again seek to “stabilize” the country. The problem with this narrative is that it conceals a history of violent foreign intervention. Haitians are constantly forced to pay for their freedom, and it does more harm than good.
History of foreign interference
Talking about the assassination of Moyes and its consequences seems hard not to fall into the clichés about “chaos”, “turmoil”, “poverty” and “corruption.” An editorial in the “New York Times” described the incident in a similar way: “Haiti’s already turbulent political landscape may be further into chaos on Thursday, because after the assassination of President Governell Moise, The power struggle between the two competing prime ministers has increased tensions.”
This type of media portrays that Haitians cannot govern themselves and that what is happening in the country is the result of local corruption, incompetence and unruly. However, looking at what is happening only from the perspective of “local chaos” will ignore the long history of foreign intervention, which systematically undermines Haiti’s struggle for freedom and democracy.
On August 22, 1791, the enslaved Africans broke out in an uprising in what was then called the French colony of Saint Domingue. For more than ten years, black revolutionaries have been fighting against colonial rule. On January 1, 1804, Haiti became the first autonomous black society in the Americas.
But this is not consistent with the defeated colonial power France, which continues to try to restore its colonial rule over Haiti. In 1825, under the threat of another French invasion, the Haitian government led by President Jean-Pierre Boyer agreed to pay independence compensation to France, which led to continued financial instability in the country.
But it did not stop there, and Haiti’s political sovereignty has not been fully respected by its powerful neighbor, the United States.
For decades, Washington has tried to establish a foothold in Haiti, trying to control its ports or customs, but has encountered resistance from Haiti. At the beginning of the 20th century, it regularly dispatched navy to the waters of Haiti. In 1914, the US Marine Corps landed in Haiti, forcibly went to the National Bank of Haiti, seized $500,000 and shipped it to New York. The following year, a U.S. delegation proposed to the Haitian government for U.S. military “protection” but was rejected.
In July 1915, Haitian President Jean Vilbrun Guillaume was assassinated and American President Woodrow Wilson dispatched American troops to occupy the country. They stayed here for 19 years, during which time the US government implemented the Jim Crow apartheid system, restricted press freedom, and indulged in violence against Haitians.
However, foreign intervention did not end with the withdrawal of American troops from Haiti in 1934. In the mid-1980s, the country transitioned from authoritarian rule to republican democracy, but in the next 30 years, the presidency changed hands 20 times.
In 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide became the first elected President of Haiti. Within a year, he was deposed in a coup, in which an intelligence agency trained and funded by the CIA participated in the coup. In 1994, he returned to Haiti under the protection of the US military. Aristide was re-elected in 2000, but was forced to step down again after another armed uprising that he believed was planned by foreign forces.
The story of Aristide is a typical example of how American intervention continues to undermine the development of democracy in Haiti. As Jemima Pierre, professor of anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles, pointed out: “At least since 2004, the United States is responsible for the complete destruction of Haiti’s democracy and the complete loss of Haiti’s sovereignty.”
After the coup against Aristide, Haiti entered another period of foreign military occupation.This time the United Nations has sent peacekeeping troops to Caribbean countries after determining the “Haiti situation.” [constituted] It poses a threat to international peace and security in the region.”
It deployed thousands of foreign troops and police with a budget of 200 million U.S. dollars. They were powerless to improve the situation in the country and eventually caused a devastating cholera epidemic and committed a series of sexual crimes.
According to Mamyrah Prosper, Professor of African Studies at Davidson College, the United Nations has also made the security situation worse: “The United Nations is here [in Haiti] 17 years, but in these 17 years and those years, there were more guns on our territory than before. “
The failure of the aid industry
The unstable government succession of the past few decades and the growing economic dependence on the United States have greatly restricted the Haitian government’s ability to provide services to its citizens. The 2010 earthquake, followed by an outbreak of cholera, destroyed the country and hindered development efforts. The government struggled to deal with large-scale destruction and deprivation.
As a result, Haiti had become a hot spot in the aid industry before the earthquake, but found itself at the center of large-scale humanitarian operations. More than $13 billion in humanitarian aid and donations poured into the country, including development projects sponsored by American companies and loans from neighboring Latin American countries.
International development efforts failed to help rebuild the country and provide probation for Haitians, but they failed to significantly improve living conditions.
After the earthquake, Bill and Hillary Clinton became the two main supporters of Haiti’s development projects. They believed that the “solution” to the country’s plight was to attract investment from multinational companies. They participated in the launch of the industrial park project Caracol, which aims to promote economic development through the expansion of manufacturing and infrastructure. Ten years and hundreds of millions of dollars later, the project is far from reaching its marketing goals. Its port development part was even abandoned.
Similarly, the United States Agency for International Development spent $4.4 billion after the earthquake, but its effects were barely felt on the ground. Jack Johnston, a researcher at the Center for Economics and Policy Research in the United States, pointed out that only 2% of the funds went directly to the Haitian organization, and most went to contractors in the United States.
Of course, this is not to say that Haitian officials have not been involved in wasting and embezzling aid funds to hinder humanitarian and development efforts.
For example, between 2008 and 2016, the Venezuelan plan PetroCaribe, which provides funding for the development of the entire Caribbean region, spent approximately US$4 billion on more than 400 projects in Haiti. However, most of the funds were misappropriated and no major development milestones were achieved.
Take back the sovereignty of Haiti
After Moise was assassinated, Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph announced that he would take over power during this period. However, he was quickly challenged by Ariel Henry, who was appointed Prime Minister by Moise on July 5 to succeed Joseph. The Speaker of the Senate, Joseph Lambert, also put forward demands for power.
The political crisis has worsened due to the absence of an effective National Assembly (whose term expired after Mois’s postponement of the election due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year) and the paralysis of the Supreme Court due to the recent death of its president.
The election is scheduled to be held in September, and many Haitians are anxious about what will happen during the voting. Haitian activists call for transparent and fair elections without foreign interference.
Haitians are fully capable of guiding their country in the right direction. Throughout history, they took to the streets to demand that their leaders take responsibility, even if they were attacked by bullets and batons. The protests are an integral part of the democratic process in Haiti. In recent years, Haitians have been protesting against the exercise of political sovereignty and the right to live with dignity, demanding an end to the United Nations occupation and Moise’s authoritarian rule.
The potential for change brought about by grassroots mobilization in Haiti is huge. Although the international community has generally ignored it, black activists around the world have not ignored this. As Ajamu Baraka, the representative of the Black Peace Alliance based in the United States, told me in a recent conversation: “It is important that Haitians solve their own problems. If they are allowed, they can actually solve their own problems. In order to, If they don’t have to deal with the interference of these foreign forces.”
It’s time to end this racialized “chaotic” narrative about Haiti and talk about the country’s past, present, and future in a true and objective way. For a long time, foreign powers have exerted an unstable influence on the country and undermined its democratic development. Only by acknowledging this reality, safeguarding Haiti’s sovereignty, and not undermining the Haitian people’s struggle for justice and dignity, can these powers clarify the facts. Haiti has all the potential to build a bright future for itself.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.