On October 7, 2022, acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry authorized a request to deploy international troops to intervene in Haiti’s ongoing political and humanitarian crisis. Despite widespread demonstrations across the country advocating against Western intervention, Haitian elites continue to push for foreign military forces to intervene.
In response, the Haitian people have taken to the streets of the capital, Port-au-Prince, to demand an end to foreign military intervention and the resignation of Prime Minister Henry. Haitians have been vocal about their stance on foreign military intervention: The French, Americans, and U.N. troops occupied Haiti in the past, which has paralyzed the country’s economic development. Today, Haitians are demanding a Haitian-led solution to the crisis.
Western political elites have alluded to ineffective central governance and gang violence in Haiti to justify the need for foreign assistance. Their request for foreign military intervention replicates the extensive pattern of invasion, occupation, and regime change within the country by external forces. Haiti was born out of the fight against colonial rule. Following the Haitian Revolution, a rebellion led by Haitian slaves against French colonialism, Haitians endured occupations by the U.S. military and the U.N. Haiti has also experienced several devastating earthquakes and recently witnessed the assassination of former Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, enabling further interference by foreign actors.
An Ongoing Humanitarian Crisis
Gangs and paramilitary groups materialized in Haiti after pro-U.S. Haitian elites orchestrated two military coups against the first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Local elites staged these coups in an attempt to prevent the spread of anti-capitalist politics across the Caribbean. By supporting competing gangs, Haitian financial and political elites have been able to use them as mercenaries to achieve their objectives and maintain their financial and political capital.
For example, G-9 Family and Allies, a gang run by a former policeman named Jimmy Chérizier, is believed to be financially supported by politicians and capitalists to sway votes and silence protesters. Chérizier established himself as a revolutionary, claiming to fight against the elites and fix problems plaguing Haiti. However, Chérizier and the G9 gang have been targeting political opposition parties, civil society organizers, and civilians.
Gang violence increased after the recent assassination of former President Moïse, but has intensified over the past few weeks. Likewise, gangs have blocked several key highways and Haiti’s main fuel terminal, obstructing civilians from accessing fuel, water, and food supplies. The lack of clean water has caused a cholera outbreak, while inflation exacerbated food insecurity and malnutrition in a population already experiencing extreme poverty levels. The precarious humanitarian conditions have prompted the mass displacement of Haitians seeking refuge on other islands within the Caribbean and at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Recent Legacy of Foreign Interference in Haiti
Haitian Bridge Alliance’s co-founder and executive director Guerline Jozef argues that Haiti’s gang violence is “imported.” She claims that gang violence is a “system … being put in place … to destabilize the country.” Haiti has experienced repeated military occupations and political interference by Western countries, resulting in an expansion of gang violence as a minority of Haitian elites aim to gain control over the country’s population and economy.
It is no surprise that Haitians would oppose foreign interference in their country’s politics. Western troops on the ground have a legacy of committing widespread sexual violence against Haitian women and girls and terrorizing poor communities. U.N. troops were also found guilty of causing a cholera outbreak in 2010 which has killed over 10,000 people to date. After the catastrophic 2010 earthquake, $500 million of financial aid raised by the Red Cross to rebuild Haiti was never provided to affected Haitian communities as promised. The Red Cross has not disclosed where these funds went, but the organization continues to insist that they built homes for 130,000 Haitians. Yet, they only built six houses.
Consequently, Haitians are skeptical that the request for military intervention by American, Canadian, and U.N. forces will produce anything other than further violence and economic hardship. Haitians have rarely been able to manage their economy and politics entirely. They do not want more foreign boots on the ground or external hands in their country’s politics. The request for military assistance did not come from the Haitian people, as reported by mainstream Western media, but solely reflects the desires of Prime Minister Henry and the political elite.
A Haitian-Led Solution
The current situation in Haiti cannot be understood separately from the history of colonialism and occupation. As such, Haitians are calling for a localized Haitian-led solution that allows for Haitian self-determination and the right to sovereignty. Haitians are protesting for the right to determine their own government and control their own economy to reflect the needs of the majority rather than the predatory oligarchy. They demand that Prime Minister Henry resign and are fighting for Western political elites to hear that the country does not want foreign military intervention.
Haitian civil society groups have been developing and proposing concrete solutions to the crisis that do not warrant foreign military violence, such as the 2021 Montana Accords. These accords propose a two-year interim government accompanied by an oversight committee and a truth and justice commission to hold politicians accountable and to reconcile human rights violations. Yet, the international community has refused to endorse these accords and instead continues to support Henry’s government.
Historically, foreign intervention has caused and will continue to cause political and humanitarian disasters in Haiti. The cycle of occupation and violence imposed upon Haiti must end, but bringing change and development can only occur if the economic and political decision-making powers lie in the hands of the Haitian people.
Edited by Bethlehem Samson