Haiti – violence as a strategy

Image: Dorothy Mombrun
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By MARC MAESSCHALCK & JEAN-CLAUDE JEAN*

In the logic of the Haitian government, everything that is not explicitly prohibited by the United States and the CoreGroup, it's allowed

We have become accustomed to considering Haiti as an isolated case and, each time the spotlight turns to it, we hear the sad records that this small Caribbean country suffers from: endemic poverty, malnutrition, mortality rate, unemployment, urban violence , trafficking of all kinds, mafia economy and society, etc. Some see the current tragedy as an incomprehensible determination of fate.

However, the situation in this country is not the result of the misfortune of an entire people or an accident of history. It is the result of a long process of destabilization, made up of internal and external aggressions, perfectly explainable and in total resonance with what is happening in some countries in Latin America and Africa. The failed state of Haiti is a historic building.

While the international press rightly expressed its concern with the number of weapons in circulation in Serbia after the war, Haiti achieved similar numbers without any war having been fought on its territory, and despite the massive presence of the international community, not only after the 2010 earthquake, but also since the end of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, after the forced return of President Aristide with the intervention of the United States in 1994 and, finally, through a peacekeeping force led by Brazil from 2004 to 2017.

In Haiti, international influence has been permanent in all electoral transitions since 1987, and has always made its political preferences clear at the ballot box. And there is no doubt that the massive withdrawal of international agencies in 2015, after the failure of reconstruction, and the diplomatic withdrawal during the two long years of the Covid crisis, only made the situation worse. But there are many examples of interference in recent years, such as the rigged elections in 2012, which allowed Martelly to take power, the BINUH/CoreGroup[I] (formed essentially by the United States, Canada, France, the European Union and Brazil), extolling the virtues of the G9 criminal gang group, the full support of the United States government and the CoreGroup to Jovenel Moïse after the destitution of the deputies and the paralysis of the Parliament, the unanimous support of the CoreGroup again to the same president Jovenel Moïse throughout the period that he and his PHTK party[ii] they neutralized the national police and helped the first gangs to settle, supplying them with weapons, ammunition and protection.

In Haiti, therefore, the so-called international community is not an external and neutral agent that could become, as a last resort, a supporter. She is a foreground internal actor. She is fully involved in turning the country around. It defines the rules of the game, the government's priorities and agenda, as well as the boundaries that must not be crossed. Furthermore, by deliberately turning a blind eye to a series of risky initiatives by local government, it ultimately decides what is permissible. Because when she disagrees, she manifests herself brutally and bluntly. In the logic of the Haitian government, everything that is not explicitly prohibited by the United States and the CoreGroup, it's allowed.

So why should we once again knock on the door of this “international community”, as if it has a solution or is preventing a solution from being implemented? Its continued presence in the country since 1994 has not prevented the emergence or proliferation of gangs and violence – quite the contrary. Furthermore, insofar as it is a fully functioning internal agent that influences all decisions concerning life in Haiti, it does not exist as an external problem-solving body.

This is fiction. The problem must be posed in another way. To understand it properly and avoid any pathos, it is necessary to consider the Haitian tragedy beyond its current circumstances (Gangs, PHTK, Ariel Henry, CoreGroup) and place Haiti in a broader geopolitical context. In this way, it is possible to better understand the continuities that exist in the colonial logic of the Western States in relation to the countries of the South and, in particular, between Haiti and other “failed” States.

In fact, the imaginary international community to which an appeal could be sent in favor of Haiti no longer exists, and this is the big problem that one must understand before starting to speculate about a way out of the crisis. Strategies underpinning the international order have radically changed in response to the urgency of the climate and energy crises. Relations between countries are now subject to two fundamental issues: on the one hand, access to the scarce resources needed to implement digital growth; on the other hand, the guarantee of the necessary energy reserves to manage a post-carbon transition that is as bearable as possible for rich economies.

This new equation allowed radical conservatism to impose its ideas about the need for change in the international order, ideas that favor a unilateralist and competitive approach, in which anarchic situations are seen as opportunities. This change was most evident with the decisions made by Donald Trump. However, it continues without major reorientations, at least with regard to Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean.

In the context of this neoconservative wave that is guiding the strategic choices of the main agents of the current international order, there is one last element to be taken into account. It is about the alignment of the agents involved and weakened by the war for resources imposed by the economies in transition to maintain the status quo in your favor. The result for Haiti is that discord between “friendly countries”, which on several occasions cooperated in the interests of the Haitian people, is no longer part of the neoconservative agenda, according to which the strategies implemented in Haiti are also implemented in other countries. Of region.

In Haiti, the CoreGroup, what is de facto the local branch of the transnational government of Haiti, is led by the United States and, although all its members refer in public to the consensus among the “allies”, none of them runs the risk of opposing the will of the United States, nor dares to manifest , as in the past, divergent positions on Haiti. locally, the CoreGroup it is a reflection of US unilateralism in Haitian affairs. To speak of an international community in such a context is incongruous and anachronistic.

In the end, on an international level, the way forward is less Manichaean: asking the good guys to kick out the bad guys! Faced with such a situation, the urgency is not in declarations for yet another transition supported by imaginary dissident allies, unknown to the new international order. The urgency is for the assumed option of a decolonial order. This means combating the unfair treatment of migrants and the deportation of ex-prisoners, who flout human rights conventions; it also means freezing the assets of gang financiers, issuing warrants against all personalities linked to arms and ammunition trafficking, and rigorously monitoring exports in this area.

But the most important thing is the actions that can be carried out at the local level in order to contain the violence. Among them, the fight against impunity must be a priority and must take the form of a special anti-corruption court. It must be created in Haiti itself, as part of a process of mutual legal assistance to prosecute and punish political and business figures involved in the diversion of resources – already scarce – from the State, funds from the PetroCaribe (agreement with Venezuela for the purchase of oil) and gang financing. This local anti-corruption court is the only way to really target fraudsters and criminals and challenge the impunity that guarantees the local socio-political order that breeds violence.

All these measures could cause a real break in the vicious circle supported by neoconservatism in its destabilization strategy. What has been suspended by Covid-19 is the decisive role that an international civil society can play in this struggle, if it disconnects from the networks that carry the appeasing rhetoric of the international community. In short, real opposition to imperialist violence!

*Marc Maesschalck He is a professor at the Higher Institute of Philosophy at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, and director of the Center for the Philosophy of Law at the same university..

*Jean-Claude Jean is a philosopher and adviser on governance/justice in Port-au-Prince. He is former director of the Office for Development and Peace in Haiti.

Both authors jointly wrote Political transition in Haiti (L'Harmattan).

Translation: Juliano Bonamigo.

Translator's notes


[I] This is a statement sent by Integrated United Nations in Haiti [Bureau Intégré des Nations Unies en Haïti].

[ii] phtk: Haitian Tèt Kale Party [I left Haiti Tèt Kale]. Tet Kalé means, in Creole, “shaved head”.


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