By Hudes Desrameaux
For more than two hundred years Haiti and the United States have had a complicated economic and political relationship, and then so much more.
Its independence won in 1804 after a long protracted war against the French to abolish slavery, Haiti has faced blockade and economic isolation for much of the 19th century. The United States didn’t recognize Haiti’s independence only decades after. Furthermore, Haiti had to pay back tens of millions – billions in today’s money – to the French to secure this independence.
The 1825 Monroe Doctrine – America belonged to the United States – became real for Haiti when the former invaded the island of Haiti in 1915, seized its gold and remained there until 1934. While some physical infrastructure was built in the form of hospitals and office buildings, Haiti’s fortune or misfortune became tightly hitched to the capricious political will of the United States. This country supported the brutal rule of the 29-year Duvalier dictatorship from 1957 until 1986 and was complicit, or looked the other way, in the overthrow of the democratically elected Aristide government in 1991.
Today more than a million Haitians call the United States home, and many more in the Dominican Republic, Canada, France, Chili and other countries, mostly as a result of catastrophic policies promulgated by successive brutal military and civilian governments supported by the international community, the United States, in particular.
The Cold War may not be over for the Biden presidency when it comes to Haiti. Supporting against all odds the corrupt, repressive and violent Jovenel Moïse government may be proof enough.
Assuming power as president on February 7, 2017, the Moïse presidency ended for all practical purposes on February 7, 2021 according to the amended 1987 constitution and the more recent electoral law. However, he continues to cling to power with the support of the international community, chiefly the United States, France and Canada, and despite the constant calls of the suffering people of Haiti for him to resign.
The Catholic church, most protestant denominations, political parties, human rights organizations, peasant and worker unions and other sectors of civil society have organized well attended marches and peaceful protests demanding that the Moïse administration leave power.
What has been the current government’s response?
As proud successors of the Duvalier dictatorship and the military rule of the late 80’s and 90’s, the Moïse administration responded with increasingly more violence, relying on a cadre of gangs and the domestication of the national police force to achieve its ends to stay in power and maybe organize the next election for his predecessor, the corrupt Michel Martelly, aka, Sweet Micky.
Furthermore, the former president, Moïse, has hand-picked an electoral council to prepare the next elections, and been gung-ho on organizing a referendum to change the 1987 Constitution in clear violation of the referenced document.
A key provision of the newly amended constitution is to codify the reign of impunity in Haiti. These are the undemocratic and corrupt people the Biden administration wants to organize the next parliamentarian, municipal and presidential elections in Haiti.
Hundreds of thousands of Haitian-Americans in Florida, New York, Massachusetts, Georgia, Chicago and other states overwhelmingly voted for the Biden-Harris ticket and were, therefore, instrumental in securing a Biden victory in the last U.S. presidency.
Some of our demands were simple when we chose to support the democratic ticket, among them an end to the Trump administration’s absolute support for the corrupt and violent Moïse administration.
The US Congress, through Representatives Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Andy Levin (D-MI), understands the tragic situation the people of Haiti are currently living in under this authoritarian regime. Multiple hearing sessions with members of Haitian civil society have highlighted the need for a complete overhaul of the American foreign policy toward Haiti and the Moïse administration.
These calls have so far fallen on deaf ears, to the dismay of hundreds of thousands of Haitian-American supporters of this administration. This intolerable situation in Haiti laid the groundwork for more Haitians to leave Haiti and find themselves at the Southern border asking for asylum.
This cruel and reckless policy can’t continue.
It’s time for the Biden administration to implement a new policy in Haiti, one that forcefully opposes corruption, violence and repression and quickly helps establish the conditions for a peaceful transition from the current government to one that assembles honest sectors of civil and political society, moves to improve the material conditions of the people, upholds the rule of law, and organizes the next round of elections.
President Biden, this time is long overdue.