The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion As Haiti sinks into pandemonium, the international community is silent

Residents sit on sacks of food from the World Food Program in Jean-Rabel, Haiti, on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)
3 min

As Haiti sinks ever-deeper into pandemonium, with much of the capital seized by gunfire and gang warfare, it has received recent deliveries from the United States of two commodities that can only contribute to its meltdown: weapons and deportees. Those exports — one smuggled, the other overt — are the latest symptom of the world’s callous disregard and moral myopia regarding the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. Haiti has no functional government, no democracy, no peace, no hope. And the international community’s response is silence.

Last month, in the midst of a spasm of gun violence that left hundreds dead, injured or missing in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, Haitian customs officials seized shipping containers that it said held 18 “weapons of war,” plus handguns and 15,000 rounds of ammunition. According to Reuters, the items were sent from the United States to the Episcopal Church of Haiti. The church denied any knowledge of the container, whose contents were described on a cargo document as “Donated Goods, School Supplies, Dry Food Items.”

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Days later, a deportation flight from Louisiana arrived in Port-au-Prince — the 120th such aircraft to arrive in Haiti just this year. Few Haitian deportees are given the chance to apply for asylum in the United States. Since the Biden administration took office, it has sent at least 26,000 Haitian migrants to their home country, where life has been upended since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last summer. According to advocacy groups, about a fifth of the deportees have been children; hundreds were infants under the age of 2.

The United States is not alone in its heedlessness. The Organization of American States, whose stated mission is to prevent conflicts and promote stability, has done little in Haiti beyond issue tepid statements of concern. The U.N. Security Council recently extended operations of the U.N. Integrated Office in Haiti by one year, a measure that went unnoticed by most Haitians, and for good reason: It has been utterly ineffectual.

The U.N. World Food Program has been routing food deliveries to the country by sea, the better to avoid its trucks being plundered by gangs. Jean-Martin Bauer, the WFP’s Haiti director, acknowledged the gang violence means “people are not able to work, people are not able to sell their produce.” Food prices have soared by more than 50 percent over the past year, a devastating toll in a country where the WFP estimates nearly half the population of 11 million needs immediate food assistance.

Little surprise that since last October, the U.S. Coast Guard has interdicted more than 6,100 Haitians trying to reach the United States by sea, a huge increase from recent years.

It is high time for a reassessment of the convenient piety, voiced by diplomats, advocates and activists, that Haiti should be left to find a “Haitian-led solution.” The truth is that a “Haitian-led solution” is a chimera, and without muscular international intervention, the country’s suffering will deepen. To ignore that reality is to be complicit in the world’s disregard for Haiti’s anguish.

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