Category Archives: Haiti

The Democrats and Haiti

MONDAY 27 SEPTEMBER 2021

On MSNBC, Ari Melber was reporting that the Democrats were not sure they were going to pass the infrastructure bill so central to Biden’s plans. 

Even so, Melber was describing Pelosi as “a master tactician.”  This has become the received wisdom of those in the corporate news.  No matter what Pelosi does, the pundits assume that she is playing two dimensional chess or fifteen dimensional chess.  Even though none of us can figure out what she is doing, it is assumed that she can.  

Josh Marshall, from Talking Points Memo, pointed out that neither Manchin nor Sienna will explain exactly what they object to in the $3.5 trillion bill, and therefore why they are threatening to hold it up.  Even though they are in the position to bring the entire bill to its knees, there is nothing specific that Manchin or Sienna can name that would satisfy them and cause them to vote for the bill.  Marshall claims that they are more concerned with positioning themselves than developing policy.  There is not, in effect, much difference in terms of policy, the two senators just want to have themselves positioned as or known to be positioned as “moderates” rather than Senators on the “extreme.”

As Marshall notes: “There’s not really a disagreement over policy.”

Juanita Tolliver noted that if the Republicans don’t vote for the bill, it will hurt the Republicans politically.  Note: If she thinks that warning the Republicans that they are going to be hurt politically if they stand strong and don’t vote for the infrastructure bill will work, I think she is sadly mistaken.  Republicans cannot be shamed.

Haiti                                                   

 A “principled resignation” Chris Hayes called the decision of Daniel Foote, the Special Envoy to Haiti to quit.  We haven’t, Hayes continued, seen one of those in years.  I have to agree with him.  Milley watched a potential nuclear war unfolding in front of him, set in motion by Donald Trump, and even though he placed a call to China, he didn’t stand in front of the American people and resign.

Foote did.  Appointed as special envoy to Haiti in July of 2021, after the assassination of the Haitian president, Jovenel Moise, Foote resigned over what he characterized as “inhumane” and “counterproductive” deportation of thousands of Haitians back into a desperately troubled country. 

In his letter of resignation, Foote noted that American officials  were confined to secure compounds in Haiti because of the danger of armed gangs which operated freely.

The situation of a failed state was so dangerous, Americans were advised not to travel to Haiti and those living there were told to confine themselves to armed areas.  But, the Biden Administration airlifted an estimated 2,000 Haitians back to Port-au-Prince and dumped them in a country where some of them had no friends, relatives, or means of support.  Many of them had not even lived in Haiti for years.

In Foote’s resignation letter, he not only pointed out the immediate political situation, Foote noted a “cycle of international political interventions in Haiti” that have “consistently produced catastrophic results.”  Foote warned that the number of people who would show up on the borders of the U.S. would increase as long as we refused to confront the fundamental problems surrounding Haiti and our policy toward the country.

It doesn’t seem to be an especially radical thing to say. 

Foote wasn’t reluctant to pass his judgment on to the Biden Administration.  After all, he was supposedly appointed for that very reason.  But, Foote claimed that his recommendations were “ignored and dismissed.”

So, Biden administration officials who trusted his experience and judgment so much that they called upon him when the president of the country had just been assassinated and the country was turning into an anarchy, refused to listen to his assessment of the situation in Haiti and dismissed recommendations based on his expertise.

The thanks Foote received for pointing out that in regards to Haiti “Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed,” was conveyed to him by Ned Price.  In an unusually graceless strike back at Foote Price said that Foot’s recommendations were “even harmful to our commitment to the promotion of democracy in Haiti.”

Contradicting what some have said about the reception of differing opinions on Afghanistan (Sarah Chase), Price snipped that “no ideas are ignored.”  He finished up, “but not all ideas are good ideas.”   

But, Foote was not the only one familiar with the situation in the country who was disagreeing with Biden administration policy.  Representative Andy Levin (D-Michian), chairman of the House Haiti Caucus, said that the Biden administration was “propping up” the governent of Ariel Henry, Haiti’s acting prime minister.  After Henry had been accused by Haiti’s chief prosecutor as having been involved in the assassination of Moises, Henry summarily removed him from office.  Mr. Levin told reporters on Thursday:

“The Haitian people are crying out for the opportunity to chart their own country’s future, and the United States is ignoring their pleas.”  

Del Rio Refugees

FRIDAY 24 SEPTEMBER

A number of people on Twitter have been asking why refugees are congregating at Del Rio, Texas and why most of them are Haitians. 

From available sources, this is the best I can do.

The Border

A large number of the people congregated at the border around Del Rio, Texas are Haitan.  It is estimated that most of these people have not recently fled Haiti, but have lived in Central or South America for several years.

The displacement of Haitians is the result of an increase in human rights violations in the past decade in addition to several disastrous earthquakes and hurricanes.  It is estimated that the 2010 earthquake alone displaced1.5 million people.   

Initially countries like Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Panama welcomed the immigrants because they provided cheap labor.   

But, as the pandemic’s effects caused tightening economic conditions, Haitian immigrants increasingly faced a backlash. 

It is thought that for most of these refugees, U.S. residence was always the goal, but an increasingly racist backlash in host countries prompted the current move. 

In addition, after Biden took office, immigration rules for Haitians changed.  In May, the Biden administration extended temporary protected status for 150,000 Haitians already living in the U.S.  

Several experts have argued that many Haitians, in response to the changed immigration rules, mistakenly thought that they would be accepted if they appeared at the border.

Rumors picked up and repeated on social media often cause mass movements of people.  For example, shortly after the assassination of Haiti’s president, hundreds of Haitians flocked to the embassy in Port-au-Prince carrying their belongings after false rumors spread on social media that the U.S. was handing out humanitarian visas.

But why Del Rio?  The only explanation I can find is that the entry point at Del Rio is not as heavily dominated by the cartels as other entry points.  Again, word of mouth and social media posts, likely identified Del Rio as a remote site where refugees were less likely to be victimized by cartel members.

Reading:

New York Times

The Nation Magazine: Biden’s disastrous deportation of Haitians https://www.thenation.com/podcast/world/biden-haiti-deportation/

AP: Racism in immigration policy https://apnews.com/article/immigration-race-and-ethnicity-mexico-haiti-asylum-seekers-a81ac1148118db38824d2d8f62139b87

  • Haitians are granted asylum at a lower level than other national groups.

USA Today: How did so many Haitians End up in Del Rio

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/09/21/what-led-haitian-nationals-migrating-u-s-southern-border/8419170002/

  • Natural disasters and dysfunctional governments have prompted a steady flow of immigrants.
  • The end goal of most was always the U.S.
  • 2010 earthquake displaced more than 1.5 million. 
  • Brazil was facing a labor shortage and therefore welcomed fleeing Haitians. 
  • Brazil extended residence visas in 2014 and 2016.  By August 2020, there were more than 143,000 Haitians in Brazil.
  • After the needs for cheap labor ran out, Haitians faced increasing pressure to leave and shrinking opportunities.
  • Increasing Human rights violations in Haiti over the past 10 years prompted immigration
  • In August, the State Department issued an advisory urging American not to visit Haiti due to “kidnapping, crime, civil unrest and covid.

Human Rights Watch

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/09/21/us-treatment-haitian-migrants-discriminatory#

Significant Events in Haiti

2021 August Earthquake

2020 Hurricane Laura

2018 Earthquake

2016 Hurricane Matthew

2012 Hurricane Sandy

2010 Earthquake, Cholera epidemic Port-au-Prince

Significant Political events

1492 – Spain colonises the island of Hispaniola after the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Two hundred years later Spain cedes the western half to France. Plantations worked by slaves of African origin produce sugar, rum and coffee that enrich France.

1801 – Former slave Toussaint Louverture leads a successful revolt and abolishes slavery.

1804 – Haiti becomes independent under former slave Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who is assassinated in 1806.

1915 – United States invades Haiti, withdrawing in 1943 but keeping financial control and political influence.

1937 – In the worst incident of long-standing rivalry with neighbouring Dominican Republic, thousands of Haitians in border area are massacred by Dominican troops on the orders of dictator Trujillo.

1957 – Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier takes power with military backing, ushering in a period which sees widespread human rights abuses.

1964 – Duvalier declares himself president-for-life. His dictatorship is marked by repression, enforced by the feared Tonton Macoutes secret police.

1971 – Duvalier dies and is succeeded by his son, Jean-Claude, or “Baby Doc”. Repression increases. In the following decades, thousands of Haitian “boat people” flee by sea to Florida, many dying on the way.

1986 – Popular revolt forces Baby Doc to flee Haiti to exile in France. Lieutenant-General Henri Namphy takes over.

1988 – General Prosper Avril takes over from Namphy in a coup.

1990 – Avril declares a state of siege amid protests but resigns ahead of elections under international pressure.

1990 – Former parish priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a leftist champion of the poor, wins Haiti’s first free election. He is ousted in a coup in 1991.

1994 – U.S. troops intervene to oust military regime and Aristide returns. U.N. peacekeepers deploy in 1995 and Aristide protege Rene Preval is elected president.

1999 – Aristide is elected president for a second term despite disputed results.

2004 – Political unrest forces Aristide to flee but the country descends into violence.

2006 – Preval wins election.

2008 – 2010. Series of protests, triggered by food shortages, a cholera outbreak and then over elections.

2010 – A catastrophic earthquake kills between 100,000 and 300,000 people, according to various estimates, causing widespread damage in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere. Despite an international relief effort, the country is all but overwhelmed, exacerbating political, social and economic problems.

2011 – Michel Martelly wins second round of presidential election.

2012-14 Frequent anti-government protests fueled by corruption and poverty. Demonstrators demand Martelly resign.

2017 – Jovenel Moise, a banana exporter-turned-politician, is declared winner of 2016 presidential election.

2019 – Moise steadily amasses power and rules by decree after Haiti fails to hold elections due to political gridlock and unrest.

Thousands take to the streets chanting “No to dictatorship” and calling for Moise’s resignation.

Compiled by Angus MacSwan; Editing by Nick Macfie

2021 – Moise is shot dead after gunmen open fire with assault rifles in his private residence on July 7.

2021 – A 7.2-magnitude earthquake strikes western Haiti on Aug. 14, likely causing high casualties and widespread disaster, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

haiti: some of what we know

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 25: President of the Republic of Haiti H.E. Jovenel Moise speaks onstage during the 2018 Concordia Annual Summit – Day 2 at Grand Hyatt New York on September 25, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)

The corporate media no longer finds it necessary to cover international stories.  We are treated to video after video of Biden boarding a plane to go somewhere, but the assassination of the President of Haiti is barely mentioned.

The assassination of Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moise, was barely covered last week. 

From what I have read, this is some of what we know.

During an attack early in the morning of July 7, President Jovenel Moise, was killed and his wife wounded in their private residence on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.  The wife was flown to Miami.

The attack has been described by the NYT as “well-planned.”  And there were reports that many of the attackers were foreigners who spoke Spanish. 

A great many questions are left unanswered about how Moise, President of the country, who usually traveled with more than a dozen armored cars and police guards could be so easily targeted.

The NYT reports that Moise had over 100 officers from the presidential guard around his home.  Nevertheless, Moise was found lying on the floor at the foot of his bed “bathed in blood.”

There were 12 bullet holes visible in the body according to a Haitian Justice of the Peace, Carl Henry Destin, who was on the scene.

The house had been ransacked.  The servants had been tied up.

There are two Americans among the 20 people who have been detained so far.  They were described as Florida residents of Haitian descent.  Other members of the hit squad were described as Colombians.  Mr. Edmond described the men as “well-trained professionals, killers, commandos.”

The Americans told authorities that they were merely translators and had not been in the room where Moise was killed. 

Clement Noel, a judge involved in the investigation said that the two Americans had met with other members of the hit squad at a suburban hotel to plan the attack.  They said that the attack had been planned over the course of a month.  The two American men maintained that the goal was not to kill Moise (the body had 12 gunshot wounds), but to bring him to the national palace.

It has not been reported when the American men entered Haiti, or what connection they had with the other hit men before the assassination. 

Judge Noel said that it was one of the Americas Solages who can be heard on audio of the attack, yelling out that the attackers were DEA agents.  Solages had previously worked as a security guard at the Canadian Embassy in Haiti and there had been no evidence reported that indicates there was any DEA connection.  Why this particular claim was made aloud at the beginning of the attack is not known.

Haiti’s interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, put the country under martial law after the assassination.  It is not clear whether he has the legal authority to do so.  In fact, most of what is going on in Haiti at the moment is of dubious legal basis. 

Days before his death, Moise, had appointed a new prime minister, Ariel Henry.  Henry says he should be in charge of the government.

There is no clear designation of authority in the executive branch and there is no functioning Parliament in Haiti.  There are only 10 sitting senators out of 30.  The terms of the other 20 have expired.  The entire lower house is no longer sitting because their terms expired last year.  The head of the Supreme Court died of Covid.

Haitian government officials told the NYT that they had asked the U.S. to provide troops to protect infrastructure. 

According to a BBC podcast (7/7/21), Moise had become increasingly autocratic during his tenure as president.  He was pushing through a referendum which would have changed the constitution so he would stay in power longer. 

Notes:

  • The former Prime Minister is Laurent Lamothe.
  • Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S. Bocchit Edmond.
  • Claude Joseph is Haiti’s interim prime minister.
  • The two American men were identified as Joseph Vincent and James J. Solages.
  • Former President, Michael Martelly, left office in an electoral crisis in 2016.  He was able to use his political power, however, to see his supporter, Moise, elevated to the presidency.  Protestors were in the streets demanding Martelly’s ouster in 2016.  He left office formally giving presidential power to the leader of the National Assembly.
  • Martelly (like Moise) was criticized for not holding elections during his years.  Martelly was accused of surrounding himself with “cronies, some of them criminals.” NYT (2016)
  • When Martelly was elected, the process was said by critics to be riddled with fraud.
  • Former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier was ousted in 1986.

Sources:

Global News Podcast.  BBC. (7/7/21)

New York Times (7/8/21)

Reading:

New York Times (2016)