The security, political and humanitarian crisis in Haiti has worsened in recent months with the spread of gang violence that controls a large part of the capital.
Six months ago, the prime minister of Haiti launched an appeal, relayed by the United Nations, for an international force to fight the gangs in that country. But while the world searches for new ideas and no country seems ready to lead an intervention of this kind, Washington is trying to end the stalemate.
The latest of these efforts is an American responsible attempt to raise the issue during a visit to Brazil, which currently occupies a seat on the UN Security Council, and led a previous mission under the banner of the United Nations in this impoverished Caribbean country. US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas Greenfield said Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was concerned about the situation in Haiti.
“The Brazilians want to do something, and they are committed to working with us in the Security Council to find a way forward,” she told AFP on the plane that took her back from Brasilia. “We are making progress but we are all frustrated that we couldn’t do it faster,” she added.
The security, political and humanitarian crisis in Haiti has worsened in recent months, with the spread of gang violence that controls a large part of the capital. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, summed up the situation this week, saying that the country is “on the brink of an abyss.”
American diplomacy, in particular, aimed first at finding another country to command this non-UN intervention force and to assist the Haitian police force, which was becoming overstretched. But no one volunteered for this task. So diplomats say other options are on the table, including a traditional UN peacekeeping mission.
US President Joe Biden has made clear that he will not endanger Americans despite his administration’s pledge of support if another country takes the lead. It also appears that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has been waiting, considers the operation to be very risky.
Nobody wants to do that.
The new UN envoy to Haiti, Maria Isabel Salvador, is still hoping that a country or group of countries from the region, the Caribbean or Latin America will offer to lead the mission.
But she said a few days ago that it might be time for the United Nations to be able to “innovate” and “find other ways to secure this strength.” “It’s simple,” said Keith Maines, of the US Institute of Peace. “No one wants the values to do that. No country today feels a responsibility or a necessity” for it.
Political progress was certainly recorded with the agreement signed in December between a number of representatives of the political, economic and civil society to form a transitional government on the way to organizing elections by the end of 2023.
Maines said, “It is a chicken-and-egg problem, and it is difficult to see how any political process can move forward in light of this security collapse.”
Some US officials are pessimistic. “There is nothing that indicates that the situation will improve soon,” said US intelligence chief Avril Haynes Thursday.
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who launched an appeal for help in October, faces questions related to his legitimacy after he was appointed just 48 hours before the assassination of the last president, Jovenel Moss, in July 2021, and no elections have been organized since 2016.
In an open letter, Haitian civil society groups also opposed an international force “that would perpetuate and consolidate Henri’s position of power and would do little to ease the roots of the crisis.”
Some fear that the population will oppose a new intervention, especially since during a previous mission the United Nations peacekeeping force brought cholera, which led to an epidemic that killed more than ten thousand people.
However, Keith Maines saw that talk of “continuing disasters” in operations in Haiti is misleading, stressing in particular that the Brazilian, Canadian and Chilean forces were effective on the ground. “There are tools that will not be used while a country like Haiti is collapsing,” he said.