At a recent sitting of Parliament, the PM announced that Jamaica would be looking to play an active and leading role in any intervention in Haiti. The intervention and assistance would not be limited to solely military and police and would include election observers, doctors, and other critical workers.
This decision has long been expected. Jamaica has, for some time, openly stated its position on the side of intervention and has been meeting with US and Canadian officials on the matter as Jamaica seeks to cajole CARICOM members into supporting this intervention.
The situation in Haiti is dire. If we are honest, it is but a hairsbreadth away from being classified as a failed state. The security forces are ineffectual, the government non-existent, gangs roam the streets freely, and an oligarchy dominates power, manipulating politicians and gangs.
However, despite Haiti being in the situation which it finds itself, Jamaica can hardly act for several reasons. First is that such a move to intervene would be illegal due to the fact no UN mandate exists and no such mandate exists in Caricom, CELALC or even the colonial assembly which is the OAS. For Jamaica to go it alone and intervene or even be part of a multilateral force would open the government, the opposition who support it, and those who take part in it, to a possible international tribunal.
To make matters worse, the people, whom we and any intervention on paper would be helping, are vehemently against any such intervention. It is one thing to send troops in to pacify an ongoing and expanding gang conflict, it is another to send troops to pacify a people protesting their government and protesting any intervention that they would view as propping up the illegitimate regime of Henry.
No one is opposed to helping Haiti, but it must be on the terms of the Haitian people and right now their primary demand is the removal of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, which coincidentally also happens to be the biggest demand of the gangs. Removing him through diplomatic pressure via Caricom would be a great way to show the people of Haiti that Caricom measures have their concerns first and foremost on the agenda.
The real problem, however, comes from the fact that the Jamaican public has so far not taken the bait and remains sceptical about intervening in Haiti. Now, it is true, much of the reluctance is based on the racist tropes and stereotypes surrounding Haiti, such as them being cursed, hopelessly corrupt or simply unlucky — tropes which are equally applied to us by the industrialised nations, but they are still opposed.
This segment, which largely outweighs the segment which opposes intervention without the will of the Haitian people on anti-imperialist grounds, asks the logical questions which, when posed, show the lie that is the reason given for intervention by the administration and its backers.
The people ask how can we deal with Haitian gangs when we can’t deal with our own gangs. How can we go and implement a robust election system when we have postponed our local government elections for years, on multiple occasions? How can we go and implement a government responsive to the people when we don’t have that here? And the list goes on. All these questions asked by people who I may disagree with but whose point remains valid, regardless of the warped packaging in which it is delivered.
The questions are most vexing to the Holness administration which has no issue being the trojan horse for US regional dominance but must be wary of a public which can vote him out, and an opposition which has the luxury of abandoning its pro-intervention stance if and when it realises public sentiment is not with such a move.
There can be no denying that Haiti is in dire straits, however, going in on the behalf of the US and Canada to prop up the same oligarchs backed by the US and Canada who have denied the Haitian people an opportunity for self-governance, is not the solution. Stability cannot be brought to Haiti through illegal intervention, and it cannot be birthed in opposition to the Haitian people who have consistently denounced intervention even in the face of deteriorating security, and social and economic conditions.
They have been consistent in two demands, and it is time we listen to them if we are to, as a region, deal with the vexing question that is Haiti. No foreign action/intervention/or any other metaphor which would only serve to benefit the oligarchs, and immediate elections for the presidency and the various roles which have been vacant.
The demands are not much and are in the realm of possibility for Caricom. We can have Henry removed and monitor the various elections which would be held, none of which would entail the boots-on-the-ground approach that is fawned over by the PM.
As the government faces questions at home over its security policies and economic policies it would desperately like to have a foreign excursion so people’s minds will be taken off domestic issues and they can ride the wave of jingoism. It is a tried and tested tool which even managed to get George W Bush re-elected, and saw the conservatives destroy the liberals during the khaki election of 1917. Sadly for them, they are unable to truly get a hold of domestic issues in order to make those ventures as the maladies they seek to “cure” in Haiti severely affect us.
Haiti must be governed by its people, nothing else is acceptable to them and nothing else will provide security to the region. Foreign occupation of all stripes, including through local compradors, has failed to provide security while succeeding in crippling the nation. The only thing which has not been tried in this and the previous century, barring the brief tenure of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is giving power to the people, and letting the masses decide.
We can assist in that. It will mean our parties will have to answer serious questions and either change or die, but this is what must be done. No acting as a proxy, fronting for an occupation will do. It is not what the Haitians want, and it is not what we want.