The nation of Haiti is currently facing its most dire crisis since the devastating 2010 earthquake. As the country descends further into all-consuming social and political turmoil, the people of Haiti continue to suffer immense hardships. The reason Haiti is in such a horrible current state is complex, and the solution will require North American cooperation and resilience.
In 2021, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated by three Haitian Americans and a Colombian in his private residence in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Moïse had been mixed up in a number of corruption scandals prior to his death, and Haiti was descending into economic dire-straits. According to the BBC, the aspiring Haitian-American politician Dr. Christian Emmanuel Sanon has been arrested and is the supposed main architect behind the assassination.
While Haiti was already suffering from political rot, social unrest and economic turmoil, Moïse’s death really sent the nation over the edge. Haiti has effectively plunged into a full-fledged economic crisis and anarchic violence. Gang violence is rampant, and the central government is borderline non-existent.
This hysteria didn’t originate from Moïse’s death, however. In reality, this prolonged turmoil is actually the result of years of political corruption, social strife and most importantly, American, Spanish and French imperialism.
The recorded history of Haiti began in 1492, when the European navigator Christopher Columbus landed on the Island of Hispaniola. The western half of the island is modern Haiti. While initially claimed by the Spanish Crown, Hispaniola would later see French colonial rule.
By the early 17th century, the French had built a settlement on the west of Hispaniola and called it Saint-Domingue. The slave trade was the French’s main purpose for the island, where the French settlers were outnumbered by slaves by a ratio of almost 10-1.
The slaves decided to band together and revolt against the colonists in the late 18th century. The first slave armies were established in northern Haiti under the leadership of revolutionary Toussaint Louverture. While the French tried to maintain control, the revolution was too much for them to handle. Haiti was granted freedom, thus becoming a full-fledged republic.
Despite the promising future that seemed to be ahead for Haitian independence, the U.S. and France made sure that they did not reach prominence. Over the 200 or so years that have passed since that revolution, both the U.S. and France have meddled in elections, staged military occupations, orchestrated coups and ultimately kept the country directly or indirectly under their control.
Many of the brutal and corrupt politicians that have ruled Haiti over the last couple centuries have been puppets of these imperial powers. There was no worry as long as they kept Haiti in check. The U.S. in particular has treated many other Latin American countries in a similar way, such as Honduras. Both France and the U.S. have created a culture in Haiti that allows for violence and corruption.
Criminal gangs remain a huge issue in Haiti, where they spread violence and drugs through the cities. Hundreds of politicians have been indicted for fraud and other such crimes, showing how rotted the government institutions have become. This extends to the military, which is also terribly out of whack. Poverty is rampant, and the government is doing little to reverse that trend.
Haiti is in desperate need of help, and the burden should fall on those that have wronged the country. So, the U.S. and France should particularly find ways to help alleviate the ongoing crisis. An armed intervention may be necessary to do so, but so will humanitarian aid and rebuilding efforts.
The U.S. and Canada have already held discussions on this matter, where the U.S. has encouraged Canada to take a leadership role. This is a prudent way forward, particularly since there is still bad blood between the Haitian and U.S. governments. This doesn’t mean that the U.S. should hand over the issue to Canada, though. Rather, there should be a group effort to help Haiti get back on its feet.
Haiti had great promise to become an impactful nation two centuries ago, but now after centuries of colonial meddling, that promise has fallen by the wayside. This can be corrected, and Haiti still has a chance to improve the lives of its people. They will need help, and it is up to the nations that wronged Haiti to do so.