There is emerging what we might call the “deepening spiral” narrative in the wake of the assassination of Jovenel Moïse in Haiti. Most mainstream media commentary has included old racist tropes: If not outright calling the country “ungovernable,” at least hinting that it is so, with comments about its inherently tragic cycle of chaos and crisis. Meanwhile, these same explainers neglect to mention the sick dance the international community has engaged in with Haitian governance.
Much of the violence unfolding now has its roots in the huge piles of money that were shoveled into Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. Moïse, his predecessor Michel Martelly, and their cohort were reportedly deep drinkers at the trough of corruption.
Let’s not pretend Moïse was a statesmanlike figure whose presence will be missed. He was a volatile and unlikely leader handpicked by Martelly. He led the quest to destroy the country’s institutions, one after another: the legislature, which by the end of his regime had only 10 senators remaining; the municipal government network – he called no elections for mayors after they termed out, instead appointing new ones from his coterie; and the judicial system, from which he fired judges for his own reasons. His work done, Moïse let the street gangs mete out what justice the regime required, including assassination of its perceived enemies.
Hard to deepen that spiral.
But the U.S. is doing its best. The Biden administration seems to have decided almost immediately in the wake of the assassination to support Prime Minister Claude Joseph as acting president.
The Biden administration, like so many American governments before it, doesn’t seem to care what kind of election takes place in Haiti, as long the carefully crafted result is a person whom the U.S. can understand, that is, who protects the interests of the usual suspects.
A lot of contenders now want to be president, and it’s not because of patriotism. It’s because it’s easier to suck dry various bureaucracies (customs, the port, the banks). In Haiti, the presidency has become a business, not a duty.
These are the kinds of people who are thought capable of keeping Haiti “stable,” or stable enough so that Haitians don’t flee the country in droves, becoming the kind of Caribbean immigrants that Florida doesn’t like. But there has been no stability under Martelly and Moïse, and Haitians have left in droves, fleeing in the past years not directly to Florida on boats, but to South America on planes, where they land and then follow a long trail north, often to the U.S. border.
It seems about time to dispel the myth that only outside expertise can save Haiti. “I tell the others who want to occupy our space, kindly get your boots off our necks,” says Monique Clesca, an organizer of the Commission to Find a Haitian Solution. “This is a struggle for our second independence and for equality for all – U.S. and UN troops cannot help us. Rather, we need the solidarity of the world.”