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Dithering While Haiti Burns

With violent gangs running rampant across Haiti and seizing key infrastructure, a complete breakdown of the state and civil order is underway, raising fears of imminent famine. Faced with such an obvious humanitarian emergency, the failure of regional governments to offer help is as foolhardy as it is immoral.

BOSTONThe prime minister of one of the larger Caribbean countries travels to East Africa to secure a police deployment that would help address runaway gang violence back home, where a recent attack on the national penitentiary freed 4,000 prisoners. Failing in his endeavors, he flies back across the Atlantic, but is unable to land because the gangs have seized the airport.

After a neighboring country denies him landing rights, he ends up in a third country, while the notoriously bloodthirsty chief of one of the leading gangs demands his resignation. Foreign powers voice their concerns, but the hapless prime minister is left twisting in the wind. Fears of widespread famine grow, as the breakdown of the state and deepening civil disorder hamper even the most basic activities. Eventually, the stranded prime minister agrees to resign once a transition council has been established; but gang leaders are now demanding a continued role in any new government.

Though this may sound like the unlikely plot of a cheap telenovela, it is exactly what is happening in Haiti – the world’s first black republic, the first independent country in Latin America, and the site of the New World’s first successful slave rebellion (1791-1804). Since the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere (and among the poorest in the world) has been mired in chaos, with the government unable to impose any kind of order. Elections have not been held for many years, and the unelected prime minister, Ariel Henry, lacks legitimacy. But he had been able to count on the US government’s full backing – until now.