Thursday, September 23, 2021

U.S. Special Envoy To Haiti Quits Over Deportations Of Haitian Refugees

Dear Secretary Blinken,

With deep disappointment and apologies to those seeking crucial changes, I resign from my position asSpecial Envoy for Haiti, effective immediately. I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life. Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own.

The people of Haiti, mired in poverty, hostage to the terror, kidnappings, robberies and massacres of armed gangs and suffering under a corrupt government with gang alliances, simply cannot support the forced infusion of thousands of returned migrants lacking food, shelter, and money without additional, avoidable human tragedy. The collapsed state is unable to provide security or basic services, and more refugees will fuel further desperation and crime. Surging migration to our borders will only grow as we add to Haiti’s unacceptable misery.

Haitians need immediate assistance to restore the government’s ability to neutralize the gangs and restore order through the national police. They needa true agreement across society and political actors, with international support, to chart a timely path to the democratic selection of their n e x t president and parliament. They need humanitarian assistance, money to deliver COVID vaccines and so many other things.

But what our Haitian friends really want, and need, is the opportunity to chart their own course, without international puppeteering and favored candidates but with genuine support for that course. I do not believe that Haiti can enjoy stability until her citizens have the dignity of truly choosing their own leaders fairly and acceptably.

Last week, the U.S. and other embassies in Port-au-Prince issued another public statement of support by for the unelected, de facto Prime Minister Dr. Ariel Henry as interim leader of Haiti, and have continued to tout his “political agreement” over another broader, earlier accord shepherded by civil society. The hubris that makes us believe we should pick the winner—again—is impressive. This cycle of international political interventions in Haiti has consistently produced catastrophic results. More negative impacts to Haiti will have calamitous consequences not only in Haiti, but in the US. and our neighbors in the hemisphere.

Sincerely, 

Daniel Foote  

2013, Pooja Bhatia reviews Jonathan Katz, in the LRB

It began with hubris and extravagant promises. Within days of the disaster, powerful people around the world were speaking of ‘Marshall Plans’, ‘building back better’ and a ‘new Haiti’. At a donor conference in March 2010, two and a half months after the quake, rich countries announced pledges of $8.4 billion for Haiti’s reconstruction, a sum bigger than its annual GDP, and spoke of changing the way aid was done. Haiti was already known as the ‘Republic of NGOs’, and its reliance on them was strangling the country. As foreign aid groups delivered basic services – including water, medical care and electricity – the state’s capacity to do so weakened. Ordinary Haitians had little or no say in what went on. The donor conference proposed a solution: a commission of Haitians and outsiders would determine spending priorities. It would be co-chaired by a real grandee: Bill Clinton, who the year before had been appointed UN special envoy to Haiti. ‘He had a particular fondness for places he mucked up as president,’ Katz writes.

Amid the flashbulbs and self-congratulation at the conference, Katz noticed other portents. The Haitian government’s plan for reconstruction read as if it had been ghostwritten by the donors. It emphasised private enterprise, paid scant attention to housing for the 1.5 million people displaced by the quake, and was in general so vague that ‘it seemed donors would be forgiven for doing whatever they wanted.’ Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, warned donors to hold themselves accountable (what institution holds itself accountable?) and to work with the Haitian government rather than around it. The day before she spoke, her own deputy had predicted correctly that Congress was unlikely to route aid through the Haitian government. Results from a survey that canvassed 1750 Haitians on the reconstruction – ‘the only views of regular Haitians heard that day’ – were nearly excluded from the proceedings. Haitians’ ‘desire to be consulted in setting priorities, selecting projects and assessing tangible and measurable outcomes’ was mostly ignored. Préval was at one point lectured on accountability by a 32-year-old Norwegian emissary and then forgotten, it seemed, when discussion at the press conference that followed veered to Iran. ‘Do I need to develop a nuclear programme so that we come back to talking about Haiti?’ he asked.

Donors didn’t deliver on their promises. The joint commission faltered and then foundered. As for the money, some of the most breathtaking facts in Katz’s book come from ledgers kept by the likes of the UN Office of the Special Envoy. They merit amplification and repetition, if only to counter the persistent notion that Haiti has wasted billions of dollars in aid. There were never any billions in aid to Haiti, let alone its government; not much money has gone to Haiti’s government since the United States withdrew its support of Jean Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier in 1986.

Katz in 2015, on the Clintons and Haiti, and 2016, on the Clintons, Haiti, and Trump. 

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