Haitian crisis (2018–present): Difference between revisions

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Ongoing socioeconomic and political crisis in Haiti

2018–2024 Haitian crisisTires set on fire by protesters in Hinche, February 2019Date7 July 2018 (2018-07-07) – presentLocationCaused by

2021 phase

Goals

Resulted in
Jovenel Moïse assassinated[4]
Ariel Henry announces resignation[5]
Death(s)187 protesters44 police officers2 journalists[11]
Protests began in cities throughout Haiti on 7 July 2018 in response to increased fuel prices. Over time, these protests evolved into demands for the resignation of Jovenel Moïse, the then-president of Haiti. Led by opposition politician Jean-Charles Moïse (no relation), protesters stated that their goals were to create a transitional government, provide social programs, and prosecute allegedly corrupt officials. From 2019 to 2021, there were massive protests calling for the Moïse government to resign,[12][13]. Moïse came in first in the 2016 presidential election, for which voter turnout was 21%. The 2015 elections had been annulled due to fraud.[14] On 7 February 2021, supporters of the opposition against the then-incumbent Jovenel Moïse allegedly attempted a coup d’état, leading to 23 arrests, as well as clashes between protestors and police.
On 7 July 2021, Jovenel Moïse was assassinated, allegedly by a group of 28 foreign mercenaries; three of the suspected assassins were killed and 20 arrested, while a manhunt for the other gunmen, as well as for the masterminds of the attack, remains ongoing.[4][15] On 20 July 2021, Ariel Henry assumed the office of acting prime minister.
In September 2022, further protests erupted in response to rising energy prices, and a federation of gangs created a blockade around Haiti’s largest fuel depot. Combined with an outbreak of cholera and widespread acute hunger, the crisis led the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Jimmy Chérizier, one of the country’s gang leaders.[16] In 2022, Canada issued sanctions against three wealthy businessmen—Gilbert Bigio,[17] Reynold Deeb, and Sherif Abdallah—whom they accused of having “participated in gross and systematic human rights violations in Haiti” as well as numerous politicians including Michel Martelly, Laurent Lamothe, Jean-Henry Céant, Joseph Lambert, and Youri Latortue.[18] A UN report to the Security Council in October 2023 likewise identified Martelly, Deeb, and Latortue as having ties to gangs.[19]
In March 2024, acting prime minister Ariel Henry was prevented from returning to Haiti after a trip intended to secure the help of the Kenyan police in curbing gang violence.[20] The power vacuum, along with the chaos in the streets, led to the scheduling of an emergency CARICOM meeting on 11 March.[21] On 11 March, Ariel Henry announced his resignation under pressure from protesters, gangs, and the international community, to be effective upon the naming of a transitional council (at the CARICOM meeting in Jamaica) to assure interim governance until elections could be held.[22]

Background and origins
A Senate probe released in November 2017 concerning the period 2008–2016 (the René Préval and Michel Martelly administrations as well as the chief of staff of then-sitting President Jovenel Moïse) revealed significant corruption had been funded with Venezuelan loans through the Petrocaribe program.[23] Haitians at the time were informed of the corruption that had occurred.[24]
A new round of protests broke out in February 2021 amid a dispute over Moïse’s presidential term. The protesters claimed that Moïse’s term officially ended on 7 February 2021 and demanded that he step down. Moïse said that Haitian presidents have five years to serve according to the constitution and that he had one more year to serve since he only became president in February 2017. Protesters also expressed concerns about the 2021 Haitian constitutional referendum, a referendum proposed by Moïse which would reportedly scrap the ban on consecutive presidential terms and enable Moïse to run again.[25]
From 2017 to 2021, with Haiti’s political leadership deadlocked, public administration virtually shut down due to a lack of funding, and the judicial system in a shambles, gangs seized political power through co-operative politicians, and economic control through financing by the business elite, protection rackets, kidnappings and murders.[26]

History
2018 protests
When Venezuela stopped shipping oil to Haiti in March 2018, this led to fuel shortages. With the removal of government subsidies in July, kerosene prices went up over 50 percent, with similarly steep hikes on other fossil fuels.[27] These rises in taxes on gasoline, diesel, and kerosene that went into effect on 7 July 2018 brought Haitians into the streets. Flights were canceled into and out of Haiti by U.S. airlines.[28][29] The government backed down on the tax increases, and the President accepted the resignation of the inexperienced Jack Guy Lafontant as Prime Minister on 14 July 2018, replaced one month later by Jean-Henry Céant.[30][31]
In mid-August 2018, Haitian-Canadian Gilbert Mirambeau Jr. tweeted a photo of himself blindfolded holding a cardboard sign with “Kot kòb PetwoKaribe a ?” (“Where did the PetroCaribe money go?”) written on it. The hashtag petrocaribechallenge was soon circulated on social media to build foreign awareness on the issue, with the tag mainly spread among English-language accounts and having little interaction amongst Haitian users.[24][32][31] Haitian media then shared the hashtag offline, providing more circulation of the message amongst the public.[24] According to Shearon Roberts, such messaging was a call to the international community that a regime change effort was underway.[24]
Anger over the revelations and accusations from the continuing investigation simmered through social media into the autumn and boiled over again, first in October 2018, with tense scenes and violence in Les Cayes, in Jacmel, and in Saint-Marc.[33] A week of protests in November 2018 led to 10 deaths, including several killed when a government car “lost a wheel and plowed into a crowd.”[34]

2019 protests
February
Significant protests broke out again in February 2019 following a report from the court investigating the Petrocaribe Senate probe.[10][35][36] Economic problems and the increased cost of living helped fuel the protests.[36]
On 7 February, protesters targeted and damaged wealthy Haitians’ luxury vehicles.[36] The following day, the mayors of Petion-ville and Port-au-Prince announced the cancellation of pre-Haitian Carnival events.[36] Two days later protestors clashed with police, with demonstrators throwing stones at the home of President Moïse, after one of his allies’ security personnel struck a woman’s car and began to beat her.[37] On 12 February, protesters burned down a popular market, looted stores and assisted with a prison break in Aquin that freed all of the facility’s prisoners.[35][38] In Port-au-Prince, the building housing the Italian and Peruvian consulates was looted by protesters.[39][40]
President Moïse addressed the country on 14 February, saying he would not step down and “give the country up to armed gangs and drug traffickers.”[41] During a funeral procession on 22 February, Haitian police fired tear gas at a crowd of about 200 people carrying the casket of a man killed during protests days earlier.[42] Opposition leader Schiller Louidor called for future protests, though the overall size of protests began to subside that day.[42]

March
Three days after the lower house voted a censure motion against Prime Minister Jean-Henry Céant’s government on 18 March 2019,[43] President Moïse replaced Céant with Jean-Michel Lapin.[44] As of mid-November 2019, this change had not been ratified by the Haitian Parliament. Lacking a government because of the impasse between the President and the Parliament, Haiti saw hundreds of millions in international aid—for which having a sitting government was a prerequisite—suspended.[45]

June
During escalating protests on 10 June, journalist Rospide Petion was shot and killed in a company car on his way home from Radio Sans Fin in Port-au-Prince, where he had criticized the government on air before leaving the station.[46][47]

October
On 4 October, thousands protested across Haiti. In Port-au-Prince, the mayor joined the protestors in calling for President Moïse to step down. Two days earlier, the opposition sent a letter by delegation to the UN Secretary General denouncing the sitting President’s role in the Petrocaribe affair, and the government’s role in a massacre in La Saline, a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince.[48][49] Lyonel Trouillot wrote in L’Humanité that “[w]ithout dipping into conspiracy theory, there is something worrying about the international community’s silence about the Haitian situation.”[50][51]
On 11 October, Néhémie Joseph, a second radio journalist critical of the government, was found dead in the trunk of his car in Mirebalais.[52][53] On 22 October, thousands of Catholics demonstrated in the capital. Archbishop Max Leroy Mésidor asked Haitian leaders to heed the people who “cannot go on any longer. We are fed up.” Energy crises, road blockages, and widespread unrest have led to massive drops in tourism, causing the closure of hotels in Petion-ville, where the Best Western Premier closed permanently,[54] and in Cap-Haïtien, where Mont Joli was closed.[55] Two people were killed in protests in Port-au-Prince on 27 October. Masked police officers were themselves out on the streets demonstrating that day because of low salaries and lack of health insurance.[56]
Although the Haitian constitution calls for legislative elections in October, none were held in October 2019.[45] The United Nations announced they had counted 42 deaths and 86 injuries since mid-September.[57]

November
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft and President Jovenel Moïse met in November 2019 about ways to implement a consensual resolution of Haiti’s political crisis
Peyi lok (“country lockdown”)[54] is how the situation was described in Haitian Creole in November 2019 after two and a half months with schools, courts, businesses, public services, and economic production largely shut down.[58][54]

December
Although parents and school directors still felt uneasy amidst barricades and gunfire, schools across the country began to reopen in December.[59][60]
The U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (David Hale) visited Haiti on 6 December, following up on U.S. Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft’s November visit.[61] During his visit, he met with the administration and with leaders from several opposing political parties, some of whom, including Fanmi Lavalas and Fusion-Mache Kontre, refused any collaboration with President Moïse.[62] On 10 December, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee began hearings on the situation in Haiti, which Frederica Wilson had pushed for. At the hearing, Maxine Waters was sharply critical of U.S. support for President Moïse. Neither the State Department nor USAID was present at the hearings.[11]

2020 protests
In September and October 2020, more protests occurred throughout the country. The protesters criticized the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Haiti, alleging it did not provide enough to those who lost their jobs because of the virus.[63]
Police held protests demanding better pay and working conditions. The police exchanged fire with Haitian soldiers outside the National Palace where police were protesting working conditions in February. In early 2020, a United Nations report said the Haitian police was corrupt, and failing to protect the population.[63]

2021 protests

January
On 14 January, hundreds demonstrated in Port-au-Prince, Cap-Haïtien, Jacmel, Saint-Marc, and Gonaïves against President Moïse. Most of the demonstrations were peaceful, but some violence was reported.[64] On 20 January, hundreds again demonstrated in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien to protest against President Moïse. One woman was shot by rubber bullets, and several others were wounded during protests.[65] On 28 January, journalists, lawmakers, police officers, retirees, former police officers, and human rights judges led protests against human rights abuses and police brutality, violence, and repression against protesters and chanted “When they don’t get paid, we’re the ones they call!”[66]

February
On 7 February 2021, supporters of the opposition against incumbent President Moïse allegedly attempted a coup d’état, claiming he should have stepped down five years after the end of Michel Martelly’s administration on 7 Feb 2016, despite the year-long delay before he was sworn in in 2017.[67][68][69] Moïse stated he had been the target of an assassination attempt and ordered the arrest of 23 people, including three Supreme Court judges.[70] Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Port-au-Prince on 9 February, chanting “Down with kidnapping! Down with dictatorship!” They bolstered opposition demands for President Moïse to resign. The police fired tear gas and shot in the air in an attempt to disperse protesters, who pelted the security officials with rocks.[70] Throughout February, clashes with protesters and security forces occurred in Port-au-Prince, in which protesters threw stones and chanted “Out with dictators” with riot police using tear gas.[71]
On 21 February, the opposition movement launched large protests in Jacmel and Port-au-Prince against President Moïse, and fought with the security forces. It is the third general strike, after the nationwide strike on 2 February and 8 February.[72] On 25 February, at least 25 were dead and many injured during a prison break at Croix-des-Bouquets Civil Prison, during which gang leader Arnel Joseph escaped.[73][74] Joseph was later found and killed in L’Estère.[75][76] On 28 February, protesters took to the streets targeting offices and throwing stones at the police, despite a bloody crackdown on the widespread street opposition demonstrations. “We are back to dictatorship! Down with Moïse!” was chanted during protests on 28 February.[77]

March
Thousands of Haitians, including doctors and lawyers, demonstrated peacefully in Port-au-Prince on 7 and 9 March, under the slogan #FreeOurCountry, calling for President Moïse and Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe to resign and a crackdown on kidnappers.[78][79] The hashtag FreeHaiti led opposition demonstrations across Haiti on 15 March, to protest the killing of four police officers in a village in Port-au-Prince, corruption, and armed gangs controlling cities.[80] On 17 March, the Fantom 509 militia staged a jailbreak to free four arrested police officers.[81] In late March, protests were focused on the unpopular referendum to amend the constitution scheduled for 27 June ahead of legislative, local and presidential elections scheduled for the fall.[82]

April
In April, protesters circled the Presidential palace seven times drawing Vodou images in chalk on the ground in an effort to symbolically free themselves from the scourge of gang kidnappings. The protest was met by police firing tear gas.[83]

July: Assassination of Jovenel Moïse

On 7 July 2021, Moïse was assassinated, allegedly by a group of 28 foreign mercenaries. Later that day, USGPN (L’Unité de Sécurité Générale du Palais National, or The General Security Unit of the National Palace) killed three of the suspected assassins and arrested 20 others.[4][15] On 20 July, Ariel Henry assumed the office of prime minister.[84]

2022 crisis

In April–May 2022, clashes between the rival gangs, 400 Mewozo and Chen Mechan, occurred in the Plain of the Cul-de-Sac area.[85]
In July 2022, an outbreak of gang violence occurred in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, leaving 89 people dead and over 74 injured.[86]
In September 2022, protests erupted, sparked by a governmental decision to eliminate fuel subsidies which caused prices to double overnight.[87][88][89] Jimmy (Barbecue) Chérizier, the leader of the G9 Family and Allies gang alliance, organized a blockade of the country’s largest oil terminal (Varreux).[90] Protests continued even after the lifting of the blockade on 7 November.[91][92]

2023

In 2023 the situation in Haiti continued to spiral downhill, with the last democratically elected officials leaving office, leaving Haiti without an elected government.[93] Several police killings by gangs including the killing of four police officers by the Vitel’Homme gang in Petionville and the killing of seven police officers on 25 January in Liancourt by the Savien gang lead to police launching a riot storming Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s residence. The riots ended a few days later.[94] Canada announced on 6 February that they would begin surveillance flights to Haiti in order to monitor the situation in the country.[95] According to leaked American documents in late February, the Wagner Group began to explore pathways and expressed interest in intervening in Haiti.[96]
A series of battles between gangs in early March led to the deaths of 208 people, kidnapping jumped 72% from the first quarter of the previous year.[97] Doctors, lawyers, and other wealthy members of society were kidnapped and held for ransom.[98] Examples include Jean-Dickens Toussaint and Abigail Toussaint, a Haitian American couple who were kidnapped on 18 March and later released,[99] Robert Denis, the director of the TV station Canal Bleu kidnapped on 11 April,[100] and Harold Marzouka, the Vice-Consul of Saint Kitts and Nevis and CEO of Haiti Plastics, kidnapped on 15 April.[101] Many victims have been killed after their loved ones failed to pay ransom, while many in the upper class have fled the country, leading to brain drain.[98] Violence continued into April, with three police officers being killed in an ambush on 9 April by the Ti Makak gang in the Thomassin neighborhood.[102] 13 gang members were burned alive by a mob as they were being transported.[103]
On 27 July, the United States ordered its non-essential personnel to leave the country as quickly as possible. This order was given the same day an American nurse and her child were kidnapped, with 80% of the capital reportedly controlled by gangs.[104]
On 30 July, Kenya agreed to lead a multinational peace mission in the country.[104]
As of September 2023, reports indicated that approximately 80% of the Haitan capital was under the control of gangs.[105] The growing crisis has led to discussions of a potential 1,000 strong United Nations backed Kenyan-led police intervention into Haiti, which Kenya had previously offered but which Haiti was at first reluctant to accept.[106][107] On 2 October 2023, United Nations Security Council resolution 2699 was approved, authorizing a Kenya-led “multinational security support mission” to Haiti.[108] If such an intervention were to occur, it would be the first time an African Union country would lead a major peacekeeping operation outside of Africa.[109] On 5 October 2023, Kenyan foreign minister Alfred Mutua was replaced by Musalia Mudavadi amid domestic controversy over the plans.[110]

2024
Ousting of Ariel Henry
Starting in January 2024, after his deportation following release from a US prison,[9] former senator Guy Philippe, with the support of an armed militia gone rogue—the Brigade de sécurité des aires protégées (BSAP)[111][112]—led protests demanding the resignation of Ariel Henry.[1][2][3]
On 26 January 2024, a judge from Kenya’s High Court halted the deployment of police officers to Haiti, on the grounds that the National Security Council lacked the legal power to send police officers abroad, and that Kenyan police could only be deployed overseas if there were a reciprocal agreement between Kenya and the host nation. The government said it would appeal the ruling,[113] offering to circumvent the High Court’s earlier ruling. On 29 February 2024, while Henry was in Kenya signing the agreement, a wave of violence broke out in the country.[114] Gunfire was directed at the country’s main airport and many businesses in the area, with two police stations seized,[115][116] fueling speculation that an alliance between rival gangs was forming to overthrow the government.[117] Gang leader Jimmy Chérizier released a video stating that the goal of his operation was preventing Henry from returning to Haiti.[2][3] Chérizier was said to have the support of other gangs as part of a coalition named “Viv Ansanm” (“live together”); though that coalition was quick to dissolve, other gangs still launched attacks together with Chérizier’s G9 gang.[118] Gangs stormed jails after diversionary attacks on police stations, resulting in thousands of people being freed during the jailbreaks.[119] As the security situation in Port-au-Prince deteriorated, on 3 March, the government under Minister of Economy and Finance Michel Patrick Boisvert issued a state of emergency.[120]
With the Port-au-Prince airport shut down due to gang violence, on 5 March, Henry’s chartered plane was prevented from landing in Santo Domingo and landed instead in San Juan, Puerto Rico.[121][21][122] Over the next days US military airlifted its embassy personnel from the country.[123] The European Union also evacuated all diplomatic staff from Haiti.[124]
On 11 March 2024 Henry announced that he would resign and that a transitional council (whose membership would be determined in Jamaica at an emergency CARICOM meeting) would select an interim Prime Minister.[5] The Kenyan government suspended the deployment of its police force in Haiti until a new government was in place.[125] On 13 March, the Pitit Desalin party withdrew from the transitional council to create its own council, which would include Guy Philippe,[126] who called for amnesty for some in the gangs whose actions brought down the Henry government.[127] On 15 March, police entered Delmas in an attempt to capture Chérizier. The next day, they attempted to secure the principal port in Port-au-Prince, closed since 7 March due to the violence.[128] On 17 March, a UNICEF aid container carrying critical items for infants and mothers was looted in that port, in the context of a healthcare crisis where 60% of the hospitals are unable to operate nationally due to medical supply and fuel shortages.[129]

Transitional Council
After prime-minister Ariel Henry announced his government would resign following talks with CARICOM leaders and the United Sates, a transitional council to take over the country was proposed. The council would consist of nine members of which seven would be voting and two would be observers. As of March 15, it was still not set, despite US Secretary of State Antony Bliken has said it’ll be working in the “coming days”.[130]
However, doubts emerged about the feasibility of the council after ex-senator and ex-presidential candidate Jean-Charles Moïse (unrelated to former President Jovenel Möise), who allied with former gang leader Guy Philipe, rejected the proposal, and insisted the council he created with Philipe and a Haitian judge should be implemented, instead.[131] Additionally, outgoing prime-minister Ariel Henry’s cabinet told CNN the internationall-proposed council could only take effect legally if Henry signed it off and appointed its members, and that they would not “simply deliver the country” to new leaders regardless of constitutional procedures.[132]

Actions
Moïse government
President Jovenel Moïse called for his opposition to participate in peaceful dialogue, saying that “the country’s problems aren’t solely political. The country’s problems are social, economic and political.”[36] The national police stated that there are “malicious individuals” who had interrupted peaceful protests in the country.[133]

Opposition
The opposition has been led by Jean-Charles Moïse.[12] This opposition declined offers for dialogue, demanded Moïse’s resignation,[36] and organized a nationwide general strike to attempt to force him to resign from office.[38] Alongside opposition lawmakers, he called for a transitional government to replace Moïse: “If Jovenel Moïse does not want to step down from power, we are going to name an interim president in the coming days.”[12][134]

Arrest of foreign mercenaries
The Port-au-Prince newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported on 18 February 2019 that a Haitian citizen and seven non-Haitians were arrested in the city. At the time of their arrest, they were carrying rifles, pistols, drones, and satellite phones in their vehicle, which did not have any license plates.[135] Haitian Foreign Minister Bocchit Edmond confirmed that among them were five Americans.[136] According to the editor of Haiti Liberté, the group included two former Navy SEALs, a former Blackwater employee, and two Serbian mercenaries living in the U.S.[137] They were tasked with protecting the former head of the National Lottery, who intended to transfer US$80 million from a PetroCaribe bank account—controlled jointly by the President, the Prime Minister, and the President of the Central Bank—to a bank account solely controlled by President Jovenel Moïse.[137]

Violence towards the press
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, some reporters have been targeted by protesters.[133] Reuters journalist Robenson Sanon was wounded during the protests in February 2019 but believes that it was coincidental because he was caught in-between clashes.[133]
Journalist Rospide Petion was killed on his way home from the Radio Sans Fin in Port-au-Prince on 10 June 2019 by an unknown gunman. Some correspondents filming protests on 9–10 June were targeted by both police and the crowds.[46][47] On 11 October, Néhémie Joseph, another radio journalist critical of the government, was found dead in Mirebalais after complaining about receiving death threats.[52][53] Freelance journalist Vladjimir Legagneur is presumed to have been killed in March 2018 while reporting on gang activity in Grande Ravine.[138]

Response
Governments
 United States: U.S. Department of State spokesperson for Western Hemisphere Affairs stated in 2019: “We support the right of all people to demand a democratic and transparent government and to hold their government leaders accountable but there is no excuse for violence. Violence leads to instability, less investment, and fewer jobs.”[39] The United States prepared humanitarian assistance to ensure food security in Haiti, and called for those responsible for corruption to be held accountable.[139] The U.S. State Department urged all U.S. citizens on 30 August 2023 to leave Haiti as soon as possible due to rising violence.[140] In March 2024, the US airlifted non-essential staff from its embassy and reaffirmed its support for a Kenyan police presence.[141]
 Canada: In December 2022, Canada imposed economic sanctions on Gilbert Bigio—Haiti’s richest businessman, part of the Syrio-Lebanese elite—for his role in “protect[ing] and enabl[ing] the illegal activities of the armed criminal gangs”[17][18]
Intergovernmental organizations

In October 2022, the United Nations singled out Jimmy Chérizier for sanctions among the gang leaders, but did not sanction Joseph Wilson (leader of the 400 Mawozo gang), Izo (leader of the Five seconds of Village de Dieu), Renel Destina (leader of the Grand Ravine gang), or Kempes Sanon (leader of the Belair gang)[144]
See also

References

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