On Wed., Dec. 21, 2021, the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council, joined by Haiti, Canada, and the Dominican Republic met to discuss once again the situation in Haiti, where the U.S. and Canada are pushing for a foreign military intervention, supposedly to fight “gangs.”
Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General, opened the meeting saying “efforts to engage in dialogue have failed to create consensus on a way forward.” Indeed, there was debate during the meeting.
There were three reports presented before the 18 member nations at the meeting gave their statements on the situation.
Helen La Lime, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti and Head of BINUH (UN Integrated Office in Haiti), spoke first, followed by Amb. Michel Xavier Biang of Gabon, speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council “Sanctions Committee” established through Resolution 2653 on Oct. 9, 2022. He gave an overview of the Committee’s activities, including the nomination of four candidates for the Panel of Experts established by that resolution.
The final report was presented by Kim Ives, a journalist and the English language editor at Haïti Liberté. What follows is the text he read.
Statement of Kim Ives of Haïti Liberté to the UN Security Council
I thank the council’s members for this opportunity to present our analysis of the situation in Haiti.
I have been reporting on and in Haiti for the past 48 years, most recently last month when I traveled there with my colleague, journalist Dan Cohen, to investigate the fuel crisis stand-off. Using a drone, we assessed barricades, police movements, shipping traffic, and open-air markets. Despite the gas shortage and insecurity, we visited hospitals, clinics, an IDP camp, an industrial park, wealthy quarters, and sewage-choked slums.
I have been asked to present the facts. But the facts themselves are not neutral. They speak to a history in which international law has been violated, and the principles of peace and self-determination, on which this body was founded, have been trampled.
These precedents have spawned the current crisis. In the past three decades, Haiti has been the victim of three coups d’états: in 1991, 2004, and most recently 2021. After each of these crimes, which involved international actors, the UN Security Council has been asked, as it is being asked today, to militarily intervene in Haiti. The Council agreed to do so in the first two cases, thereby essentially cementing in place an unjust and illegal status quo. The victims of these coups – the Haitian masses – were the ones policed, repressed, terrorized, demonized, sexually violated, politically bullied, and economically sanctioned.
That is why the 16 million Haitian people – 12 million living in Haiti and some four million living abroad – are patently and almost universally opposed to any more UN interventions, with the exception of Haiti’s tiny bourgeoisie. Haiti is the only country in the Western Hemisphere to endure a UN military occupation, and this, not once, but twice.
What is the situation today? You, the members of this council, have been given half-truths, but as the Indian writer Anurag Shourie notes, “a half-truth is even more dangerous than a lie” because “half a truth is sure to mislead you for long.” You have been told that Haiti is under the rule of “gangs,” and that the power of this world body is needed to punish and crush them. The other half of the truth that you have not been told is that the previous two UN military interventions have so weakened the Haitian state (along with the coups d’états) that it has opened the void for the growth of such criminality. As a result, the Haitian people have been left to fend for themselves, forming what Haitians dubbed in the 1980s “vigilance brigades” to combat the criminals. Through this means, they have effectively created neighborhoods which are not plagued by criminals, where the citizens are able to go about their daily affairs in peace and security.
However, today, we see some analysts, who report to this council and even publish their accounts in authoritative media networks, conflating the criminal gangs – which openly and unabashedly commit kidnapping, extortion, rape, and other crimes – with the autonomously formed civilian self-defense committees combating criminality. These self-constituted defense committees are the very embodiment of self-determination and organic community action and response.
In short, you are lumping together the “good guys” with the “bad guys” in one basket called “the gangs.”
The irony is that this body now threatens to uproot this germinating sprout of Haitian self-defense.
The irony is that this body now threatens to uproot this germinating sprout of Haitian self-defense. Indeed, in its Resolution 2653 of Oct. 21, this body chose to sanction one and only one person, accusing him of threatening “the peace, security, and stability of Haiti” and charging, on the grounds of contested allegations, that he has “planned, directed, or committed acts that constitute serious human rights abuses.”
The sanctioned man was not Joseph Wilson alias “Lamò Sanjou,” the leader of the 400 Mawozo gang, who admittedly and publicly kidnapped 17 North American missionaries and five French priests and two nuns last year. It was not the self-professed kidnapper known as “Izo,” leader of Village de Dieu’s Five Seconds Gang, which killed four Haitian cops and wounded seven others in March 2021. It was not Renel Destina alias “Ti Lapli,” another proud kidnapper whose criminal gang controls the area of Grand Ravine and with “Izo” has cut off the highway leading to Haiti’s southern peninsula – 40% of the country – for almost two years. It was not Kempes Sanon, the leader of the Belair gang, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping but escaped in February 2021, killing the civilian director of the Croix-des-Bouquets prison during his get-away.
The man whom this body sanctioned was Jimmy Cherizier, known as “Barbecue,” who is the spokesman for a federation of neighborhoods known as the “Revolutionary Forces of the G9 Family and Allies, Mess with One, You Mess with All,” dedicated to keeping kidnapping, extortion, rape, and other crimes out of their midst. Cherizier got his start as a stellar cop fighting criminal gangs.
Furthermore, Cherizier’s G9 coalition sought to decrease violence and succeded in establishing a truce in July 2020 between its neighborhoods and those controlled by the criminal gangs. The UN Integrated Office in Haiti or BINUH stated in a Sep. 25, 2020 report that “intentional homicides reported to the police decreased by 12 per cent” during the three months from June to August 2020, a period coinciding with the start of the G9’s truce. The mere observation of this statistical fact so alarmed the Haitian oligarchy that it began to spin the fiction through its radio stations, paid pundits, and political formations on both the “left” and “right” that the BINUH and its chief Helen La Lime had federated the G9 and were controlling it. This rumor spread widely despite the fact that the report, only a sentence before, characterized the G9 as “notorious,” stating that “its creation raised concerns among political and civil society actors about the detrimental impact partisan gangs can have on State institutions.”
This case illustrates how quickly fiction, through mere repetition, can become accepted as “fact” in the popular discourse, leading the UN to target a crime-fighting, truce-promoting leader in Haiti’s slums.
That an error of this magnitude can happen also shows how easily misguided, counterproductive, and blunt an instrument this body’s Chapter 7 power can be, especially when this council is receiving inaccurate and skewed information. Sanctions should be evidence-based, not the result of political machinations.
For example on Sep. 26, 2022, Madame La Lime informed the Security Council that Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry wanted “dialogue as a means to create the necessary security, constitutional and political conditions for elections by the end of 2023.”
She should have noted that Ariel Henry is a de facto head of government with virtually no popular support or legal mandate. What little legitimacy he might have had expired on Feb. 7, 2022 with the definitive end of the late Jovenel Moïse’s term. In the 17 months that he has held power, thanks to his appointment by the so-called CORE Group of ambassadors led by La Lime and Washington, Henry has made absolutely no progress establishing dialogue or in creating the groundwork for elections. On the contrary, he disbanded the sitting Provisional Electoral Council two months after taking power and has not reconstituted it. Most observers agree that the likelihood of free and fair elections taking place in the coming year is practically nil.
She also told you that Henry decided “to reduce regressive subsidies on fuel which costs the State some $400 million a year, as a means of increasing revenue for social programmes.” On the contrary, the fuel subsidies, which allow Haitian public transport, open air markets, and tens of thousands of small peasants and enterprises to function, were not “regressive.” They were one of the few measures that helped to ease the burden of crushing poverty on Haiti’s masses. And there are no social programmes in Haiti to speak of.
why does Madame La Lime refer to “criminal gangs” but then doesn’t characterize Ariel Henry as “criminal”?
It was therefore predictable that Henry’s move, which U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols said were “actions that we’ve wanted to see in Haiti for quite some time,” precipitated, as La Lime reported, “roadblocks [that] were set up throughout the country, generating a full country-wide lockdown.”
Ironically, the response being proposed to such uprisings is yet another foreign military intervention. The last sustained UN military mission to Haiti – the MINUSTAH – lasted 13 years from 2004 to 2017 at a cost of about $7 billion, or on average about $538.5 million annually. Leaving aside moral and political principles, would it not be more cost effective to underwrite the Haitian state with fuel subsidies for $400 million annually than deploy troops at a much higher cost?
You were also told that “one of the largest alliances of criminal gangs in the capital blocked the nation’s main fuel terminal in Port-au-Prince, at Varreux.”
First, why does Madame La Lime refer to “criminal gangs” but then doesn’t characterize Ariel Henry as “criminal”? He has been credibly accused, based on phone records, of many extended phone conversations with Joseph Félix Badio, the man said to have ordered Colombian mercenaries to fatally machine-gun President Jovenel Moïse on Jul. 7, 2021. Henry fired a Haitian prosecutor who sought to question him about the calls that occurred both before and just hours after the murder.
Secondly, the alliance of so-called “criminal gangs” La Lime refers to is the G9, the crime-fighting federation headed by Jimmy Cherizier. The barricades they erected outside the Varreux fuel terminal, which is one of three fuel depots in the capital, were in solidarity with the nationwide lockdown and the entire population’s demands.
Thirdly, with barricades established throughout the country, why did she focus on just the barricades near the fuel terminal? What difference does it make if a fuel truck can travel five blocks instead of one block? The many road barricades and demonstrations throughout the city would have curtailed fuel deliveries at that time, but the principal factor disrupting gas distribution was the price hike, which more than doubled the cost of fuel overnight.
You were told in your briefing that the Varreux barricade was “creating shortages across the country and closing down hospitals.” This is another half-truth. Over a month after the September briefing, in early November, we visited the General Hospital, Haiti’s largest, where the administrator told us that the hospital had never closed down, but that it had been harder to obtain fuel since August, when supplies became short due to the government not paying its gas bills, and even more difficult after the price hike.
Madame La Lime concluded her report by saying that “an economic crisis, a gang crisis, and a political crisis have converged into a humanitarian catastrophe” while underlining “the very real limits of the national [police] force.”
We believe this was clearly setting the stage for Ariel Henry’s Oct. 9 request to this council for foreign military intervention, which is a flagrant violation of the Haitian Constitution’s Article 263-1, which forbids foreign troops on Haitian soil.
The Haitian people, acting with full sovereignty, must be allowed to sort out their own problems
The proponents of foreign intervention into Haiti are well-aware of the Haitian people’s opposition and its bad optics before the eyes of the world, especially since it has been unsuccessfully tried before.
So former U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Pamela White suggested this month that the Biden administration deploy “2,000 armed law enforcers” to Haiti, but to “send in a couple of hundred at a time, over six months, with little fanfare.”
Some officials have also suggested deploying small Special Forces units to train the Haitian police. As in Vietnam in the early 1960s, this risks simply becoming the thin edge of the wedge.
Tellingly, the same Pamela White recommended in a March 2021 congressional hearing that President Moïse be “put… aside” and that Washington embrace what she called “the prime minister option.” This has effectively come to pass.
These power dynamics are what is most alarming about the situation in Haiti today. Foreign actors are deciding what leaders Haitians should have, and a prime minister with no legal or popular mandate is running roughshod over the Haitian Constitution. Now foreign nations are debating yet another military invasion, supposedly to save unwilling Haitians from a so-called “humanitarian catastrophe.”
We at Haïti Liberté strongly believe that the situation in Haiti cannot be resolved through foreign intervention, military force, or even sanctions. The Haitian people, acting with full sovereignty, must be allowed to sort out their own problems, just as they did 219 years ago when they founded Latin America’s first nation. The only thing the UN or any other foreign entity might do is provide Haiti with disinterested economic support to rebuild their ravaged economy and political institutions destroyed by three decades of coups d’états, military interventions, and neoliberal austerity.
We call on this council to respect the principles enshrined in its Charter, in particular Article 2, Paragraph 7 which states that “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.”