The announcement by the Foreign Minister, Hon. Eamon Courtenay, that Belize might be sending troops to Haiti as part of a peacekeeping mission, is causing some nervous moments. Haiti is having serious internal problems, and though soldiering for peace, our troops would still be in considerable danger.
Some political analysts put much of the blame for Haiti’s internal problems on US foreign policies, which they say have caused extreme economic hardship, and consequent instability. The Americans are not without virtue. There are border issues between neighboring countries in the Americas, but thanks mainly to them, there are no territorial wars in our hemisphere. It’s no small mercy that armies in our region, when they aren’t on the trail of drug traffickers, are mostly inside barracks or engaged in productive peacetime activities such as the construction of public buildings, bridges, and roads.
There are no territorial wars in the Americas, but there is serious strife within a number of countries, and in Haiti the temperature has risen so high that external intervention is being contemplated to save lives and hasten a resolution. In Haiti, as with almost all countries in our region that are unstable, the story is mainly about a rich elite grasping for more, and the masses who are fighting for more equitable distribution of the resources. The US invariably sides with the rich, primarily because their agenda is about creating a space for their people to do business. In Haiti, the trafficking of drugs which the Americans have declared illegal has complicated their problem.
Venezuela, which sits on the largest identified crude oil reserves in the world, has been in turmoil since 1998 when Hugo Chavez became that country’s president and dictated a path that wasn’t compatible with the US’s vision. In the 1990s, Venezuela was one of the wealthiest countries in Latin America, but Chavez was dissatisfied with the distribution of the wealth, the country’s high poverty rate. Its economy now crippled by US pressure, millions of Venezuelans have fled. World Vision, at the website worldvision.org, says that since 2014 over 7.7 million Venezuelans have left their homes.
Venezuela became a hero to the Caribbean a decade ago because of its Petro Caribe program that supplied fuel to nations in our region at heavily subsidized prices, until it crumbled under US pressure. But it risks squandering its gain with its claim on Guyana, which originated at a time when the Pope blessed Spain’s conquest of the peoples of the Americas. Venezuela’s announcement that it would “apply all the necessary measures” to block Guyana’s recent decision to explore for oil in some of its territorial waters has provoked CARICOM to issue a release to express its “full and unequivocal support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, including its right to peacefully develop the resources of its territory.”
The US is powerful enough to gravely harm any nation on earth, and their trade embargo on Cuba in 1962, after Fidel Castro took the reins in that country in 1958, has kept that nation materially impoverished for 60 years. The turmoil, instability in Haiti has existed for over 200 years, ever since Toussaint L’ouverture overthrew the country’s colonial rulers, France, and it became a black-led republic in the Americas. The French had helped the Americans during their war of independence from Great Britain, and the Americans also worried that the Haitian revolution and its independence in 1804 would inspire Blacks in the US to insurrection. The US did not recognize Haiti’s independence until 1862.
Haiti was isolated after its independence, and the isolation was total. All the European powers were terrified that the Haitian Revolution would inspire their slaves to rebel. Haiti won the battle, but lost the war. No European power came to Haiti’s aid when it was forced to pay France billions of dollars, under threat of an invasion, and for France to recognize the country as a sovereign republic. More than anything else, Haiti’s isolation and mark for destruction was because of the skin color of its leaders.
In the second half of the 20th century, the Duvalier dictatorships — father and son, Papa Doc and Baby Doc — dominated Haiti, and during their reign the wealth of the ruling class grew, and the masses’ suffering increased. Hopes in Haiti were at their highest with the democratic election of ex Catholic priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1990, but the military leaders from the Duvalier regimes colluded with other elites to overthrow him. With the help of the US, Aristide was returned to power, but his government was severely restricted, and when he showed interest in the education and health programs of the Cubans, the Americans stopped supporting him and his emboldened internal enemies drove him into exile.
The problems in Haiti escalated after it was struck by a massive earthquake in 2010 that killed over 200,000 people. Foreign aid poured in, but as is too often the case, the bulk of the aid did not reach the people who needed it most. The United Nations, which is usually at the fore of humanitarian missions, was on the ground in Haiti helping the nation rebuild. But some members of one of its peacekeeping groups were infected with cholera, and that led to a catastrophic spread of the disease that left 10,000 Haitians dead. Politically, the UN lost much credibility because it has not accepted responsibility for what members of its peacekeeping mission caused.
Haiti has been hit by a number of hurricanes since, including the devastating Category Five hurricane, Matthew, in 2016, which besides inflicting massive infrastructural damage caused cholera, which has been endemic in the country, since 2010, to flare up. Haiti then imploded after its president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated in 2021.
It’s a complicated and dangerous situation in Haiti today, and that explains the hesitation by Belize to send troops over there on a peacekeeping mission. Kenya, which has offered to lead a US- and- UN- supported peacekeeping mission, has stated that after observing the situation on the ground, it realized that its plan to send in a thousand troops to help stabilize the country so a legitimate government could be formed after an election, wasn’t sufficient. Foreign Minister Courtenay said the Kenyans determined that a lot more troops were needed, because it’s “a very different thing from going in and adopting a defensive posture, to sending troops from your country to go and engage with gang members in Haiti.”
Belizeans are concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Haiti. Our sister Caribbean island is not just in the grip of the never-ending battle between economic philosophies —the elites clashing with the masses who are clamoring for a more just society. The danger is compounded by the same powerful forces that have destabilized Central America, forces that have become millionaires running guns and drugs.
KREM News said PM Briceño, in an interview on Monday, said “member states of CARICOM have a moral responsibility to do something about the state of lawlessness in Haiti.” Belizeans want to help, but are hesitant. Courtenay, according to KREM News, said that the PM said Belize will send troops if the peacekeeping mission is clearly defined and satisfactory to us.