Academic Minute Podcast

Ernesto Sagas, Colorado State University – The Haitian Crisis and Foreign Intervention

Haiti is in crisis and foreign security forces are coming to help stabilize the country, but will their help be welcomed?

Ernesto Sagas, professor of ethnic studies at Colorado State University, looks at the complexities of the political situation.

Dr. Ernesto Sagás is Professor of Ethnic Studies at Colorado State University. He has a Ph.D. in political science from University of Florida with a concentration in Latin American studies. Dr. Sagás is the author of Race and Politics in the Dominican Republic, as well as articles on democracy and authoritarianism, immigration policy, and Latinos in Colorado.

The Haitian Crisis and Foreign Intervention

Haiti is undergoing one of its worst crises in decades. Armed gangs have taken over most of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and other parts of the country, and the Haitian government lacks the manpower and resources to reassert its control. Elections have not been held since 2016, and the current prime minister, Ariel Henry, is in Puerto Rico, unable to return to Haiti. At this point, most Haitian leaders and the international community (led by the United States) agree that the time has come to send in a multinational security mission to enforce peace and order, stabilize Haiti, and hopefully disarm the gangs. But Haiti’s experience with foreign interventions has not been a happy one.

Invoking the need to preserve order and protect U.S. interests, the United States occupied Haiti from 1915-1934. It was a humiliating affair for Haitians, who are the proud descendants of rebellious slaves who overthrew the French colonial regime in 1804. In 1994, U.S. forces were sent in again, this time to restore Pres. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been overthrown by the Haitian military. This second intervention was followed by U.N. missions that provided security until their mandate expired and they left in 2019. U.N. peacekeepers were accused of sexually exploiting Haitian women and introducing cholera into Haiti, which killed thousands. Since then, Haiti has been sliding into a spiral of violence, culminating in the assassination of Pres. Jovenel Moïse in 2021.

When the international community finally sends in a multinational security mission to stabilize Haiti, it must make sure to stamp out the root causes of Haiti’s instability. It needs to disarm the gangs, strengthen the Haitian police, organize elections, and invest in the country’s socioeconomic development. Otherwise, this military intervention—like the previous ones—will fail, leaving Haitians vulnerable to another cycle of political instability and violence.

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