A week after Organization of American States head Luis Almagro blamed the “international community” for contributing to Haiti’s descent into chaos, some members finally broke their silence Wednesday.
While some countries’ representatives took a defensive posture, listing their nation’s contributions and efforts over the years to help Haiti through its series of crises, others subtly pushed back. At least one permanent representative, Hugh Adsett of Canada, told the hemispheric organization it should play more the role of facilitator rather than critic.
“We call on the OAS to engage in constructive efforts and thus act as a force to draw in actors to help them,” Adsett said, referring to the inability of Haiti’s interim government and a civil society-led coalition — the Commission for the Search for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis, known as the Montana group — to find a political agreement that would allow for elections.
In his opening remarks, Adsett said Canada had “taken note of the recent communique from the OAS secretary general about Haiti.”
“We continue to feel that the international community in collaboration and in consensus with Haiti can play a crucial role and there have been efforts undertaken to confront the most urgent issues in the country,” he said. “Canada is ready, willing and able to accompany Haitians on this path to emerge from the crisis but the solutions must come from within Haiti.”
There was also pushback from Chile, Costa Rica and Mexico, whose representatives cited recent efforts to help and said Haitians have a role to play in helping solve their ongoing crisis. The United States, trying to remain neutral, continued to call for Haitians abroad, the private sector and politicians to work together to find a path forward that would allow for elections “when conditions allow.”
“We have an opportunity to elevate the situation in Haiti for the region,” the U.S. representative said. “We remain steadfast partners, supportive of building a better future for Haiti and the Haitian people.”
Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador, Sir Ronald Sanders, who has been an outspoken critic of the role of some foreign actors in Haiti’s affairs, said while many players in the international community are “perfectly innocent of what happens in Haiti,” there are “both countries and institutions that have damaged Haiti irreparably over many years.”
“Now it is up to those countries, if they recognize the error of their ways in the past, to do something about correcting the situation in Haiti positively,” he added.
The priority, Sanders said, must be to get the gang violence under control, otherwise “we cannot conceive of elections being held in any normal way.”
“Haiti alone cannot do that. There must be a consensus among all the parties,” he said. “The bickering, carping, the fighting for turf that has characterized the dialogue in Haiti between the parties in Haiti, has to stop in their own interests.
“Haiti cannot expect the international community to respond to Haiti’s needs without some assurance that within Haiti there would be a collective solidified response, both in terms of the requests they make, the cooperation they will give, and the openness with which they will deal with the international community,” Sanders added. ‘That I believe is key to all of this.”
Wednesday’s special meeting was held at the request of Haitian Foreign Minister Jean Victor Géneus, following the public criticism made by Almagro — a critique that has been joined by others publicly accusing the international community of ignoring Haiti’s escalating crises of armed gangs, kidnappings, rising hunger and migration.
In a four-page statement released last week on both Twitter and on the OAS website, Almagro accused the international community of failing Haiti with its “20 years of erratic political strategy” and failing to help build institutions in the country.
He later followed with an exclusive interview in the Miami Herald, saying the international community had withdrawn from Haiti at a time when it faces weak institutions, eroding rule of law, no elected government or president and more-powerful criminal gangs. Among the policies that helped get it here, he said: the push both in and out of the troubled nation for the withdrawal of United Nations peacekeepers troops just three years ago.
“Haiti is living through a very difficult situation and there must be innovative measures to serve the Haitian people to be able to overcome the current crisis and also put it on the right path,” Almagro said Wednesday. “The insecurity is undermining democracy and the operations of a democratic system. Insecurity, which includes kidnapping, murderers, it is the reflection of inequality and the possibility that human rights cannot be realized. These problems that affect Haiti have to do with the quality of its institutions.”
Géneus didn’t address Almagro’s comments directly, instead giving a briefing on what the country is currently facing. Haiti, he said, is being subjected to “armed gangs that rob, rape, kill and kidnap Haitians as well as foreigners.”
“Despite the efforts and the good will of the government, the political, social and economic situation remains worrisome with the persistence of major security challenges and difficulties for the population to freely pursue their occupations,” he said.
Still, Géneus tried to put a positive spin on recent successes by interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s government. Among them: recent victories by the Haitian national police against several key gang leaders; the reconstruction of several schools that were destroyed in the deadly 7.2 earthquake that hit the southern region Aug. 14, 2021; the government’s purchase of weapons and armored vehicles for the police, and the recent crackdown on arms trafficking at two ports.
“Haiti is at an extremely decisive crossroads for its future. It is shaken by a multidimensional crisis that has lasted too long and is a subject of great concern for both nationals and the international community,” he said. “However, contrary to the pessimistic views that some have about the reality of our country, we Haitians believe that it is today more than ever that we must change it.”
As for the dialogue that the international community has been calling for, Géneus said the government has tried.
“We continue to regret that some compatriots are still hesitant to adhere to the process of political dialogue. Nevertheless, the government does not intend to spare anything to gain the trust of a sufficient number of sectors,” he said. “The doors of the prime minister are always open for proposals and consensual solutions to reconcile the nation with itself and the Haitians among themselves. The prime minister will continue tirelessly in this quest for dialogue and consensus.”