One Big Thing: Can Haiti Overcome Its Present Instability?
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Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse has been shot and killed in his home in the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince. The attack occurred in the early hours of July 7th after an unidentified gunman stormed the president’s property. Claude Joseph took charge of the country as interim prime minister and quickly declared a state of emergency nationwide. Mr. Joseph called the shooting a “heinous, inhuman and barbaric act” and vowed that the killers will be brought to justice.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest globally. The country has struggled with political stability, human rights violations, and humanitarian crises. In 2019, there were mass protests calling for the resignation of President Moïse after his inadequate handling of the economy and his mismanagement of government funds. Police responded to those protests with excessive force which only fueled more instability and chaos.
The situation worsened in January 2020 when Moïse dissolved most of parliament and began ruling by decree. On February 7, 2021, the opposition claimed that Moïse's 5-year term had ended, but Moïse insisted that his term continued until 2022. Moïse was originally elected in 2015 in disputed elections that were later canceled, and was then inaugurated in 2017 after winning new elections in 2016. The United States has backed Moïse on this as State Department spokesman Ned Price said that “a new elected president should succeed President Moise when his term ends on February 7, 2022.” Nevertheless, protesters continued taking to the streets and chanting, “Down with the dictatorship!”
The recent assassination is a single event in a long list of unfortunate events that have devastated the nation. From natural disasters to gang violence to coups, it seems Haiti’s turmoil shows no sign of slowing down. But what will this most recent event mean for relations with the United States and the future of the Haitian government?
The two countries have a long history of cooperation as the oldest republics in the Western Hemisphere. Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Julie Chung called Haiti "one of our nation’s oldest friends," with less than a thousand miles separating the two countries. The United States is home to the world’s largest Haitian diaspora population and shares over $2 billion in annual trade with Haiti.
In light of the incident, the United States has condemned the assassination and has pledged continued partnership with Haiti to preserve its democratic institutions. The US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs has trained thousands of Haitian National Police and provided $5 million to strengthen Haiti's efforts to combat gang violence. In January, the United States announced $75.5 million through the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening program to support Haiti's "democratic governance, health, education, agricultural development, [and] pre-election activities."
Price urged Haiti to proceed with free and fair elections this year and insisted that US support for Haiti "will not waver in the wake of this [incident]."
Find a timeline of Haiti's modern history HERE.
Authored by Paulina Song & James Robson
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