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Haiti needs the world's help

Isaac Risco
Isaac Risco
July 11, 2021

The last UN peacekeeping mission left Haitians resentful of international support. But after the murder of President Jovenel Moise, there's no alternative to foreign assistance, writes DW's Isaac Risco.

 Police stand near a mural featuring deceased Haitian President Jovenel Moise
The international community needs to step in and support Haiti, Risco writesImage: Joseph Odelyn/AP/picture alliance

There is a curse on Haiti.

That's what some despairing observers have written in recent years. While the statement clearly is not a rational explanation for the particularly tragic history the impoverished Caribbean state has suffered, it bears out the helplessness and, indeed, the pessimism many feel in what appears to be an unending spiral of violence, poverty and catastrophe that plagues the former French colony.

Now it is the brutal murder of the president that will worsen Haiti's crisis.

Condemned to chaos?

Early Wednesday morning, President Jovenel Moise was assassinated by a team of allegedly foreign commandos who stormed his house in Port-au-Prince. Not much else is clear about the attack. Was the murder part of a long-planned coup? Was it anger over allegations of corruption and an increasingly authoritarian style that led to his death at the hands of a gang? Clear answers are unlikely to surface anytime soon — long a failed state,Haiti has now fallen into complete chaos.

Isaac Risco
DW editor Isaac Risco was a correspondent in Haiti when Moise was electedImage: DW

In the 2015 presidential election, many diplomats and other observers on the ground in Haiti put their faith in political newcomer Jovenel Moise. The owner of a banana plantation, he won the vote, although a year later it was held again because of apparent voter fraud. Moise entered the president's office in 2017, but his government was never stable.

He has ruled by decree since 2020 after the parliament was dissolved and a new one was not elected, making it the latest of Haiti's many nonfunctioning state institutions. Brutal gang battles have terrorized people in Port-au-Prince and in the last few years turned the country into a transfer station for criminal organizations smuggling drugs from South America to the United States.

The international community has already intervened once in Haiti: In 2004, the United Nations sent peacekeepers to the country after the fall of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. But the troops were surrounded by scandal. Nepalese peacekeepers brought cholera to the country as it was still trying to rebuild after a massive earthquake in 2010, and some soldiers were accused of the sexual exploitation and abuseof Haitian women and girls. By the time the Brazilian-led UN peacekeepers left the country in 2017, they were downright hated by parts of the population.

A failed state doesn't help anyone

Yet, for the international community, the time has come to learn from its past mistakes and again to support the poorest country in the Americas so it can really get on its feet. Ultimately, Haiti's further decline cannot be in anyone's interest.

This article was translated from German.