OP-ED: Why the U.S. Should Intervene in Haiti

This is the presidential palace where President Moise currently resides as leader of Haiti.

This is the presidential palace where President Moise currently resides as leader of Haiti.

Chase Mandell, Contributor

Jovenel Moise, the current president of Haiti, is becoming autocratic and staying in office longer than he should. Moise has destroyed democratic institutions, ruined Haiti’s economy, and deteriorated Haitians’ welfare, and thus should be removed from power immediately. 

On Feb. 7, 2021, Haiti entered a period of political strife. President Moise held a press conference to assert that he will be staying in office until February 2022. According to the Haitian constitution, presidents’ terms are 5 years. President Moise won the 2016 presidential election; however, he was not sworn into office as president until February 2017. The opposition to Moise claims that his term started when he won in 2016 and his term expires this year. 

Additionally, Moise has ruled by decree for over a year since his parliament mandate expired in January 2020. During this period, he has become even more autocratic. He ordered the arrest of political opponents, including a Supreme Court justice, and created an intelligence agency that only answers to him. 

Moise’s despotic behavior caused Haitians to hold massive demonstrations for the past several months. The goal of these protests is to draw international attention to the constitutional crisis. In Haiti, many domestic groups support removing Moise from power. For example, the Haitian Bar Federation, the Superior Council of Judicial Power, and Haitian civil society groups recognize the dangerous implications of leaving Moise in office. Despite these attempts, international democratic actors–including the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, and the Organization of American States–have continued to support President Moise. 

I believe that the United States has the obligation to cease supporting President Moise and back the opposition to uphold democratic principles. It will set a negative precedent for leaders of other countries if the United States supports a tyrannical leader. Moreover, Haitians have suffered because of Moise’s rule–gang violence and kidnappings increased under President Moise’s administration. Haiti is also the only Latin American country with no COVID-19 vaccines because Moise’s administration lacks a coordinated response. 

United States legislators have been debating the role the nation plays in the political conflict. Reps. Gregory Meeks and Yvette Clarke, both Democrats from New York, have led the charge in the House of Representatives arguing that the United States should firmly reject the undemocratic actions of President Moise to retain power in Haiti and support the movement to set up a new transitional government. They penned a letter to the U.S. Secretary of State urging the Biden administration to change their stance on supporting Moise. However, the Biden administration does not show signs of switching its view. The administration believes the best way to hold free and fair elections is to work directly with President Moise until his term ends next year. 

According to Human Rights Watch, the country is failing to meet the basic needs of its people, resolve long-standing human rights problems, and address humanitarian crises. When a state deprives its citizens of human and civil rights, the United States is justified in intervening in the country as the leader of the free world. Also, since the majority of Haitians support United States intervention it will not be considered colonialist. 

The underlying reason the United States backs Moise is, of course, because he benefits our interests. Moise provides benefits to American businesses and encourages foreign investment in the country. It’s upsetting that the United States constantly chooses self-interest in its policy decisions. Democratic ideals should come first, especially when civil rights and citizens’ welfare are under attack. Haitians need international support to mitigate COVID-19 and violence, improve their economy, and fix their government. Also, if intervention begins with the United States changing its stance, the United Nations may change its stance as well since the United States is such a prominent actor. In fact, the United States was rated the “World’s Most Powerful Country” in 2020 which highlights how influential the state is. 

Citizen activism is the most effective way to persuade the administration to begin to support the opposition. For example, letters should be written to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, which oversees all aspects of foreign policy. The Committee met with Haitian activists on March 12 to discuss the harm of leaving President Moise in power. Members of this committee hold the most influence in Congress in crafting policy stances. 

It’s important that the United States supports the opposition, rather than Moise, to fulfill its duty of leading the world in democracy. The United States should not act warmly with autocratic leaders. Our country is betraying the ideals that it stands on and thus we must voice that we stand with Haitians in rejecting undemocratic actions. 

Photo Credit: “Haiti – Presidential Palace” by MichelleWalz is licensed under CC BY 2.0