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The United Nations is weighing a motion to send an international force into Haiti. In the country, it’s a topic of debate without any easy answers. NPR’s Eyder Peralta reports from Port-au-Prince.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting in non-English language).
EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: The protest starts just outside the French embassy in downtown Port-au-Prince. “Down with the prime minister,” they chant. “Down with the occupation.” One of the protest organizers, Nicholson Pierre, says there is no life in Haiti at the moment. There’s no electricity, no clean drinking water.
NICHOLSON PIERRE: (Through interpreter) So today, the population is left on its own, and the bandits are the law. Today, the country is going to the slaughterhouse.
PERALTA: The crowd behind him hoists the Chinese flag. Others carry Russian flags. When the U.N. was last here, he says, all they brought was kidnappings, rape and cholera.
PIERRE: (Through interpreter) If ever the United Nations will send foreign forces on this land, we’re going to fight even more.
PERALTA: Haiti has been spiraling for years now, but the assassination of President Jovenel Moise last year precipitated an even deeper crisis. The country is now ruled by an acting prime minister. And nearly six weeks ago, a confederation of gangs blocked the country’s main seaport and the massive fuel depots that keep Haiti going. The military and police, which are barely breathing, could do nothing but watch.
GEORGES MICHEL: Myself, I see this intervention as inevitable because you have gangs like in Somalia. And we don’t have the manpower. We don’t have the guns to destroy this injection.
PERALTA: That is historian Georges Michel. This is all painful, he says, because Haiti, the first Black-led republic in modern history, cherishes its sovereignty. The other U.S. incursions in 1915, in 1994 and 2004 were seen as humiliating by Haitians. But at this point, he thinks there might not be another choice.
MICHEL: I would say something in French. (Speaking French).
PERALTA: “At this point,” he says, “Haitians are not far from another humiliation.”
PIERRE ESPERANCE: (Through interpreter) So now we have gangs everywhere. So they keep us right here. We’re going to die. We cannot breathe.
PERALTA: Pierre Esperance is one of the most prominent human rights advocates in Haiti. He says for years now, the government of Haiti has used the gangs to squash dissent. The international community, especially the U.S., not only ignored the problem, he says, but they kept supporting the governments that were arming the gangs. The civil society, he says, offered them political solutions before Haiti descended into anarchy.
ESPERANCE: (Through interpreter) They don’t want that. They want us to remain in that situation. And they contribute also to that situation.
PERALTA: Through our interview, Esperance offers plenty of reasons why an international intervention is a bad idea. It goes against the popular will. It is a military solution to a political problem. But when I ask him directly if he thinks an intervention is necessary, he demurs.
ESPERANCE: (Through interpreter) The current police force cannot solve the insecurity issue now. Police force need reinforcement.
PERALTA: In the end, it’s a choice between an intervention or the gangs.
(SOUNDBITE OF GLASS SHATTERING)
PERALTA: The protest works its way to the UN offices, passing huge piles of trash that haven’t been picked up in weeks. Out of frustration, demonstrators throw glass bottles to the streets. Junior Albert Augusma survived a kidnapping. He knows things are bad, but he doesn’t want foreign troops here.
JUNIOR ALBERT AUGUSMA: Please let us live. That’s all we ask for. We are human beings. We want to be respected. And we want to be able to decide by ourselves.
PERALTA: Maybe, he says, they don’t have a Haitian solution right now, but this country needs the space to try to find it. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Port-au-Prince. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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