Diaspora

Opening of Haiti fuel terminal means less pressure on Canada to intervene, experts say – National Post

The fuel terminal was blocked by gangs, driving the country to a boiling point. The U.S. had been pressing Canada to take the lead on a security force
The reopening of an important fuel terminal in Haiti is lowering the demand on Canada to lead an intervention in that country, experts say, as the Liberal government weighs its options following the return of an assessment team.

University of Ottawa professor Stephen Baranyi said it is “reasonable to think” the retaking of that “critical infrastructure, and other things that have happened recently, are lessening the pressure on Canada.”
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The U.S. had been pressing Canada to take the lead on a security force, but the changing situation on the ground means Canada can now “develop a plan B,” said Chalmers LaRose, a lecturer at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

“What they don’t need to do, and what they shouldn’t do, is to take up the leadership of an international force to invade Haiti in order to resolve a security crisis.”

The Varreux fuel terminal was blocked by gangs since September, driving a country already suffering from multiple crises to a boiling point. Businesses and schools have been closed and Haitians have had difficulty accessing basics like drinking water and food. Media reports late last week said security forces had regained control of Varreux, and the terminal reopened Tuesday.

In late October, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly wouldn’t commit Canada to leading an intervention force, saying that Canada was looking at “different options.” The comments came during a visit to Ottawa by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken as media reports indicated the U.S., which had backed a UN resolution calling for a multinational security force, wanted Canada to take the lead.

Sébastien Carrière, Canada’s ambassador to Haiti, told a Parliamentary committee last week Canada has to “do things our way.” He said Canada should “look at Canada’s interests in doing this, and do it with regional partners.”

The opening of the terminal buys time for Canada, said Baranyi, noting the UN resolution is on hold. He said Canada’s reluctance to jump in to lead such a mission contributed to that “shift in Washington.”

“Not that a larger intervention is off the agenda. I think they’re still working on it. But in a sense, I think the Canadian and others’ prudent line has prevailed for now,” he said.

“If things really go awry, if there’s an explosion of violence, if the gangs retake Varreux….if cholera cases explode, and hospitals are not resupplied with petrol, therefore, can’t run their generators and so on… that could put the direct intervention scenario back on the fast track.”

LaRose said Canada leading such an intervention would deteriorate the relationship between Canada and Haiti. He said Canada would “be viewed as just a subcontractor of the United States, in terms of they will do the dirty job that the United States don’t want to do.”

A United Nations mission that was in Haiti from 2004 to 2017 brought cholera to the country and was implicated in human rights abuses.

Baranyi said “by extension, any new major security intervention, under the UN’s umbrella or not, would (involve) some of the same risks. Being seen as an occupation force by many Haitians and some foreign governments, and some critics even in Canada, and possibly doing a lot of damage on the ground.”

Canada and the U.S. sent armoured cars to Haiti in October, and the two countries announced sanctions on two Haitian politicians Friday. Baranyi said the fact that Haiti’s National Police was able to regain control of some infrastructure was “partly attributable to Canada and U.S. supplies of armoured personnel carriers and discrete forms of tactical support, intelligence and other forms of basically security advice.”

He said that partly justifies “Ottawa’s caution about embarking on any larger intervention” and a wait-and-see approach.

Adrien Blanchard, a spokesperson for Joly, said in an emailed statement that Canada will impose more sanctions.

“The situation is Haiti is dire: the country is facing a security, humanitarian and political crisis. Canada is committed to supporting all efforts to quickly resolve these crises and will always advocate for solutions by and for Haitians,” he said.

Haiti’s president Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in 2021. The country is in the hands of prime minister Ariel Henry, who was appointed by Moïse but hasn’t been elected, and has faced anti-government protests.

There is also political danger in intervening, LaRose warned, because it would “be viewed as defending the government that is losing complete capacity to provide any kind of leadership on the ground.”

Baranyi said the governments that have most recently been in power in Haiti “have contested legitimacy and neither the capacity nor the willingness to actually address any of Haiti’s major structural problems.”

The UN said last week nearly half the population faces acute hunger and an “uncontrolled” cholera outbreak, as its human rights chief warned the country is “on the verge of an abyss.”

While the Verreux terminal has reopened, Haiti still faces a security problem, which LaRose said is the most urgent issue to solve. “The way to do it is to provide logistic and munitions and armed assistance to the security forces on the ground.”

Baranyi said any kind of potential intervention would have to include countries from the region.

“It would have been a terrible mistake to send a UN force that was mainly led by countries of the north or even countries like Brazil…it’s really important for any new intervention to be co-led by countries in the region, in the Caribbean, that have some understanding of Haiti’s history and the region’s history and its anti-colonial struggles.”

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