Opinion | How the U.S. can help Haiti out of its government crisis – The Washington Post

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Haiti is in the throes of one of the most dire emergencies in its crisis-prone recent history, one increasingly likely to wash up on U.S. shores in the form of desperate migrants. Its government, which is integral to the problem, last month requested international military intervention, and United Nations Secretary General António Guterres agreed that “armed action” is urgently required. In response, the United States, Canada and other key powers have dithered — even as the Biden administration is reported to be preparing to house waves of Haitian refugees at the U.S. military base at Guantánamo Bay. The situation is untenable.
In the absence of boots on the ground, there are few good means for halting a humanitarian and security meltdown in Haiti that has paralyzed fuel supplies, endangered fresh water and food delivery, triggered a cholera outbreak, and intensified what the United Nations has called “emergency” hunger threatening nearly one-fifth of the country’s 11.5 million people. Still, even without deploying police or soldiers, the Biden administration and its key allies have options for acting more forcefully and should move swiftly.
The most immediate priority is to break an inland blockade by armed gangsters that for nearly two months has sealed off the country’s main fuel supply depot in Port-au-Prince, the capital. The cutoff, allegedly in protest of fuel price increases owing to the government slashing subsidies, has resulted in drastic consequences — shuttered gas stations, schools, hospitals and shops, as well as severe shortages of food and medicine. The United States and Canada have sent armored cars and other supplies to help Haiti’s police break the blockade, but those shipments have been inadequate.
Washington could also flex its diplomatic muscle with Haitian authorities to encourage sustained negotiations between the unelected government of Prime Minister Ariel Henry and a broad opposition association of Haitian civic and nonprofit groups, known as the Montana Accord. The groups correctly argue that Mr. Henry’s administration is illegitimate and ineffectual. (Mr. Henry himself has been implicated in last year’s unsolved assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.)
The Accord, named for a hotel in Port-au-Prince, has proposed a transitional period leading to elections, which are now impossible given the pandemonium that grips the nation. While the groups lack the means to organize elections, let alone confront the gangs, they at least enjoy a modicum of popular support, which the current government lacks. They deserve a role in determining Haiti’s future; Washington could give them that.
Simultaneously, the United States should extend temporary protected status, set to expire in February, for tens of thousands of Haitians already living and working legally in the United States, thereby shielding them from the prospect of deportation to a country gripped by pandemonium.
Without armed intervention, no prospective relief will be easy to achieve in a country that has dissolved into chaotic violence and florid dysfunction. However, to acquiesce to the status quo, as the Biden administration has done since the Moïse assassination, is to be morally complicit in an unfolding humanitarian tragedy. Washington cannot continue to pay lip service to resolving the crisis in Haiti. It can and should use its considerable influence to relieve the suffering of millions in the hemisphere’s poorest country.
Editorials represent the views of The Washington Post as an institution, as determined through debate among members of the Editorial Board, based in the Opinions section and separate from the newsroom.
Members of the Editorial Board and areas of focus: Deputy Editorial Page Editor Karen Tumulty; Deputy Editorial Page Editor Ruth Marcus; Associate Editorial Page Editor Jo-Ann Armao (education, D.C. affairs); Jonathan Capehart (national politics); Lee Hockstader (immigration; issues affecting Virginia and Maryland); David E. Hoffman (global public health); Charles Lane (foreign affairs, national security, international economics); Heather Long (economics); Molly Roberts (technology and society); and Stephen Stromberg (elections, the White House, Congress, legal affairs, energy, the environment, health care).


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