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Things have been grim in Haiti for a long time and today they are worse than ever, thanks in large part to the United Nations (with support from the Trump administration) withdrawing all U.N. military and police officers beginning in 2017. Now, the government — led by acting President Ariel Henry — has been overrun with armed gangs demanding his resignation. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians have been forced from their homes, creating an increasingly intense humanitarian crisis.

Haiti won its independence in 1804, when both enslaved and free people rebelled against their French colonial masters. Since that time, Haiti has endured several brutal dictators. Two of the worst were François Duvalier (“Papa Doc”) and his son Jean-Claude Duvalier (“Baby Doc”). Although Jean-Bertrand Aristide won Haiti’s first free democratic election in 1990, he was derailed twice by military coup d’états. On July 7, 2021, Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated.  In the months before, the country had been split on the fate of Moïse.


At the heart of the dispute was the date Moïse’s presidential term was actually over.  His supporters said that, thanks to a disputed election, there was one more year on his term.  Opposition leaders said that Moïse’s term ended on February 7, 2021, four years after he took office.  When the opposition attempted to swear in a new president, Moïse and his supporters decried their actions as a coup.

During his tenure, Moïse dissolved Parliament, undermined the judicial system and other institutions, and ruled by decree. Before his death, many Haitians accused Moïse and his cronies of stealing millions of oil dollars and, in December 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department issued sanctions on two top government officials and a gang leader for a 2018 anti-government gathering that left over 70 Haitians dead.

Even before this latest turmoil, over half of Haitians lived on less than $2.41 a day, there had been a cholera epidemic since the 2010 earthquake, and food and clean drinking water were scarce for many. Elections have always been shady; violence high; kidnappings, money-laundering and arms trafficking commonplace; and the police ineffective and corrupt.

Practically everything about Haiti needs to be reformed and the United States must continue to engage not only for the safety and security of the Haitian people, but to protect our national security interests in the region. It’s important to remember that Haiti is less than 700 miles from the shoreline of Florida. The last thing we need is a failed state run by violent drug warlords that close to our border.

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