Ex-special envoy: Biden’s approach to Haiti is a “recipe for disaster”

A former special envoy to the Biden administration warns that the president’s approach to Haiti could further destabilize the already fragile Caribbean nation.

Under Biden, the United States has expelled more than 14,000 Haitians since September while avoiding any major political announcements regarding the country.

As senior State Department and White House officials visited the country to consolidate political stability, the policy of deportations led to the resignation of Special Envoy for Haiti Daniel Foote in September.

“Desperate people without anything being reintroduced to a city with tens of thousands of internally displaced people already from gangs – the recipe for disaster,” Foote told The Hill on Monday, referring to Haiti’s capital. , Port au Prince.

Over the past year, Haiti has gone through a devastating earthquake, a constitutional crisis, the assassination of a sitting president, an assault on the life of the acting prime minister and the forcible return of dozens of Haitians. the United States.

In September, about 15,000 Haitians gathered under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, after crossing the Rio Grande.

The ensuing political scandal prompted the Biden administration to impose a “Title 42” designation on Haitians at the border, allowing the federal government to quickly deport Haitians under the guise of pandemic-related health protections.

These expulsions continued in the form of almost daily flights to Haiti – 131 since the Del Rio incident, according to statistics released by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

Foote, whose mission was to advise the State Department on peace and stability in Haiti, discovered the repatriations by watching the news. He announced his resignation soon after, frustrated both by the destabilizing effect of the repatriations and by his inability to influence the policies of the Biden administration on the changing political landscape of Haiti.

In July, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated amid a constitutional crisis partly of his own creation, shortly after appointing Ariel Henry as the new prime minister.

After a short interlude under the leadership of then-Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph, Henry became the new interim leader with the support of the so-called Core Group, a group of foreign diplomats including the US Ambassador. United.

US support for Henry angered many Haitian observers, including Foote, who saw the movement as reflections of past examples of US diplomatic failure in the country.

“It became clear to me that the United States was just going to support Ariel Henry unless he died or something like that. That they were right behind him and that they had put all their chips behind him, ”Foote said.

“And so I was like, you know what, I’m not going to change that from the inside out. Nobody is listening. The only way – and even that probably won’t make it right – but I can keep the dream alive. . The only way for me to stay alive is to go nuclear. You know, let the world see what’s going on, “he added.

Foote testified in October before the House of Representatives’ foreign affairs committee, telling lawmakers that Haitian civil society groups are ready to rebuild Haiti’s political institutions, but Haitians are unlikely to accept. a way forward that includes Henry.

Given Haiti’s constitutional vacuum, the country’s political future depends on broad agreements between civil society and political actors to create a path forward to rebuild basic political institutions.

Foote and many other Haitian observers see what is known as the Montana Accord as a viable, albeit not without obstacles, way forward.

Montana offers a Transitional Council to Rebuild Institutions, which includes many civil society and political actors, but excludes those with obvious ties to criminal gangs and sectors of the ruling party that support Henry.

Henry, who has yet to announce an official election date, has offered his competing political deal.

“The biggest mistake the administration has made right now is that it demands a unanimous solution in Haiti. They’re demanding that everyone merge their deals, including – and they’ve been explicit about this – the Ariel Henry deal, ”Foote told The Hill.

Foote’s testimony was praised by the leading Democrats on the committee, including Chairman Rep. Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksHouse passes bills to put pressure on China amid Olympic boycott (NY), Rep. Andy LevinAndrew (Andy) LevinFour says he is running two-incumbent primaries in 2022 Michigan passes congressional card that pits two incumbent Democrats against each other Michigan Republican John James “strongly considers” House management MORE (Michigan) and Rep. Juan VargasJuan C. Vargas On the money – Senate risks Trump’s wrath with debt ceiling deal Vargas calls for broader ESG disclosure: “The good, the bad and the ugly” Democrats see the Friday’s vote as likely for the Biden PLUS bill (California).

These members were also quick to criticize the treatment of the Biden administration of Haitians in Del Rio.

“I have to say I was horrified by what I saw our country do to Haitian migrants, immigrants who arrived in Del Rio, Texas,” Vargas said.

“I thought it was a terrible overreaction from the administration, and frankly I don’t see any other way to describe it than racism,” he added.

Political observers watched in bewilderment as the Biden administration scuttled its relations with the Haitian diaspora. Prior to the Del Rio incident, Biden had scored points with demographics by expanding the Temporary Protected Status program, allowing all Haitians in the United States by July 29 to stay and work in the country.

This move protected over 150,000 Haitians from deportation and eased potential pressure on the Caribbean country, which has demonstrated little or no ability to repatriate its diaspora.

The divide between the administration and Haitian communities could have electoral consequences, especially in Florida, where a large part of the Haitian American community has settled.

This divide is also widening as administration expulsions continue to put pressure on Haiti’s scarce or non-existent humanitarian services, further disrupting the potential for a political solution in the country.

“Haiti is starting to look like places like Somalia, except there is no religion [extremism]”said Foote.

“Gang control over Haiti among rivals in Port-au-Prince [Islamist insurgent group al-] Shabaab control over a large part of Somalia, ”he added.

Michael M. Tomlin