The last week in Haiti has been tumultuous, as protests escalated again last Friday and continued into this week. As we updated last week, Moïse addressed the country last Wednesday, calling for dialogue between the government and opposition leaders, in order to find a path forward in the name of national unity. This week “members of the international community” met with opposition leaders in Petionville to encourage such a discussion. Thus far, the opposition has refused. Indeed, on Friday, October 4, the opposition called for renewed demonstrations and marched to the United Nations’ mission in a call for the international community to withdraw its support for President Moïse and allow a nine-member commission drawn from the opposition to oversee a transition to a new government.
The United States continues to press for a dialogue, and in the name of the “rule of law,” continues to back Moïse until elections can be called. From the Miami Herald,
“The United States and Ambassador Sison continue to encourage Haiti’s political, economic, and civil society stakeholders to enter into an inclusive dialogue to identify a path to form a functioning government that will serve the Haitian people,” a State Department spokesperson for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs said. “This process should remain firmly rooted in democracy and the respect for the rule of law, and address the country’s pressing economic and social concerns. We support the Haitian people’s aspirations for a better life. We have reiterated that goal as recently as Deputy Secretary Sullivan’s meeting with Haitian Foreign Minister Edmond on September 26.”
The United Nations, which is scheduled to end its mission in Haiti in two weeks, similarly called for “calm” through spokesperson Stephane Dujarric: “The U.N. continues to encourage all actors to refrain from violence, respect human rights, and allow the normal functioning of hospitals and emergency services, as well as the work of the humanitarian actors who are assisting the most vulnerable populations.”
As the protests have unfolded, the Haitian police have been accused of using excessive force, including shooting into crowds and indiscriminate use of tear gas. The National Network for Defense of Human Rights in Haiti issued a report documenting the death of at least 17 people and 187 injuries between September 16-30. On the other side, the expansive use of blockades is intensifying already existing food and fuel shortages.
Jacqueline Charles reported yesterday, October 3, Nancy Pelosi met with members of the Haitian-American community in Miami and heard a pretty straight forward message for the U.S. to stay out of Haitian affairs. It is not clear she really got it - as while saying she understood she also defended U.S. efforts to topple Maduro, accusing him of being a “thug” and of “exporting” corruption. Such a statement in the context of a discussion of U.S. intervention in Haiti is painfully hypocritical. Will the United States stay out of the process in Haiti now? Nothing in the 200 year bilateral relationship between Haiti and the United States suggest this is likely. But we will continue to say the U.S. should let Haiti be anyway.
Haitians in the Bahamas face uncertain future
We have reported several times on the situation of Haitians in the Bahamas since hurricane Dorian destroyed much of the Abaco islands and Grand Bahama. Haitians have for many years been the target of political attacks, and scapegoating in the Bahamas, much as immigrants are here in the United States under Trump. Hurricane Dorian destroyed several predominantly Haitian communities in early September, forcing many to take refuge in shelters in Nassau and other parts of the islands. While many Haitians feared reprisal, the government was, at least while the international media was present, trying to sound conciliatory telling people that shelters would not be subject to immigration enforcement operations.
Last week, that changed. The Jamaican Observer reported this weekend,
The Bahamas government says it will deport undocumented migrants who survived the passage of Hurricane Dorian on September 1 and are now living in shelters. Immigration Minister, Elsworth Johnson, says the shelters will not be used “to circumvent the law. “If you're in a shelter and you're undocumented and you're not here in the right way, you're still subject to deportation and the enforcement of the immigration laws,” Johnson told The Nassau Guardian newspaper. “Most certainly, those shelters will not be used as a mechanism to circumvent the law. The government of The Bahamas fully appreciates that we are a country of laws. We're governed by the rule of law. “There's an Immigration Act and the Immigration Act is in full effect and the director [of immigration] understands that he must enforce it,” he added.
In response, activists gathered in Miami to encourage the Bahamian government to change course:
Miami activists and a Hurricane Dorian survivor called on the Bahamian government Thursday to suspend immigration enforcement actions that threaten to deport undocumented migrants living in government-operated Bahamian shelters.
“While we respect that the country has laws and can enforce them, this is not the time to enforce these laws,” said Marleine Bastien, executive director of the Little Haiti-based Family Action Network Movement. “The Bahamian government promised not to deport undocumented migrants after the storm. Recovery efforts are still happening. People have lost their homes, their documents and papers.”
Bastien, along with spokespeople from the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, 350 South Florida, Florida Immigration Coalition and a hurricane survivor, urged the Bahamian government at a press conference to not deport any Bahamians in the country until they can rebuild.
“It’s simply unjust. The news is really disappointing,” Bastien said.
Postscript on the "rule of law"? Under the rule of law, Haitians are asked to accept a government the vast majority never wanted and, if they try to move on and start a life elsewhere, the rule of law tells them to go back home. If they stand where they are and demand change, the rule of law means they get shot, tear gassed, or arrested. If they do nothing, the rule of law means they don’t eat. The “rule of law,” it seems, has become ideological spittle in the face of anyone who challenges the powerful interests profiting from the status quo. There is no justice here at all.