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The SSP Diaries | CARICOM must rise to the challenge and address Haiti

Published:Wednesday | January 19, 2022 | 12:06 AM
People run for cover as police shoot into the air to disperse a crowd threatening to burn down a gas station because they believed the station was withholding the gas, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, last October.
People run for cover as police shoot into the air to disperse a crowd threatening to burn down a gas station because they believed the station was withholding the gas, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, last October.

THE TREATY of Chaguaramas (July 4, 1973) established the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) based upon four foundations: economic integration, foreign policy coordination, human and social development and security. The latter pillar has arguably been the least of the member nation’s focus, which is strange for a region affected by so many global threats.

Haiti, the oldest of the Independent States in the Western Hemisphere, continues to pay the price for such a noble achievement largely because of how it has been treated, not only by those slighted by its achievements, or those that sought to exploit for economic gain but also by those that, like themselves, have suffered under colonialism. Today, they are at a significant crossroads, one poised to impact the Americas like it has never been impacted before because of the perceived need to survive.

Lawless state

The assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7, 2021, the immediate worsening of the nation’s ability to govern itself, the ineffectiveness of critical structures in society such as the judiciary, law enforcement and local authorities, the continuance of deep relationships of politicians and gangs and the emergence of gangs powerful enough to challenge the State and seek international recognition speak volumes of the degree of lawlessness that has overcome our neighbours.

The acting president, Ariel Henry, is faced with a mighty task, governing a lawless state, with little or no capacity to effect anything of consequence that will result in law and order under an acceptable democratic framework. Essentially the world watches and does nothing but languish in the typical diplomatic jargon that continues to prove ineffective more and more each day. It begs the question, what really is CARICOM’s purpose in all this? I note the problems of mother Africa, in the Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, etc. They have moved away from looking outwardly for the resolution of problems affecting the continent, similarly the Council of European Union established the European Defence Agency (October 12, 2015) to see to their joint security needs. The policy of our immediate ally to the North has always been one of putting in power those that are more in tune with their requirements and not necessarily that which is in the best interest of the country. CARICOM seems to have a stand-off type attitude, there is assistance in the form of food, medical and other essentials and the usual diplomatic appeals that rarely achieve anything.

Gangs rule Haiti at this time. They challenge the government for power. They determine the commercial activities of the nation. They have control over the general population. They now contribute immensely to the exodus of persons plaguing the Bahamas, US and Central America and soon to be the rest of the Caribbean Basin, with illegal immigrants. They are now at third/fourth generational development status, an extreme danger. There will be the expansion of their power base and the resulting increase in transnational organised crime, initially, if this situation is not immediately addressed. Of immediate concern to the entire Western Hemisphere must be the potential for the expansion of the illegal arms, ammunition and drugs trades that will follow. Not only that, there is every possibility that Caribbean criminal elements will seek to pattern that which is perceived to be successful. As it stands, there are over 22 heavily armed and vocal gangs in Haiti, the major ones being: the G9 Family and Aliens in Port-au-Prince (Jimmy ‘Barbeque’ Cherizier); Village of God Gang, specialising in kidnappings; the 400 Mawozo Gang, behind the recent kidnappings of missionaries; and the Grand Ravine Gang, Southern Port-au-Prince.

A real caribbean problem

Haiti is a real Caribbean problem, it must be collectively tackled. CARICOM has for ages spoken about a Standing Joint Military/Law Enforcement capacity to cater for these kinds of problems. This is not the solution but it is an interim tool for the resumption and maintenance of law and order within troubled member states. In Haiti’s case, this should be followed by a strategy that has identified the weakness in its social structures and is willing to address these in conjunction with the legitimate authorities in order to implement that which the Haitian people desire. The problems of the region must be solved by those states of the region that understand them, can identify with them and can formulate and implement acceptable solutions. CARICOM in this respect has no different responsibilities from those of an African or European Union to their cultural and geographical dispositions. One is yet to see the USA, Canada or the UK seeking external assistance to resolve internal issues in today’s world. We need to come of age.

Coming of age will require an understanding that the stability of the Caribbean depends upon good democratic governance and the ability to deal with threats that confront it. The deterrence needs to be real and not something on paper to be activated after the fact. It must be understood, for example, that in the deployment of such a unit to assist another state, some may have to pay the ultimate price as a condition of maintaining peace, security, safety and stability. We must also understand that some will need to contribute more than others and we cannot afford to be tied up in useless political banter based upon what currently confronts us. In other words, CARICOM must now come of age and understand that global realities demand much more than the focus it has had on security up to the present time. It could start by getting an understanding of what transpired in order to have the missionaries in Haiti released, unharmed, having been under the threat of death. Is there a precedent to be mindful of? The Treaty of Chaguaramas must live up to its expectations to remain valid. It’s hoped that CARICOM will rise to the challenge and address the Haitian situation positively, as opposed to waiting for others to do what we need to do ourselves. We owe nothing less to our brothers and sisters.

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