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Latest international effort to help Haiti greeted by doubts

People flee gang violence in the Petion-Ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Jan. 30.  (RICHARD PIERRIN/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Augusta Saraiva, Jim Wyss and Simone Iglesias Bloomberg News

A new international effort is under way to reverse Haiti’s rapid descent into lawlessness, but disagreements, tepid contributions and delays in deploying police forces have raised concerns that yet another mission to rescue the Caribbean nation is doomed to fail.

A multinational security force established by the United Nations Security Council last October has yet to be deployed amid domestic disputes in Kenya, which has volunteered to lead it.

Countries that have long supported Haiti are scaling back funding as conflicts elsewhere in the world compete for their attention, while others are thinking twice about putting their forces in danger.

Yet there were signs of progress on Friday, when Haiti and Kenya announced an agreement for the Nairobi government to provide 1,000 police officers.

Benin indicated this week it would send about 2,000 officers, and Haiti’s neighbors including Jamaica and Barbados also vowed to chip in. That all happened in tandem with new, sizable donations by countries like the U.S. and Canada.

So far, however, the international community does not seem inclined to commit anywhere near the nearly $10 billion raised in the immediate aftermath of the calamitous 2010 earthquake.

“This is a bit of an experiment,” said Renata Segura, deputy director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the think tank Crisis Group. “It leaves everybody in a position in which they’re like, ‘Well, do we want to really put all this money behind something when it’s not extremely clear who’s on the lead and how it’s going to go?’ There’s so many ways in which this could go wrong.”

The Security Council approved the Kenya-led mission in an attempt to help Haiti’s overwhelmed police force confront rampant gang violence that has intensified into a humanitarian catastrophe.

Yet deploying troops is politically fraught in many capitals, especially since multiple international efforts have failed. The most ambitious of those efforts, a U.N. peacekeeping force led by Brazil from 2004 to 2017, had relative success but was overshadowed by scandals involving different nationalities, including allegations of sexual abuse and that peacekeepers had unwittingly introduced cholera, which killed thousands of people.

The U.S., which has provided more than $5.5 billion to Haiti since the earthquake and has pledged some $200 million to the multinational mission, has decided to take a leading-from-behind approach, according to a U.S. diplomat who asked not to be identified discussing private matters.

Three top Brazilian diplomats said their government has become more wary after a peacekeeping mission led by their country pulled out, only to see things quickly deteriorate. The diplomats, who were granted anonymity to discuss the Haiti problem, said Brazil is willing to share its know-how, but not inclined to send more of its personnel.

“I’s a mistake to think that it’s possible to provide a roadmap with a perfect solution for Haiti,” Brazilian Ret. General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, who led that U.N. peacekeeping mission between 2007 and 2009, said in a recent interview with Bloomberg.

The spasms of violence that wracked the country since the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise have devastated a population that has long suffered from debilitating poverty and political instability.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry has continued to put off long-promised elections even as critics call on him to resign.

“The only legitimate path to long-term peace and stability is through free and fair elections,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in February.

Henry was in Kenya this week to sign the pact as deadly gun battles erupted on the streets of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

January was the most violent month in the nearly three years since Moise’s death, with more than 1,100 deaths, according to U.N. figures.

The U.N. estimates some 5.5 million Haitians – roughly half the population – are in need of humanitarian assistance. Earlier this week, the organization appealed for some $675 million in donations for its aid programs in Haiti this year. Last year, it only received one-third of the amount it requested.

“I hope that an international force for which I fought will be able to soon be in Haiti, but we also need much more international support,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters on Thursday.


(With assistance from Daniel Carvalho.)