Rush to deploy multinational force sets conditions on Haiti

Originally published in The Hill by Rafael Bernal

The looming international military intervention threatens to perpetuate a security boom-and-bust cycle in Haiti, as gang power consolidates its grasp on the country’s power base.

The State Department is treating an international military or police presence in Haiti as all but a given as the country is poised to adopt a transitional council to rebuild top government structures in the wake of acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s resignation.

To be eligible for membership in the transitional council — announced Monday in Kingston, Jamaica — Haitian leaders must follow a set of conditions, including support for an international security mission.

That condition has rubbed some Haitian advocates the wrong way, as it imposes a critical policy posture on anyone who wants to participate in the country’s immediate political future.

The transitional council is the product of talks among the United States, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Canada, France, Brazil and Mexico. Members of Haitian civil society participated via Zoom, but the extent to which Haitians led the discussion is a matter of debate.

“Nearly 40 representatives of diverse sectors of Haitian society participated via Zoom in Monday’s discussions in Kingston. This broad cross-section of Haitian society drove the talks over months of conversations on Haiti’s political path forward both on their own and with the facilitation of the CARICOM Eminent Persons Group,” a State Department spokesperson told The Hill in an email Thursday.

But Haiti advocates say the precondition to support a multinational security force by definition excludes civil society and political groups who opposed Henry and his open-arms acceptance of foreign security assistance.

“Imposing that condition on it increases the probability of the mission happening, because what they’ve done is they’ve effectively sidelined people who’ve been critiquing the mission for two years,” said Brian Concannon, executive director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti.

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