Is Haiti a failed state?

Is Haiti a failed state?

Long wracked by instability, the Caribbean nation of Haiti has had 15 presidents in 33 years. It will now get — maybe — another head of state after President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home Wednesday by unidentified gunmen. The acting head of state has since declared a "state of siege" and shuttered the international airport.

Haiti's security situation and economy have been deteriorating for decades, but this catastrophe unleashes yet more instability in the crisis-ridden country, which has entered failed state territory.


The backdrop. Dictatorships and military coups have long been the law of the land in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. For almost 30 years until 1986, François and Jean-Claude Duvalier, the autocratic father-son duo known as Papa Doc and Baby Doc, led the country with an iron fist. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, meanwhile, was democratically elected president in 1991, but overthrown in two military coups, and restored to power twice thanks in part to US intervention.

Handpicked by his predecessor President Michael Martelly, Moïse won the 2016 presidential vote in an election many international observers deemed fraudulent. The status of Moïse's leadership was further undermined in 2019, when tens of thousands of protesters flooded the streets to demand his resignation as fuel shortages, food scarcity, and economic stagnation reached breaking point.

Indeed, poverty and corruption have plagued Haiti for years. It got particularly bad after a deadly earthquake in 2010 killed more than 200,000 people and displaced 1.5 million, while international aid intended for the rebuilding effort failed to reach Haitians that needed it most. But a more recent and worrying trend, analysts say, is the surge in gang violence: street gangs now control swaths of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and carry out frequent kidnappings, rapes and massacres in poor towns. In fact, state-aligned gangs have been known to target civilians who have participated in anti-corruption campaigns.

What happens next? Clearly, the assassination of a head of state leaves a massive power vacuum. Haiti's situation is made even worse by the fact that Moïse dissolved parliament in 2019 after it failed to hold fresh elections, and had been "ruling by decree" ever since. Political power in the chronically unstable state has been concentrated in Moïse's hands, while trigger-happy (and corrupt) police and the army have controlled the tumultuous security situation.

It's unclear who will fill the void. Prime Minister Claude Joseph, technically head of the government, says that he is running the country for now. But it's unclear whether the interim PM, who has been in that role for just three months and was supposed to be replaced this week, will command the legitimacy needed to keep the lid on an explosive situation.

What's more, during his tenure, Moïse reinstated the army, which had been disbanded since 1995 following a military coup, putting several soldiers in top positions who had been sanctioned by the US government for human rights violations. Some observers fear that history could soon repeat itself if the once-dominant military (including the notorious Tonton Macoute goon squad under the Duvaliers) again comes to quash all dissent.

What do the Americans say? For decades, the US has played a dominant role in Haiti's internal affairs, with successive US administrations having backed various coup d'états, and spent billions of dollars on "nation-building," though things have remained stagnant.

The Biden administration, for its part, has called for fresh elections in Haiti in the near term, but it's unclear what "free and fair elections" would actually look like in a state dominated by brutal gangs and corrupt politicians — and where voter turnout is always low. (Moïse was elected with fewer than 600,000 votes in a country of 11 million people.) Indeed, Biden had mostly continued the Trump administration's policy of supporting Moïse, even after legal scholars said that his term should have expired in February 2021.

Looking ahead. Instability begets instability, and Haiti now appears to be in the midst of a complete social unravelling. It remains unclear who will — or can — step in to stop the bleeding.

We believe in access for everyone.

https://ad.doubleclick.net/ddm/trackimp/N6024.4218512GZEROMEDIA/B26379324.311531246;dc_trk_aid=504469522;dc_trk_cid=156468981;ord=[timestamp];dc_lat=;dc_rdid=;tag_for_child_directed_treatment=;tfua=;gdpr=${GDPR};gdpr_consent=${GDPR_CONSENT_755};ltd=?
Visa: We believe in access for everyone. Image of a small, diverse group of people, smiling

Gaps in economic opportunities have made it hard for all individuals to take part in the global payments ecosystem. To address those gaps, society needs public policies to empower citizens, small businesses, and economies. That’s why, in 2021, the Visa Economic Empowerment Institute (VEEI) started conducting research and publishing reports about fostering digital equity and inclusion, unlocking growth through trade, and imagining an open future for payments. In 2022, we hope you’ll visit the VEEI for insights and data on the future of inclusive economic policies. See our newest stories here.

A year of Biden

Joe Biden’s first year as US president included two major historic accomplishments and a series of (often bitter) disappointments that has his party headed toward likely defeat in November’s midterm elections. Biden’s own political future is increasingly uncertain.

More Show less
Two children and a robot. We have to control AI before it controls us, warns former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Listen: Tech companies set the rules for the digital world through algorithms powered by artificial intelligence. But does Big Tech really understand AI? Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt tells Ian Bremmer that we need to control AI before it controls us.

What's troubling about AI, he says, is that it’s still very new, and AI is learning by doing. Schmidt, co-author of “The Age of AI: And Our Human Future,” worries that AI exacerbates problems like anxiety, driving a human addiction cycle that leads to depression.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

COVID has accelerated our embrace of the digital world. The thing is, we don't always know who’s running it.

Instead of governments, Ian Bremmer says, so far a handful of Big Tech companies are writing the rules of digital space — through computer algorithms powered by artificial intelligence.

The problem is that tech companies have set something in motion they don't fully understand, nor control.

More Show less

If omicron makes cases explode in China, the country's leaders will have to choose between weathering short-term or long-term pain.

Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, predicts that sticking to the zero-COVID approach at all costs will hurt the Chinese and global economy. In his view, learning to live with the virus is the way to go.

More Show less
The Graphic Truth: How do US presidents do in their first year?

Joe Biden's approval rating has taken a big hit during his first year as US president. Biden is now just slightly more popular than his predecessor Donald Trump at the same point in his presidency. While Biden has made a series of policy and political blunders that might be reflected in polling, this is also a sign of the times: US politics are now so polarized that presidential approval has a low ceiling. We compare the approval ratings of the last five US presidents in their first year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi in Moscow, Russia January 19, 2022.

Iran and Russia heart each other. The presidents of Iran and Russia have little in common personally, but they share many geopolitical interests, including in Afghanistan and Syria. They also have a common resolve in countering "the West.” These issues are all on the agenda as Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi held their first in-person meeting in Moscow. Raisi is a hardline cleric who leads a theocracy with nuclear ambitions. Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, is a wily autocrat who enjoys provoking America and Europe, and has ambitions to return to the glory days of the territorially expansive Soviet Union — as seen with the Kremlin's recent provocations on the Ukrainian border. With the Iran nuclear talks on life support and Joe Biden already bracing for Russian troops crossing into Ukraine, Tehran and Moscow now have even more reasons to scheme and cooperate. Indeed, Moscow and Tehran have increasingly been cooperating on energy and security issues (Iran might be buying Russian military technology) as their respective relations with the West deteriorate.

More Show less
Namibian citizen Phillip Luhl holds one of his twin daughters as he speaks to his Mexican husband Guillermo Delgado via Zoom meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, April 13, 2021

2: Namibia’s High Court ruled against two gay couples seeking legal recognition of their marriages. The judge said she agreed with the couples, who are seeking residency or work authorizations for foreign-born spouses, but is bound by a Supreme Court ruling that deems same-sex relationships illegitimate.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

A year of Biden

Signal

Can we control AI before it controls us?

GZERO World Clips

Should China learn to live with COVID?

GZERO World Clips

China vs COVID in 2022

GZERO World Clips

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal