Haiti has seen three major crises within the past four months: the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July; a deadly earthquake in August that killed over 2,000 people; and the recent mass expulsions of Haitian migrants from the United States, one of the larger mass deportation efforts in recent U.S. history.
Amid these crises, everyday life in Haiti has become increasingly dangerous. The assassination of Moïse has left a political vacuum which gangs have sought to fill, and inter-gang conflict has resembled a civil war in recent weeks. Residents in some neighborhoods have seen their homes robbed and subsequently torched. Gangs have committed rapes and kidnappings, making everyday travel for most Haitians a precarious undertaking.
Political turmoil and the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the economy, and shortages of food and fuel are widespread. Haiti has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the world, and recently, the country had to send back Moderna vaccine donations to the United States as the government was unable to distribute the doses before their expiration.
The security and humanitarian crises have been accompanied by a brewing political crisis. Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who has been accused of involvement with the assassination of Moïse, stated in a recent op-ed that he intends to hold elections by the end of 2022. Henry’s plan contradicts the wishes of many civil society groups, who favor a two-year transition of power. The United States has generated further controversy with the recent appointment of Kenneth Merten as U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in Haiti. Given Merten’s previous role as U.S. Ambassador to Haiti during the 2010 earthquake and his involvement in past elections, many observers see his appointment as evidence that the United States backs Henry’s political ambitions.