SINCE the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse on Wednesday morning of July 7, the reaction in some parts of regional media has been, why didn’t the Caribbean Community (Caricom) act to address the political instability in Haiti?, and to urge Caricom to act in the aftermath to assist Haiti.
In my view, this response is overlooking the complexity of international relations, the complex political situation in Haiti, the power relations in this hemisphere, and the situation within Caricom itself. Even though Haiti is a Caricom member, it remains a sovereign State and the Community could not want to foist itself into its affairs having not received a formal invitation to use its good offices.
Sequence of events
I thought it would be useful to outline the sequence of events in Caricom since President Moïse took office on February 7, 2017 as follows:
• President Moïse attended the 38th Caricom Heads of Government Conference in Grenada making his inaugural address on July 4, 2017, in which he committed to fully becoming a member of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME). He wanted his country to be seen as one of life and hope, and a destination for investment. He was a member of the Caricom Heads Bureau as incoming chair;
• Haiti hosted and chaired the 29th Intersessional Meeting of Caricom Heads in Port-au-Prince, February 26-27, 2018;
• President Moïse attended the 39th Caricom Heads in Montego Bay, Jamaica, July 4-6, 2018;
• On July 7, 2018, protest broke out in Haiti against gas price increases by the government. Protest would continue thereafter (Note: statement issued on July 9, 2018, by PM of Jamaica as Caricom Chair, on the unrest in Haiti);
• At the 30th Intersessional Heads Meeting in St Kitts/Nevis, February 26-27, 2019, Haiti was represented by its Foreign Minister, Bocchit Edmond. The unstable situation in his country was addressed at this meeting;
• At the 40th Heads in St Lucia, July 3-5, 2019, with President Moïse in attendance, the Heads agreed that a Caricom delegation would visit Haiti on a fact-finding mission. President Moïse was to follow up with a formal invitation. It was not forthcoming, I understand;
• At the 31st Caricom Heads Intersessional Meeting in Barbados, February 18-19 2020, Haiti was represented by Foreign Minister Bocchit Edmond, and Heads again addressed the troubling situation in Haiti. This time, the decision was to send a delegation of senior officials on the invitation of Haiti. Again, no invitation was received, I gather;
• From March 2020, the Covid-19 crisis unfolded and Caricom Members went into lockdown. Also at this point, there were general elections in Guyana with the ensuing crisis concerning the outcome from March-July 2020. Community involvement was invited by Guyana which was then also under threat of international sanctions. There was then no position on Haiti from US et al;
• Haiti’s Foreign Minister, Dr Claude Joseph, chaired the Caricom Council of Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) held virtually in May 2020. Minister Joseph, in his address, declared that Caricom was an important element of his country’s foreign policy and renewed their commitment to the Community;
• The 41st Caricom Heads was held virtually on October 29, 2020 chaired by St Vincent and the Grenadines. President Moïse attended. This meeting focused on Covid-19 containment and its severe economic repercussions.
• Trinidad and Tobago chaired the virtual 32nd Caricom Heads Intersessional Meeting in February 2021. With President Moïse in attendance, Caricom again issued a statement on the political instability in Haiti.
• The Organisation of American States (OAS) addressed the situation in Haiti on March 17 and June 7, 2021. They received formal approval from the Haitian government to visit on June 8-10. St Vincent and the Grenadines, a Caricom Member and a current non-permanent Member of the UN Security Council, was a member of this delegation;
• The US Biden Administration supported the OAS position that President Moïse remain in office until February 2022, when they agreed his term would end, and that free and fair elections should then be held to select his replacement;
• The 42nd Caricom Heads was held virtually, July 5-6, chaired by Antigua and Barbuda. President Moïse was scheduled to attend. In the end, Haiti was absent. Caricom Heads again issued a statement on the political situation in that country.
• President Moïse was assassinated at his home in Port-au-Prince in the early hours of July 7.
So, from this chronology, did Caricom do nothing to assist Haiti in another of its political turmoils or was Caricom limited in what it could do given the lack of response by the Haiti President to their overtures? In the aftermath of the assassination, the Haiti authorities have turned to the US primarily for assistance. I add this to commentary on the critical situation in Haiti for consideration.