The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns joined a broad coalition of faith and advocacy groups in a letter to Pres. Biden calling for the end of U.S. support for de facto Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, to allow the people of Haiti to reclaim their democracy.

Read the letter as a PDF

September 15, 2022

We have watched in horror as the situation in Haiti has deteriorated to a “new normal” characterized by constant fear of kidnapping and violence, a near total lack of accountability, and a growing humanitarian crisis on every front.  

This crisis is the direct result of the corrupt, repressive rule of the Pati Ayisyen Tèt Kale (PHTK) and its associates over the past decade. PHTK has systematically dismantled democratic institutions, committed crimes against humanity, performed arbitrary arrests and dismissed legitimate judges, targeted journalists, looted the treasury, supported gangs, and generated massive inflation. In spite of this, the US government has steadfastly supported PHTK governments. In fact, the United States effectively installed the current de facto Prime Minister, Dr. Ariel Henry, in July, and has since been consistently supporting his government, even though it has no constitutional or popular mandate and despite growing evidence implicating de facto PM Henry and other PHTK officials  in the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

Haitians are fighting to reclaim their democracy with a broad-based non-violent mobilization. After extensive negotiations, organizations from across Haiti’s political and social spectrums have reached agreement on a consensus plan for a transition towards democracy, and have started to implement that plan. Haitians are confident that this mobilization is powerful enough to force the government to make significant compromises towards democracy if the government was not being propped up by the United States.

Haitians have been asking the Biden Administration to stop supporting de facto PM Henry’s rule and PHTK more generally. They are not asking the US government to support any other party, either. They just want the US to stop interfering, and to allow a Haitian-led solution to emerge.  Haitians note that the US government insists that de facto PM Henry’s government must be part of any solution. That gives the regime a veto in any negotiations and creates a disincentive for it to negotiate in good faith. De facto PM Henry can simply refuse to meaningfully compromise,  as he has done repeatedly, knowing that the US will continue to support him regardless. 

Several Members of the US Congress have called for an end to US government support for the PHTK regime and its blocking of a Haitian-led solution to the crisis. Leadership on this has come from members of the House Haiti Caucus, of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the Congressional Black Caucus. For example, a March 17, 2022 letter from seven Members of Congress calls on the US to withdraw support for Haiti's de facto PM Henry and instead to support Haitian efforts to establish a transitional government. The letter notes that Henry lacks legitimacy to resolve Haiti’s political crisis.

We call on the US government to stop supporting de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the PHTK party and its political affiliates, so that a Haitian solution to the crisis can emerge. It can do so by announcing that it will support a broad-based, credible, and Haitian-led solution that does not require the agreement of the current regime or any particular actor and adopting policies consistent with this approach. In making this call, we join the voices of Haitians asking the US to stop interfering in Haiti. We join Members of the US Congress who support concrete, sustainable democratic solutions to Haiti's political crisis. We join the thousands and thousands of Haitians taking to the streets – journalists, security guards, doctors, factory workers, mothers, and fathers – who simply want to exercise their right to chart their own course away from corruption and fear, and towards peace and prosperity.

It is laudable that the US government wants to help Haiti’s democracy and we welcome US support for a truly Haitian-led solution. However, the primary role for the US government is very simple: it must step back and let the Haitian people take back their own government. The US should not support any particular party or sector or demand that Haitians take a particular path towards democracy. A stable and just Haiti - which is in the interest of Haitians and the US government alike - requires that Haitians lead and own their democratic process.

For a stronger Haiti,

List of signatories is available here

Photo: Flaming tires seen early on February 11, 2019, in the streets of Hinche in the center of Haiti. Photo available in the public domain.