Haiti Geopolitics

Haiti Geopolitics

Haiti is a republic established in 1804 in the western part of Hispaniola, the most populated island of the American continent which is located east of Cuba and west of Puerto Rico. The other two thirds of the island are covered by the Dominican Republic, the only neighboring state of Haiti and with which there are various reasons for tension.

According to itypeusa, the country is at high risk of political instability, above all due to the weakness of its institutions. The damage caused by the earthquake that hit Haiti on 12 January 2010, with its epicenter 15 kilometers from the capital Port-au-Prince, aggravated the situation. The catastrophe, perceived as a sort of coup de grace to a country already severely oppressed by backwardness and poverty, killed some 220,000 people, left more than two million people homeless, and caused an ongoing health crisis. Six years after the disaster, Haiti still has more than 170,000 displaced people and reconstruction work is progressing too slowly to ensure a solid recovery for the country.

Added to this are structural weaknesses. The legislative elections, initially scheduled for 2011 and continuously postponed, were held in 2015. In October of the same year, the first round of the presidential elections was held, the second round of which was postponed several times and should take place in 2016 There are still numerous posts to be assigned in the public administration and in the police forces. The vacuum of accountability has fueled the tensions that already existed between President Michel Martelly and the opposition and has complicated the launch of necessary reforms for the country, such as the electoral law, socio-economic ones and security-related reforms. In early 2013, the government launched a cash grant program, called ‘Dear Mom’, for the mothers of families living in extreme poverty, and thus attempted to alleviate the discontent linked to the chronic shortage of housing and jobs. However, several protests against the Martelly government took place in autumn 2013. In the absence of an autonomous development process, the fate of Haiti largely depends on the international humanitarian aid that has flowed into the country since the aftermath of the tragedy and which is coordinated by the United Nations. In particular, the blue helmets of the stabilization mission in Haiti (Minustah), which landed on the island in 2004 to monitor the process of democratic consolidation and to maintain public order, are now committed to providing technical and logistical support for the reconstruction of the country. Due to the poor progress achieved so far, but also due to the spread of a cholera epidemic caused by a group of Nepalese blue helmets, the mission does not enjoy the favor of the population. In 2013, citizens even filed a lawsuit against the United Nations in a New York court to obtain compensation for the 8300 victims of the epidemic. Nonetheless, in October 2013 Minustah received a further extension of his mandate until October 2014. This mandate was subsequently renewed annually: in October 2015 it was confirmed until October 2016.

Several countries have mobilized in support of Haiti after the earthquake, including the neighboring USA and the Dominican Republic. The former US occupying power supported the island through the Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti (I HRC), whose mandate expired on October 21, 2011, and with other business plans designed to promote the country’s economic recovery. Among them is the agreement to promote the partnership between the two countries (Hope II), which allows Haiti to export its textile products to the US without paying customs duties. Launched in 2008, its extension to 2025 was approved in May 2015.

The Dominican Republic has also adopted a collaborative attitude in recent years, but a ruling issued on 13 September 2013 by the Dominican Constitutional Court risks exacerbating the tensions that have always existed between the two countries on the issue of immigration and also deteriorating commercial relations. The ruling establishes that the descendants of foreign citizens who have had a migratory status ‘in transit’ are constitutionally excluded from obtaining Dominican nationality. Relations between the two countries actually deteriorated after the Dominican Republic decided to execute the sentence in August 2015 by organizing the forced repatriation of Haitian migrants illegally residing in the country.

At the regional level, before the earthquake Haiti had signed agreements with Cuba, which provides assistance to the country for health and education, and with Venezuela, which, under the Petrocaribe program, offers subsidized financing for oil sales. However, relations with the latter are experiencing a difficult moment, mainly due to the problems of the Venezuelan economy.

Since 2006, Haiti has also been a full member of the Caribbean Community (Caricom).

Haiti Geopolitics