Skip to content
Haiti’s Violent Crisis Continues
Go to my account

Haiti’s Violent Crisis Continues

Political squabbles at home and abroad lead to a worsening situation in Haiti.

Happy Friday! If you enjoyed last week’s introduction of our tech newsletter, Techne, be sure to check out yesterday’s full inaugural issue

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for the democratic ouster of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a speech on the Senate floor on Thursday. “I believe a new election is the only way to allow for a healthy and open decision-making process about the future of Israel,” Schumer said yesterday, adding that Netanyahu “has lost his way by allowing his political survival to take precedence over the best interests of Israel.” The comments drew quick condemnations from Republican leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. House Speaker Mike Johnson said yesterday, “This is not only highly inappropriate, it’s just plain wrong for an American leader to play such a divisive role in Israeli politics.” 
  • The European Union approved a landmark artificial intelligence law on Wednesday, creating a regulatory regime for the 27 EU nations. The measure bans certain uses of AI—such as creating facial recognition databases—and embraces a “risk-based approach” to AI regulation, applying scrutiny proportional to what lawmakers consider the risk levels of various AI applications. 
  • Thousands of farmers protested in the Indian capital of New Delhi on Thursday, calling for more government support. The protesters want protection from market swings through minimum crop price guarantees and income increases, among other demands. Prolonged farmer protests in 2021 led to the repeal of contested agricultural reform laws; state and national elections are expected to be held in the coming weeks. 
  • The State Department imposed sanctions Thursday on three Israeli settlers and two outposts “involved in undermining stability in the West Bank.” The move represents the second round of sanctions the State Department has imposed since President Joe Biden signed an executive order providing his administration with new authorities to target individuals in the West Bank accused of committing violence against Palestinians. 
  • The Commerce Department reported Thursday that retail sales—spending on goods including food and fuel—increased by 0.6 percent month-over-month in February, slightly below expectations. January’s revised numbers, which showed that sales fell by 1.1 percent last month instead of the original 0.8 percent estimate, showed weaker spending. (The Commerce Department’s retail data is unadjusted for inflation.)
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported yesterday that the producer price index (PPI)—a measure of what suppliers and wholesalers are charging customers—rose 0.6 percent month-over-month in February, double what economists expected. Producer prices were up 1.6 percent year-over-year in February. Thursday’s reading plus last month’s slightly higher than expected consumer price index will likely lead the Fed to maintain interest rates at their current levels. 
  • Federal Judge Judge Aileen Cannon on Thursday denied one of former President Trump’s two motions to dismiss special counsel Jack Smith’s classified documents case against him. Trump’s legal team had argued that the portions of the Espionage Act at the center of the indictment were “unconstitutionally vague,” and therefore the charges ought to be dismissed. In a brief written order, Cannon explained that while Trump’s lawyers made “various arguments warranting serious consideration,” it would be premature to decide those issues at this stage of the trial. 

From Bad to Worse

A demonstration in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 12, 2024, against CARICOM as representatives of the Caribbean community and Haitian actors made an agreement for political transition. (Photo by Guerinault Louis/Anadolu/Getty Images)
A demonstration in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 12, 2024, against CARICOM as representatives of the Caribbean community and Haitian actors made an agreement for political transition. (Photo by Guerinault Louis/Anadolu/Getty Images)

On Tuesday morning, author Mitch Albom—of Tuesdays with Morrie fame—and nine other volunteers were airlifted out of Haiti on helicopters chartered by Rep. Cory Mills of Florida at the request of Albom’s congressional representative, Rep. Lisa McClain of Michigan. 

The story seems impossibly far-fetched, with Mills—a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who has been a part of private efforts to rescue stranded Americans before—even reportedly riding in one of the helicopters. How did they manage this bizarre extra-governmental mission? “[Mills] runs with a different crowd than you and I,” McClain told the Washington Post

That Hollywood happy ending is a rarity in Haiti, where the last several years have witnessed unspeakable violence, hunger, and disease. This week, gangs continued their rampage in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Haiti’s unpopular prime-minister-in-exile, Ariel Henry, said he would resign after regional leaders pushed for the creation of a transitional government—a step that prompted the Kenyan government to pause its plan to send police to try to quell the chaos. The Biden administration, meanwhile, has promised additional funds for the police mission, but that funding is held up in Congress even as the Senate confirms a new U.S. ambassador to the country after more than two years without one. 

As we wrote earlier this month, Haiti has devolved into almost total anarchy, with more than 80 percent of Port-au-Prince under gang control—a dire situation even by the country’s already low standards for safety and security. In January alone, more than 800 people were killed, kidnapped, or injured in escalating gang violence, not counting the approximately 300 gang members who were killed as part of the ongoing conflict. More than half of the country’s population is in need of humanitarian assistance, which is increasingly difficult to provide with a dysfunctional government, a scant and decreasing international humanitarian presence, and a target on the backs of many aid workers who are routinely kidnapped and held for ransom. “Please figure out a way to get food and water and medical supplies into the country,” Pamela White, U.S. ambassador to Haiti from 2012 to 2015, told TMD, addressing the Biden administration and referencing the plan for a temporary pier in the Middle East. “There are ways of doing that, and so figure it out—[the administration] figured out how to do it in Gaza.” 

The violence boiled over when Henry left the country late last month to attend several international meetings aimed at getting the crisis under control. Several of the gangs banded together to call for Henry’s ouster and turned their sights on public infrastructure: instigating a massive jailbreak, attacking airports in Port-au-Prince and forcing them to close, and taking over government buildings and police headquarters. One of the men behind the coordinated attacks is gang leader Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier, a former police officer. “We won’t lie to people, saying we have a peaceful revolution,” he said on Tuesday. “We do not have a peaceful revolution. We are starting a bloody revolution in the country.”

The coordinated violence forced the country into a state of emergency, and on Sunday, in yet another sign of the untenable security situation, the U.S. airlifted any remaining non-essential embassy personnel out of the country—though the mission had been run by bare-bones staff for months. On Wednesday, U.S. Southern Command said it had sent a Marine Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team (FAST) to bolster security at the embassy. “Sending in the Marines—this is not normal,” White, who was a career foreign service officer with the United States Agency for International Development, told TMD. Such military teams exist to reinforce existing security forces at embassies and naval installations, and have been deployed to evacuate the U.S. Embassy in Liberia in 1991 and protect naval installations in Bahrain during Operation Desert Storm. By the time of publication, a spokesperson for the U.S. Marines had not responded to a request for comment on the prevalence of such operations or the last time they deployed to reinforce an embassy. 

While Americans are leaving any way they can, Henry is trying to return to his country—but he’s been effectively locked out. With the capital’s airports all but occupied by the gangs, he’s been in Puerto Rico for more than a week after the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, refused to allow him to land within its borders. 

Henry was never elected to national office, but rather appointed by then-President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, just days before Moïse was assassinated in a still-murky plot involving Colombian mercenaries. Henry’s legitimacy, therefore, has been largely predicated on international support. He represents the last remaining link to a democratically elected government that no longer exists—not a single office in the country is held by an elected official. 

Earlier this month, though, that support faltered, with reports that the Biden administration had explicitly told Henry to resign to make way for a transitional council that could rule until elections could select a new government. On Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Jamaica to meet with regional leaders of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) bloc to discuss ways to resolve the ongoing crisis. Late Monday, they settled on a seven-member council, with participants from across the political spectrum in Haiti, that would select an interim prime minister and eventually set Haiti’s first elections since 2016. Just hours later, Henry said he would resign. “My government will leave immediately after the inauguration of the council,” he said in a video recorded in Puerto Rico. “We will be a caretaker government until they name a prime minister and a new Cabinet.”

The CARICOM plan—reportedly an amalgam of seven plans submitted by Haitian civil society leaders—set a 24-hour deadline for Haitian stakeholders to submit their picks to sit on the presidential council. Representatives of the gangs were not included in the discussion, and the panel would not include leaders of the criminal outfits. On Thursday, CARICOM said it had received names from all but one of the political parties to which it reached out. Jean-Charles Moïse, a former senator and presidential candidate who heads an opposition party and is not related to the slain president, rejected the CARICOM plan, claiming he and onetime coup plotter Guy Phillippe had created their own council. He refused to name a CARICOM council member, and it’s not clear how his party’s seat on the council will be reapportioned. How the gangs—having gotten one of their requests in Henry’s resignation—will respond to the power transition is also an open question. 

That’s not the council’s only hiccup: Henry’s resignation, while necessary for the transition, threw a wrench in efforts to send 1,000 members of the Kenyan national police to Haiti. Several other nations have joined that multinational security support mission, which seemed possible only after Henry signed a bilateral agreement with Kenyan President William Ruto at the beginning of the month. With Henry out, the Kenyan government said it would pause the mission until a new prime minister had been appointed. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller on Tuesday downplayed concerns, suggesting a new government would be in place soon. “We would be concerned of course about any delay [in the deployment], but we don’t think that there will need to be a delay,” he said. “If you look at what the Kenyan government said in its statement is that they have to have a government with which to collaborate, which has been an important part of their understanding. It’s a perfectly natural thing to expect.” 

On Monday, Blinken pledged additional funding for the multinational security support mission, bringing the total U.S. commitment to $300 million—but the dispersal is meeting resistance in Congress. Senate Foreign Relations Ranking Member Jim Risch and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Mike McCaul said Monday that they had only just received the State Department’s plan for the funding. “After years of discussions, repeated requests for information, and providing partial funding to help them plan, the administration only this afternoon sent us a rough plan to address this crisis,” the pair said in a joint statement released Tuesday. “Whether it’s ‘credible and implementable’ remains to be seen. Given the long history of U.S. involvement in Haiti with few successful results, the administration owes Congress a lot more details in a more timely manner before it gets more funding.” 

In the meantime, the Senate on Thursday at last approved President Joe Biden’s nominee for ambassador to Haiti, career diplomat Dennis Hankins, with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote. The role has been vacant since October 2021, though Biden nominated Hankins—who has spent most of his career in Africa and is fluent in French—last May. 

While the political machinations grind on, there’s little hope of immediate relief for the suffering of the Haitian people—even with Blinken’s recent promise of $33 million in additional humanitarian aid. “We certainly, in my opinion, should not be talking about elections,” White told TMD of the international community’s focus on the CARICOM plan. “Are you crazy? You can’t even feed the people.”

Worth Your Time

  • Writing for Public Discourse, Jamie Boulding laid out a vision of intellectual friendship that he argues has been lost in public life. “Two of the greatest figures in the history of science, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, were both introverts who associated being alone with thinking clearly,” Boulding wrote. “The image of the academic secluded in his ivory tower, or the scientist sequestered in her laboratory, looms large in our cultural imagination. With the enforced isolation of COVID-19, the growth of remote working, and the emergence of powerful AI tools like ChatGPT, we increasingly reduce intellectual pursuits to little more than private projects. It was not always this way. Intellectual friendship—the idea that the best way to think clearly is to think together—has been foundational throughout philosophical history. Plato’s works are presented in dialogue form, suggesting that truth-seeking is communal, cooperative, and best practiced within relationships of friendship and love. … Today, how many people think of the intellectual life primarily in terms of fellowship, friendship, and love? Somehow, it has come to be seen in terms of what we know rather than who or what we are—or, as a philosopher might put it, in terms of epistemology rather than ontology.”
  • The Atlantic published its list of the top 136 “Great American Novels” yesterday. “In 1868, a little-known writer by the name of John William DeForest proposed a new type of literature, a collective artistic project for a nation just emerging from an existential conflict: a work of fiction that accomplished ‘the task of painting the American soul,’” the description of the list noted. “It would be called the Great American Novel, and no one had written it yet,” DeForest admitted. Maybe soon. A century and a half later, the idea has endured, even as it has become more complicated. In 2024, our definition of literary greatness is wider, deeper, and weirder than DeForest likely could have imagined. … The American canon is more capacious, more fluid, and more fragile than perhaps ever before. But what, exactly, is in it? What follows is our attempt to discover just that.”

Presented Without Comment

CBS News: South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem Faces Lawsuit After Viral Endorsement of Texas Dentists 

Also Presented Without Comment

Fox Business: U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen: “I Regret” Saying Inflation Was Transitory

Also Also Presented Without Comment

Politico: [Former Treasury Secretary] Steven Mnuchin Forming Investor Group To Buy TikTok

Toeing the Company Line

  • In the newsletters: Mike and Sarah broke down the partisan reactions to the Robert Hur report, Nick explored (🔒) the curious congressional politics surrounding TikTok, and Will argued against the doomsaying that’s infected cultural and technological thinking.
  • On the podcasts: Sarah, Steve, and Jonah discuss  TikTok’s influence on American youth, reactions to Robert Hur’s testimony, the Oscars, and more on The Dispatch Podcast
  • On the site: John looks into whether Alabama Sen. Katie Britt can recover from the debacle of her response to the State of the Union speech, and Mary interviews several wounded Ukrainian soldiers who visited D.C. to press for more U.S. support.

Let Us Know

What great American novel do you think is missing from The Atlantic’s list?

James Scimecca works on editorial partnerships for The Dispatch, and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he served as the director of communications at the Empire Center for Public Policy. When James is not promoting the work of his Dispatch colleagues, he can usually be found running along the Potomac River, cooking up a new recipe, or rooting for a beleaguered New York sports team.

Mary Trimble is the editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, she interned at The Dispatch, in the political archives at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), and at Voice of America, where she produced content for their French-language service to Africa. When not helping write The Morning Dispatch, she is probably watching classic movies, going on weekend road trips, or enjoying live music with friends.

Grayson Logue is the deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in political risk consulting, helping advise Fortune 50 companies. He was also an assistant editor at Providence Magazine and is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh, pursuing a Master’s degree in history. When Grayson is not helping write The Morning Dispatch, he is probably working hard to reduce the number of balls he loses on the golf course.