Haiti: Extreme Urgency

Haitian boy
Gonaives, Haiti, Feb. 11, 2004: Wilson Cervilus, 8, leans against the wall of the main police station torched by rebels in Gonaives four days earlier (Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP-Getty Images).

Haiti, which in two centuries of independence has enjoyed few moments of stability, now finds itself in a state of social and political convulsion. The questioning of Jean Bertrand Aristide’s legitimacy has moved from cafés and living rooms into the streets. The armed opposition, which has already taken over several cities, plans to overthrow the existing government. Blood has been spilled.

The situation is becoming more delicate by the minute, and it is aggravating the conditions for thousands of Haitian families who face hunger and other hardships. There are no hermetically sealed borders, especially not in our case. A kind of inevitable osmosis controls movement from one side to the other. This means that those fleeing repression or seeking safety will end up in Dominican territory, while those wanting to participate in the fighting, or simply fish in troubled waters, will move into Haiti. This is the situation, roughly described, which makes those of us sharing this divided island more than just spectators or witnesses.

From a broader perspective, given our condition as a neighboring state unbearably burdened by the Haitian situation, we have gone to international forums to stress that multinational organizations must go into Haiti to create the institutional framework for economic and social progress and to guarantee a respect for human rights and basic freedoms.

Whenever an opportunity arose, we have told international organizations and governments claiming to be friends of Haiti that the Dominican Republic cannot resolve the Haitian problem by itself, cannot accept all its refugees, and cannot provide the public services they require.

In each case, our pleas have been met with murmurs of agreement from those organizations and governments, but not with material aid, in any sense, for the Haitian people.

Because of this, we believe that the plans made by the Dominican government, as outlined by Chancellor Francisco Guerrero Prats, are opportune.

When Haiti’s internal struggles were coalescing, but giving clear signs of leading to a bloody confrontation, none of the so-called “friends” of this impoverished country showed any interest in acting. Now that blood has begun to be spilled and those who want to stir up trouble have incited enmity between Haitians and Dominicans, it is time to seriously consider the urgency of making sure that country gets the assistance it needs.

As concerned neighbors and as an affected party, the Dominican Republic is doing the right thing by promoting the search for a peaceful solution to this internal Haitian conflict. That would be best, not only for this island, but for the region as well.

Those countries that present themselves as having the moral authority to propose solutions for Haiti—such as France, Canada, and the United States, to name only a few—ought to consider the extreme urgency of establishing a dialogue between the parties in the confrontation and instituting a proper institutional solution. The time is right, and the need is urgent.