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The “failed state” on America’s doorstep

A protester during unrest in Port-au-Prince last year. Richard Pierrin/AFP/Getty

Haiti is “unravelling”, says Natalie Kitroeff on The Daily. After the island nation’s president was assassinated last year, “increasingly dominant gangs” have emerged to fill the power vacuum. The result is “unimaginable violence”, with families being turfed out of their homes at gunpoint and forced into makeshift refugee camps in the capital Port-au-Prince. What’s more, gangsters have seized control of the main port, which stores more than 70% of Haiti’s fuel supply. Given the country has no electrical grid ­– everything runs on diesel generators – these criminals have a “chokehold” on the entire economy. Vital imports like bottled water have stopped coming into the country; hospitals and schools have been forced to shut down because they have no fuel.

The result is a “dire humanitarian crisis”. Poorly sanitised refugee camps and a lack of clean water have led to a cholera outbreak. Parents are having to decide whether it’s better to stay locked in their homes and risk their ill children dying of the disease, or to be killed in the gangs’ crossfire while trying to reach a clinic. This awful situation is also a real headache for Joe Biden. Thousands of Haitians are trying to reach the US on overcrowded small boats, creating yet another immigration flashpoint. And while the Haitian government has requested foreign intervention to restore order, Congress won’t back sending US troops – so Biden is instead having to rely on the UN, where resolutions to provide military assistance keep stalling. There are simply no easy options for dealing with this “failed state” on America’s doorstep.