Two senior U.S. diplomats met face to face with leaders in Haiti this week as the Biden administration looks to stabilize its approach to the island nation and calm pressures from home.
Brian Nichols, President Joe Biden’s newly confirmed assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, and Juan Gonzalez, National Security Council senior director, arrived in Port-au-Prince Thursday after a stop in Miami. There, they met with Haitian and Cuban American leaders to discuss the challenges facing both of their countries.
“We’re not going there to impose a solution or road map. We’re going there to listen, and particularly to understand what we can do,” Nichols said in Florida, adding they would not push for "near-term" elections.
“We’re pressing for support for Haitian-led solutions,” he said, according to the Miami Herald.
“The direction from the White House has been for us to be ambitious,” Gonzalez said, stating they intended to consult with diaspora leaders in charting that path. “We want to make sure the diaspora communities have a seat at the table."
Nichols echoed plans to weigh their policy with Haitian Americans.
“We want to make sure that we have a people-centric foreign policy and that we are approaching the challenges in our region with them in mind and drawing on the richness and the diversity of the diaspora communities,” Nichols said. “And there’s no better place to do that than Miami.”
Democrats have criticized the Biden administration’s Haiti policy, urging the White House to find a way to support democratic elections in the country after late President Jovenel Moise’s assassination in July. Democrats have also called for halting deportations to the country after Border Patrol agents apprehended 30,000 Haitian migrants crossing into Del Rio, Texas, this month.
The Biden administration has said migrants will continue to be expelled under the Title 42 public health rule, with expulsion flights to Haiti returning more than 2,000 people. Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said federal authorities would evaluate 5,000 more cases for possible expulsion, noting the Biden administration looked at the conditions in Haiti and assessed the country could receive deportees despite the humanitarian crises.
The decision has drawn outcry amid the humanitarian and political crises inside the country.
U.S. officials said they hoped to reassure Haiti’s government and civil society leaders the United States would provide its support. But Washington is also calling for accountability.
During a meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Henry and Foreign Minister Claude Joseph Nichols in Port-au-Prince, Nichols said the U.S. would continue its repatriation of migrants while calling for Haitian-led solutions to the political crises and justice in Moise’s assassination. Henry recently ordered the firing of the main prosecutor investigating Moise’s death.
Leaders in the region have urged Biden to take a more active role.
Another 60,000 Haitian nationals are making their way to the southern border, Panama Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes said this week.
“It’s an open question mark, what U.S. policy is today,” Dominican Foreign Minister Roberto Alvarez told the Miami Herald before a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken Tuesday.
Dominican President Luis Abinader told the United Nations General Assembly last week that Haiti’s political struggle, armed gangs, and poverty would lead to “regional insecurity.”
He also urged outside support to stabilize the country so “that free, fair elections, inclusive and reliable, can take place.”
The visit by U.S. diplomats follows the resignation of former Special Envoy Daniel Foote, Biden’s point-person to Haiti, who charged last week in a blistering letter that the administration’s actions had proven “counterproductive” and “inhumane.”
Foote also criticized Washington’s support for Henry, who took office soon after the death of Moise in July. Henry recently ordered the removal of the top prosecutor investigating Moise’s death.
“The hubris that makes us believe we should pick the winner — again — is impressive,” Foote wrote. “This cycle of international political interventions in Haiti has consistently produced catastrophic results.”
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Original Author: Katherine Doyle