Riotous unrest broke out in Haiti after the government suddenly declared that it’s dramatically hiking fuel prices in order to comply with an IMF restructuring demand.
There was an explosion of violence in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country immediately after the news was announced, with gangs of machete-armed thugs rampaging through the streets, looting business, burning vehicles, and setting up roadblocks. It’s understandable why people would be upset that gas and diesel prices would jump by 38% and 47% respectively, especially because this would lead to cost increases for pretty much everything else, but the outbreak of instability that this caused surely caught the authorities off guard, which is why they shortly thereafter declared that the decision would be temporarily suspended. Still, this didn’t quell the disorder, and US airlines even cancelled their flights to the country as a security precaution while the State Department ordered its citizens to shelter in place.
Evidently, the Haitian people’s long-brewing discontent with their country’s many socio-economic and political problems might have finally boiled over, with some of them intending to seize the moment in sending the message that they will no longer tolerate their nation being treated as a neo-colonial outpost by transnational corporations and NGOs, though unconstructively not offering any apparent solution to improve their situation. The crisis is made all the more acute by the state’s inability to forcibly respond to the unrest because it simply lacks the means to do so when considering that the UN withdrew late last year after a decade-long mission and the National Police are utterly incapable of keeping the peace in their place. Furthermore, the country’s military was dismantled in 1995 and the sitting government has yet to replace it despite controversially pledging to do so.
It’s difficult to predict what comes next, but a few lessons can still be drawn from the latest events. The first is that fragile states such as Haiti are extremely vulnerable to destabilization whenever they’re pressed into so-called “structural reforms” by the IMF, just like Jordan recently was under similar circumstances. If the chaos isn’t contained, then it could also possibly trigger a limited military intervention by regional states in order to protect their citizens and/or respond to any perceived threats from so-called “Weapons of Mass Migration”, which is a scenario that the US could possibly undertake if the situation doesn’t soon stabilize. The cycle of underdevelopment, debt bondage, destabilization by dint of so-called “structural reforms”, and military intervention is therefore very difficult for countries to break free from, and Haiti unfortunately has next to no realistic hope to ever do so in the near future.