WASHINGTON / MEXICO CITY – The assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise a month ago on Saturday has potential repercussions as far away as China, which has played a diplomatic chess game of influence with the United States on the nation impoverished Caribbean woman.
Beijing has suspended coronavirus vaccines and other aid as it seeks to persuade Haiti, one of 15 countries that have diplomatic ties with Taiwan, to sever those ties, critics say.
This raised concerns among Americans that political unrest after the still unsolved murder of Moise could make Haiti more vulnerable.
Republican lawmakers Tom Tiffany and Scott Perry of the US House Taiwan Caucus recently sent Secretary of State Antony Blinken a letter warning of the “potential ripple effects this assassination could have on stability, both in Haiti and the region as a whole – as well as the doors it can open to political interference from the People’s Republic of China. “
The Chinese Communist Party “will most certainly seek to take advantage of the political unrest in Haiti to further marginalize American and Taiwanese interests,” the lawmakers wrote.
Haiti is not the only hotbed in the region of Beijing’s attempts to isolate Taipei. Panama, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic all severed ties with Taiwan in favor of China between 2017 and 2018.
China has sent doses of the coronavirus vaccine to countries that made the switch, like the Dominican Republic – but not Haiti or Guatemala and Honduras, two Central American countries aligned with Taiwan. The United States has given some of these holdouts access to vaccines, underlining the lack of political conditions attached.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has made efforts to retain Taipei’s remaining partners. She traveled to Haiti in 2019 to solidify their relationship, and Taiwan donated masks there last year to help with the country’s response to the coronavirus.
After Moise’s murder, China expressed hope to end the unrest in the country.
“We hope that Haiti can restore social stability at an early date, achieve solid economic development and safeguard the well-being of the population,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a conference release in July.
The United States has sent officials from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to the Caribbean country to support the investigation into Moise’s death. Yet as Haiti seeks to hold an early presidential election to keep the power vacuum to a minimum, Washington has given no indication that it plans to accept the interim government’s request for military support to help ensure stability. .
“The idea of ââsending American forces to Haiti is not on the agenda at the moment,” President Joe Biden said in July.
The Biden administration, rushing to complete its military withdrawal from Afghanistan this month to focus on strategic competition with China, shows little desire to launch into a crisis-torn nation in its own backyard .
âWe never succeed in establishing sufficient capacity for the government in Haiti to stop the intervention from being necessary,â said James Dobbins, a senior member of RAND Corp. who served as a special envoy to the country under the Clinton administration. “And I’m afraid we’re in another cycle like this.”
US troops have been deployed to Haiti twice since the 1990s. Intended to support the transition to democracy, the interventions seemed effective in the short term, but the gains quickly collapsed.
âHaiti is a burden,â Dobbins said. “It’s not an asset, it’s a burden.”