United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said a combination of a severe cholera outbreak, out-of-control criminal gangs, and political instability have overwhelmed the Haitian National Police and, without military assistance, the troubled island nation will sink further into chaos. “I urge every country with the capacity to do so to give urgent consideration to the Haitian Government’s request for an international specialized armed force to help restore security and alleviate the humanitarian crisis,” she remarked.
Haiti’s problems are intertwined. Gang activity restricts movement, including the movement of humanitarian aid. This restriction increases food insecurity, leaving people vulnerable to cholera and other infectious diseases. This restriction also keeps children from going to school, which means they may turn to street crime.
Briefing the Council, UN Special Representative in Haiti, Helen La Lime, said 280 people were murdered there last month – the highest on record. Reported kidnappings have exceeded 1,200 this year, or double the 2021 figure. “Further compounding the plight of the millions living amidst this violence is the catastrophic economic situation, with all main roads in and out of the capital under gang control, stymieing trade,” she said, speaking from the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Haiti’s environmental, security, and stability issues are by no means new. They go back to the years before the country’s foundation in 1804.
The environmental problems began during the French colonial period. Many colonial powers, such as the Spanish, were almost trustees. With some glaring and brutal exceptions, they managed their colonies with an eye toward eventual self-sufficiency. The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, is a good example. The DR has one of the most stable democracies and largest economies in the Caribbean basin.
Haiti was different. The French stripped Haiti of most of its natural resources. Current satellite images are telling. The eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola (the DR) may not look like the Garden of Eden, but it’s close. The western third of the island (Haiti) looks almost like a moonscape.
Haiti was behind the eight-ball when it became the world’s first independent republic run by former slaves. Some countries can overcome such difficulties. But for Haiti, the security difficulties were too immense.
Haiti remained under France’s thumb for more than a century. In 1825, France’s Charles X dispatched a fleet of warships to the former colony, determined to reassert control over it. Instead, Charles forced Haitian President Jean-Pierre Boyer to pay a 150 million franc bounty (over $5 billion in today’s dollars). Haiti finally paid off the debt in 1947.
Haiti lacked the security forces to deal with the French in 1825. It lacks the security forces to deal with armed gangs today.
Lack of resources and security issues usually breed stability issues. In the early 1900s, the United States, frustrated with Haitian instability, occupied the island for almost 20 years. Shortly after the Americans left, they helped install François ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier as president. As it did in many other countries during the Cold War, the United States overlooked Duvalier’s repressive rule because he was an avowed anti-communist.
Much more recently, a gang of Colombian-affiliated mercenaries assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. None of his bodyguards were hurt or killed, sparking speculation that the assassins may have had help from the inside.
Contractors in Haiti
Private military contractors are not the cure to all these ills. However, contractors can and do contain the symptoms of these illnesses.
Environmental problems, such as cholera and other infectious disease outbreaks, require strict social distancing and other rules. These restrictions do not eliminate the problem, but they at least control it. Private military contractors have that kind of presence. When a PMC tells you to move along, you don’t argue. You move along.
This gentle toughness also provides security. Armed gangs operate in Haiti mostly because no one can stop them, and they operate in pro-criminal environments. A loosely-organized street gang is not a match for a small contingent of highly-trained and well-equipped private military contractors. Contractors also change the environment. They develop relationships with people in the community who, in turn, provide valuable information about gangs and other criminal activity.
A presence alone is enough. When we see police cars in the United States, we generally check out speedometers, even if we are not speeding. When Haitians see private military contractors on street corners, they straighten up. The more street corners that contractors patrol, the fewer places these ne’er-do-wells have to go.
Contractors also provide stability. People feel more stable when they see the same contractors on the same streets pretty much every day. Additionally, contractors are incorruptible. They will not take bribes or show favoritism. Perhaps most importantly, when international private military contractors are nearby, Haitians feel like someone cares about them. That’s a feeling that’s sorely lacking not only in Haiti, but in many other places as well.
Injury Compensation Available
All three of these service areas are important, and all three of them are risky. The average injury-related medical bill in a catastrophic (life-threatening) injury case is more than $100,000. Families who live paycheck to paycheck cannot possibly pay these bills. That’s why the Defense Base Act’s medical payment benefit is so important. This benefit covers the following:
- Transportation Costs: Haiti has crude medical facilities, at best. Seriously injured contractors must be airlifted elsewhere, usually to a hospital in the United States. That flight could cost more than $50,000.
- Emergency Care: Extended transportation makes emergency care more difficult and, therefore, more expensive. By the time victims reach competent doctors, their injuries are more severe, and they may even be infected. The additional care often means placement in a specialty hospital.
- Follow-up Care: Medical intervention does not end when a patient exits surgery. Many serious wounds require multiple surgeries. Maintenance care prevents these injuries from recurring. Physical therapy strengthens muscles and allows victims to get back to their daily lives.
- Ancillary Expenses: Generally, a health insurance plan covers most prescription drug costs. So, most of us have no idea how expensive these medicines really are. Medical devices are very costly as well, mostly because the device makers can charge whatever they want to charge.
Throughout the medical treatment process, most injured overseas contractors can choose their own doctors. Furthermore, the DBA insurance company usually directly pays medical expenses, and victims are not financially responsible for any unpaid bills.
For more information about DBA eligibility, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.