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If one were to parameterize the success of a work of art based on the intensity of the provoked reaction, probably Non-Violence (The Knotted Gun), by the Swedish sculptor Fredrik Reuterswärd, wins by a landslide. Why? Because a lump in the throat comes out by just looking at it, and it happened to this writer. It’s one of the first things one can see when walking into the United Nations Headquarters and – let’s face it – who can be hypocritical after such a gut punch? Joe Biden, apparently.
On 21 September 2021, during the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the President of the United States stated as follows: “We are at a turning point in history and the US is committed to work with allies and partners to face the greatest challenges of our time. We will build a better future together”. Then, he listed a series of undeniable problems that will threaten our society in the following years, among which climate change. It seems curious, however, how a Head of State can speak of “common humanity” without a glimpse of any hesitation, when the day before his Border Police on horseback chased Haitian migrants, on the banks of the Rio Grande, trying to capture them with a rope, as if they were a herd of cattle.
Haiti shares the territory of Hispaniola Island, discovered by Columbus in 1492, with the Dominican Republic. The country was the world’s first to formally abolish slavery and the first independent State in Latin America. It is undeniable to recognize the strength of its people in fighting European settlers, above all France. But it should also be remembered that the country was then forced to get into debt, mainly with the United States, to pay off the price of their freedom to France. Moreover, the ruling class, instead of trying to deal with the exorbitant public debt, just worried about personal interests. In 2010, the area was devastated by a 7.0 MW magnitude earthquake (6.1 on the Richter scale), killing at least 230,000 people.
This past August, when the eyes of the world were staring anxiously to Afghanistan – and, let’s be honest, not for the Afghan people themselves, but because of the American charm – a new earthquake and Hurricane Grace hit Haiti, causing the displacement of 650,000 people. In fact, the situation in the country was already devastating in July 2021, when President Jovene Moïse was murdered by Colombian hit men, whose sender appears to be the doctor and pastor Christian Emmanuel Sanon, who lived in Florida for 20 years and is currently in custody in Haiti. The man created a political movement few years ago with the specific aim of carrying out a coup d’etat in Haiti and then becoming the new President. There are few certainties surrounding these recent events, but what is undoubtable is that thousands of Haitians have sought protection in the neighboring areas, among which Mexico.
Over the past few weeks, about 14,000 migrants, mainly Haitian, crowded into the waters of the Rio Grande River, probably attracted by Biden’s promises to grant a temporary protection status to Haitians already on the US territory. The desperate attempt to enter the country, however, failed: displaced people found themselves stuck in a refugee camp in Texas, where there is a lack of food and medicine, and they sheltered under the Rio Grande City – Camargo International Bridge. Washington decided to face this inhumane situation by sending agents there and by starting a deportation of Haitians, sent back to their devastated island of origin by plane.
The image we all saw of officers on horseback trying to manage a mass of desperate people with ropes recalls the distant echoes of a colonialism that we would all like to forget, even though we should clearly not. So it seems legitimate to ask ourselves what is the purpose of official press releases condemning the gesture, when the Biden administration still uses immigration management tools of the Trump-Era (see, Title 42, Section 265 of the Code of Federal Regulations). This provision is not new to the US context, but Trump operationalized it again to tackle Covid-19. It provides the total or partial suspension of the right to introduce individuals or goods into the US for public health purposes. The Secretary of the Department for Internal Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, repeatedly stated that Title 42 is currently not used to defeat immigration. However, the Customs Border Protection Federal Agency reported that about 290,000 expulsions, pursuant to Title 42, were recorded between February and April 2021, so since Biden took the office. This number amount to nearly 40% of all expulsions since the pandemic break-out.
Here we strongly doubt Biden’s adherence to Sartre’s existentialism and therefore exclude the President thinks to “[be] responsible for everything, except for [his own] responsibility”. It seems legitimate to ask ourselves whether the US will ever be again an enforcer for human rights (or maybe it has never been so). What is undeniable is that the Climatic Leviathan, – the son of capitalism according to J. Wainwright and G. Mann – is destroying not only the environment, but also the “common humanity” that Biden hypocritically recalled in his recent speech at the UN Headquarters. One shall never forget, however, “[…] that people give good advices when they can no longer set a bad example.”