< Distinguished speaker series

Keith Mines

Director, Latin America Program, United States Institute of Peace

Haiti: On the Verge of Starvation after a Political Implosion

DATE: July 19, 2023 6:00 pm


Event information

Haiti is the second oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere and the first declared black republic on Earth. Today it is the poorest country in the hemisphere and one of the most troubled places on the planet. Its political system has imploded, and half its 11 million population are on the verge of starvation.

The U.S. role in Haiti has been helpful at times but often fraught. Woodrow Wilson sent in the Marines to strip the national bank of its funds in 1914, and a year later U.S. forces occupied the country, staying until 1934. An intervention in 1994 lasted six months and involved 25,000 troops.

In this century, one of Haiti’s biggest problems has been inadequate policing. Yet in 2017, the country seemed headed on the road to stability, aided by a U.N. peacekeeping force that supported local police. That’s when the U.S. cut funds for peacekeeping, which led to a drawdown of the 4000 “Blue Helmets.” Security deteriorated, politics turned chaotic and violent gangs filled the vacuum and overran the capital.

Today U.S. apparently doesn’t want to get involved in Haiti, other than to prevent Haitians from seeking asylum here.

How did we get into this mess? Is there a way out?

Our next speaker, Keith Mines, is a genuine expert on Haiti, having served there as a U.S. Foreign Service officer — just one of the troubled spots he has been in during 32 years in the diplomatic and military services. He has worked on governance and institution-building in Central America and Colombia, stabilization efforts in Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan, financial stability in Brazil, security sector reform in Hungary and famine relief and tribal reconciliation in Darfur, Sudan, and in Somalia.

Today he’s the director of Latin America programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

His recent book tackles an unfashionable subject forthrightly, beginning with the title: “Why Nation-Building Matters.” He has ardent fans.

“Keith Mines has been an omnipresent figure at nearly every nation-building enterprise the United States has attempted in the past 40 years,” writes James Dobbins, himself one of the most renowned U.S. experts on state-building. “Mines has established a record of unparalleled service in the world’s most difficult places, recounted here with great insight and compassion.”

(University of Nebraska Press, 2020).

Mr. Mines has a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and a master’s in foreign service from Georgetown University.



Overview of Keith Mines

Notable Accomplishments

Director of the Latin America program, United States Institute of Peace

Director of Venezuelan and Andean Affairs, U.S. Department of State

BA in History, Brigham Young University

MA in Foreign Service, Georgetown University


Publications and Features 

Why Nation Building Matters: Political Consolidation, Building Security Forces, and Economic Development in Failed and Fragile States – No one likes nation-building. The public dismisses it. Politicians criticize it. The traditional military disdains it, and civilian agencies lack the blueprint necessary to make it work. Yet functioning states play a foundational role in international security and stability. Left unattended, ungoverned spaces can produce crises from migration to economic collapse to terrorism.

Keith W. Mines has taken part in nation-building efforts as a Special Forces officer, diplomat, occupation administrator, and United Nations official. In Why Nation-Building Matters he uses cases from his own career to argue that repairing failed states is a high-yield investment in our own nation’s global future. Eyewitness accounts of eight projects––in Colombia, Grenada, El Salvador, Somalia, Haiti, Darfur, Afghanistan, and Iraq—inform Mines’s in-depth analysis of how foreign interventions succeed and fail. Building on that analysis, he establishes a framework for nation-building in the core areas of building security forces, economic development, and political consolidation that blend soft and hard power into an effective package.

Grounded in real-world experience, Why Nation-Building Matters is an informed and essential guide to meeting one of the foremost challenges of our foreign policy present and future.

Keith Mines on the Crises in Venezuela and Hati – While Haiti’s and Venezuela’s political, security and humanitarian situations remain dire, there are promising regional efforts underway to address both countries’ crises. While “the U.S. is looking for someone else to take the lead” on these situations, “there are things at play that are encouraging and at some point are going to need very tangible U.S. support,” says USIP’s Keith Mines. (Podcast)

Keith Mines on Securing Haiti’s Political Future – President Biden recently asked Canada to lead a security force to stabilize Haiti. While neither side “wants to do this as something that just props up the [interim] government,” a lack of action “doesn’t mean 11 million people go away. It just means we’re not paying attention,” says USIP’s Keith Mines. (Podcast)

“Crisis in Haiti: a Political, Human Rights and Security Problem”, LatinAmerican Post

“Haiti’s Perfect Storm: And How to Get Out of It”, The Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

Haitians must be in the forefront of any peace plan | Miami Herald

U.S. seeks Brazil help as frustration grows on Haiti force – Months after Haiti’s prime minister and the UN pleaded for intervention in the violence-ravaged nation, world powers are searching for new ideas with no country eager to lead a force.

Have Haitians Finally Found the Formula for Moving Forward? – A December 21 accord, brokered by key Haitian actors, offers an inclusive and transparent architecture to address the country’s longstanding ills.

Give Haiti Another Chance—and the Support It Needs – Turning our backs now will only consign the country to misery, violence and hunger, with the ensuing outflow of emigrants.

How to Break the Stalemate in Haiti – The country needs a national dialogue to address a trio of deteriorating political, economic and security crises.