Pooja Bhatia

Pooja Bhatia teaches at the University Network for Human Rights.

Diary: Leaving Haiti

Pooja Bhatia, 4 April 2024

On​ 2 March, armed men broke into two prisons in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, and released almost five thousand inmates. The ratatatat of automatic gunfire sounded continuously throughout the city as the gangs torched buildings and had firefights with police. The US embassy, which since 2018 has warned Americans not to travel to Haiti, sent an email strongly advising its citizens to...

From The Blog
27 May 2022

Last weekend, the New York Times published an extraordinary investigation into one of history’s most odious debts: the payments Haiti made to French slaveholders in return for recognising its independence. The idea of compensating slaveholders for the loss of ‘their property’ – i.e. the people they could no longer enslave – was offensive and mind-boggling from the moment it was floated. In rejecting such a proposal in 1809, the Haitian revolutionary leader Henri Christophe asked:

Is it conceivable that Haitians who have escaped torture and massacre at the hands of these men, Haitians who have conquered their own country by the force of their arms and at the cost of their blood, that these same free Haitians should now purchase their property and persons once again with money paid to their former oppressors?

Diary: Media Theranos

Pooja Bhatia, 4 November 2021

Ben Smith’s story in the New York Times about the attempted fraud dealt a severe blow, but Ozy Media wouldn’t have died so swiftly if it hadn’t been for the torrent of follow-up stories, many of which relied on information from people who had worked there. For us, the week Ozy closed felt like a virtual reunion. We gathered round the bed of the dying patriarch. We lamented the blight on our CVs, and the years of work and good faith we’d given the company. Tentatively, we asked one another if we were talking to reporters, and if so which ones. We dug around for our employment contracts and parsed them: would we be sued if we talked? Could this or that off-the-record story be traced to an individual? We criticised the emerging stories for neglecting certain angles, or overlooking the actual journalism. Some of us said we couldn’t face talking about it to anyone, let alone a reporter. Most of all, I think, we asked ourselves why we’d stayed so long.

Short Cuts: After the Assassination

Pooja Bhatia, 29 July 2021

‘Cherie​, I’m in danger.’ On 8 July I woke up to a WhatsApp voice message from my Haitian friend M. She was hiding under the bed, the phone pressed close against her face. ‘All these men have invaded, men with weapons. We don’t know what to do.’ Before dawn the previous day, President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated, his body reportedly riddled...

From The Blog
23 March 2021

Update: Marie Antoinette Gauthier and Louis Buteau were among 15 prisoners released on 26 March, after an appeals court ruled their arrests illegal. Two supposed coup-plotters remain in prison, reportedly because of a clerical error. 

No leader is universally scorned, but Jovenel Moïse comes close. Turnout was 18 per cent in the elections that made him president of Haiti in 2016. Since then there have been government-linked massacres, including one that killed at least seventy people, a spike in kidnappings, an uptick in murders, rampant inflation, blatant corruption and pervasive fear. For almost all Haitians life has got much worse. Moïse has ruled by decree since January 2020, when most parliamentarians’ terms expired. He has replaced all the country’s mayors with people who report only to him. He would like to cement his authoritarian grip by forcing constitutional reform with a referendum in June.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences