Haiti Needs Foreign Strike Force to Confront Gangs

Drivers wait in line to fill their vehicles at a petrol station as Haiti resumes fuel supplies after police break a two-month gang blockade that left the economy without petrol or diesel and sparked a humanitarian crisis, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti November 12, 2022. REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol  
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WASHINGTON, Nov 28 (Reuters) – The international community should send a strike force to Haiti to confront gangs even though police have ended a blockade of a fuel terminal that caused a humanitarian crisis, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States said on Monday.

The U.N. Security Council in October discussed sending troops to confront gangs, but those proposals have received little attention since police took back control of the Varreux terminal in November. read more

“The situation has not changed, the opening of the fuel terminal did not bring a solution to the problem,” said Bocchit Edmond in an interview at the Haitian embassy in Washington, adding that gangs continue to expand their territory.

“If you don’t have an international presence to help confront the armed gangs, the situation will become even more dire,” he warned.

Such a force should support the police, and troops should be provided by what he called a “coalition of the willing for Haiti,” Edmond said.

Most countries have appeared skeptical of sending troops to Haiti.

Brazil’s incoming government is unlikely to provide military assistance to Haiti, two officials said, noting that Brazil’s participation in the MINUSTAH U.N. peacekeeping force, which operated in Haiti from 2004 to 2017, was unpopular. read more

Gang leader Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier in September blocked the entrance to the fuel terminal in response to a decision by the government of President Ariel Henry to cut fuel subsidies.

The nearly six-weeks-long blockade prevented the distribution of gasoline and diesel, halting most economic activity and creating critical shortages of basic goods just as the country reported a renewed outbreak of cholera.

Barbecue on Nov 6 said workers could return to the terminal, and fuel distribution has slowly resumed since then. read more

But gang activity including kidnappings and confrontations with police have jumped as day-to-day activity resumed.

Haiti under violent gang rule, nearly 3,000 deaths

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) – Several thousand people have been gunned down in Haiti this year as a result of violence caused by heavily armed gangs calling the shots in the capital’s poor and densely populated slum areas, in complete defiance of the Caribbean country’s authorities and frail police force, human rights groups say.

Defenders Plus (Défenseurs Plus), a prominent Haitian rights group, said at least 2,769 people have been killed in the country from January 1 to October 31, while dozens of others wounded were admitted to the hospital this year.

“Two thousand, seven hundred and sixty-nine people were killed in the capital’s metropolitan area from January 1 to October 30, 2022,” Antonal Mortimé, head of the human rights organisation, told HCNN on Monday.

“But this figure does not include the number of people who died in hospitals after being attacked and injured,” he added.

Several rights groups have called attention to an exponential increase in violence in Haiti and complained about the fact that people do not seem to bother anymore about seeing dead bodies on the streets in their neighbourhoods.

“On many occasions, you see corpses lying on the ground, while everyone goes about their normal business as if nothing had happened,” Mortimé said.

“Therefore, what should have been seen as tragic is considered normal,” the rights advocate told HCNN, adding that “there have been more than 20,000 people displaced, during the past months, just in the capital.”

Mortimé said that 85 per cent of those murdered were gunned down, while 25 per cent fell victim to mob violence or bladed weapon attacks.

Another rights group, Justice & Peace Commission, known as CE-JILAP in French and linked to the Catholic Church, has, on its part, indicated that they have collected data showing that 863 people were killed, mostly by gunshots, from January to November 2022.

“Eight hundred and sixty-three people have been killed, including 792 by gunshots. Among those killed were 83 women, 11 children and 38 policemen,” Jocelyne Colas, CE-JILAP’s national director, stated over the weekend.

Colas, however, admitted that the figures released by her organisation represent a very conservative estimate of the total number of fatal victims since the beginning of the year.

Human rights observers say that more than 20,000 people have been displaced over the past few months as a result of gang violence in the metropolitan area of the capital Port-au-Prince.

Police officers often desert their headquarters, fleeing the danger posed by bandits, and leaving thousands in the hands of criminals, acting with complete impunity.

The international community, through the UN Security Council, decided last month to approve a series of sanctions aimed at quelling gang violence and getting Haitian political protagonists to come to an agreement, likely to help put an end to the everlasting political stalemate, choking the country’s economy and worsening the already dire humanitarian situation.

Travel ban, freezing of assets are among the restrictive measures so far implemented by the US and Canada against several Haitian politicians in a move to punish those suspected of impeding the government’s efforts to end the political deadlock.

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