Haiti Govt. Wants U.S., Canada to Lead Anti-Gang Strike Force, Mass Demo Against the Move

People walk away after hearing gunshots during a protest demanding the resignation of Haiti's Prime Minister Ariel Henry after weeks of shortages, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti October 10, 2022. REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol
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Oct 10 (Reuters) – The United States and Canada should take the lead in forming a strike force to confront Haitian gangs that have created a humanitarian crisis by blocking access to a key fuel terminal, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States said on Monday.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has proposed “a rapid action force” to help Haiti’s police confront the gangs, without saying that the United Nations itself should lead such a force. No countries have yet stepped forward to offer personnel. read more

“We wish to see our neighbors like the United States, like Canada, take the lead and move fast,” said Bocchit Edmond in a telephone interview, in reference to providing security assistance.

“There is a really big threat over the head of the prime minister. If nothing is done quickly, there is a risk of another head of state (being) killed in Haiti,” he said, referring to the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry last week asked the international community to provide a “specialized armed force” to control gangs that have been blocking the Varreux fuel terminal since last month. read more

But, Monday the Haiti Senate approved a resolution urging Prime Minister Dr. Ariel Henry to postpone his request for international partners to deploy specialized armed forces to stop the crisis across the country caused partly by the criminal actions of armed gangs.

In the resolution, adopted over the last weekend, the Assembly of Senators says it “requests the de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry to immediately suspend the execution of the resolution of October 7, 2022”.

The Council of Ministers had on October 7, authorized Prime Minister Henry to “request and obtain from Haiti’s international partners effective support through the immediate deployment of a specialized armed force, in sufficient quantity to stop, throughout the territory, the humanitarian crisis caused, among other things, by the insecurity resulting from the criminal actions of armed gangs and their sponsors”.

Since January, the Senate because of consistent postponements of Haiti’s legislative elections resulted in the 30-seat body being reduced to a third, and eight legislators last weekend adopted the resolution that also asks the “political, economic and social forces to grant the benefit of urgency to the discussions in progress in order to reach a sufficient consensus for a lasting exit from the crisis”.

Sporadic looting and gun battles between gangs and police have become increasingly common in Haiti in recent weeks as the shortages have led to mounting frustration and desperation.

Frequent protests have also been staged in different parts of Haiti to demand Henry’s resignation, and a group of activists on Sunday rallied outside the White House to call on the Biden administration to halt support for Henry. read more

The United States on Saturday said it was reviewing Haiti’s request for support. read more

Canada’s foreign ministry on Friday said 19 member countries of the Organization of American States were committed to helping Haitians “overcome the complex security challenges facing the country.”

Reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Miami Editing by Matthew Lewis
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BUT, THERE WAS A  MASS PROTEST MONDAY AGAINST FOREIGN TROOPS IN HAITI

Thousands of Haitians demonstrated Monday in Port-au-Prince to protest against the government and its call for foreign assistance to deal with endemic insecurity, a humanitarian crisis and a burgeoning cholera epidemic.

A day after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for immediate deployment of a special international armed force in Haiti to help the crisis-hit Caribbean state, the demonstration in the capital was marred by violence, with police using tear gas to disperse looters, an AFP correspondent said.

“We certainly need help to develop our country, but we don’t need boots” on the ground, one protester told AFP, charging that the international community was “interfering in the internal affairs of Haiti” and that the government had “no legitimacy to ask for military assistance.”

Several people were shot and one person was reported to have been killed during the rallies. Protesters blamed the police for the fatality.

“It is a crime perpetrated by the police. This young girl posed no threat. She was killed expressing her desire to live in dignity,” said another protester, who declined to give his name.

Haiti has been the scene for several weeks of violent demonstrations and looting, after the announcement by the head of government of an increase in fuel prices.

Demonstrators calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who appealed for international support, also took to the streets in other cities across the country.

The Haitian government on Friday formalized its request for international assistance to staunch spiraling insecurity.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is facing an acute political, economic, security and health crisis, with a cholera epidemic now looming – circumstances that have paralyzed the country and sparked a breakdown of law and order.

Since mid-September, the country’s largest fuel import terminal, in Varreux, has been controlled by armed gangs.

And last week health experts warned of a resurgence of cholera, three years after an epidemic that killed 10,000 people.

The health ministry said Monday 32 confirmed cases of the disease and 16 deaths have already been recorded, with another 224 suspected cases during the period from October 1 to 9.

The ministry also said cases have been detected in the Port-au-Prince’s prison, the largest in the country, where the conditions of detention are dire.

(AFP)

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