UN warns Haitian gangs taking over country, extra police support not enough

Streaming HUBMarch 16, 2023

The UN special envoy to Haiti warned Wednesday that the training and resources the international community is providing Haiti’s national police force is not enough to fight increasingly violent gangs.

The head of the United Nations’ Integrated Office in Haiti, Helen La Lime, unexpectedly attended a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C., saying it was time to look at new partnerships as she once again called a special foreign force asked for deployment.

“We’re not working,” she said. “We need to get down to the business of building this country back.”

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Powerful gangs are infiltrating once-peaceful communities in the Haitian capital and beyond, with experts estimating that they now control about 60% of Port-au-Prince. With violence worsening since the assassination of President Jovenel Moose in July 2021, they have looted neighborhoods to control more territory, raping adults and children and killing hundreds of people ranging from American missionaries to hot dog street vendors Kidnapped victims.

“It is important for the OAS to recognize that the deteriorating security situation on the ground has reached its peak, and armed gangs are now roaming the country unabated,” said Victor Genius, Haiti’s foreign affairs minister.

Top Haitian officials, including Genius and Prime Minister Ariel Henry, have repeatedly called for the international boot on the ground, with requests first made in October going unheeded by the UN Security Council, which has imposed sanctions, as That America and Canada have done.

On Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters that the sanctions “targeted the elite families in Haiti who are not only responsible for funding the gangs, but also the political world and their economy in Haiti for the Haitian people.” are responsible for destabilizing at terrible cost.”

He added that Canada continues to help Haiti’s national police force and other institutions, noting that previous outside intervention has not worked to create long-term stability for Haiti.

Trudeau said, “It is clear that a new approach to Haiti is needed that truly puts the Haitian people in the driver’s seat to build opportunities for them and a stronger democracy.”

The United Nations has warned that Haitian gang violence is likely to engulf the country despite better-funded and more present police forces.

The United Nations has warned that Haitian gang violence is likely to engulf the country despite better-funded and more present police forces. (AP Photo/Odlin Joseph)

But top Haitian officials disagree.

“Haiti does not have the means to solve this crisis alone,” Genius said during the OAS meeting.

Haiti’s national police has only 9,000 active duty officers in the country of more than 11 million people, and officials say the department is under-resourced and short-staffed, despite international aid.

Haiti’s Permanent Representative to the OAS and the country’s former police chief Leon Charles said, “Having weapons is not enough. It is not enough to strengthen the national police and army.”

According to human rights activists, at least 78 police officers have been killed by gangs, which have taken control of police departments in some areas and burned others down.

A surge in violence has left tens of thousands of Haitians homeless and prompted mass migration to the Americas and other islands in the Caribbean, with an increasing number of journeys on rickety boats turning deadly. Meanwhile, authorities in countries including the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands have cracked down on migrants and complained about the strain on government services.

“Haiti’s security problem is a threat to the entire region,” Genius said.

The OAS convened a meeting to analyze what kind of assistance was needed and where Haiti could hold its long-awaited general elections.

Before the OAS members went behind closed doors to continue the discussion, La Lime said that Haiti urgently needed a secure environment before the elections could be held.

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He said, “Nothing is going to happen until the ground situation changes…” “Without more security support…they’re not going to make it.”

The meeting was held as a delegation of UN officials visited Port-au-Prince on Wednesday to meet Prime Minister Ariel Henry and inspect “the scale and severity of the humanitarian crisis” and humanitarian operations. provided assistance to.

Tariq Talhama of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said they are seeking $700 million to help at least 3 million of the 5 million Haitians in need of humanitarian assistance.

So far, he said, funding pledges haven’t met expectations, “and that’s why we’re here,” he said.

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“The people of Haiti are very dignified people and humanitarian aid is not the only thing they are waiting for. This community is looking for peace, safety and security, and that is what is important and should be a priority.” Talhama said.

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