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Biden Presses Administration for Tough UN Sanctions Against Gang Leaders in Haiti

The United States is preparing to circulate a resolution at the United Nations Security Council on Monday that would establish a new framework for punishing Haiti’s gang leaders, and will not rule out international intervention as the country falls into anarchy, said a senior State Department official. he told McClatchy.

Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian A. Nichols said in an interview that the gang leaders fueling Haiti’s worst security crisis in decades “are on target, and their actions to destabilize Haiti will be met with international travel and financial sanctions”.

The Biden administration expects a swift passage of the resolution “in the next few days,” Nichols said.

“The resolution will create a United Nations framework to impose sanctions on gang leaders and those who support, facilitate and finance their activities,” he said. “Those sanctions would target your financial resources and your ability to travel.”

The Haitian government has lost almost all control over security in the Caribbean nation, and US officials say the country has reached a crisis not seen since the early 1990s.

On Friday, specialized teams from the Haitian National Police in Port-au-Prince were still trying to gain access to a women’s prison just north of the capital after dozens of women escaped. The gangs blocked the police response by setting fire to a police substation and shooting at police officers. At the same time, a powerful gang leader, an ex-cop named Jimmy Cherizier, known by the nickname “Barbecue,” was holding more than 188,000 barrels of fuel hostage, blocking access in and out of the largest fuel terminal. big in the country

READ MORE: Haiti forgets about anarchy amid fuel hike and power grab. They want us to bottom out.

“You will have access to the terminal when we die,” Cherizier said, directing the remarks at interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry as he held an M-4 automatic weapon and stood amid the burning barricade his coalition of gangs had erected in front of the depot. of Varreux fuel. Terminal.

Haiti’s neighbors have called for strong action from the United States and other permanent members of the Security Council. At least one, the Dominican Republic, has publicly called for the return of a multinational peacekeeping force, arguing that instability and rampant gang violence in Haiti are increasingly becoming a threat to the region.

Such a move would require Haiti to return to what is known as Chapter 7, which is an article of the UN charter that allows the Security Council to deploy international forces on a peacekeeping mission. After 13 years, it ended in Haiti in 2017 when the UN Security Council, prompted by the United States and others, finally withdrew its military and peacekeeping operations from Haiti.

If the Haitian government requests such assistance, “the international community would certainly consider such a request,” Nichols added.

But “Haitian authorities have not asked for boots on the ground,” he said, “and there is currently no discussion of a Chapter 7 response to the situation in Haiti.”

Instead of a return of blue helmet peacekeepers, the United States has focused on bolstering the beleaguered Haitian National Police force of more than 12,000 troops.

The Biden administration has been screening members of a new SWAT team for the Haitian National Police, as part of an effort with France to train members of a new anti-gang unit in Port-au-Prince. Canada and the United Nations have been lobbying for support for a $28 million security basket fund, where donors can put their money to help finance the ill-equipped force.

READ MORE: President Biden recognizes chaotic Haiti at the United Nations, but still fell short | Editorial

THE RESOLUTION MAY ADDRESS ILLICIT WEAPONS

This is not the first time that sanctions have arisen regarding Haitian gangs. In January 2021, the United States Department of the Treasury sanctioned Cherizier and two former members of the government of then President Jovenel Moïse for their participation in a 2018 massacre in the La Saline neighborhood of Port-au-Prince that left dozens dead.

Despite the sanctions, and despite the United Nations Security Council broadly condemning the massacres, Cherizier continues to roam free, tightening his grip on the capital through his heavily armed coalition known as the Families and Allies of the G-9. .

Over the summer, China had pushed to end arms supplies to Haiti’s gangs and sought to impose an embargo as the UN Security Council considered expanding its political mission in the country. Although Beijing voted in favor of the extension, it was disappointed that the final resolution did not have stronger language on the gang arms embargo.

READ MORE: Civil unrest in Haiti is being financed by economic interests, says top Biden adviser

Haiti watchers say any sanctions will have to be imposed with force, given the ability of powerful and corrupt figures in the country to wreak havoc when their interests are threatened. Although recent protests erupted after the government announced a hike in fuel prices, the government and others have blamed the violence and looting on arms dealers, smugglers and oligarchs who oppose recent efforts at seaports. to crack down on $600 million in uncollected taxes and the shipment of illegal guns and weapons.

At the same time, they would like to see the United States take a more active role in sanctioning and arresting Haitians, especially in light of recent comments by a top adviser to Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week that oligarchs and the elite are contributing “to the instability in Haiti” and influencing the dynamics of the region.

Nichols said the United States would like the resolution to include sanctions against “those who provide illicit weapons to gangs in Haiti,” but noted that the resolution has not yet been circulated to Security Council members.

“I think that is also a very important step. However, nothing in the resolution should prevent the legitimate transfer of weapons to Haitian government security forces,” he said. “We already carefully control the licenses for the sale of weapons to Haiti. The challenge is to track illicit arms smuggling to gangs and other illicit individuals.”

The undersecretary said that the threat of sanctions “in recent days has had a calming effect on the situation in Haiti,” although the details of the possible resolution have not previously been made public.

In his speech to the UN General Assembly this week, President Joe Biden called on the world to take action on Haiti, saying the country faces an “enormous human crisis.”

“I think the passage of a resolution and the creation of a framework will continue to have that calming effect,” Nichols said. “Until specific individuals are referred to a sanctions committee and then sanctioned internationally, that’s when you’ll see the transformative nature of this. So I don’t think just having the framework is enough. We have to designate specific people.”

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