UN: Delaying help to combat Haiti’s gangs may impact region
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations special envoy for Haiti on Wednesday urged the immediate deployment of a specialised international force to counter escalating gang violence and develop the Caribbean nation’s understaffed and ill-equipped police force.
But the United States and Canada again showed no interest in leading a force and neither did any member of the UN Security Council.
Maria Isabel Salvador, who took over the UN job this month, warned that delays could lead to a spillover of insecurity in the Caribbean and Latin America.
She told the council that gang violence in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country is expanding at an alarming rate in areas previously considered safe in and outside the capital, Port-au-Prince. She cited police and UN figures to illustrate “the shocking increase in criminality in Haiti”: Criminal incidents — which comprise homicides, rapes, kidnappings and lynchings — more than doubled to 1,647 in the first quarter of 2023 from 692 in the same period in 2022.
Salvador stressed that without restoring a minimum level of security, it is impossible to move forward toward elections.
She told reporters afterward that she was disappointed that no country has offered to lead a force since UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued an urgent appeal last October for international help at the request of Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the country’s Council of Ministers.
At Wednesday’s council meeting, neither the United States, which has been criticised for previous interventions in Haiti, nor Canada, which the US tried to convince to head the force, showed interest in taking the lead. The international community has instead opted to impose sanctions and send military equipment and other resources.
US deputy ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis said the Biden administration is “deeply concerned about the rise in violent gang activity” and noted Haiti’s request for international support to address violence and insecurity.
“The United States continues to work with a growing number of international partners to support the urgent security needs in the country,” he said, adding that the Security Council needs to do its part by imposing additional sanctions against Haitians financing and fomenting violence.
Canada’s UN Ambassador Robert Rae also cited sanctions as “one important tool to break the power of armed gangs.” He said Canada is convinced that it’s vital to take action and told the council his government has decided to increase support for training and new equipment for Haiti’s National Police Force this year.