Haiti to request aid of foreign forces as violence rages: Reports

Haitian government will request assistance of int’l forces to deal with gang violence, AP and Miami Herald report.

The Haitian government plans to seek assistance from foreign armed forces, officials have said, as the Caribbean country struggles to respond to escalating gang violence.

Citing an unnamed government official, The Associated Press news agency reported on Friday that the government would request the aid of international forces, but a formal, written request had not yet been submitted.

The Miami Herald newspaper first reported on the decision earlier in the day.

Violence in the capital Port-au-Prince has soared in recent months, with armed gangs battling for control of key roads and neighbourhoods. A weeks-long gang blockade of Haiti’s main fuel port also has paralysed much of the nation, spurring acute shortages.

According to a decree circulating online, the Haitian government on Thursday authorised Prime Minister Ariel Henry to ask “Haiti’s international partners” to help with the “immediate deployment of a specialised armed force” to address the growing security crisis.

It is not clear where Haiti will place its request.

On Friday, United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the Haitian government has not officially asked the international body for security assistance.

“That being said, we remain extremely concerned about the security situation in Haiti, the impact it’s having on the Haitian people, on our ability to do our work, especially in the humanitarian sphere,” Dujarric told reporters.

Many Haitians have demanded the resignation of Henry, whose government is serving in an interim capacity after he indefinitely delayed an election previously scheduled for November 2021 due to the rising political instability.

Protests and riots have broken out around Haiti since the government announced last month that it will cut fuel subsidies.

One of the poorest countries in the world, Haiti has been suffering from periodic natural disasters and a longstanding political crisis made worse by the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July of last year.

But many Haitians do not back the prospect of foreign forces in their country.

“I don’t think Haiti needs another intervention,” Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s former elections minister, told AP. “We have been through so many, and nothing has been solved … If we don’t do it as Haitians, 10 years forward, we’re going to be in the same situation again.”

United Nations peacekeeping forces served in Haiti between 2004 and 2017 with the mission of strengthening and stabilising government institutions.

But their mandate was not renewed after a tenure marred by allegations of sexual abuse, as well as the peacekeepers’ connection to a 2010 cholera outbreak that killed almost 10,000 people.

That outbreak was linked to a sewage leak from a UN peacekeeping base, spurring condemnation and sowing public distrust in the international body across Haiti. The UN apologised in 2016 for its role in the epidemic.

The country is also in the midst of a new outbreak of cholera, more than three years after the last case had been reported in 2019.

On Thursday, Luis Almagro, secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS), in a tweet called on Haiti to “request urgent support from international community to help solve security crisis and determine characteristics of the international security force”.

The comment came after a meeting on Haiti during an OAS summit in Peru that included Haiti’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Jean Victor Geneus, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Canada’s foreign minister Melanie Joly.

In a joint statement on Friday, 19 OAS countries expressed solidarity with Haiti and stressed the need for “promoting solutions developed by and for Haitians”.

“We affirm our commitment to help Haitians overcome the complex security challenges facing the country and call on the international community to provide robust security assistance, including strengthening the Haitian National Police,” said the statement, shared by the Canadian foreign ministry.

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