UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The UN Security Council on Friday scheduled a vote on a resolution that would demand an immediate end to violence and criminal activity in Haiti and impose sanctions on a powerful gang leader.
The United States and Mexico, which drafted the 10-page resolution, had postponed the vote from Wednesday and made several changes in hopes of getting more support from the 15 councilors.
The final text, obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday, eliminated the resolution’s reference to an Oct. 7 call by Haiti’s Council of Ministers to urgently send an international military force to tackle the violence and the humanitarian crisis. to relieve in the country.
It also dropped citing an October 8 letter from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres outlining options to help Haiti’s national police fight the high level of gang violence.
A second resolution, which was still being worked on at the end of Thursday, would deal with the fight against violence in Haiti. It would empower an international force to help improve security in the country if approved.
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfields said Monday the “non-UN” mission would be limited in time and scope and would be led by “a partner country”, which was not identified, and would have a mandate to use military force if necessary. to use .
The sanctions resolution to be voted on Friday names just a single Haitian – Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, whose gang has blocked a major fuel terminal, leading to serious shortages. Cherizier, a former police officer who leads an alliance of gangs known as the G9 family and allies, would be hit with a travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo if the resolution passes.
However, the resolution would also establish a Security Council committee to impose sanctions on other Haitian individuals and groups whose actions threaten the peace, security or stability of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Targeted actions include criminal activity, violence and arms trafficking, human rights violations and obstruction of the delivery of humanitarian aid.
Political instability has been simmering in Haiti since the still-unsolved assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last year, which faced opposition protests calling for his resignation over corruption charges and claiming his five-year term was over. expired. Moïse dissolved parliament in January 2020 after lawmakers failed to hold elections in 2019 amid a political deadlock.
Daily life in Haiti began to spiral out of control last month, just hours after Prime Minister Ariel Henry said fuel subsidies would be abolished, causing prices to double. Cherizier’s gang blocked access to the Varreux fuel terminal to demand Henry’s resignation and protest a spike in oil prices.
Haiti was already gripped by inflation, with rising prices making food and fuel out of reach for many, and protests have brought society to a breaking point. The violence rages and scares parents into sending their children to school. Hospitals, banks and supermarkets are struggling to stay open. Clean water is scarce and the country is trying to cope with a cholera outbreak.
“Cherizier and his G9 gang confederation are actively blocking the free movement of fuel from the Varreux fuel terminal – the largest in Haiti,” the motion for a resolution said. “His actions have contributed directly to the economic paralysis and humanitarian crisis in Haiti.”
It said Cherizier has also “committed acts that threaten the peace, security and stability of Haiti and has planned, directed or committed acts that constitute serious human rights violations.”
While serving with the police, he added, Cherizier planned and participated in a deadly attack in November 2018 in the capital’s La Saline neighborhood that killed at least 71 people, destroyed more than 400 homes, and at least seven women raped by an armed gang.
He also led armed groups “in coordinated, brutal attacks in the neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince in 2018 and 2019” and in a five-day attack in multiple neighborhoods in the capital in 2020 that killed civilians and set houses on fire. resolution said.
In a video posted to Facebook last week, Cherizier called on the government to grant amnesty to him and G9 members and to withdraw all arrest warrants against them. He said in Creole that Haiti’s economic and social situation was deteriorating day by day, so “there is no better time than today to dismantle the system.”
He outlined a transition plan to restore order in Haiti. It would include the creation of a “Council of Wise Men,” with one representative from each of Haiti’s 10 departments, to run the country with an interim president until presidential elections could be held in February 2024. It also calls for restructuring of the national police and reinforcement of the army.
The motion for a resolution expresses “great concern at the extremely high levels of gang violence and other criminal activity, including kidnappings, human trafficking and smuggling of migrants, and murders, and sexual and gender-based violence, including rape and sexual slavery, as well as continued impunity for perpetrators , corruption and gang recruitment of children and the implications of Haiti’s situation for the region.”
It demands “an immediate cessation of violence, criminal activity and human rights violations that undermine the peace, stability and security of Haiti and the region.” And it urges “all political actors” to enter into negotiations to overcome the crisis and to allow for legislative and presidential elections “as soon as the local security situation allows”.
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