Nov 4 (Reuters) – The United States and Canada on Friday imposed sanctions on two Haitian politicians, including the president of the country’s Senate, as Washington accused them of abusing their positions in drug trafficking and cooperation with gang networks in the country.
The sanctions target Haitian Senate President Joseph Lambert and Youri Latortue, who served as president of the chamber from 2017 to 2018, the US Treasury Department and Canada’s foreign ministry said in separate statements.
“Joseph Lambert and Youri Latortue abused their official positions in drug trafficking and collaborated with criminal and gang networks to undermine the rule of law in Haiti,” said US Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson .
“The United States and our international partners will continue to take action against those who facilitate drug trafficking, enable corruption, and seek to profit from instability in Haiti,” he added.
The sanctions essentially freeze any assets Lambert and Latortue may hold in the United States or Canada and generally bar Americans from dealing with them.
Latortue in an interview with Haitian broadcaster Radio Television Caraibes denied the accusations against him and said US officials ignored his advice on police training and strategies to deal with gangs.
“They trained the police and now they inherit what they trained,” Latortue said.
“I said ‘Here’s how we should fight in Haiti.’ Since they were not happy.”
Lambert and Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The US State Department also designated Lambert, barring him from traveling to the United States due to accusations of involvement in “significant corruption and gross human rights violations.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there was credible information of Lambert’s involvement in gross human rights violations during his tenure, citing an extrajudicial killing.
Canada and the United States have not specified which Haitian gangs they believe are tied to the officials.
Haitian gangs have expanded their power since the shocking assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021, and Henry has struggled to restore order to the country.
Sources said Thursday that Haitian police had taken control of a fuel terminal that had been blockaded by armed gangs since September, ending a standoff that triggered a humanitarian crisis and talks of foreign intervention. of the military.
Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis in Washington, Brian Ellsworth in Sao Paolo and Rami Ayyub in Jerusalem; Additional reporting by Harold Isaac in Port-au-Prince; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Bill Berkrot and Josie Kao
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