US and Canada not interested in sending armed force to Haiti

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States and Canada — the two countries often mentioned as possible leaders of an international force to help Haiti fight gangs — showed no interest Tuesday in deploying of security personnel despite renewed appeals from the United Nations and Haiti for help to end the worsening violence in the Western hemisphere’s poorest country.

US deputy ambassador Robert Wood told the UN Security Council that “Haiti must address its ongoing insecurity challenges,” and he urged the international community to support its efforts.

Canada’s UN Ambassador Robert Rae said the world needs to learn from all past military interventions in Haiti, which have failed to bring long-term stability to the country, and ensure that future solutions “must be led by Haitians and of Haitian institutions.”

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the country’s Council of Ministers sent an urgent appeal on Oct. 7 which calls for the “immediate deployment of a special armed force, in sufficient numbers” to stop the crisis caused in part by the “criminal actions of armed gangs.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued an appeal, but more than three months later, no countries have come forward.

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Helen La Lime, the UN special envoy for Haiti, echoed the secretary-general’s appeal, telling the council that “gang-related violence has reached levels not seen in years.”

Murders and kidnappings rose for a fourth straight year in 2022, he said, pointing to 1,359 kidnappings, more than double the number in 2021 and an average of nearly four per day, and murders accounted for a third to 2,183, which reached all sections of society including a former presidential candidate and the director of the National Police Academy.

On the political front, La Lime said, the expiration of the mandate of the last 10 senators in office on January 9 means “there are no elected officials left in the country.”

While this poses “profound challenges,” he said, it is also an opportunity for Haitians to look at the root causes of dysfunction in the country and address them.

The UN envoy pointed to two key developments – the Security Council’s unanimous adoption in October of a resolution imposing sanctions on individuals and groups that threaten peace and stability in the country starting with a powerful gang leader , and the signing on December 21 by a wide range of political, civilian, religious, labor union and private sector officials of a “National Consensus Agreement for an Inclusive Transition and Transparent Elections.”

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The agreement sets a calendar for the installation of an elected government in February 2024 with immediate steps to promote financial reforms and increase state revenues, La Lime said. A High Transitional Council has been named to work with the government to make nominations to the country’s highest court, he said.

La lime said the agreement, whose followers are growing daily, is “the most promising sign to emerge from the dialogue efforts so far.” With UN sanctions, it “offers a clear path to restoring democracy and legitimacy,” he said.

But La Lime said the deployment of an international specialized force is an important third element needed to strengthen police, sanctions and migration.

Without international force, he said, “the very positive impact of the political process and the sanctions so far, will remain fragile and easily reversed.”

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Haiti’s UN Ambassador Antonio Rodrigue spoke of continued efforts to implement the agreement but called the current situation “an emergency” and warned that restoring security was a prerequisite for the country to move forward.

“Without security, we will not have fair, transparent and democratic elections and we will not be able to restore the normal functioning of the country’s institutions,” he warned.

Rodrigue urged the international community to respond to secretary-general Guterres’ renewed call for the immediate deployment of an international force “to help us suppress the gangs and allow us to complete the process of returning democratic order to our country.”

“It’s a necessity now,” said Rodrigue. “We cannot wait and the security situation could worsen any day, and worsen the fate of the people who are suffering so much.”

Regarding the suffering, UN envoy La Lime told the council that gangs have deliberately blocked access to food, water and health services – during the current cholera outbreak – and that close to 5 million Haitians across the country face very hungry

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