Haiti appeals for UN aid as world ponders aid
UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The United States and Mexico said Monday they were preparing a U.N. resolution that would authorize an international mission to help improve security in Haiti, whose government has issued a “call for help” to the people of the crisis-stricken nation.
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield made the announcement at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council as thousands across Haiti staged protests demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry. The demonstration took place on the day the country commemorated the death of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, a slave who became the leader of the world’s first black republic.
The US ambassador said the proposed non-UN mission would be limited in time and scope and would be led by an unnamed “partner country” “with the deep, necessary experience needed to make such an effort effective”. It would have the mandate to use military force if necessary.
She said the resolution being worked on is a “direct response” to an Oct. 7 request by Prime Minister Henry and Haiti’s Council of Ministers for international assistance to restore security and ease the humanitarian crisis. That reflects one option in an Oct. 9 letter from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the council calling for the deployment of a rapid-action force by one or more UN member states to assist Haiti’s national police.
Both Russia and China have raised questions about sending foreign armed forces to Haiti.
Haiti has been gripped by inflation, causing food and fuel prices to rise, and exacerbating protests that have brought society to breaking point. Daily life in Haiti began to spiral out of control last month just hours after the prime minister said fuel subsidies would be eliminated, causing prices to double. Gangs blocked the entrance to the Varreux fuel terminal, leading to severe fuel shortages at a time when rising food and fuel prices have made food and fuel unaffordable for many Haitians, clean water is scarce, and the country is trying to deal with a cholera outbreak.
Political instability in Latin America’s poorest country has simmered since last year’s still-unsolved assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, who faced opposition protests demanding his resignation over corruption charges and claims his five-year term had expired. Moïse dissolved the majority of parliament in January 2020 after failing to hold parliamentary elections in 2019 amid political gridlock.
Haitian Foreign Minister Jean Victor Geneus said he came to the Security Council with a “call for help” from the Haitian people to tell the world that “they are not living – they are suffering.”
Haiti urgently needs “strong support” to help police end the humanitarian crisis, neutralize gangs, guarantee fuel distribution and enable a return to normal life, he said.
Thomas-Greenfield said the resolution authorizing the security mission was related to a resolution obtained by The Associated Press last week that would have imposed an arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban on influential Haitian gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, known as “The Grill.” It would also target other Haitian individuals and groups who engage in actions that threaten the peace, security or stability of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, according to a text obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday.
Some diplomats expressed hope for a vote on the sanctions resolution this week, but Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Dmitry Polyansky, said Moscow could not support a quick push for a sanctions resolution.
“In-depth analysis and detailed negotiations are needed,” he said, “to ensure that the measures are aimed at restoring control of the government and are not perceived, as is often the case, as a way of punishing the entire country and its people.”
The US ambassador emphasized that the United States is “very aware of the history of international intervention in Haiti, and in particular of the concern that the Council will approve a response that could lead to an overt peacekeeping role.”
The Security Council and the international community must seek a “different course” to respond to the security and dire humanitarian crisis in Haiti, which requires “targeted international assistance” that must be combined with “support for political dialogue and sustained international pressure on actors supporting the activities gang.”
Echoing opposition to foreign interference in Haiti, Marco Duvivier, a 35-year-old auto parts store manager who joined Monday’s protest in Port-au-Prince, said, “The US needs Haiti to make its own decisions and not interfere in Haiti’s business. ”
“Life will not get better with international forces,” he said.
Deputy Chinese Ambassador to the UN Geng Shuang noted Prime Minister Henry’s invitation, but also the opposition of certain political parties and groups to the presence of foreign armed forces in Haiti.
“At a time when the Haitian government has no legitimacy and is unable to govern, will sending such a rapid force to Haiti gain understanding, support and cooperation from the parties in Haiti, or will it face resistance or even provoke violent confrontation from the population? “, he asked. “These are things that we need to consider … and treat with caution.”
Since the gang led by “Roštilj” surrounded the fuel terminal, the distribution of more than 10 million gallons of gasoline and fuel and more than 800,000 gallons of kerosene stored on site has been blocked.
Gas stations remain closed, hospitals have reduced services, and businesses, including banks and grocery stores, have reduced business hours as people across the country run out of gas.
The situation has been exacerbated by a recent cholera outbreak, with hundreds hospitalized and dozens dead due to shortages of drinking water and other basic supplies.
Haiti’s most recent cholera outbreak was the result of UN peacekeepers from Nepal introducing the bacteria into the country’s largest river through sewage. Almost 10,000 people died and more than 850,000 fell ill.
“We don’t need a foreign power. That won’t solve anything,” said Jean Venel.
Helen La Lime, the UN special envoy for Haiti, told the Security Council in a video briefing from the capital Port-au-Prince that “a humanitarian emergency is now at our doorstep” with disruptions to hospitals and water supplies affecting the response to the outbreak of cholera.
She said appeals by diplomats, the UN and others to establish a humanitarian corridor have gone unheeded, and insecurity is rife, with nearly a thousand kidnappings reported in 2022 and millions of children prevented from attending school.
Sanon reported from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Associated Press writer Dánica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico contributed.
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