UN warns Haiti’s gangs take over country, extra support for police is not enough

the United Nations Special Envoy Haiti’s delegate warned on Wednesday that the ongoing training and resources the international community is providing to Haiti’s national police forces are insufficient to combat increasingly violent gangs.

Helen Lime, head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti, unexpectedly joined the Organization of American States meeting in Washington, D.C., saying it was time to consider new partnerships as she once again called for the deployment of a specialized foreign force.

“We don’t get the job done,” she said. “We need to embark on the work of rebuilding this country.”

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Powerful gangs have been infiltrating once-peaceful communities in the Haitian capital and beyond, with experts estimating that they now control about 60% of Port-au-Prince. They’ve ransacked neighborhoods, raped adults and children, and kidnapped hundreds of victims from American missionaries to a traveling hot dog vendor in a bid to seize more territory, with violence worsening since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021.

“It is urgent for the OAS … to understand that the deteriorating security situation on the ground has reached its peak, and that armed gangs now roam the country unfettered,” said Victor Genius, Haiti’s foreign minister.

Senior Haitian officials, including Guinos and Prime Minister Ariel Henry, have repeatedly sought to get international soldiers on the ground, a request first made in October that went unanswered by the United Nations Security Council, which instead implemented sanctions, as it has. United States and Canada.

On Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters that the sanctions targeted “Haiti’s elite families responsible not only for financing the gangs, but for destabilizing the political world and its economy in Haiti at great cost to the Haitian people.”

He said Canada also continues to assist Haiti’s national police force and other institutions, noting that previous outside intervention has not succeeded in creating long-term stability for Haiti.

“What is clear is that a new approach to Haiti is needed that puts the Haitian people themselves in the driving seat to build strong opportunity and a strong democracy for them,” Trudeau said.

The United Nations has warned that Haitian gang violence appears likely to engulf the country despite better-funded and more visible police forces.

The United Nations has warned that Haitian gang violence appears likely to engulf the country despite better-funded and more visible police forces. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

But Haiti’s top officials disagree.

Genius said during the meeting of the Organization of American States that “Haiti does not have the means to solve this crisis on its own.”

The Haitian National Police has only 9,000 active-duty officers in a country of more than 11 million people, and officials say the department remains under-resourced and staffed despite international help.

“It is not enough to have weapons. It is not enough to strengthen the national police and army,” said Léon Charles, Permanent Representative of Haiti to the Organization of American States and the country’s former chief of police.

At least 78 police officers have been killed by gangs that have taken control of police stations in some areas and burned others, according to rights activists.

The escalation of violence has also displaced tens of thousands of Haitians and prompted an exodus to the United States and other islands in the Caribbean, with more trips on rickety boats becoming fatal. Meanwhile, officials in countries including the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands have cracked down on immigrants, complaining about the strain they put on government services.

“The security problem in Haiti poses a threat to the entire region,” Genius said.

The Organization of American States called the meeting to analyze what kind of assistance is needed and where Haiti could finally hold a long-awaited general election.

Before OAS members went behind closed doors to continue the discussion, La Lime said Haiti desperately needed a safer environment ahead of elections.

The United Nations condemns the strike of Haitian gang violence

“Nothing will move unless the situation on the ground changes…”. “Without more security assistance…they won’t be able to make it happen.”

The meeting took place as a delegation of UN officials visited Port-au-Prince on Wednesday to meet with Prime Minister Ariel Henry, learn about what he called “the scale and gravity of the humanitarian crisis” and provide support for humanitarian operations.

They are seeking $700 million to help at least 3 million Haitians out of the 5 million who need humanitarian aid, said Tarek Telahmeh, of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Funding pledges so far have not met expectations, he said, “and that is why we are here.”

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“The people of Haiti are very generous people and humanitarian aid is not the only thing they are waiting for. This community is looking for peace, security and protection, and that is the important thing and should be the priority.” Talhmeh said.

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