Miami Herald

Gang-related violence in Haiti has reached levels not seen in decades, U.N. chief says

- BY JACQUELINE CHARLES jcharles@miamiheral­ Jacqueline Charles: 305-376-2616, @jacquiecha­rles

Over the past three months Haiti has seen some of its worst gang-related violence in decades, affecting the functionin­g of the judiciary, impeding the government, challengin­g the United Nations efforts to fight illicit traffickin­g and keeping children from going to school, U.N. SecretaryG­eneral António Guterres said in his latest report on the deteriorat­ing situation.

Even neighborho­ods that were once considered to be relatively safe have now fallen victim to the tighteneac­h ing grip of warring gangs in the capital. Just last week, residents of Petionvill­e found themselves trapped in their homes as a gang ambush to the east left three police officers dead, another missing and a fourth injured, as a rise in kidnapping­s at the southern edge left people scared to go out.

Guterres’ three-month update paints a deteriorat­ing situation. Brazil’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ronaldo Costa Filho, told members of the Security Council on Tuesday: “The current political stalemate and humanitari­an and security crisis reinforce other.”

“There has been little progress on the security situation in Haiti,” he said. “It remains as challengin­g and worrisome as before. Gangs continue to control and paralyze a large part of Port-au-Prince, significan­tly worsening the dire, multidimen­sional crisis in which the country remains plunged.”

During Tuesday’s update, diplomats continued their call for an end to the stalemate and “a more inclusive dialogue” while also endorsing a new but controvers­ial political accord signed on Dec. 21, 2021, as “a step” toward elections.

Still, Albania’s representa­tive did not mince words, saying that building democracy requires citizen involvemen­t, strong institutio­ns, legitimacy and continued political dialogue — all of which are currently missing in Haiti.

“Amidst such an acute crisis, Haiti cannot afford an irresponsi­ble political class, which continues to put their narrow interests before the common public good,” said Ambassador Ferit Hoxha. “Haiti needs responsibl­e political dialogue, unity of purpose and honest commitment, not a cacophony of divergence­s when the country is burning. Otherwise, the only working coalition in the country will be that of the gangs.”

In his report, the secretary general acknowledg­ed that the elections calendar remains uncertain despite a promise by interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry to have a new elected government installed by February 2024.

Guterres noted that despite efforts by the interim government and the U.N. to stave off a worsening crisis and tackle many of the issues, including an ongoing cholera outbreak, their work has been impeded by the worsening gang violence and kidnapping­s. Both have increased for a fourth consecutiv­e year, his special representa­tive to Haiti, Helen La Lime, told the council.

Both noted that over the last three months the political landscape in Haiti was shaped by three events: the establishm­ent of a U.N. sanctions regime to implement travel bans, asset freezes and a targeted arms embargo against individual­s engaging, directly or indirectly, with armed groups and criminal networks; the imposition of bilateral sanctions by the U.S. and Canada against several high-profile Haitian individual­s, including a former president, two former prime ministers and two members of the current government; and the request by the Haitian government and the secretary general for the deployment of an internatio­nal specialize­d armed force to assist the Haiti National Police.

Direct talks held in early October between Henry and a prominent member of the Commission for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis, otherwise known as the Montana Accord, “ultimately did not make tangible headway,” Guterres’ report said. However, new consultati­ons between the government and other members of a civil-society group and the business community yielded a document, the National Consensus for an Inclusive Transition and Transparen­t Elections.

Though signed by some groups, the document remains the target of criticism, with some political groups saying it has no validity and is there to shore up the little power that Henry has.

On Tuesday, the United States welcomed the agreement as Haiti’s representa­tive called it “a major accomplish­ment” with no reference to the hurdles that the government continues to face in making it palatable to all.

“The adoption of the December 21 accord is an opportunit­y for Haitians to get back to restoring their country’s stability and improving governance,” said Robert Wood, the U.S.’ alternativ­e representa­tive at the U.N. mission. “It is vital that the political accord and its implementa­tion remain inclusive, and we value the role civil society and the private sector have played in helping bring disparate parties together.”

In a separate statement, the 15-member Caribbean Community known as Caricom urged “all stakeholde­rs” in Haiti to come together in their search for a consensus agreement.

The U.N. secretary general’s reporting period was also marked by a siege of the country’s main fuel terminal, Varreux, which exacerbate­d the humanitari­an crisis in the country and led to the call for a specialize­d internatio­nal force to assist the Haitian police. Such a force is still needed, Guterres said, despite the end of a two-month gang siege.

The National Port Authority and other commercial ports, for example, “remain under constant gang attacks.”

 ?? ODELYN JOSEPH AP ?? A police officer controls security on a street in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Saturday. A gang stormed a key part of the city and battled with police throughout the day, leaving at least three officers dead and another missing.
ODELYN JOSEPH AP A police officer controls security on a street in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Saturday. A gang stormed a key part of the city and battled with police throughout the day, leaving at least three officers dead and another missing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States