Conflicts & War

UN chief visits Haiti, calls again for int’l force to bolster security

Port-au-Prince, Jul 1 (EFE).- The leader of the United Nations said here Saturday that the Haitian people are “facing a terrible and mutually reinforcing cycle of crises” and repeated his call for the creation of an international force to help the country’s beleaguered police contend with well-armed gangs.

“Every day counts. If we do not act now, instability and violence will have a lasting impact on generations of Haitians,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a press conference in Port-au-Prince.

“I continue to urge the Security Council to authorize the immediate deployment of a strong international force to assist the Haitian National Police in its fight against the gangs,” he said.

The gangs, using sophisticated weapons supplied by factions among the Haitian elite who benefit from chaos, have effectively taken control of large areas of the capital, denying residents access to food, water, health care, and other necessities.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the widespread sexual violence which the armed gangs have used as a weapon to instill fear,” the UN chief said.

Recounting meetings with unelected Prime Minister Ariel Henry, the High Transitional Council, and representatives of civil society and the political parties, Guterres said that he emphasized the need for a “political entente” as a prerequisite for tackling the problems of a nation where half the population lives in extreme poverty.

The opposition views Henry as illegitimate and many in Haiti suspect that he had a hand in the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

“Only an inclusive national dialogue – with the full participation of women and young people – will help end the insecurity and find lasting political solutions,” Guterres said.

Besides his discussions with politicians, the secretary-general said that he heard from ordinary Haitians about their struggles.

“I felt all the exhaustion of a people who have long been grappling with a cascade of crises and unacceptable living conditions,” he said, noting with regret that the UN’s $720 million humanitarian response plan for Haiti is only 23 percent funded.

It is “a matter of solidarity and moral justice” for the international community to come to Haiti’s aid, Guterres said.

The question of an international force is divisive inside Haiti and even countries that favor the idea, such as the United States and Canada, have expressed an unwillingness to be involved directly.

And even Guterres has accepted that any such force could not operate under the UN flag, as many Haitians have painful memories of previous interventions by “Blue Helmets.”

In late 2010, infected sewage from a camp of UN peacekeepers deployed after a devastating earthquake spurred a cholera outbreak that left 10,000 Haitians dead.

EFE /dr

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