Exclusive: Biden administration urges tough UN sanctions against Haiti gang leaders

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The United States is preparing to circulate a resolution to the United Nations Security Council on Monday that would create a new framework for imposing sanctions on Haiti’s gang leaders, and will not waive international intervention as the country slips into lawlessness, says a senior State Department official. McClatchy said.

Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian A. Nichols said in an interview that gang leaders fueling Haiti’s worst security crisis in decades “are in their sights, and their actions to destabilize Haiti will be met with international travel and financial support.” sanctions.”

The Biden administration hopes for a speedy adoption of the resolution “in the coming days,” Nichols said.

“The resolution will create a United Nations framework to impose sanctions on gang leaders and those who support, facilitate and fund their activities,” he said. “Those sanctions would target their financial resources and their ability to travel.”

The Haitian government has nearly lost control of security in the Caribbean country, and US officials say the country has entered a crisis not seen since the early 1990s.

On Friday, specialized teams of Haiti’s National Police from Port-au-Prince were still trying to gain entry to a women’s prison just north of the capital after dozens of women escaped. Gangs blocked the police response by setting fire to a police station and firing at officers. At the same time, a powerful gang leader — a former cop named Jimmy Cherizier, nicknamed “Barbecue” — held more than 188,000 barrels of fuel hostage, blocking access to and from the country’s largest fuel terminal.

READ MORE: Haiti verges on anarchy amid fuel surge, power grab. “They want us to hit rock bottom.”

“You will gain access to the terminal when we die,” Cherizier said, forwarding comments to interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry as he held an M-4 automatic weapon and stood amid the flaming barricade his gang coalition had erected for the Varreux fuel terminal.

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Haiti’s neighbors have called for strong action by the United States and other permanent members of the Security Council. At least one, the Dominican Republic, has publicly called for the return of a multinational peacekeeping force, arguing that Haiti’s instability and rampant gang violence are an increasing threat to the region.

Such a move would require Haiti again to fall under Chapter 7, an article of the UN charter that allows the Security Council to deploy international troops on a peacekeeping mission. After 13 years, it all came to an end in Haiti in 2017 when the UN Security Council, under pressure from the United States and others, finally withdrew its military and peacekeeping operations in Haiti.

If the government of Haiti asks for that assistance, “the international community will certainly consider such a request,” Nichols added.

But “Haitian authorities have not asked for boots on the ground,” he said, “and there is currently no discussion of a Chapter 7 response to the situation in Haiti.”

Instead of returning blue-helmet peacekeepers, the United States has focused on bolstering the country’s more than 12,000 Haitian national police forces.

Biden’s government has vetted members for a new SWAT team for Haiti’s National Police, as part of an effort with France to train members of a new anti-gang unit in Port-au-Prince. Canada and the United Nations have pushed for support for a $28 million security basket fund, where donors can put their money, to help fund the ill-equipped military.

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READ MORE: President Biden Admits Chaotic Haiti to United Nations, But He Still Flawed | editorial

RESOLUTION CAN AIM TO UNLAWFUL WEAPONS

It is not the first time sanctions have been imposed on Haitian gangs. In January 2021, the US Treasury Department sanctioned Cherizier and two former members of the administration of then-President Jovenel Moïse for their involvement in a 2018 massacre in the La Saline neighborhood of Port-au-Prince that left dozens dead.

Despite the sanctions and despite the fact that massacres are widely condemned by the United Nations Security Council, Cherizier continues to roam free and tighten his hold on the capital through his heavily armed coalition known as G-9 Families and Allies.

Over the summer, China had pushed for an end to arms supplies to Haiti’s gangs and attempted an embargo as the UN Security Council considered expanding its political mission in the country. Although Beijing voted in favor of the extension, it was disappointed that the final resolution did not contain harsher language about a gang arms embargo.

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Haiti observers point out that any sanctions should come in force, given the ability of powerful and corrupt figures in the country to create chaos when their interests are threatened. Although recent protests have flared up after the government announced an increase in fuel prices, the government and others have blamed the violence and looting on arms dealers, smugglers and oligarchs, who are resisting recent efforts in seaports to crack down on $600 million in uncollected duties and the shipment of illegal weapons and weapons.

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At the same time, they would like the United States to play a more active role in punishing and arresting Haitians, especially in light of recent comments this week from both a top aide to Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that oligarchs and the elite contribute to “ the instability in Haiti” and influencing the dynamics in the region.

Nichols said the United States would like the resolution to include sanctions against “those who would supply illegal weapons to the gangs in Haiti,” but noted that the resolution had yet to be circulated to members of the Security Council.

“I think that’s a very important step. However, nothing in the resolution should stand in the way of legitimate arms transfers to the Haitian government’s security forces,” he said. “We already carefully monitor the licensing of arms sales to Haiti. The challenge is to track down the illegal smuggling of weapons to gangs and other illegal individuals.”

The deputy secretary said the threat of sanctions “has had a calming effect on the situation on the ground in Haiti in recent days”, although details of the potential resolution have not been made public before.

In his address to the UN General Assembly this week, President Joe Biden called on the world to take action against Haiti, saying the country is facing a “massive human crisis”.

“I think adopting a resolution and creating a framework will continue that calming effect,” Nichols said. “Until specific individuals are referred to a sanctions commission and then punished internationally, you will see the transformative nature of this. So I don’t think just having the frame is enough. We need to designate specific people.”

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