A protester holding up a skull and seashell shouts for the resignation of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry in the street in the Champs de Mars area where the prime minister attended a ceremony marking the death anniversary of revolutionary leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Oct. 17, 2022.

Haiti appeals for help at the UN as the world ponders aid

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The United States and Mexico said Monday they were preparing a UN resolution that would authorize an international mission to help improve security in Haiti, whose government has issued a “distress appeal “for the people of the nation in crisis.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield made the announcement during an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council as thousands across Haiti staged protests demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry. The protests came 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 and necessary experience required to ‘such an effort is effective’. It would have a mandate to use military force if necessary.

She said the resolution being drafted is a “direct response” to an Oct. 7 request from Prime Minister Henry and the Haitian Council of Ministers for international assistance to help restore security and alleviate the humanitarian crisis. This reflects an option in a letter from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to the council on October 9 which called for the deployment of a rapid action force by one or more UN member states to assist the national police of Haiti.

Russia and China have raised questions about sending a foreign armed force to Haiti.

Haiti has been plagued by inflation, driving up food and fuel prices, and exacerbating protests that have brought society to breaking point. Daily life in Haiti began spiraling out of control last month just hours after the prime minister said fuel subsidies would be scrapped, causing prices to double. Gangs have blocked the entrance to the Varreux fuel terminal, leading to a severe fuel shortage at a time when rising prices have put food and fuel out of reach for many Haitians, drinking water is scarce and the country is trying to deal with a cholera epidemic.

Political instability in Haiti has simmered since the still unsolved assassination last year of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, who had faced opposition protests calling for his resignation on corruption charges and claiming that his five-year term was over. Moïse had dissolved the majority of parliament in January 2020 after failing to organize legislative elections in 2019 amid political stalemate.

Haitian Foreign Minister Jean Victor Geneus said he came to the Security Council with a “distress call” from the Haitian people to tell the world that they are “not living – they are suffering”.

Haiti urgently needs “strong support” to help police stem the humanitarian crisis, neutralize gangs, secure fuel distribution and facilitate a return to normal life, he said.

Thomas-Greenfield said the resolution authorizing the security mission is coupled with a resolution obtained by The Associated Press last week that would impose an arms embargo, assets freeze and travel ban on the influential head of Haitian gang Jimmy Cherizier, nicknamed “Barbeque”. It would also target other Haitian individuals and groups who engage in actions that threaten the peace, security or stability of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, according to the text obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday.

Some diplomats have 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 passing a resolution quickly. on penalties.

“Thorough analysis and detailed negotiations” are needed, he said, “to ensure that the measures are aimed at restoring government control and are not perceived, as is often the case, as a means of punishing the whole country and its people”.

The U.S. Ambassador stressed that the United States is “highly aware of the history of international intervention in Haiti, and in particular the concerns about the council authorizing a response that could lead to a peacekeeping role in indefinite period”.

The Security Council and the international community must seek “a different path” to respond to the serious security and humanitarian crises in Haiti, which require “targeted international assistance” which must be coupled with “support for political dialogue and backed by pressure international support on actors who support gang activity.

Reflecting 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 United States United need Haiti to make its own decisions and not interfere in Haiti’s affairs. .”

“Life is not going to get better with an international force,” he said.

China’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN, Geng Shuang, noted Prime Minister Henry’s call, but also the opposition of some political parties and groups to the presence of a foreign armed force in Haiti.

“At a time when the Haitian government lacks legitimacy and is unable to govern, will the dispatch of such a rapid action force to Haiti receive the understanding, support and cooperation of the parties in Haiti, or Will it face resistance or even elicit a violent confrontation from the populace? he asked. “These are things that we have to consider … and deal with carefully.”

Since the gang led by “Barbeque” 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 their hours of operation as everyone across the country runs out of fuel.

The situation has worsened a recent outbreak of cholera, with hundreds of hospitalizations and dozens of deaths amid a shortage of clean water and other basic supplies.

Haiti’s latest cholera outbreak is the result of the bacteria being introduced by Nepalese peacekeepers into the country’s largest river through sewage. Nearly 10,000 people died and more than 850,000 fell ill.

“We don’t need a foreign force. It won’t solve anything,” said Jean Venel.

Helen La Lime, the UN special envoy for Haiti, told the Security Council during a video briefing from the capital Port-au-Prince that “a humanitarian emergency is now on our doorstep” with disruptions hospital operations and water supply affecting the response to the cholera outbreak.

She said the call by diplomats, the UN and others to establish a humanitarian corridor has gone unheeded and insecurity is rampant, with nearly a thousand kidnappings reported in 2022 and millions of children prevented from going to school.

Sanon reported from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Associated Press writer Dánica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico contributed.

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