UN ready to vote on sanctions against Haitian gang leader

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The United Nations Security Council planned to vote Friday on a resolution that would demand an immediate end to violence and criminal activity in Haiti and impose sanctions on a powerful gang leader.

The United States and Mexico, which drafted the 10-page resolution, delayed the vote from Wednesday so they could revise the text in hopes of gaining more support from the 15 council members.

The final text, obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday, eliminated a reference to an Oct. 7 appeal by Haiti’s Council of Ministers for the swift deployment of an international military force to tackle the country’s violence and alleviate its humanitarian crisis.

Also dropped was the mention of a letter from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on October 8 outlining options to help Haiti’s national police combat high levels of gang violence.

Another resolution, still working late Thursday, would address the issue of combating Haiti’s violence. It would authorize an international force to help improve security in the country if approved.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfields said on Monday that the “non-UN” mission would be limited in time and scope and would be led by an unspecified “partner country” with a mandate to use military force if necessary.

The sanctions resolution, which will be put to a vote on Friday, named only one Haitian – Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, whose gang has blockaded a key fuel terminal, leading to severe shortages. Cherizier, a former police officer who heads an alliance of gangs known as the G9 family and allies, would be hit with a travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo if the resolution passes.

However, the resolution would also establish a Security Council committee to impose sanctions on other Haitian individuals and groups whose actions threaten the peace, security or stability of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation. Targeted actions will include criminal activity, violence and arms trafficking, human rights abuses and obstruction of aid deliveries.

Political instability has simmered in Haiti since last year’s still-unsolved assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, who had faced opposition protests calling for his resignation amid corruption charges and allegations that his five-year term had expired. Moïse dissolved parliament in January 2020 after lawmakers failed to hold elections in 2019 amid political crisis.

Daily life in Haiti began spinning out of control last month, hours after Prime Minister Ariel Henry said fuel subsidies would be eliminated, causing prices to double. Cherizier’s gang blockaded the Varreux fuel terminal to demand Henry’s resignation and to protest an increase in oil prices.

Haiti was already gripped by inflation, causing rising prices that put food and fuel out of reach for many, and protests have brought society to breaking point. The violence rages and makes parents afraid to send their children to school. Hospitals, banks and grocery stores struggle to stay open. Clean water is scarce and the country is trying to deal with a cholera outbreak.

“Cherizier and his G9 gang association are actively blocking the free movement of fuel from the Varreux fuel terminal – the largest in Haiti,” the draft resolution said. “His actions have directly contributed to the economic paralysis and humanitarian crisis in Haiti.”

It added that Cherizier “has engaged in acts that threaten the peace, security and stability of Haiti and has planned, directed or committed acts that constitute serious human rights violations.”

While serving in the police force, it said, Cherizier planned and participated in a November 2018 attack by an armed gang on the capital’s La Saline neighborhood that killed at least 71 people, destroyed over 400 houses and led to the rape of at least seven women.

He also led armed groups “in coordinated, brutal attacks in Port-au-Prince neighborhoods throughout 2018 and 2019” and in a five-day attack in several neighborhoods in the capital in 2020, in which civilians were killed and houses set on fire. resolution said.

In a video posted on Facebook last week, Cherizier called on the government to grant him and G9 members amnesty. He said in Creole that Haiti’s economic and social situation was worsening day by day, so “there is no better time than today to dismantle the system.”

He outlined a transition plan to restore order in Haiti. It would include creating a “council of sages” with a representative from each of Haiti’s 10 departments to rule with an interim president until a presidential election can be held in February 2024. It also calls for restructuring Haiti’s national police and strengthening the army.

The draft resolution expresses “serious concern about the extremely high levels of gang violence and other criminal activities, including kidnappings, human trafficking and smuggling of migrants and murder, and sexual and gender-based violence, including rape and sexual slavery, as well as the continued impunity of the perpetrators, corruption and the recruitment of children by gangs and the implications of Haiti’s situation for the region.”

It calls for “an immediate end to the violence, criminal activities and human rights violations that undermine the peace, stability and security of Haiti and the region.” And it urges “all political actors” to engage in negotiations to overcome the crisis and allow legislative and presidential elections to be held “as soon as the local security situation allows.”

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