Shropshire Star

UN to vote on sanctions to curb violence in Haiti

The Security Council will vote on a resolution demanding an end to violence, and targeting sanctions on gang leader Jimmy Cherizier.

Jimmy Cherizier,

The United Nations Security Council is set to vote on a resolution that would demand an immediate end to violence and criminal activity in Haiti and impose sanctions on influential gang leader Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier.

The resolution would also impose sanctions on other Haitian individuals and groups who engage in actions that threaten the peace, security or stability of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, according to the final draft obtained by The Associated Press.

Council diplomats said the 10-page draft resolution was put “in blue” – a final form that can be voted on – late on Tuesday with a vote to be held on Wednesday afternoon.

A protester in Port-au-Prince
A protester gestures next to a burning tyre during a protest to reject an international military force requested by the government and to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry (AP)

Daily life in Haiti began to spin out of control last month just hours after Prime Minister Ariel Henry said fuel subsidies would be eliminated, causing prices to double.

Gangs blocked the entrance to the Varreux fuel terminal, leading to a severe shortage of fuel at a time when clean water is also scarce and the country is trying to deal with a deadly cholera outbreak.

The resolution drafted by the United States and Mexico only singles out Cherizier, a former police officer who leads an alliance of Haitian gangs known as the “G9 Family and Allies”, as a target for a travel ban, asset freezes and an arms embargo.

But it would establish a Security Council committee to designate other Haitians and groups to be put on a sanctions blacklist.

“Cherizier and his G9 gang confederation are actively blocking the free movement of fuel from the Varreux fuel terminal — the largest in Haiti,” the draft says.

“His actions have directly contributed to the economic paralysis and humanitarian crisis in Haiti.”

Protest in Haiti
A protester holding up a skull and seashell shouts for the resignation of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry (AP)

Cherizier also “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 abuses”, the draft resolution says.

While serving in the police, it says, he planned and participated in a deadly attack in November 2018 in the capital Port-au-Prince’s La Saline area where at least 71 people were killed, more than 400 houses destroyed, and at least seven women raped by armed gangs.

In a video posted on Facebook last week, Cherizier called on the government to grant him and G9 members amnesty and to void all arrest warrants against them.

He said in Creole that Haiti’s economic and social situation is worsening by the day, so “there is no better time than today to dismantle the system”.

He outlined a transitional plan for restoring order in Haiti. It would include creation of a Council of Sages with one representative from each of Haiti’s 10 departments to govern the country with an interim president until a presidential election could be held in February 2024.

A protester painted in the colours of the flag of Russia
A protester with colors of the Russian national flag painted on his body poses during a protest to reject an international military force requested by the government and to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry (AP)

It also calls for restructuring Haiti’s National Police and strengthening the army.

“The country is (facing) one crisis after another,” Cherizier said. “During all these crises, the first victim is the population, the people in the ghettos, the peasants.”

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

It demands “an immediate cessation of violence, criminal activities, and human rights abuses which 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 in Haiti and allow legislative and presidential elections to be held “as soon as the local security situation permits”.

Political instability has simmered ever since last year’s still-unsolved assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, who had faced opposition protests calling for his resignation over corruption charges and claims that his five-year term had ended.

Haiti Protest
A protester dressed as independence hero Jean Jacques Dessalines rides a horse during a protest in Haiti’s capital (AP)

Mr Moise dissolved Parliament in January 2020 after legislators failed to hold elections in 2019 amid political gridlock.

Haiti has been gripped by inflation, causing rising prices that have put food and fuel out of reach for many Haitians, and exacerbating protests that have brought society to the breaking point. Violence is raging, making parents afraid to send their children to school.

Hospitals, banks and grocery stores are struggling to stay open. Clean water is scarce and the country is trying to deal with a cholera outbreak.

The president of neighboring Dominican Republic, which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, recently described the situation as a “low-intensity civil war”.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the US and Mexico are preparing a second UN resolution that would authorise an international mission to help improve security in Haiti, whose government issued a “distress call” for the people of the crisis-wracked nation.

Ms Thomas-Greenfield said the proposed “non-UN” mission would be limited in time and scope and would be led by “a partner country,” which was not identified, “with the deep, necessary experience required for such an effort to be effective”.

It would have a mandate to use military force if necessary.

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