UN ready to vote on sanctions against Haitian gang leader

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The UN Security Council planned to vote on Friday a resolution calling for an immediate end to violence and criminal activity in Haiti and to sanction a powerful gang leader.

The United States and Mexico, which prepared the 10-page resolution, postponed the vote from Wednesday to review the text in hopes of gaining more support from 15 council members.

The latest text, obtained by the Associated Press on Thursday, eliminated any reference to Haiti’s October 7 application for the Cabinet to send an urgent international military force to counter violence in the country and alleviate its humanitarian crisis.

Also cited was the letter of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, dated 8 October, outlining options to help the Haitian National Police combat high levels of gang violence.

A second resolution, still being worked on as of late Thursday, will address the issue of combating violence in Haiti. If approved, it would authorize an international force to help increase security in the country.

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

The sanction decision, put to a vote on Friday, chose a single Haitian – Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, whose gang blocked an important fuel terminal and caused severe famine. Cherizier, a former police officer who leads an alliance of gangs known as the G9 Family and Allies, will be hit with a travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo if the decision is passed.

But the resolution will also set up a Security Council committee that will sanction 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 blocking aid deliveries.

Political instability has simmered in Haiti since the unsolved assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last year, which has faced opposition protests calling for his resignation on corruption charges and claiming his five-year term has expired. Moïse dissolved Parliament in January 2020 after legislators were unable to hold elections in 2019 due to political stalemate.

Daily life in Haiti began to spiral out of control last month, hours after Prime Minister Ariel Henry said fuel subsidies would be lifted and prices would double. Cherizier’s gang blocked the Varreux fuel terminal to demand Henry’s resignation and protest the rise in oil prices.

Haiti was already in the grip of inflation, which caused rising prices, placing food and fuel beyond the reach of many, and the protests pushing society to breaking point. The violence is escalating and families are afraid of sending their children to school. Hospitals, banks and grocery stores are struggling to stay open. Clean water is scarce and the country is struggling with a cholera epidemic.

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

It added that Cherizier “planned, directed or committed acts that threatened the peace, security and stability of Haiti and that constituted serious human rights violations”.

While serving in the police, Cherizier said that in November 2018, an armed gang participated and planned an attack on the capital’s La Saline neighborhood that killed at least 71 people, destroyed more than 400 homes and raped 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 offensive in 2020 in which civilians were killed and homes were set on fire in multiple neighborhoods of the capital. said resolution.

In a video posted to Facebook last week, Cherizier urged the government to pardon him and G9 members. In Creole, he said that Haiti’s economic and social situation was deteriorating day by day, so “there is no better time than today to dismantle the system.”

He outlined a transitional plan to restore order in Haiti. This will include the creation of a “Council of Wisdom” with a representative from each of Haiti’s 10 departments, to lead with an interim president until a presidential election can be held in February 2024. Army.

The draft resolution “raises serious concerns about the extremely high levels of gang violence and other criminal activities, including kidnapping, human smuggling and migrant smuggling, and murders, and sexual and gender-based violence, including rape and sexual slavery. such as continued impunity for perpetrators, corruption and the recruitment of children by gangs and Haiti’s impact on the region.”

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

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