UN chief insists on special forces as Haiti spirals

UN chief insists on special forces as Haiti spirals

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday insisted on deploying an international specialized force to Haiti and urged governments to consider halting deportations as the country’s situation continues to deteriorate.

The recommendations were issued as part of a report on the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti, with Guterres noting that gang-related violence and human rights abuses have reached critical levels.

“The people of Haiti are suffering the worst human rights and humanitarian emergency in decades,” he wrote.

Guterres noted that although the gang-led siege of a major fuel terminal ended last year, a task force is still needed to ensure key infrastructure remains unhindered and people are able to safely participate in a general election, whose date has not yet been set.

The number of reported killings increased by 35% last year compared to the previous year, with more than 2,100 killed. In addition, kidnappings have more than doubled over the past year, with more than 1,350 victims.

Meanwhile, Haiti’s national police force, with only about 9,700 active-duty officers in a country of more than 11 million, is underfunded and under-resourced.

“There are also allegations that a significant number of national police officers … could be linked to gangs,” Guterres said.

In recent months, countries like Canada and the US have offered training and resources including armored vehicles, but police remain largely outnumbered by gangs, whose power and territorial control have expanded since President Jovenel Moïse at his private residence in July 2021 was killed.

Haiti is also grappling with a deadly cholera outbreak, exacerbated by gang violence, and a surge in the number of people going hungry as countries like the US and Dominican Republic deported tens of thousands of Haitians over the past year.

The report was released a day ahead of the UN Security Council’s scheduled meeting to discuss Haiti.

Late last year, the council imposed sanctions on individuals and groups who threatened peace in Haiti, including a powerful gang leader, but did not vote on the deployment of forces, as requested by Haiti’s top officials in October.

With Haiti left with no democratically elected institutions after the term of the remaining 10 senators expires on January 9, Prime Minister Ariel Henry has pledged that he will work to hold general elections as soon as possible.

Last week, Henry’s government published a decree naming the three members appointed to the Interim High Council, which will be responsible for electing the interim Electoral Council, the first step in preparing for the elections. The decree says the council will also drive economic and human rights reforms, create and execute a public safety plan, and set milestones and deadlines for the transition period.

“We will move forward with all those who so desire,” Henry said earlier this month.

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