By Danica Coto | Associated Press
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haiti’s government has agreed to ask for help from international armed forces as gangs and protesters paralyze the country and basic supplies including fuel and water dwindle, it said Friday. a high-ranking Haitian official at The Associated Press.
The official, who was not authorized to speak about the issue publicly, said a formal written request has not yet been submitted.
It was not clear if the request would mean the activation of United Nations peacekeeping troops, whose mission ended five years ago after 11 years of work in Haiti.
US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said on Friday that the US is considering a request for a humanitarian corridor to restore fuel distribution in Haiti and is coordinating with the Haitian prime minister and other partners international organizations to determine how best to provide additional support.
“We strongly condemn those who continue to block the distribution of fuel and other necessities to Haitian businesses,” he said.
Patel did not address the issue of where the troops to reinforce the corridor might come from, saying that consideration was still at an early stage.
The petition comes after Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, held a meeting on Thursday with officials including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Haitian Foreign Minister Jean Victor Généus to talk about the worst situation in the country.
Almagro tweeted late Thursday that Haiti “must request urgent assistance from the international community to help resolve security crises, determine the characteristics of an international security force.”
Many Haitians have rejected the idea of another international intervention, noting that UN peacekeepers have been accused of sexual assault and sparked a cholera epidemic more than a decade ago that killed nearly 10,000 people.
“I don’t think Haiti needs another intervention,” said Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s former elections minister. “We’ve been through so much, and nothing has been resolved… If we don’t do it like Haitians, 10 years from now, we’ll be in the same situation again.”
He asked the US government to help reduce the amount of ammunition and guns flowing into Haiti, and to also equip the police to have more weapons and the ability to manage intelligence on gangs.
He is also concerned about the situation that an international security force faces.
“It’s not an army they’re facing,” he said. “They are facing gangs located in poor areas and using the population as shields to protect themselves.”
The Haitian National Police has struggled to control gangs with its limited resources and chronic understaffing, with only about 12,800 active officers for a country of more than 11 million people.
The gangs have become more powerful since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
As the administration of Prime Minister Ariel Henry agreed to the request of foreign armed forces, his office issued a statement affirming that he will not resign, rejecting what he called false reports circulating on social media that incited hundreds of Haitians across the country to celebrate in the country. the streets late Thursday.
“It is purely and simply manufacturing strategies, intoxication, orchestrated by malicious individuals, with the aim of sowing more problems and confusion,” said his office.
Protesters and increasingly powerful gangs have helped plunge Haiti into an unprecedented level of chaos, with the country paralyzed for nearly a month after gangs surrounded a major fuel terminal in the capital Port-au-Prince, refusing to budge until Henry resigned.
As a result, crews were unable to distribute approximately 10 million liters of diesel and gasoline and more than 800,000 liters of kerosene stored on site.
Protesters have also blocked roads since Henry announced in early September that his administration could no longer afford to subsidize fuel, leading to sharp increases in the price of gasoline, diesel and kerosene.
Gas stations are closed, hospitals have cut critical services and businesses, including banks and grocery stores, have reduced hours.
On Wednesday, the Office of the Resident and the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti proposed a “humanitarian corridor” to allow fuel and aid to those in need. He noted that the country is also facing a new outbreak of cholera, with several deaths reported and dozens of patients treated.
“The most vulnerable people are the first to suffer from the blockade,” the UN said.
At least 13 leaders of the US Congress have demanded that US President Joe Biden’s administration stop showing support for Henry and suspend all deportations “given the extreme physical security risks and the dire humanitarian situation.”
He called on the US government to support “legitimate efforts to create a Haitian transitional government that respects the will of the Haitian people, and should make it clear to Henry that it does not support it as it blocks progress.”
Henry stressed that he has no interest in holding on to power and plans to hold general elections as soon as the violence subsides.
Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Associated Press reported that Matthew Lee in Washington, D.C., contributed.