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UN demands end to violence in Haiti, sanctions gang leader

“We are sending a clear message to the bad actors that are holding Haiti hostage. The international community will not stand idly by while you wreak havoc on the Haitian people.”

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Friday demanding an immediate end to violence and criminal activity in Haiti and imposing sanctions on a powerful gang leader.

It also established a council committee that can impose sanctions on other Haitians and groups whose actions threaten peace, security or stability of the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation. Targeted actions include criminal activity, violence, arms trafficking, human rights abuses and obstructing aid deliveries.

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 council members — and they succeeded in getting approval from all 15 nations.

“We are sending a clear message to the bad actors that are holding Haiti hostage,” U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said immediately after the vote. “The international community will not stand idly by while you wreak havoc on the Haitian people.”

She said the resolution was an important first step by the Security Council to help Haitians who want action against criminals, including gangs and their financiers, and will be followed by a second resolution, which the U.S. and Mexico are working on. That will help restore security and allow the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid by authorizing “a non-U.N. International Security Assistance Mission," she said.

The final text eliminated a reference to an Oct. 7 appeal by Haiti’s Council of Ministers for the urgent dispatch of an international military force to tackle the country’s violence and alleviate its humanitarian crisis. And it also dropped was mention of an Oct. 8 letter from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres outlining options to help Haiti’s National Police combat high levels of gang violence.

Thomas-Greenfield said Friday the next resolution will be a response to those requests, but she didn’t say when it would be circulated or put to a vote.

It was the first sanctions resolution adopted by the Security Council since 2017, and many council members praised its unanimous adoption, saying at a time of deep divisions in the world, including over Ukraine, the 15 countries could work together.

The sanctions resolution named only a single Haitian — Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, whose gang has blocked a key fuel terminal leading to severe shortages. Cherizier, a former police officer who leads an alliance of gangs known as the G9 Family and Allies, will now face a travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo.

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 over corruption charges and claims that his five-year term had expired. Moïse dissolved Parliament in January 2020 after legislators failed to hold elections in 2019 amid political gridlock.

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. Cherizier’s gang blocked the Varreux fuel terminal to demand Henry’s resignation and to protest a spike in petroleum prices.

Haiti already was gripped by inflation, causing rising prices that put food and fuel out of reach for many, and protests have brought society to the breaking point. Violence is raging, making parents afraid to send their kids 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.

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

While serving in the police, 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 rapes 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 multiple neighborhoods in the capital in 2020 in which civilians were killed and houses set on fire, the 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 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 with an interim president until a presidential election could be held in February 2024. It also calls for restructuring Haiti’s National Police and strengthening the army.

The 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 and allow legislative and presidential elections to be held “as soon as the local security situation permits.”

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By EDITH M. LEDERER Associated Press

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