UN vote delayed on sanctions to curb Haiti violence, crime

Oct 18, 2022, 10:12 AM | Updated: Oct 19, 2022, 9:21 am

FILE - Jimmy Cherizier, alias Barbecue, a former police officer who heads a gang coalition known as...

FILE - Jimmy Cherizier, alias Barbecue, a former police officer who heads a gang coalition known as "G9 Family and Allies, leads a march to demand justice for slain Haitian President Jovenel Moise in Lower Delmas, a district of Port-au- Prince, Haiti July 26, 2021. The United Nations Security Council is expected to vote Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 19, 2022, on a resolution that would demand an immediate end to violence and criminal activity in Haiti and impose sanctions on influential gang leader Cherizier.(AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

(AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Supporters of a U.N. resolution that would demand an immediate end to violence and criminal activity in Haiti and impose sanctions on influential gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, nicknamed “Barbecue,” said Wednesday a vote has been delayed.

The Security Council vote had been called for the afternoon but key Security Council members confirmed the postponement for a few days. France’s U.N. Ambassador Nicolas De Riviere told reporters earlier: “I’m not sure the vote will be today — it could take a little more.”

The sanctions measure is the first of two resolutions on Haiti sponsored by the United States and Mexico to be considered by the U.N.’s most powerful body. A second resolution, which is still being worked on, would authorize an international force to help improve security in the country in response to an Oct. 7 request from Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

Russia’s Feputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyansky told the council Monday that Moscow can’t support “attempts to push through a sanctions resolution” and agreed to look into imposing restrictive measures only after considering their “efficiency,” targeted nature and humanitarian consequences.

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

Daily life in Haiti began to spin out of control last month just hours after prime minister 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.

Cherizier, a former police officer who leads an alliance of Haitian gangs known as the “G9 Family and Allies,” would face an international travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo if the resolution is adopted. A Security Council committee would be established 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 resolution says. “His actions have directly contributed to the economic paralysis and humanitarian crisis in Haiti.”

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’s La Saline neighborhood where at least 71 people were killed, over 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. It also calls for restructuring Haiti’s National Police and strengthening the army.

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 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.

Haiti has been gripped by inflation, causing rising prices that have put food and fuel out of reach for many, as well as protests that 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.

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

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced Monday that a resolution on a “non-U.N.” mission to help Haiti was being prepared.

It would be limited in time and scope and will be led by “a partner country,” which was not identified, “with the deep, necessary experience required for such an effort to be effective,” she said. It would have a mandate to use military force if necessary.

Thomas-Greenfield said the proposed mission was in response to Henry’s Oct. 7 request and reflects one option suggested in a letter from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the council Oct. 9 that called for deployment of a rapid action force by one or several U.N. member nations to help Haiti’s National Police.

Mexico’s U.N. Ambassador Juan Ramon de la Fuente Ramirez said earlier Tuesday that he expected action “very, very soon” on the sanctions resolution, “and then we’ll have to start working on the second one which is going to take a little more work and a few more days.”

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