The United Nations unanimously approved sanctions Friday against Haiti’s most powerful gang boss who is blocking fuel and aid to the impoverished country for a sixth week as it struggles with a cholera outbreak and increasing hunger.
The U.N. resolution calls for member nations to freeze gang leader Jimmy Cherizier’s assets and ban him from their countries.
Known as Barbecue, Mr. Cherizier heads a coalition of nine gangs called the G9. Since last month, Mr. Cherizier’s gunmen have blocked entry to the country at the main fuel terminal at the port in the capital of Port-au-Prince, stopping most fuel, food and medicine from reaching Haiti.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.
said Friday’s resolution was a first step in aiding the crisis-stricken country. The resolution includes a call for a clampdown on the illegal traffic in firearms fueling Haiti’s violence, and for sanctions to be placed on anyone who finances or facilitates violence in the country.
“We are sending a clear signal to the bad actors who are holding Haiti hostage,” said Ms. Thomas-Greenfield.
Robert Fatton, a Haiti expert at the University of Virginia, said the sanctions against Mr. Cherizier would do little to help the country’s security problems since the gang boss has already been blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury in 2020 for his role in organizing a 2018 attack on the La Saline slum that destroyed more than 400 homes and left at least 71 people dead. At the time, the Treasury said the gangs repressed political dissent in Port-au-Prince in return for money, political protection and guns.
“I don’t see [the new sanctions] changing the problems of Haiti,” he said.
Since the still-unsolved assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, has spiraled deeper into a cycle of violence and chaos marked by kidnappings and killings by gangs.
The violence and sporadic political protests against the government of Prime Minister
have largely paralyzed the country, driving up hunger which now affects some 4.7 million Haitians, almost half the population.
Haiti’s police, who are outgunned and outmanned, have failed on several occasions to break Mr. Cherizier’s stranglehold on the supply lifeline to the city from the port.
The gang leader has rebuffed entreaties from Haiti’s government and the country’s main allies to open a humanitarian corridor that would allow supplies to flow to Port-au-Prince. Instead, he has demanded that Mr. Henry resign.
“His actions have directly contributed to the economic paralysis and humanitarian crisis in Haiti,” the U.N. resolution said, referring to Mr. Cherizier, who couldn’t be reached for comment.
The gang boss was the only person mentioned by name, although the resolution called for the establishment of a committee that would work to identify others involved in financing or facilitating the gangs. Juan Gonzalez, the U.S. National Security Council’s senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs said last month a number of wealthy individuals he didn’t name were destabilizing Haiti’s government by “paying for people to go into the streets.”
Making matters worse, deteriorating sanitary conditions, including lack of clean water and a scarcity of fuel, threaten to turn an outbreak of cholera earlier this month into a full-blown epidemic. Hospitals have been forced to shut down or curtail services, and at least 16 people have died from the disease.
“This needs to be addressed urgently,” said in a statement Auguste Ngantsélé, the Haiti director of French medical group Doctors Without Borders, which operates cholera treatment centers in Port-au-Prince.
The resolution approved Friday dropped language from an earlier draft encouraging the immediate deployment of a multinational rapid action force to support Haiti’s beleaguered police. But Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said the U.S. and Mexico, the co-writers of the resolution, would continue work on a second resolution calling for a non-U.N. international security mission to Haiti.
Putting together such a force will take time and effort, diplomats say. A senior Latin American official said there isn’t an obvious country in the region that is willing to do so.
But Haiti’s situation is so dire that an eventual intervention seems inevitable, probably after the November elections in the U.S., although it is difficult to foresee what type of force would be involved, said Mr. Fatton.
At the meeting Friday, Haiti’s U.N. representative Antonio Rodrigue repeated Prime Minister Henry’s call earlier this month for the U.N. to send a “robust” international force to help the country’s police, which he said lacked the capacity to deal with the powerful gangs.
“We are in a race against time,” said Mr. Rodrigue.
On Monday, thousands of Haitians took to the streets to demand Mr. Henry’s resignation and protest his call for a foreign force. Haitian opposition and civic groups fear a foreign intervention would just prop up Mr. Henry’s government. Other Haitians, fearful that gang violence will get worse, were dismayed that no mention was made of a foreign military intervention that they would welcome.
Mr. Cherizier, who was fired from the Haitian police force in 2018, is wanted by Haiti on charges of dereliction of duty and possession of illegal weapons.
On Friday, his gunmen broke into the country’s main sea terminal to steal fuel for a fourth time since blocking access last month. Earlier this week, gunmen stole more than 28,000 gallons of petroleum products in four tanker trucks. Videos posted on social media showed the stolen fuel, valued at an estimated $700,000 being sold by the side of the road.
Mr. Cherizier cultivated links to the late President Moïse’s government, and acted as an enforcer, terrorizing Mr. Moïse’s political enemies, especially in the massive slum of Cité Soleil, Haitian human-rights activists say.
Write to José de Córdoba at [email protected]
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