OAS members recommit to helping Haiti through gang violence

OAS members recommit to helping Haiti through gang violence
# 11 February 2023 04:12 (UTC +04:00)

The Organization of American States (OAS) on Friday passed a resolution to support Haiti on its path to long-delayed elections and help the Caribbean country manage widespread gang violence that is driving a humanitarian crisis, APA reports citing Reuters.

The resolution proposed creating a working group of member states no later than Feb. 22 to address issues such as gun trafficking and a proposed multinational force to help police restore order, which Haiti's caretaker government requested five months ago.

Talks on such a force have lagged as no country has offered to lead it, though some Caribbean states said they would participate and Canada sent a surveillance military aircraft.

U.S. Ambassador to the OAS Francisco Mora said Washington was still discussing possible involvement and signaled fresh sanctions and visa restrictions in the "coming months."

Many have been wary of sending troops citing past foreign missions that committed abuses in Haiti and are reluctant to back Prime Minister Ariel Henry, whose government has been without elected representatives since early January.

Henry has pledged to leave office by Feb. 7, 2024, after repeatedly postponing elections due to a devastating 2021 earthquake as well as the gang violence.

The Haitian leader has stressed that Haiti needs security to establish free and transparent elections. The head of the Washington-based OAS, Luis Almagro, has agreed and said locals would have to drive a precise roadmap.

Hailing the resolution as a first step, some diplomats have described Haiti as "on fire," noting that armed gangs have reportedly taken control of some 60% of the capital.

"Haiti is becoming a danger for the Caribbean and the region," said the country's Foreign Minister Jean Victor Geneus as he reiterated calls for a foreign force, adding that the state was becoming a top target for drug and gun-traffickers.