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UN chief insists on special armed forces as Haiti spirals

Published:Tuesday | January 24, 2023 | 10:46 AM
A bullet's impact is seen on an armored police car in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, January 21, 2023. One of Haiti's gangs stormed a key part of the capital, Port-Au-Prince, and battled with police throughout the day, leaving at least three officers dead and another missing. (AP Photo/Megan Janetsky)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — United Nations Secretary General António Guterres on Monday insisted on the deployment of an international specialised armed force to Haiti and called for governments to consider halting deportations as the country's situation spirals.

The recommendations were issued as part of a report on the UN Integrated Office in Haiti, with Guterres noting that gang-related violence and human rights violations have reached a critical level.

“The people of Haiti are suffering the worst human rights and humanitarian emergency in decades,” he wrote.

Guterres noted that while last year's gang-led siege at a main fuel terminal has ended, a special force is still needed to ensure that key infrastructure remains unobstructed and that people are able to safely vote in a general election whose date has not been set.

The number of reported killings soared by 35% last year compared with the previous year, with more than 2,100 slain. In addition, kidnappings more than doubled last year, with more than 1,350 victims.

Meanwhile, Haiti's National Police is underfunded and under-resourced, with only some 9,700 active-duty officers in a country of more than 11 million people.

“There are also allegations that a significant number of national police…may be associated with gangs,” Guterres said.

In recent months, countries including Canada and the US have offered training and resources including armoured vehicles, but police remain largely outmatched by gangs whose power and territorial control have expanded since President Jovenel Moïse was slain at his private residence in July 2021.

Haiti also is struggling with a deadly cholera outbreak worsened by gang violence and a spike in the number of people who are starving as countries including the United States and the Dominican Republic have deported tens of thousands of Haitians in the past year.

The report was released a day before the UN Security Council is scheduled to meet and talk about Haiti.

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