Officials said the Haitian government plans to seek help from foreign police forces, as the Caribbean nation struggles to respond to escalating gang violence.
And the Associated Press news agency quoted an unnamed government official on Friday that the government will request the assistance of international forces, but no official written request has yet been submitted.
The Miami Herald The newspaper first reported on the decision earlier today.
Violence has escalated in the capital, Port-au-Prince, in recent months, with armed gangs battling for control of main roads and neighbourhoods. A gang blockade for weeks on Haiti’s main fuel port has also paralyzed much of the country, leading to severe shortages.
According to a decree circulating online, the Haitian government on Thursday authorized Prime Minister Ariel Henri to ask “Haiti’s international partners” to assist in the “immediate deployment of a specialized armed force” to confront the growing security crisis.
In a report from the Organization of American States summit in Lima, Peru on Friday, Al Jazeera’s Mariana Sanchez said that Haitian Foreign Minister Jean-Victor Genos made an appeal at the meeting for the support of the international police, explaining that the economic situation in his country was “catastrophic.”
The foreign secretary said the gangs exercised their power by taking over a gas station causing “great devastation,” Sanchez said.
“It affects the distribution of drinking water, not only that, transportation, and the work of hospitals… Therefore, he officially asked for help for an international police force. Not a military force, but a police force.
Sanchez added that questions were asked about the proposed international police force by summit participants, including who would lead it and whether the United Nations would participate.
Sanchez added that US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told the summit that Washington was committed to restoring security to Haiti, while Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Jolie said the proposed future police force should be led by Haitians.
The Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, called on Haiti to “seek urgent support from the international community to help resolve the security crisis and define the characteristics of the international security force,” in a tweet Thursday.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Friday that the Haitian government had not formally requested the international body for security assistance.
“However, we remain very concerned about the security situation in Haiti, its impact on the Haitian people, and our ability to do our work, particularly in the humanitarian field,” Dujarric told reporters.
One of the poorest countries in the world, Haiti suffers from periodic natural disasters and a prolonged political crisis that was exacerbated by the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July last year.
Many Haitians have demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Henri, whose government is serving on a temporary basis after he indefinitely postponed elections scheduled for November 2021 due to growing political instability.
Protests and riots have erupted across Haiti since the government announced last month that it would cut fuel subsidies.
But many Haitians do not support the possibility of foreign troops in their country.
“I don’t think Haiti needs another intervention,” Matthias Pierre, Haiti’s former election minister, told the Associated Press. “We’ve been through a lot, and nothing has been resolved…if we don’t do it as Haitians, we’ll be in the same situation again.”
United Nations peacekeeping forces served in Haiti between 2004 and 2017 with the aim of strengthening and stabilizing government institutions.
But their mandate has yet to be renewed for a period marred by allegations of sexual abuse, as well as the peacekeepers’ link to the 2010 cholera outbreak that killed nearly 10,000 people.
The outbreak was linked to a sewage leak from a UN peacekeeping base, which drew condemnation and sowed public mistrust of the international body. The United Nations apologized in 2016 for its role in the pandemic.
The country is also in the midst of a new outbreak of cholera, more than three years after the last case was reported in 2019.
In a joint statement on Friday, 19 countries from the Organization of American States expressed their solidarity with Haiti and stressed the need to “strengthen the solutions devised by and for Haitians.”
“We affirm our commitment to helping Haitians overcome the complex security challenges facing the country and call on the international community to provide robust security assistance, including strengthening the Haitian National Police,” said the statement, shared by the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.