U.S. shifts to support peacekeeping mission in Haiti after push for intervention falters
Haiti’s prime minister recently called on the Armed Forces of Haiti to get involved in the fight against violent gangs. The force, which was disbanded in the mid-1990s under U.S. pressure due to a record of human rights abuses and coups, is not recognized by the United States. HAITI'S PRIME MINISTER OFFICE
The Biden administration is shifting its strategy on Haiti away from a proposal for a multilateral armed force that would have had the power to combat gangs in the streets of Port-au-Prince to a push at the United Nations for a more traditional peacekeeping mission, three sources familiar with the matter told McClatchy and the Miami Herald.
The United States had hoped to avoid sending another peacekeeping mission to Haiti, which has hosted eight in the last 30 years. But its initial plan to rally an international coalition of forces led by an unidentified third country to intervene at the request of the Haitian government has faltered since it was first proposed in the fall, compelling the administration to change course as the security environment in the Caribbean nation rapidly deteriorates.
The White House had hoped that Canada would lead such a force. But a push ahead of President Joe Biden’s visit to Ottawa this week made clear that the Canadians were unlikely to take on a leadership role, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly casting doubt on Canada’s capacity to assume the mission.
Trudeau has touted support for the Haiti National Police and his government’s use of sanctions against Haiti’s political and business elite, believed to be supporting gangs and fanning instability in the country. On Friday, he announced that Ottawa would provide $100 million in equipment and financial support to help the Haiti National Police. He also announced two additional sanctions on members of “the Haitian elite who are benefiting” from the gang violence. The individuals are former Haiti Sen. Nenel Cassy and Steeve Khawly, a businessman and former candidate in the last presidential elections.
“We are determined to increase international support for Haiti, including through humanitarian assistance,” Trudeau said at a press conference with Biden.
Trudeau noted, “for 30 years, western countries have been involved in Haiti to try and stabilize the country, to try and help the Pearl of the Antilles, and the situation is atrocious.”
In November, the United States first proposed sending a multilateral “rapid action force” to Haiti in a resolution at the U.N. Security Council. However, the Biden administration never volunteered to lead the force itself.
Senior administration officials acknowledged that the topic of Haiti was among the more complex and complicated discussions that would take place between Biden and Trudeau but did not provide hope that there would be a breakthrough.
“It is a challenge to get to certain parts of the country, and even neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, given the high levels of gang activity,” a senior administration official said, recognizing the escalating violence and kidnappings gripping Haiti’s capital since late February that has now spread to other parts of the country.
“What we’ve been doing is, I think, methodically, with Canada, looking at really what is needed on the ground, what it would take, really, how many potentially other countries what kind of mandate, whether a Chapter 7 or if it’s something that the U.N. Security Council really should be debating,” the official added. Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter authorizes the use of force for the enforcement of peace.
On Thursday, a State Department spokesperson told McClatchy that the United States is still “working with our international partners to develop the framework for a police-led multinational force to assist the Haitian National Police.” But three sources familiar with the effort said the administration had quietly shifted its focus toward a peacekeeping mission in recent days.
In October, as a powerful gang coalition cut off roads and seized control of Haiti’s main fuel terminal, interim Haiti Prime Minister Ariel Henry asked the international community to deploy troops to assist the Haiti National Police. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres supported the call, citing a “dramatic deterioration in security” that has “paralyzed the country,” proposing options for a multilateral force that would have had authorization by the Security Council to intervene in Haiti in the short, medium, and long-term.
Under Guterres’ proposal, the force’s intervention would have been a direct agreement between the Haitian government and additional countries with the ability to go on the offensive against gangs. By contrast, a peacekeeping mission would pull from a U.N. list of troop-contributing countries under direct U.N. supervision.
Still, both typically require Chapter 7 authorization from the Security Council. It was unclear whether the United States force proposal would have ever secured Security Council approval — requiring votes from Russia and China — and it remains unclear if a peacekeeping mission would pass, either.
At the Friday press conference after their meetings, Biden and Trudeau addressed the crisis in Haiti, underscoring their shared concern.
“The biggest thing we could do — and it’s going to take time — is to increase the prospect of the police departments in Haiti to deal with their problems. And that will take a little bit of time,” Biden said.
“We’re also looking at whether the international community through the United Nations could play a larger role in this circumstance,” he continued. “But there is no question that there is a natural, genuine concern because there are several million people in Haiti, and the diaspora could cause some real — how can I say — confusion in the Western Hemisphere.
“Any decision about military force, which is often raised, we think would have to be done in consultation with the United Nations and the Haitian government — and so that is not off the table, but that is not in play, at the moment,” Biden added.
LONG HISTORY OF MISSIONS
Any request for U.N. peacekeepers would need to come from the government of Haiti, which until now has been reluctant to invite the U.N. back in. However, the issue of an outside force has found support in Haiti, with a recent poll finding that nearly 70% of Haitians do not think the Haiti National Police can defeat the gangs on its own. But the idea of a return of U.N. blue-helmet peacekeepers — six years after the last foreign soldiers left and four years after the mission ended entirely — has remained controversial due to the peacekeeping force’s history introducing a deadly cholera epidemic in the country months after the 2010 earthquake, and the poor U.N. response.
Somebody should lease Haiti for some foreseeable time …
They proved on many occasions they’re no capable of governing themselves …ko
They’ve been helping by assisting with arms and financially to all the different gangs. The idea is to push the rest of the Haitian in to the Dominican RD.