The Biden administration defends the slow pace of financial sanctions against Haitian politicians and business leaders, saying the US evidentiary standard is much higher than most countries and that any decision must be corroborated by evidence.
“Each country has its own legal authorities, which can make it a bit confusing to keep track of what each country is doing,” a senior State Department official said in a press call Thursday with reporters about the deterioration of the situation in Haiti. “We have to bring more evidence to the table and corroborate that evidence.”
The United States has publicly named five Haitian citizens, four of whom are politicians, whose assets have been frozen or prohibited from traveling to the United States, or both, as part of the financial sanctions. Meanwhile, Canada has punished 17 Haitians. Ottawa’s list includes two former presidents, two former prime ministers and three high-profile businessmen.
Both governments have cited alleged links to gangs, corruption or drug trafficking in their announcements, though Canada’s lack of details has created consternation in recent days after it added a former interim president, Jocelerme Privert, to its list. Privert ruled the country from 2016 to 2017 and had been praised by international observers for self-financing the presidential election that brought Jovenel Moïse to power after the election had to be rerun due to allegations of fraud.
The stark difference in the issuance of sanctions has been a matter of debate for both supporters and critics of the measures, which Washington and Ottawa are increasingly turning to in the hope of stemming the rising tide of gang violence and instability in Haiti.
Extending their control over the capital and beyond, the gangs are increasingly behind a series of deadly attacks on Haitian police officers, who after the deaths of 14 police officers last month rioted in the streets and abandoned their posts.
The gangs are also proving that no one is immune from kidnapping for extortion. In recent days, the list of kidnapped includes the head of protocol for the presidential palace and several doctors. Among them is a doctor who serves as the leader of a political party; the health ministry spokesman who has kept journalists informed about the cholera epidemic, and Dr. Geneviève Arty, a pediatrician and founding member of St Damien Hospital, who has not been heard from since her February 2 kidnapping at the on the way to Frère in Port-au-Prince.
“We are in a situation where the [Policía Nacional de Haití] it cannot defend itself or guarantee the security of the national territory,” said Samuel Madistin, a lawyer and chairman of the board of directors of Fondasyon Je Klere, a Port-au-Prince company. human rights group “I don’t see how Haitians can get out of this without massive training and intervention of young soldiers in the army, a cleanup and reinforcement of the police, and we can’t do that without the support of an international force.”
In October, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry requested the deployment of international forces in the country. The request was supported by the US, author of a resolution for the United Nations Security Council, and the UN Secretary General, António Guterres. Guterres’ representative in Port-au-Prince, Helen La Lime, said last month that the police cannot address the crisis alone. Her comments came on the same day that seven police officers were killed during three attacks on their police substation in the rural Artibonite Valley.
On Wednesday, after police officers had already abandoned two police stations in the region, including one that was attacked in Liancourt, a third police station, in L’Estere, was emptied after police could no longer resist gangs. .
“We remain concerned about the security situation in Haiti. It is a tremendous challenge,” said the senior State Department official. “There is no way to minimize that the situation is critical, and the international community and Haitian politics must come together to address it.”
He also played down concerns that continued police defections were due to a new Biden humanitarian parole program. Henry told Caribbean Community leaders last week that shortly after the program was announced on January 5, 600 Haitian police officers had applied for passports to leave for the US. The head of the country’s immigration department told him to the Miami Herald who estimated that at least a third of the force’s 9,000 active members would leave based on passport demands that led him to open a separate passport office just for police.
Of the Haitians admitted to the US under the program so far, the State Department official said only 20 were members of the Haitian National Police.
Acknowledging that the situation in Haiti remains “incredibly complex, challenging,” the official said the United States continues to hold discussions “with potential partners in the Western Hemisphere, Africa and Europe” about supporting Haiti’s request for international assistance.
“But there is also a great focus on the need for Haitian political actors to come together in a deeper way. And that was part of the conversation that really dominated in Nassau with CARICOM,” the official said, referring to the meeting of leaders of the 15-member Caribbean Community trading bloc known as CARICOM in the Bahamas last week.
Some observers had hoped that Canada, which was represented by its prime minister Justin Trudeau, would agree to lead the troop deployment to the country. Instead, Trudeau spoke of his country’s aggressive sanctions measures and continued assistance to the embattled National Police.