The UN Security Council unanimously agreed on Friday on a regime of sanctions against the gangs terrorizing the population of Haiti – including the asset freeze of a powerful gang leader.
The council has been debating for two weeks how best to deal with a spreading health and safety crisis in America’s poorest country battling a fast-growing cholera outbreak.
After failing to reach a consensus on sending an international force to the crisis-hit country, members on Friday passed a resolution directly targeting the gangs who have taken control of the main port and blocked fuel shipments to have.
It includes a one-year freeze on all economic resources owned or controlled by Jimmy Cherizier, nicknamed “Barbecue”, leader of the gang group “G90 Family and Allies” that directly or indirectly blockade the country’s main oil terminal.
The resolution called for an “immediate end to violence, criminal activity and human rights abuses” in Haiti, including kidnappings, sexual violence, human trafficking and the gang recruitment of children.
The council also called for a one-year travel ban on people suspected of being involved in gang activities in Haiti, as well as a ban on bringing guns and ammunition to them.
Friday’s action is a message to the gangs “holding Haiti hostage” that friends of the country “will not stand by while you ravage the Haitian people,” said US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield .
Sanctions will also affect those who “support, sponsor and fund” gangs, not just armed members on the streets, said Mexico’s UN envoy Juan Ramon de la Fuente.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned this week that the deterioration in Haiti’s safety and health environment, with gangs escalating their control, has resulted in an “absolutely nightmarish situation”.
He warned that the gangs’ control of the port and the fuel blockade could worsen the cholera outbreak by preventing the distribution of water, since the most important treatment for cholera is hydration.
Guterres has backed a call by Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry for an international force to try to restore security. But the United States, which has a long history of intervening in Haiti, has made it clear that it has no interest in risking the lives of troops in the troubled country.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, on a visit to Washington, offered assistance should a force show up.
“If an international police support force is set up, France would in all likelihood make a material contribution,” she said at a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Antony Blinken.
“The outlines remain to be seen, but I must add that the priority at the moment is to move forward in creating such a force, with our efforts lying primarily with the United Nations,” she said.
Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, pointed out that the United States has already provided armored vehicles and supplies to the Haitian police force, which it hopes can lead the way.
Cherizier, a former police officer, is the only person connected to the gang named in the resolution.
It listed a number of his alleged actions, including taking part – as an officer with the Haitian National Police – in a 2018 attack on civilians in a slum called La Saline in Port-au-Prince that left at least 71 people dead and 400 homes destroyed became.
During that year and the following, he led his group in “coordinated, brutal” attacks in areas of the capital, it said.
And the resolution says Cherizier and his gang have been blocking supplies from Haiti’s largest fuel terminal since October 11 this year.
“His actions have directly contributed to the economic paralysis and humanitarian crisis in Haiti,” the resolution said.
Hundreds of suspected cases of cholera have been registered in Haiti since the beginning of the month, raising fears of a devastating resurgence of the disease in the Caribbean nation.
Data from the Ministry of Health showed 964 suspected cases as of October 19.
Haiti suffered from a cholera epidemic accidentally brought in by UN peacekeepers between 2010 and 2019, killing more than 10,000 people.