United States recruit France, Canada to strengthen security in Haiti


The Biden administration calls on France and Canada to help lead an international effort to strengthen security in Haiti, after a series of crises this year crippled the Caribbean nation and sent shockwaves through the region .

Conversations began in the fall about an allied plan to strengthen Haitian law enforcement, which is beset by corruption and increasingly overwhelmed by drug-fueled gangs operating across the country. A virtual meeting hosted by the State Department attended by French and Canadian diplomats on Friday will include a discussion of the plan.

Vice President Kamala Harris spoke of the prospect of an international coalition to support Haiti during her meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris last month, as well as her recent conversations with Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau of Canada and Boris Johnson from the United Kingdom, a white The head of the house said.

French officials familiar with the matter said security was at the center of Harris’ conversation with Macron on Haiti, which was raised at the end of their meeting. The American proposal to support the application of Haitian law is still under consideration by the French.

While details of the US plan are scarce, multiple sources told the Miami Herald and the McClatchy Washington Bureau that it would rely heavily on help from its partners and involve security training.

Following a recent visit to Port-au-Prince, Todd Robinson, assistant secretary of state in the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that they were considering forming a new SWAT team within the Haitian police to tackle the gang crisis.

Haiti’s police force remains weak despite having received $ 300 million in U.S. spending over the past decade, in addition to assistance from Canada and the United Nations.

Haiti’s national police have struggled to contain gang violence, which has fueled a wave of kidnappings and a months-long blockade of the country’s fuel ports, eroding confidence in Washington that security forces can block the chain of seizures to continue.

The ongoing investigation into the assassination on July 7 of President Jovenel Moïse, now in the hands of a Haitian examining magistrate, has not yet resulted in formal accusations or in identifying a motive, despite the detention of more than 40 suspects.

The US security proposal comes at a delicate time for the Biden administration. The White House has already been criticized for its handling of an influx of Haitian migrants arriving at the southern border of the United States in September and for its extension of the “stay in Mexico” policy – a policy of immigration first conceived by the administration of President Donald Trump and criticized by progressives – to Haitian migrants.

The administration has also been the subject of strong criticism from members of Congress and Haitian civil society, on the one hand, for having a heavy hand in Haiti, and on the other hand for its refusal to support a initiative of Haitian civil society groups aiming to start a transition year that would include new faces taking charge of the country.

Others called on the administration not to support the use of special forces to train the current Haitian police, or a return of UN peacekeepers, whose withdrawal from Haiti after 15 years has been strongly supported by the United States, France and the United Kingdom on the UN Security Council.

“Regarding the Haitian National Police, we are not going to lead with the army, but rather use our civilian tools to support it, whether by providing goods, equipment and even training”, he said. a senior official in the Biden administration told reporters. in October.

“We think that in particular given some of the debates that are taking place in this country about the militarization of the role of the police and the standards of the police in terms of treatment, the standards of the use of force, we believe that it’s better to provide us with that kind of training from a civilian perspective that reflects the lessons we’re learning in the United States, ”the official added.

FRENCH INVOLVEMENT

The State Department said it was hosting a meeting of international partners on Friday to call for “commitments to prevent further deterioration” in Haiti as its security crisis worsens.

Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols will chair the virtual meeting with international aid organizations and foreign governments.

Following the assassination of Moïse in July, Haiti requested military assistance from the United States and the United Nations. The request for troops followed a similar request by Moses to the United Nations months before his assassination.

Neither was willing to send troops, and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has also expressed skepticism. But Le Drian hinted that France would be ready to provide police officers, if necessary, “under the authority of the United Nations”.

A police dispatch “must be considered as part of a strengthening of the United Nations presence, which is currently insufficient, to be able to ensure the electoral process”, said France 24 citing Le Drian outside a meeting of the UN on Libya and Libya. protection of humanitarian workers.

France and the United States sent military troops to Haiti in 2004 after then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced into exile by a bloody coup. A UN peacekeeping mission followed, and in October 2017, the UN military peacekeepers were replaced by a police mission. The United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti was in place from 2017 to 2019, and has since been replaced by a small political mission, which is invited to Friday’s meeting.

Any new UN mission would have to be approved by the UN Security Council, which would force the Biden administration to confront China for approval. China has been a critical voice on past UN interventions in Haiti and has recently sought to stop the ongoing operation.

Michael Wilner is McClatchy’s senior correspondent for national security and the White House. A member of the White House team since 2019, he led the coverage of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. Wilner was previously Washington bureau chief for the Jerusalem Post. He is a graduate of Claremont McKenna College and Columbia University and is originally from New York.

Profile picture of Jacqueline Charles

Jacqueline Charles has reported on Haiti and the English-speaking Caribbean for the Miami Herald for over a decade. A Pulitzer Prize finalist for her coverage of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, she received the 2018 Maria Moors Cabot Prize, the most prestigious award for coverage of the Americas.


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