Haiti still needs foreign strike force to confront gangs, official says


FILE PHOTO: Drivers wait in line to fill their vehicles at a petrol station as Haiti resumes fuel supplies after police break a two-month gang blockade that left the economy without petrol or diesel and sparked a humanitarian crisis, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti November 12, 2022. REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The international community should send a strike force to Haiti to confront gangs even though police have ended a blockade of a fuel terminal that caused a humanitarian crisis, Haiti's ambassador to the United States said on Monday.

The U.N. Security Council in October discussed sending troops to confront gangs, but those proposals have received little attention since police took back control of the Varreux terminal in November.

"The situation has not changed, the opening of the fuel terminal did not bring a solution to the problem," said Bocchit Edmond in an interview at the Haitian embassy in Washington, adding that gangs continue to expand their territory.

"If you don't have an international presence to help confront the armed gangs, the situation will become even more dire," he warned.

Such a force should support the police, and troops should be provided by what he called a "coalition of the willing for Haiti," Edmond said.

Most countries have appeared skeptical of sending troops to Haiti.

Brazil's incoming government is unlikely to provide military assistance to Haiti, two officials said, noting that Brazil's participation in the MINUSTAH U.N. peacekeeping force, which operated in Haiti from 2004 to 2017, was unpopular.

Gang leader Jimmy "Barbecue" Cherizier in September blocked the entrance to the fuel terminal in response to a decision by the government of President Ariel Henry to cut fuel subsidies.

The nearly six-weeks-long blockade prevented the distribution of gasoline and diesel, halting most economic activity and creating critical shortages of basic goods just as the country reported a renewed outbreak of cholera.

Barbecue on Nov 6 said workers could return to the terminal, and fuel distribution has slowly resumed since then.

But gang activity including kidnappings and confrontations with police have jumped as day-to-day activity resumed.

(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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