Around 70% of Haitians back international force to fight gangs, survey says

FILE PHOTO: Houses pack a hillside in the Jalousie district of Port-au-Prince, Haiti February 3,2023. REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo

(Reuters) - Around seven in 10 people in Haiti back proposed creation of an international force to help the national police fight violence from armed gangs who have expanded their territory since the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise, according to a survey carried out in January.

Some 69% of nearly 1,330 people across Haiti said they supported an "international force" - which has been requested by the Haitian government - according to a survey from local business risk management group Agerca and consulting firm DDG.

Nearly 80%, however, said they believed Haiti's PNH national police needed international support to resolve the problem of armed gangs, most saying it should be deployed immediately.

In October, the United Nations suggested a "rapid action force" be sent to Haiti to combat escalating violence from armed gangs whose turf battles have left hundreds dead and thousands displaced.

But many have expressed skepticism, citing abuses from past missions and questioning a force backing the administration of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, which has been without democratically elected representatives since early January.

Most countries have been wary of sending troops, though nearby Jamaica on Tuesday said it would be willing to participate and El Salvador has offered "technical assistance".

U.N. envoy to Haiti Helen La Lime last week said she had heard caution from the United States and Canada, but "not a definite no."

"Nobody wants to repeat the mistakes of the past," she said, adding the force would work in partnership with the PNH.

More than a third of those surveyed said since 2021 they knew someone in their neighborhood, family, or workplace who had been killed. Over 70% said their movements in the capital had been limited by gang presence and 83% said they lost income.

Some 36% said they or someone they knew had since 2021 been victim of a kidnapping, while 28% said this was the case for physical assault, and 9% for sexual assault. A quarter said they had stopped social activities and a fifth said they had left their homes.

(Reporting by Sarah Morland)

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