Haiti asks for foreign troops to end unrest
Haiti’s government has urged foreign states to send a “specialized armed force” to the island to help quell demonstrations and unrest, weeks after protesters and roving street gangs occupied a major port, hoping to force the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.
A decree signed by the PM and published on Friday called on Haiti’s international partners to provide “immediate deployment” of troops to stop “the insecurity resulting from the joint actions of armed gangs and their sponsors.”
“It is imperative to restart activities to avoid a complete asphyxiation of the national economy,” the document continued, citing the “risk of a major humanitarian crisis” thanks to serious shortages of vital goods like water and fuel.
Haiti has been gripped by unrest since last month, when large groups of demonstrators descended upon the country’s primary fuel terminal to protest a recent cut to government gas subsidies. Since then, protesters and gang members – some of them armed – have effectively blockaded the port, crippling distribution while forcing the closure of countless businesses and other institutions, including three-quarters of Haiti’s hospitals, according to the United Nations.
The island’s electric grid is notoriously unreliable, leaving many to rely on diesel generators for power.
The port blockades come amid a burgeoning cholera outbreak, which has so far resulted in more than 120 confirmed and suspected cases, and several deaths. The UN has called for a humanitarian corridor through the capital city, Port-au-Prince, to allow health centers to reopen.
While it’s unclear whether any countries have yet received the request, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told Reuters the body has not seen the document. Nonetheless, he said, “we remain extremely concerned about the security situation in Haiti, the impact it’s having on the Haitian people, on our ability to do our work, especially in the humanitarian sphere.”
Haiti has seen significant unrest since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise last year, including a spike in kidnappings, riots, looting, and other forms of gang violence. Henry took over as both interim PM and president soon after Moise’s death, though even as protesters insist he step down, the chances for a new election appear unlikely anytime soon.
The US sent a small detachment of Marines to the island in the wake of the assassination to secure the American Embassy. It’s unclear whether the administration of President Joe Biden will authorize another deployment, with Washington so far offering no formal response to Henry’s request for troops.