united nations - Haiti's foreign minister urged the U.N. Security Council Monday to sanction criminal gangs fueling violence and chaos in his country.
"This is a real step in the right direction to bring an end to the phenomenon of insecurity in the country," Jean Victor Geneus told the 15-nation council.
Mexico and the United States are working on a draft resolution to sanction the gangs who have been seeking to exploit a political vacuum since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise at his home in the capital on July 7, 2021.
The United Nations estimates that 1.5 million people have been directly impacted by the violence, and 20,000 have fled their homes seeking safety. Rape and other sexual violence are being used "systematically."
"With our efforts combined, we can send a clear and powerful message to those who seek to undermine the security of everyday Haitians: You will not succeed," U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis said.
Foreign Minister of Haiti Jean Victor Geneus addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 24, 2022.
Mexico's ambassador said if the flow of illegal weapons to criminal groups is not stopped, it will not be possible to stabilize the country.
"An end must be brought to the illicit trafficking of weapons which are used by gangs and criminal groups to terrorize civilians," Ambassador Juan Ramon de la Fuenta Ramirez said. "We must punish all those protagonists involved in their sale, distribution and purchase."
After requesting the council meet on Monday, China, which rarely backs sanctions, made a strong call for them.
"Council Resolution 2645 expresses its readiness to take appropriate measures that could include asset freeze or travel ban measures against those engaged in or supporting gang violence," Deputy Ambassador Geng Shuang said of an earlier resolution the council adopted in July. "Given the current situation in the country, it is necessary for the council to translate this readiness into action."
He said the U.N. mission in Haiti, known by its acronym BINUH, should submit a list of gangs and their leaders to the council for possible sanctions, noting it would help cut off arms and ammunition to the criminals but not interfere with security cooperation between countries and Haiti's police force.
Russia also said it would consider targeted sanctions on gang leaders.
Gangs in the capital, Port-au-Prince, have blocked the country's main fuel terminal at Varreux since September 18, causing nationwide shortages, closing hospitals and leaving the already postponed reopening of schools uncertain.
"As fuel is a cross-cutting product which affects all economic activity, this situation can hobble the state and almost entirely paralyze the country," Haiti's foreign minister warned.
The government decision earlier this month to end fuel subsidies because it was losing hundreds of millions of dollars has given rise to angry demonstrations. Protesters have also looted U.N. warehouses.
"Over the course of one week, WFP in Haiti lost a third of our food stocks, as two of our four warehouses were deliberately targeted, looted and pillaged," World Food Program Deputy Executive Director Valerie Guarnieri told the council in a video briefing.
She said the U.N. and other NGOs have lost at least $6 million in aid supplies that could have helped more than 410,000 people. She said the thefts come at the height of hurricane season, weakening disaster preparedness.