12 March 2024

US pledges financial backing for multinational force in Haiti

12 March 2024

The United States has announced an additional 100 million dollars (£78 million) to finance the deployment of a multinational force to Haiti.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the funding on Monday following a meeting with Caribbean leaders in Jamaica to halt the country’s violent crisis.

Mr Blinken also announced another 33 million dollars (£25.8 million) in humanitarian aid and the creation of a joint proposal agreed on by Caribbean leaders and “all of the Haitian stakeholders to expedite a political transition” and create a “presidential college”.

He did not identify the “concrete steps” the college would take designed to meet the needs of Haitian people and enable the pending deployment of the multinational force led by Kenya.

The joint proposal has the backing of Caricom, a regional trade bloc that held Monday’s meeting as powerful gangs continued to attack key government targets across Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

Guyanese President Irfaan Ali said: “I think we can all agree: Haiti is on the brink of disaster. We must take quick and decisive action.”

Mr Ali said he is “very confident that we have found commonality” to support what he described as a Haitian-led and owned solution.

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said the meeting was a work in progress.

“It is clear that Haiti is now at a tipping point,” he said. “We are deeply distressed that it is already too late for too many who have lost far too much at the hands of criminal gangs.”

Embattled Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who faces calls to resign or agree to a transitional council, did not attend the meeting.

He has been locked out of his own country while traveling abroad, due to surging unrest and violence by criminal gangs who have overrun much of Haiti’s capital and closed down its main international airports.

Mr Henry remained in Puerto Rico and was taking steps to return to Haiti once feasible, according to a brief statement from the US territory’s Department of State.

While leaders met behind closed doors, Jimmy Cherizier – considered Haiti’s most powerful gang leader – told reporters that if the international community continues down the current road, “it will plunge Haiti into further chaos”.

“We Haitians have to decide who is going to be the head of the country and what model of government we want,” said Mr Cherizier, a former elite police officer leader of a gang federation known as G9 Family and Allies.

“We are also going to figure out how to get Haiti out of the misery it’s in now.”

Scores of people have been killed and more than 15,000 are homeless after fleeing neighborhoods raided by gangs.

Food and water are dwindling as stands and stores selling to impoverished Haitians run out of goods. The main port in Port-au-Prince remains closed, stranding dozens of containers with critical supplies.

Late on Monday, the Haitian government announced it was extending a nighttime curfew until March 14 in an attempt to prevent further attacks.

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