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Jamaica is ready to send soldiers and police to quell the chaos in Haiti

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Jamaica’s prime minister said his government is willing to send troops and police to Haiti as part of a multinational security assistance deployment project.

The announcement comes a week after the UN’s special envoy for Haiti, Helen La Lime, said she hoped the UN Security Council would “positively” deal with the Haitian government’s pending request for international armed forces despite the fact that the United States and Canada show no interest.

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness told the island’s House of Representatives on Tuesday that he wanted to help Haiti and “support a return to a reasonable level of stability and peace, which would be necessary for any inclusive democratic process to take hold.” root”.

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The announcement appears to mark the first time a Western Hemisphere nation has publicly offered boots on the ground after Haiti’s prime minister and other senior officials called for the immediate deployment of foreign troops in early October amid a crippling fuel siege blamed on the most powerful in the land. gang.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres and La Lime backed Haiti’s appeal to no avail.

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The UN Security Council considered the request but took no action, choosing instead to impose sanctions on people like Jimmy Chérizier, a dominant gang leader and former police officer accused of orchestrating multiple massacres.

“We have the impression that the international community has not yet realized the urgency of the situation facing the Haitian people,” said Léon Charles, former head of the National Police of Haiti, during a meeting on Wednesday. of a meeting of the Organization of American States.

“My country is going through one of the most difficult times in its history,” said Charles, who is Haiti’s permanent representative to the OAS.

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He compared the aid Haiti has received so far from the international community to buckets of water to help put out a raging fire when what the country needs are equipped to fire trucks. heavy-duty hoses.

Meanwhile, Holness said Jamaica stands ready to offer bilateral support if needed.

“We sincerely hope that Haiti will soon overcome its challenges and embark on the path of restoring stability, lasting peace, and sustainable development for its land and its people with the full support of the international community”, did he declare.

Vanessa Frazier, Malta’s ambassador to the United Nations and current president of the Security Council, told a council meeting on Tuesday that she welcomed Jamaica’s statement and added that she had not yet received any notifications. other countries.

“Hopefully we will because we understand that this multinational security force is very important and is needed on the ground to stabilize the situation in Haiti,” she said.

Jamaica is a member of a regional trading bloc known as Caricom, which issued a statement last week urging “all stakeholders to come together in their search for a consensus agreement” to resolve what it called a prolonged political stalemate in Haiti, adding that he was ready to hold a meeting in the Caribbean to discuss the issue.

Haiti was stripped of all democratically elected institutions when the terms of the remaining 10 senators expired in early January. Prime Minister Ariel Henry has promised to hold general elections for over a year, but a provisional electoral council has yet to be chosen, which some critics say has led to a de facto dictatorship.

Haiti is also grappling with levels of violence not seen in decades since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse at his private home, with gangs now controlling 60% of the capital Port-au-Prince.

The number of reported kidnappings climbed to 1,359 last year, double the year before, and reported murders rose by a third to 2,183, according to the UN.

“These are really scary numbers,” Charles said. “The situation in Haiti is extremely urgent.

The National Police of Haiti has less than 9,000 active police officers in a country of more than 11 million people which not only faces an outbreak of violence, but also worsening poverty, widespread famine, and a deadly cholera epidemic.

Associated Press reporter Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed.

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