Canadian PM holds talks with Caribbean leaders on Haiti’s turmoil

ONTARIO, Canada (CMC) — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has, within a one-week period, held a second round of talks with Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders on the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in Haiti.

The Guyana-based Caricom Secretariat has not issued — as had been the case on the first occasion when Trudeau met with Caricom chairman and Suriname President Chandrikapersad Santokhi — any statement regarding the deliberations.

But according to the statement issued on the weekend by the Office of the Prime Minister here on the latest round of talks, Prime Minister Trudeau and Caricom leaders received an update from the Haitian Prime Minister Dr Ariel Henry “on the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian and security situation”.

“The leaders conveyed their deep concerns about the ongoing unrest and suffering, including the violence committed by armed gangs against Haitians in Port-au-Prince and neighbouring regions,” the statement said.

It said that Prime Minister Trudeau updated Caricom leaders on Canada’s assistance to Haiti and the assessment of the current situation.

Trudeau highlighted recent support for Haiti including joint airlift operations with the United States to deliver tactical and armoured vehicles and supplies to the Haitian National Police (HNP) to help restore security and stability.

He spoke of the creation of the ‘Joint Programme for the Haitian National Police’ United Nations Development Programme basket fund, with seed funding of CDN$10 million from Canada and US$3 million from the United States, which he encouraged Caricom members to contribute to.

“The leaders discussed the need to remove blockades by gangs, including at the Varreux terminal, that are exacerbating the humanitarian crisis by restricting access to the fuel, water, and medicine urgently needed to respond to food insecurity and the rising number of cholera cases in Haiti. The leaders also discussed the importance of sanctions to break the cycle of corruption in Haiti, halting funding to the armed gangs, and holding those responsible for the crisis to account,” the statement said.

Trudeau commended Caricom’s leadership and focus on addressing the complex humanitarian, security, and political crises Haiti faces. In turn, Caricom leaders underscored the value of Canada’s commitment to close collaboration with Caricom, regional and international partners in order to find a durable solution for Haiti’s long-term stability and sustainable development.

“The leaders emphasised the need to continue working closely together in response to Haiti’s immediate humanitarian and security needs, and also to facilitate inclusive, Haitian-led, political dialogue towards free and fair elections at the earliest possible opportunity,” the statement added.

It said that Prime Minister Trudeau and Caricom leaders “agreed to stay in close contact as the situation in Haiti unfolds”.

Last Friday the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a sanctions regime for Haiti, targeting gang leaders and those who finance them, in the hope of easing months of violence and lawlessness which have fuelled a major humanitarian crisis.

Criminal gangs have been blocking access to the main fuel terminal in the capital Port-au-Prince, bringing critical services to a standstill, as Haiti grapples with a widening cholera epidemic amid political and economic meltdown.

The UN said Resolution 2653, drafted by the United States and Mexico, is the first sanctions regime adopted since that of Mali, just over five years ago. It establishes a committee which will be responsible for designating the individuals and entities to be sanctioned.

The resolution specifically sanctions notorious gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, an ex-police officer who is reportedly the most powerful gang boss in the country and is known by his alias Barbeque.

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