Peacekeeping chief: UN backs desire for end to Haiti mission

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations supports the desire of Haiti’s leaders to end the U.N. stabilization mission in the country in October and for Haitian authorities to fully assume responsibility for security in the country, the U.N. peacekeeping chief said Wednesday.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix told the Security Council that the United Nations trusts “the capacity of the Haitian national police to manage security risks without international operational support.”

The U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known as MINUJUSTH, has been training the national police and helping the government strengthen judicial and legal institutions and monitor human rights since the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti ended on Oct. 15, 2017 after 13 years.

Lacroix said that while “the evolution of the situation in Haiti since July has confirmed the political fluidity and economic fragility of the country, we must also not lose sight of the progress made over the years, and most recently the strengthening of the country’s institutions with the Haitian national police first and foremost.”

President Juvenal Moise’s administration set off deadly protests in July when officials abruptly announced double-digit increases in the prices for gasoline, diesel and kerosene as part of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund to eliminate fuel subsidies and boost government revenue.

Since then, Haiti’s largest opposition groups have united in a campaign of protests to push Moise, who is backed by the United States, from office.

In his report to the Security Council last month, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the national police force gave a “widely acknowledged professional and effective performance during the demonstrations,” showcasing “its capacities in addressing security challenges in the country.”

“It is my assessment that unless there are mounting challenges to the government’s capacity to respond to the crisis, the national police will be able to fully assume responsibility for the security and protection of Haiti by Oct. 15,” he said.

Guterres recommended that the Security Council gradually phase out MINUJUSTH’s mandate over the next six months and approve the establishment of “a small strategic advisory office” to advise the government on specific areas of political reform, elections, justice, corrections, development of the police, reducing community violence and human rights.

Lacroix told the council that this proposal would be ideal to meet Haiti’s needs at this stage.

If the secretary-general’s recommendations are approved by the council, he said, the U.N. will withdraw international police and prepare for “a smooth transition.”

Lacroix called on Security Council members and countries in the region to step up cooperation with Haiti, especially in strengthening its abilities to promote stability and the rule of law.

Haiti’s Foreign Minister Edmond Bocchit backed the plan to end the MINUJUSTH mission and remove the country from the Security Council’s agenda.

He told the council that president Moise “has in no way underestimated the difficulties that his administration has to overcome.”

“The mass protests in recent months have highlighted, if there was any further need to do so, the crucial steps that remain ahead, in particular the urgent need to step up the fight against insecurity and corruption in all its forms, and to improve substantially and without delay, living conditions of all segments of Haiti’s population,” Bocchit said.

He called 2019 “a pivotal year” for the country including ensuring that upcoming elections take place in a peaceful environment within constitutionally established timelines.

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet told the Security Council that “social grievances, corruption and weak institutions constitute major obstacles for the realization of human rights in Haiti.”

“With about 59 percent of the population estimated to live below the poverty line, the country remains the poorest in the Americas,” she said.

Poverty creates a fertile environment for criminal activity and for gangs to thrive which contributed to triggering “increasingly violent unrest across Haiti since last July,” Bachelet said.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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