UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The U.N. special envoy for Haiti said Wednesday she heard "caution" from the United States and Canada about possibly leading an international armed force to help Haiti combat gangs but not "a definite `No.'"
Helen La Lime expressed hope that the U.N. Security Council will deal positively with the issue of the force requested by the Haitian government. She said at a new conference that an international armed force would be a partner of the Haitian National Police "that would go against the gangs."
She spoke a day after the United States and Canada showed no interest at a Security Council meeting for deploying their security personnel despite renewed appeals from the U.N. and Haiti for help to end worsening violence in the Western hemisphere's poorest nation. They are the two countries most often mentioned as possible leaders of an international force in Haiit.
U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood told the council that "Haiti must address its continued insecurity challenges," and he encouraged the international community to support its efforts.
Canada's U.N. ambassador, Robert Rae, said the world needs to learn from all previous military interventions in Haiti, which failed to bring long-term stability to the country. He said it's key that in the future solutions "must be led by Haitians and by Haitian institutions."
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the country's Council of Ministers sent an urgent appeal Oct. 7 calling for "the immediate deployment of a specialized armed force, in sufficient quantity," to stop the crisis caused partly by the "criminal actions of armed gangs."
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued the appeal, and La Lime repeated it Tuesday as more than three months later, no countries have stepped forward.
La Lime said there was widespread concern in the Security Council on the worsening security situation in Haiti.
She told the council Tuesday that "gang-related violence has reached levels not seen in years."
Homicides and kidnappings increased for a fourth straight year in 2022, she said. She said the 1,359 kidnappings last year was more than double the number in 2021, averaging roughly four per day. Killings were up a third to 2,183, touching all segments of society, including a former presidential candidate and the director of the National Police Academy.
La Lime said the Security Council's unanimous adoption in October of a resolution imposing sanctions on individuals and groups threatening peace and stability in Haiti starting with a powerful gang leader, and sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Canada are having an impact.
On the political front, she said, a "National Consensus Agreement for an Inclusive Transition and Transparent Elections" signed Dec. 21 by a broad range of political, civilian, religious, trade union and private sector officials was a positive development that calls for elections by February 2024.
But she stressed Wednesday that the crucial missing element is a specialized international military contingent to support the police.
In the Security Council "there is a lot of concern, and I think there is recognition that help is needed," La Lime said. "The sanctions continue to do their job, and there is a recognition that it's time to sit down and deal with this issue of the force. So, my hope is that the Security Council will do that."
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