PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI (AP) – Haiti’s government has agreed to request the help of international troops as gangs and protesters paralyse the country and supplies of water, fuel and basic goods dwindle, according to a document published on Friday.
The document, signed by Prime Minister Ariel Henry and 18 top-ranking officials, stated that they are alarmed by “the risk of a major humanitarian crisis” that is threatening the life of many people.
It authorises Henry to request from international partners “the immediate deployment of a specialised armed force, in sufficient quantity”, to stop the crisis across the country caused partly by the “criminal actions of armed gangs”.
“It is imperative to restart activities to avoid a complete asphyxiation of the national economy,” the document stated.
It wasn’t clear if the request had been formally submitted, to whom it would be submitted and whether it would mean the activation of United Nations (UN) peacekeeping troops, whose mission ended five years ago after a troubled 11 years in Haiti.
On Friday, the United States (US) Embassy warned that “US citizens should depart Haiti now in light of the current health and security situation and infrastructure challenges.”
It also authorised the temporary departure of government personnel and their families.
US State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said earlier in the day that the US is considering a request for a humanitarian corridor to restore the distribution of fuel within Haiti and coordinating with Haiti’s prime minister and other international partners to determine how best to provide additional support.
“We strongly condemn those who continue to block the distribution of fuel and other necessities to Haitian businesses,” he said.
Patel would not address the issue of where the troops to enforce the corridor might come from, saying that consideration was still in an early stage.
The petition comes after secretary general of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro met on Thursday with officials including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Haiti Foreign Affairs Minister Jean Victor Généus to talk about the country’s worsening situation.
Almagro tweeted late on Thursday that Haiti “must request urgent assistance from the international community to help resolve security crises, determine the characteristics of an international security force”.
Many Haitians have rejected the idea of another international intervention, noting that UN peacekeepers were accused of sexual assault and sparked a cholera epidemic more than a decade ago that killed nearly 10,000 people.
“I don’t think Haiti needs another intervention,” said Haiti’s former elections minister Mathias Pierre.
“We have been through so many, and nothing has been solved… If we don’t do it as Haitians, 10 years forward, we’re going to be in the same situation again.”