The United States reportedly has no military plans for Haiti after a request to send troops to that nation in the aftermath of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, but it has agreed to offer immediate help with the investigation.
Haiti asked the U.S. and the United Nations Wednesday to deploy troops to the country to protect key infrastructure during a conversation between Haiti's interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, according to Haitian Elections Minister Mathias Pierre, who spoke with media outlets, including Reuters and Agence France-Presse.
The minister said Joseph made a request for U.N. troops with the U.N. Security Council on Thursday.
"We were in a situation where we believed that infrastructure of the country – the port, airport and energy infrastructure – might be a target," Minister Pierre told Reuters.
Reuters quoted an anonymous senior U.S. administration official Friday, who said the United States has no plans to provide military assistance to Haiti "at this time."
The United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment from AFP.
Earlier Friday, the Biden administration said it was sending senior Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in response to a request from the Haitian government for security and investigative assistance.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday the U.S. officials will "assess the situation and how we may be able to assist."
“The United States remains engaged in close consultations with our Haitian and international partners to support the Haitian people in the aftermath of the assassination of the president,” she said.
Haiti is in turmoil since Moise was shot to death at his private residence early Wednesday. Interim Prime Minister Joseph said he is in charge. Haitian officials have requested help from the United States to maintain security and help in the investigation to find those responsible for the assassination.
Police said Friday that a 28-member assassination team of Colombians and Americans were responsible for the attack, but that a search continued for its organizers.
Colombian police said Friday at least 13 former Colombian soldiers were believed to have been involved.
Haitian National Police Chief Léon Charles told reporters Friday that 17 suspects had been apprehended, including two Americans.
Three suspects were killed and at least five are still on the run, police said.
Colombia’s national police director, General Jorge Luis Vargas Valencia, said at a Friday news conference in Bogota that four companies participated in the “recruitment” of the Colombian suspects. He did not disclose the names of the companies because their names were still being confirmed.
Bocchit Edmond, Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S., sent a letter to Blinken requesting sanctions against those implicated in the crime.
“We further request for the Biden administration to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act on all perpetrators who are directly responsible or aided and abetted in the execution of the assassination of the president. We look forward to working with the U.S. Embassy in Port-au Prince as we seek truth and justice for the family of President Moise and the people of Haiti,” the letter said.
Haiti will receive $75.5 million in U.S. assistance this year, Psaki said, for "democratic governance, health, education, agricultural development, strengthening of pre-election activities, strengthening peace and law enforcement." She said bolstering "law enforcement capacity" remains a key U.S. priority.
The Biden administration has earmarked $5 million for the Haitian National Police force (PNH), which is already receiving assistance from the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. The money will be used to quell gang violence.
Haiti's police force has been criticized in recent years for human rights abuses, corruption and mismanagement of resources.
On the immigration front, the White House press secretary said the United States has extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eligible Haitians currently living in the U.S. The decision was announced by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in May.
To help Haiti combat a COVID-19 surge that began last month, Psaki said the U.S. plans to deliver coronavirus vaccines to Haiti "as early as next week." Haiti’s airports were closed hours after the assassination of the president as law enforcement sought to cut off escape routes to possible suspects. Psaki said the delivery of the vaccines would depend on the status of the airport.
In remarks to reporters Friday, U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric expressed concerns about the possible humanitarian implications the current crisis could have on the Haitian people.
“Our colleagues are telling us that following the assassination of the president, efforts to respond to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in the country are being put at risk,” Dujarric said. “The situation is also threatening efforts to provide humanitarian assistance, especially food and water, to people who have been internally displaced due to recent gang attacks.”
Dujarric said humanitarian aid flights planned for Wednesday and Thursday were canceled.
Helen La Lime, the special representative of the U.N. secretary-general in Haiti, has been in contact with Haitian officials, the spokesperson told reporters, and is pushing for “an inclusive political compromise” to solve the political crisis and sustain stability.
Meanwhile in Tabarre, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, dozens of Haitians gathered in front of the U.S. Embassy to request political asylum.
“Whenever there’s a catastrophe in Haiti, people always seek refuge at the embassy. People don’t feel safe, that’s why they’re here,” a man who did not give his name told VOA Creole. He said some people arrived Thursday night.
Asked if anyone from the embassy had come out to speak with the group, the man said no.
“If something happens, they will stay here and if they have a chance to leave the country they’ll go,” the man said.
This story includes information from Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.
White House Correspondent Patsy , United Nations Correspondent Margaret , Vilme in Port-au-Prince, Haiti contributed to this report.