The United States has forcefully rejected a statement made by a powerful Haitian gang leader who demanded that a proposed multinational force to help reestablish security must begin by arresting Haiti's legitimate leaders.
"The U.S. government condemns in the strongest possible terms the actions and statements of gang leaders like Cherizier who have paralyzed much of Port-au-Prince and the Artibonite department and displaced more than 100,000 Haitians," a State Department spokesperson told VOA via email.
Jimmy Cherizier, leader of the powerful G9 Family and Allies gang (FRG9) in Port-au-Prince, told reporters Wednesday that he would welcome a multinational police force to help Haiti restore security — under certain circumstances.
"If, when, the foreign forces arrive, they arrest the corrupt oligarchs, politicians and politicians who are selling weapons and ammunition to the people in the underprivileged neighborhoods, I will applaud them," Cherizier said.
But he also issued a warning:
"If the foreign forces arrive in 2023 or 2024, and we see them sexually assaulting women, raping young boys just as the Uruguayan soldiers did in 2004. If they bring cholera back to Haiti. … If that is what they are coming to do in the underprivileged neighborhoods, along with opening fire on us, killing the people or massacring them — we Haitians will fight them until we shed our last drops of blood," he said.
The State Department spokesperson told VOA the administration will continue working to hold responsible those in Haiti who commit "gross violations of human rights and significant corruption."
The U.S. sanctioned Cherizier in December 2020 under the Global Magnitsky Sanctions Program for human rights abuses in connection with his role in the La Saline attack. The violent assault launched against the population of the underprivileged neighborhood of Port-au-Prince in 2018 resulted in at least 71 deaths, the spokesperson noted.
Cherizier was also designated under a United Nations Security Council resolution for his role in the economic and humanitarian crisis that crippled Haiti in 2022. The gang leader is blamed for the blockade of the capital's largest oil terminal, Varreux, which sparked a nationwide gas and power shortage.
The State Department spokesperson said the U.S. "welcomed the Government of Kenya's announcement" of an offer to lead the multinational force.
"Our support for pursuing an MNF (Multinational Force) to restore security and stability in Haiti remains unwavering," the spokesperson told VOA.
In October 2022, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry appealed to the international community for an international force to help Haiti's national police combat gang violence and make the country secure.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a similar appeal earlier this year and again on August 15 in a report on the situation in Haiti sent to the presidency of the Security Council. The United States currently holds that position.
A recent poll by the Agency for Managing Risk and Security in Haiti found that 68% of Haitians believe a multinational force is needed to help restore security.