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US Commits $100 Million More to Multinational Force for Haiti Amid Violence

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks beside Guyana President Irfaan Ali and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness at an emergency meeting on Haiti at the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in Kingston, Jamaica, March 11, 2024.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks beside Guyana President Irfaan Ali and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness at an emergency meeting on Haiti at the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in Kingston, Jamaica, March 11, 2024.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Monday the United States would commit an additional $100 million to a United Nations-backed multinational security force intended to assist Haitian police in combating gangs, along with $33 million in humanitarian aid.

This would bring the total of U.S. contribution to the security force to $300 million.

In February, the United States pledged $200 million to support the Kenya-led Multinational Security Support mission, or MSS, in Haiti. The U.S. said that the deployment of the mission will help the Haitian National Police create the security conditions necessary to conduct free and fair elections.

Monday, Blinken joined Caribbean leaders in Kingston, Jamaica, to discuss a proposal to "expedite a political transition" to resolve the unfolding crisis in Haiti, including possible deployment of the U.N.-backed multinational security forces.

The proposal, developed in partnership with the Caribbean Community, known as CARICOM, and Haitian stakeholders, comes as Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry faces pressure to resign or agree to a transitional council.

According to a statement by U.S. officials, the transition would occur via "the creation of a broad-based, independent presidential college," a reference to a proposed committee that would oversee Haiti ahead of elections.

In Kingston, Blinken said that the Haitian people are confronting “a political crisis, escalating violence, unrest,” an “untenable situation” that requires urgent action both politically and in terms of security.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told VOA that the United States aims to accelerate the deployment of the U.N.-backed mission U.N. Multinational Security Support, or MSS, mission in Haiti, because escalating gang violence is endangering its government.

"We continue to look to expedite that mission as soon as possible," Miller said during a Monday briefing, adding the U.S. has been in conversation about the deployment with the government of Kenya and other countries.

"I can assure you that the United States will do its part to fund that important mission," Miller said.

UN reaction

At the United Nations, all 15 U.N. Security Council members strongly condemned "the increasing violence, criminal activities, mass displacement of civilians and human rights abuses" in a Monday statement.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' chief of staff is representing the U.N. at the CARICOM meeting in Kingston.

"The MSS mission is a critical step toward creating an environment conducive to free and fair elections, as well as alleviating the humanitarian crisis," said U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

The expedient MSS deployment is a top priority for U.S. President Joe Biden's administration, she said.

Canada has committed $91.2 million, and others, including Benin, France, Germany, Jamaica and Spain, have announced financial, personnel and logistical support.

Sunday, the U.S. military airlifted nonessential embassy personnel from Haiti and deployed additional U.S. forces to reinforce embassy security. This operation is in response to escalating gang violence that has prompted hundreds of thousands to flee their homes and threatens to bring down the government.

The State Department said the security situation in Haiti is "unpredictable and dangerous," and the U.S. Embassy's ability to assist U.S. citizens is "severely limited."

The State Department's travel advisory for Haiti has remained at Level Four — do not travel to Haiti — since July 2023.

"U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince has been on Ordered Departure status since July 27, 2023. Adjustments during this time are not uncommon, nor do they represent a change in our overall posture," a State Department spokesperson told VOA.

Concerns from critics

Some critics note that while both Democratic and Republican lawmakers support ensuring a more stable Haiti, some are concerned about the Biden administration's policy toward the nation.

Ana Rosa Quintana-Lovett, a senior policy director for the Vandenberg Coalition think tank in Washington, said Haiti's political future is not being driven by Haitians but rather by the international donor community.

She told VOA Monday that Haitian Prime Minister Henry's "leadership is untenable" and that Henry fails to grasp that he does not have the support of the Haitian people.

"The United States needs to understand that whatever diplomatic messages they are publicly releasing, frankly, are falling on (Henry's) deaf ears," she added.

She also pointed out congressional concerns over proposed Kenyan-led multinational forces. "Kenyan forces don't speak Creole, so how are they going to engage and work with the Haitian National Police? I mean, there are just so many loopholes in the approach," she said.

Dire situation

Haiti declared a state of emergency on March 3, following attacks by gangs on the main prisons in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Prime Minister Henry was in Kenya at the time, finalizing a deal for a U.N.-supported peacekeeping mission aimed at addressing Haiti's gang violence.

The gangs demanded Henry's resignation. He is reportedly stranded in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

Amid escalating gang violence in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian government extended the state of emergency until April 3, and the nighttime curfew until Monday.

According to the International Organization for Migration's office in Haiti, the violence perpetrated by armed gangs has forced over 360,000 people across Haiti to flee their homes.

UNICEF has warned that critical social services in Haiti are on the verge of collapse, and that the humanitarian response that millions of children and civilians rely on as a last resort has been severely impaired.

Political transition process

Henry was appointed, not elected, after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021. Henry had initially promised to step down by early February but later said security must be reestablished first to conduct free and fair elections.

On February 29, CARICOM said the Haitian prime minister had committed to organizing general elections by August 31, 2025. CARICOM stated its intention to send an assessment team by March 31 of this year to evaluate electoral needs, aiming to support the planning and establishment of relevant institutions.

Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.