Canada sanctions Haiti ex-President Martelly for financing gangs

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Haiti's outgoing President Michel Martelly speaks at a ceremony marking the end of his presidential term, in the Haitian Parliament in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, February 7, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares/File Photo

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Canada has sanctioned former Haitian President Michel Martelly and two former prime ministers for financing gangs, Canadian authorities said on Sunday, the latest in a series of measures targeting alleged backers of Haitian criminal groups.

In September, Haitian gangs created a humanitarian crisis by blocking a fuel terminal for nearly six weeks, halting most economic activity and triggering U.N. discussion of a possible foreign strike force to open the terminal.

Canada and the United States have sanctioned political leaders who allegedly finance the gangs, which according to policy makers are backed by Haitian elites.

"These latest sanctions target a former president of Haiti and two former prime ministers of Haiti suspected of protecting and enabling the illegal activities of armed criminal gangs," the office of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement, which did not name the individuals.

Radio-Canada journalist Louis Blouin wrote on Twitter that the sanctions targeted Martelly, as well as former Haitian Prime Ministers Laurent Lamothe and Jean Henry Ceant.

Sebastien Carriere, Canada's ambassador to Haiti, replied on Twitter with the words "I confirm."

Martelly served as president from 2011 to 2016, taking office in the wake of the devastating 2010 earthquake.

A pop singer who performed under the stage name Sweet Micky before becoming president, Martelly was strongly backed by the United States before and during his presidency, and made a living playing shows in South Florida after leaving office.

He was succeeded by ally Jovenel Moise, who was assassinated in 2021.

Ceant served as prime minister from 2018 to 2019. Reuters was unable to contact him or Martelly.

Lamothe, who was prime minister from 2012 to 2014, described the announcement as "the Fakest of Fake news," noting he has publicly sought foreign intervention to fight gangs.

"Canada cannot provide once piece of evidence, because there is none," he wrote in a text message to Reuters. "This is Absurd."

Police took back control of the terminal this month and fuel has started to flow again, but gang kidnappings are on the rise and armed groups continue expanding control of territory.

Reporting by Harold Isaac in Port-au-Prince and Brian Ellsworth in Miami; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Daniel Wallis

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