U.N. Security Council considers Haiti sanctions, targeting gang leader 'Barbecue'
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 13 (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council is considering creating a sanctions regime to impose an asset freeze, travel ban and arms embargo on anyone who threatens the peace, security or stability of Haiti, according to a draft resolution seen by Reuters on Thursday.
The first person to be sanctioned would be Jimmy Cherizier, who goes by the nickname "Barbecue" and is described in the U.S. and Mexico-drafted resolution as one of Haiti's most influential gang leaders.
"Cherizier and his G9 gang confederation are actively blocking the free movement of fuel from the Varreux fuel terminal," the text says. "His actions have directly contributed to the economic paralysis and humanitarian crisis in Haiti."
Gangs last month blocked the entrance to Varreux to protest a government announcement of a cut in fuel subsidies. Fuel supplies dried up and Haitians also face a shortage of drinking water amid a deadly outbreak of cholera.
"One of the challenges in effectively dealing with insecurity is the nexus between the gangs and some of the elites in Haiti and outside of Haiti who are supporting them and directing them for their own purposes," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Washington on Thursday.
"So we've been working together at the United Nations ... to impose sanctions on those who are actually taking actions that support violence and support gangs," he said at a joint news conference with visiting Mexican officials.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has proposed that one or several countries send "a rapid action force" to help Haiti's police remove a threat posed by armed gangs, according to a letter to the Security Council, seen by Reuters on Sunday.
In July the council threatened targeted sanctions against criminal gangs and human rights abusers in Haiti and called on countries to stop a flow of guns to the Caribbean country.
The U.S. State Department this week announced visa sanctions against those who support Haitian gangs, responding to the humanitarian crisis created by the gang blockade.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols, who is leading a delegation of officials to the Caribbean nations, said in an interview with a local television station that Barbecue and the G9 gangs are directly contributing to the deaths of Haitians.
"Yesterday, the United States designated 11 individuals for visa sanctions," Nichols said, adding that he could not name the individuals per U.S. policy.
He said 1.2 million people in Haiti are at risk for cholera. Health experts say the gang blockade is making it more difficult to control the outbreak, which was announced this month.
The 15-member Security Council could vote as early as Monday on the draft sanctions resolution, diplomats said. To be adopted a resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, France or Britain.
China has been pushing for the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on criminal gangs in Haiti.
A U.N. mission in Haiti works with the government to strengthen political stability and good governance, rights protection and justice reform and to help with organizing free and fair elections.
U.N. peacekeepers were deployed to Haiti in 2004 after a rebellion led to the ouster and exile of then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Peacekeeping troops left in 2017 and were replaced by U.N. police, who left in 2019.
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