U.S. lawmakers push for more action to help struggling Haiti

A woman cooks inside her makeshift tent at the Hugo Chavez Square where she shelters from gang war violence in Port-au-Prince, Haiti October 16, 2022. REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo/File Photo

WASHINGTON, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Democratic and Republican members of the U.S. Congress announced legislation on Monday intended to help Haiti address a worsening humanitarian and security crisis by punishing members of political elites found to be colluding with criminal gangs.

The Haiti Criminal Collusion Transparency Act of 2022, introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives, would require the U.S. State Department to investigate the relationship between gangs and elites, and provide reports in Congress.

It would impose sanctions for human rights violations and visa restrictions on both Haitian gang leaders and those who support their activities.

"It is time for both Haiti's gangs and their financers and political backers to face more consequences for threatening Haiti's future and broader hemispheric stability," Senator Bob Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

The blockade of a major fuel terminal by gangs protesting a plan to cut fuel subsidies has prevented the distribution of diesel and gasoline in Haiti, halting transport and cutting off the capital from the food-producing south.

As a result, some Haitians are experiencing catastrophic hunger, while the gangs are using sexual violence to instill fear, a U.N. report found last week.

On Saturday, U.S. and Canadian military aircraft delivered tactical and armored vehicles and other supplies to Haitian police to help them combat the gangs.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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