Canada last weekend announced sanctions against a number of powerful Haitian politicians. It is part of a broader push to punish officials believed to be linked to the increasingly dominant gangs terrorizing the Caribbean nation.
Among those affected were Michel Martelly, who was president from 2011 to 2016 and remains influential in Haiti, and two former prime ministers.
The Canadian government has not released details of the specific allegations against the three men, but said: news release They “use their current or former civil service positions to protect and enable illegal activities by armed criminal groups, including money laundering and other corrupt practices,” it said.
Haiti’s gang wars have escalated since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last year, with armed groups becoming more daring in attacks on each other and on the population, and the state’s ill-equipped police force in much of the capital Port-au-Prince. Overwhelming. .
Last month, the Haitian government made an unusual appeal for foreign armed intervention to stabilize the country. The UN Security Council has voted to impose sanctions on gangsters and the individuals who fund them, but diplomats have yet to decide whether to send multinational forces.
As gangs continue to plague the country, Canada and the U.S. are looking to rely more on financial penalties to pressure current and former Haitian officials believed to be supporting armed groups. .
At a press conference in Tunisia on Sunday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the measure would “win for years, if not decades, from the ongoing instability of the Haitian people.” “It’s a very tough, very direct sanctions against the elites and oligarchs who have gained.” endure. The sanctions cut off access to most Canadian financial services and freeze the assets of politicians in the country.
Canada has penalized several Haitian officials, including Senator Ronnie Celestine, who was accused of corruption by Haitian activists for buying a $3.4 million villa in Montreal.
But former president Martelly, who hand-picked Moyes as his successor and wielded significant influence in his administration, is the most prominent Haitian official to publicly appear on the sanctions list this year.
“Most importantly, this is a former president who received strong support from Canada and the international community during his tenure,” said Jake Johnston, a Haiti expert at the Center for Economic and Policy Studies in Washington.
Martery spends most of his time in Miami and the Dominican Republic, Johnston said, and it’s unclear whether financial regulations in Canada will affect him.
Still, the announcement could signal a broader change in approach by some of the countries with the greatest influence on Haiti. Canada’s foreign minister on Sunday called on other countries to impose their own sanctions on those targeted by the Trudeau government.
“It could indicate that the international community will not follow the same path as in the past,” Johnston said. “The question is, is it just Canada, or are others coming?”
Moise’s assassination remains unsolved, but has been implicated by several Haitian officials, including the commander in charge of security at the president’s mansion.
Witnesses said Commander Dimitri Gerard, working with Mr. Martelly’s brother-in-law, Charles Saint-Rémy and others, used the public government to bring over 1,000 kilograms of heroin and cocaine into the country in 2015. I am accusing you of that. vehicles and personnel.
Saint-Remy has long been suspected of involvement in the drug trade by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
The singer-turned-politician remains an influential but controversial figure in Haiti, accused of misappropriating funds linked to a $2 billion loan to the country as part of a Venezuela-backed oil program. , many blame his government.
Canada also imposed sanctions over the weekend on two former prime ministers, Laurent Lamothe, who served under Martelley, and Jean-Henri Cean, who served under Moise. Ramote was ousted in 2014 amid a political crisis between the government and the opposition. In 2019, Cean was dismissed after six months of being appointed to form a unity government.
The action follows sanctions announced earlier this month by the United States and Canada targeting two Haitian senators accused of being involved in drug trafficking.
According to reports from human rights groups, Haitians are left to fend for themselves, regularly kidnapping civilians for ransom and being targeted by criminal groups that use sexual violence as a weapon to subdue the population. I am terrified.
The gang now controls much of the capital, essentially cutting off the entire neighborhood from access to the outside world as they vie for control.
Violence has crippled efforts to combat the escalating cholera epidemic, making it extremely difficult for aid workers to provide basic care in disorderly slums home to hundreds of thousands of people.
Canada’s Foreign Minister Melanie Jolie said on Sunday that sanctioned officials “are profiting from the violence being weaponized by Haitian gangs.” The aim of the measures, she said, is to ensure that “those who are part of the corrupt system are held accountable.”