Jamaica willing to take part in military intervention in Haiti, PM says
KINGSTON, Feb 1 (Reuters) – Jamaica would be ready to take part in an international military operation in Haiti, Prime Minister Andrew Holness told lawmakers on Tuesday, saying the Caribbean island nation could also help its neighbor with electoral reforms.
The United Nations proposed in October to send a “rapid reaction force” to Haiti, where gangs have expanded their territory after the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise left a power vacuum.
This has led to routine firefights between cops and the gangs, with police blocking streets in protest at the deaths of cops last week. Bloody turf wars between rival gangs have left hundreds dead and thousands displaced.
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry has asked for foreign military support. The UN envoy to Haiti, Helen La Lime, has called for more urgency, saying the police cannot win without outside support. But talks have stalled and most countries appear cautious about sending troops.
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“Jamaica would be willing to participate in a multinational security assistance operation to Haiti under the appropriate legal parameters to support a return to an appropriate level of stability and peace,” Holness told lawmakers.
Both the police and the Jamaican army have been briefed, he said, and are beginning preparations for “such contingencies.”
Separately, El Salvador’s Vice President Felix Ulloa has offered to send a “technical team” to Haiti to offer advice on fighting gangs, a presidential aide told Reuters. The Central American country has been involved in a bloody crackdown on armed gangs on its own territory, which has been criticized by human rights groups.
Last week, the Caribbean bloc CARICOM released a statement condemning both the recent gang killings of police officers in Haiti and the police protests.
“We continue to believe that any solution must be driven by the will of the Haitian people,” Holness said. “However, developments over the past week show that progress towards restoring democratic institutions and the rule of law remains highly fragile.”
He pointed to “increasing reports” of children who have not yet resumed their school year and are being recruited into gangs.
Holness added that while talks within CARICOM continue, Kingston stands ready to host talks between Haiti’s political leaders and civilian representatives.
Mark Golding, Jamaica’s opposition leader, said he would support Jamaica’s participation within parameters outlined by the prime minister, noting an “alarming prospect” for Haiti’s neighbors of further deterioration.
Golding said reparations for Haiti should also be on the agenda of any talks. After Haiti’s independence, France imposed on its former colony large debts for lost “property”, including slaves, which Haiti took over a century to pay off and hampered its development.
reporting from Kate Chappell in Kingston, Nelson Renteria in San Salvador and Sarah Morland in Mexico City; Edited by Rosalba O’Brien
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