GEORGETOWN, GUYANA – The United States remains active in its search for a country to head a multinational force in troubled Haiti, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday, without offering Washington’s lead.
Blinken met Wednesday at a Caribbean summit with Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry and again spoke of the urgency of an international force in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, where gangs have taken over broad stretches of territory.
But no country has stepped forward despite nearly a year of calls for the force by Henry and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“We’re in very active conversations with countries in the region and beyond about such a force and we’re in active conversations, of course, at the United Nations about what it might do to give a force the proper imprimatur from the international community,” Blinken told reporters in Guyana.
“Part of this involves making sure that countries step up to play important roles in such a force, particularly identifying a country that would play a leading-nation role,” Blinken said.
But he declined to offer such a role for the United States, which has a long history of intervention in Haiti, and instead reiterated U.S. support for building Haiti’s fledgling national police.
U.S. President Joe Biden, who ended America’s longest war in Afghanistan, has made clear he has no intention of putting U.S. troops at risk in Haiti.
Haiti Foreign Minister Jean Victor Geneus spoke to the U.N. Security Council on Thursday about the urgent need for the international force.
And the U.N. special representative for Haiti reported on the violence there. In her report, Maria Isabel Salvador said that at least 264 suspected gang members in Haiti have been killed by vigilante groups since April.
“The appearance of vigilante groups adds another layer of complexity,” Salvador told the U.N. Security Council.
Haitian police have been unable to quell the unprecedented violence by gangs that control much of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and residents have begun to take matters into their own hands.
Haitians have not voted since 2016, with the last elected president, Jovenel Moise, assassinated in July 2021. Henry, the prime minister, has promised to step down after a new government is installed in February 2024, although election targets have repeatedly slipped in Haiti.
Blinken met with Henry at the Caribbean summit in Trinidad and Tobago, where the top US diplomat also called for renewed efforts to hold elections in Haiti.
Guyanese President Irfaan Ali said there was progress on Haiti at the Caribbean summit, with Kenya and Rwanda, whose president, Paul Kagame, was in attendance, offering support for the police force.
A group of former leaders, including former Prime Ministers Bruce Golding of Jamaica and Kenny Anthony of Saint Lucia, agreed to work with both Henry and other Haitian stakeholders on a political transition, Ali said.
“Prime Minister Henry is committed to broadening this transitional government,” Ali said.