The Biden administration says its strategy is to hold “corrupt officials accountable” for the events plaguing Haiti.
The Biden administration has imposed new sanctions on Haitian officials accused of drug trafficking, as the United States and its allies continue to crack down on corruption in the violence-torn Caribbean nation.
The US Treasury Department said on Friday that the sanctions affected Haitian Senator Rony Celestin, as well as former Senator Richard Lenine Herve Fourcand.
“Rony Celestin and Richard Fourcand are two more examples of corrupt Haitian politicians who abuse their power to advance drug trafficking operations throughout the region,” Treasury Director Brian E Nelson said in a statement.
“Treasury will continue to say that corrupt officials and fraudsters will be held accountable for the drug trafficking that is plaguing Haiti.”
Haiti has been plagued by violence for months as powerful rebels fight for power after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021.
The country is also grappling with a deadly cholera epidemic as well as hunger and malnutrition, after a weeks-long militant attack shut down a gas station in the capital, Port-au-Prince, which has since been removed, causing power and water shortages.
Ulrika Richardson, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, said last month that armed bandits control about 60 percent of Port-au-Prince, and use sexual violence to “destroy” residents.
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry in October called on countries to help establish a “special force” to restore security – a call supported by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
But the effort appears to have stalled, as the Biden administration has so far failed to get allies to agree to lead the effort, US media reported.
Haitian organizations have also strongly opposed the prospect of a military presence in the country, saying that such a move has caused more harm than good.
On Friday, the US Treasury accused Celestin, the current Haitian senator, of using his political position to “organize” the shipment of drugs from Venezuela to Haiti, as well as the shipment of drugs to the US and the Bahamas.
He also said that Fourcand “uses his plane to transport narcotics through the south of Haiti”, while he wants to install people in government areas “who can help his narcotics activities”.
Sanctions will freeze the assets of the targeted individuals in the US and prevent American citizens from doing business with them.
Fourcand and the spokesperson of the Haitian Prime Minister’s Office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request. Reuters said it could not reach Celestin for comment.
Today, I led my friends from across the country in a letter of encouragement @POTUS imposing sanctions on those identified as entities from the public and private sector responsible for providing security funds to Haiti. #sosHaiti pic.twitter.com/ymkqlK0196
— Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (@CongresswomanSC) October 8, 2022
In early October, a group of members of Congress in the US urged the Biden administration to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act against “known perpetrators of terrorism and private and public organizations responsible for providing security funds” in Haiti.
“These sanctions should cover oligarchs, political officials, corrupt politicians, US citizens and US citizens who facilitate the extrajudicial killings, torture, and kidnapping of innocent Haitians and, in some cases, American citizens,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.
Last month, the US and Canada imposed sanctions against two more Haitian politicians for their involvement in the drug trade: Joseph Lambert and Youri Latortue, who are the current and former presidents of the Haitian Senate, respectively.
Both Lambert and Latortue denied the allegations.