A list of Haitian politicians sanctioned by the Canadian government owing to their suspected connections to armed gangs and the country’s rising violence now includes the former president of Haiti Michel Martelly and two former prime ministers.
Former leaders Laurent Lamothe and Jean-Henry Céant have been added in addition to Martelly. According to a statement from the office of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, they are “suspected of supporting and assisting the illicit activities of armed criminal gangs in Haiti, including through money laundering and other acts of corruption.”
The statement claimed that in order to defend human rights, democracy, and world peace, “we will continue to put pressure on those who are responsible for the violence and insecurity in Haiti.”
Louis Blouin, a Radio-Canada correspondent who is traveling with Trudeau, was the first to reveal the names of the sanctioned lawmakers. This means that the three politicians’ assets in Canada will be frozen and they are prohibited from conducting business there.
The identities were also confirmed by further persons familiar with the choice for The Miami Herald. While addressing a Francophonie meeting in Djerba, Tunisia, early on Sunday morning, Trudeau first announced sanctions, but he did not name any individuals. Later, the names were verified on Twitter by Sébastien Carrière, the ambassador of Haiti to Canada.
The additional penalties, according to Trudeau’s office, are in retaliation for Haitian political elites’ “respectable behavior of providing clandestine financial and operational assistance to armed gangs.”
Le #Canada a déclaré qu’il imposerait des sanctions aux personnes qui financent les gangs criminels en #Haïti. En ce dimanche 20 novembre, un ancien président et deux anciens premiers ministres sanctionnés. Persona non grata. pic.twitter.com/2rG0LLkzzh
— Emmanuel Dubourg (@EmmanuelDubourg) November 20, 2022
Along with the penalties, Trudeau also announced $8 million in Canadian aid (almost $6 million in US aid) for Haiti in order to help with the ongoing cholera outbreak, the food crisis, and the roughly 100,000 Haitians who have been displaced due to persistent gang violence. In addition, he pledged $3.5 million in legal aid access and $5 million Canadian (approximately $3.7 million US) over a three-year period to aid Haitians in their efforts to fight corruption and resolve disputes.
The U.N. Security Council unanimously decided last month to sanction the heads of criminal gangs operating in Haiti as well as anyone who aid in their financing and arming. In reaction to criminal gang activity, Canada swiftly levied sanctions against Haiti under the Special Economic Measures Act and the United Nations Act. The restrictions were effective earlier this month.
William O’Neill, a Haiti security expert and international human rights lawyer who was engaged in the reconstruction of the country’s police force, said: “It’s a really good start especially if it appears like any type of intervention is going to be slow to come, if it comes at all.”
Because “there’s certainly someone in every political party in Haiti who can be sanctioned,” O’Neill said he was pleased with the development and hoped that Canada and the United States will continue to act.
He stated, “I think this demonstrates a new strategy and I hope the U.S. follows quickly.” “I also hope that it spreads to other people and that the European Union and anyone else who might know where they are hiding assets follows up on it.”
Eight people, including the current and former presidents of the Haitian Senate, are now included on the Canadian government’s list thanks to the addition of Martelly, Lamothe, and Céant.
Canada and the United States jointly sanctioned Sen. Joseph Lambert and former Sen. Youri Latortue earlier this month. Sanctions against Hervé Fourcand, Gary Bodeau, and Rony Célestin, three other current and former lawmakers, were also issued by Canada on Saturday. The Canadian announcements of sanctions on Saturday and Sunday did not include the United States.
However, the Biden administration has warned that it too intends to hold Haiti’s criminal gangs and their backers accountable through sanctions passed by the U.N. Security Council and that it would like Canada to help lead an effort to send a multinational military force there. According to a U.S. official, the administration is debating whether to prosecute further Haitians for inciting violence in the nation.
A representative of the National Security Council remarked, “We applaud this move by the Government of Canada.” The United States and our international partners will continue to take action against nefarious entities who continue to finance and incite violence in Haiti, but we decline to comment on potential or upcoming sanctions actions. At the same time, discussions with partners regarding launching the non-UN mission are ongoing.
The United States has been secretly withdrawing the visas of several Haitians, including two ministers in the administration of interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry, in addition to enforcing its sanctions through the Department of the Treasury. After their visa issues became known, Henry just removed the ministries of interior and justice.
Depending on their own laws and flexibility, individual nations may be able to impose sanctions on Haitians or even their own citizens. For instance, the governments of France or Spain will need that the European Union legislate the Security Council’s sanctions regime. In the meanwhile, the embassies of the respective nations have joined others in closely examining Haitians they suspect of being involved in corruption, drug trafficking, or other illegal activities that contribute to the instability of the nation.
Foreign officials have long been concerned about the connection between the armed gangs terrorizing Haiti and related politicians and businessmen. However, up until recently, the governments of the United States, Canada, and other foreign countries resisted freezing the assets of Haitians, preferring to terminate their visas instead.
All of that changed, though, in September when widespread anti-government demonstrations against fuel price increases descended into violence across the nation and ruthless gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, also known as Barbecue, and his G-9 alliance seized control of the Varreux terminal, cutting off supplies of food, water, and fuel for two months. The gang had stopped operations for the second time in a year, worsening an already grave humanitarian catastrophe.
This time, however, their activities came amid a devastating cholera outbreak and soon after a number of gang-planned massacres, which infuriated foreign governments who were under increasing pressure to take action.
Haiti’s interim government sought for the swift deployment of an armed foreign force to assist after realizing that its police force needed assistance. The United States and Mexico, who wrote a resolution in the security council, supported the initiative, along with the U.N. Secretary General. The solution looks to be delayed, though, as kidnappings and violent crime grow as gangs take over entire districts. At the Francophonie meeting on Sunday, Trudeau stated that it is insufficient for the Haitian government to merely request an outside force. Across political parties, he said, there must be broad agreement on aid.
As a result of the slow removal of a United Nations peacekeeping operation and the country’s increasing instability, gang violence and criminal activity have increased in Haiti. Governments there have been criticized for employing gangs as a form of repression.
It remains to be seen whether the penalties will be successful in stabilizing the situation in Haiti, where prominent politicians and business figures have been accused of using gangs to seize and hold onto power. The majority of those who have been sanctioned thus far have assets in the United States or the Dominican Republic, which has kept quiet about penalties other from barring the former Haitian prime minister Claude Joseph and 12 other gang leaders from entering the nation.
Martelly and Lamothe have been impossible to contact. However, a number of those who have been sanctioned recently claim that the United States and Canada unfairly singled them out and attempted to prevent them from running for office in the future or having a voice in the destiny of the nation.
Céant expressed his “unpleasant surprise” at being penalized by Canada in a tweet. He claimed to be attending a peace conference in India at the time and to have contacted attorneys in Canada and Haiti to work on his case.
Another attempt to assassinate my reputation, I hear. said Céant.
Martelly, a singer better known by his stage name “Sweet Micky,” won the 2011 presidential election in a contentious process. He hasn’t held public office since 2016, when delayed elections caused him to resign without being replaced by an elected successor. His choice of the late president Jovenel Mose as his predecessor as well as the appointment of ministers by his PHTK party and his close relationships with the ruling class, however, make him one of the nation’s most contentious presidents.
He currently divides his time between Miami and Haiti; he was last seen there on Saturday after visiting the nation again.
Lamothe lives in Miami as well. He worked under Martelly, and in 2014, he resigned as prime minister in the middle of the night during a broadcast address. U.S. pressure led to the forced retirement, which occurred in the midst of a political crisis over long delayed legislative and municipal elections as well as corruption allegations.
Lamothe declared his pride in his “amazing work” as the head of state as he left. In recent years, he evolved into an unofficial advisor to Mose while continuing to be a low-key background figure on Haiti’s unstable political scene, similar to Martelly.
Céant, a notary and previous presidential contender in 2016, served as Mose’s second and final elected prime minister out of a total of seven. After fatal protests in 2018 over fuel price increases, he took office but was removed six months later after being sacked by parliament. He later came under suspicion of aiding a purported coup against Mose on February 7, 2021, and fled to the Dominican Republic, where he has lived since since.
During Céant’s brief but noteworthy administration, rioting over government corruption gripped the nation, and Fantom 509—a rogue unit of Haitian police—was introduced. When the rogue officers began a lethal terror campaign in the capital’s streets, worries about the group’s connections to the government were frequently expressed in foreign circles.
The Canadian government has not given specifics regarding the MPs’ alleged affiliation with criminal gangs or their activity in its punishment announcements to date. The country has instead stated that it has “reason to believe that these individuals are utilizing their status as previous or present public office holders to protect and support the illicit activities of armed criminal gangs, including through money laundering and other acts of corruption.”
According to Ottawa, the actions are intended to weaken and disarm Haiti’s criminal groups as well as limit the flow of smuggled money and weapons into the country.