Houses pack a hillside in the Jalousie district of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on February 3. Photo credit Reuters/Ricardo Arduengo.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti--The Canadian government said on Sunday it had deployed a military aircraft over Haiti to address what it called a “dire security situation” and to support efforts to disrupt the activities of Haitian gangs.
Canada said in a statement that it supports the Haitian National Police PNH and deployed a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CP-140 Aurora long-range patrol aircraft in response to Haiti’s request for support as violence continues to escalate in the country.
Haitian gangs have expanded their territory since the 2021 assassination of then-President Jovenel Moïse. The resulting violence has left much of the country off-limits to the government and led to routine gun battles with police. Haiti is expected to be on the agenda when US President Joe Biden visits Canada next month.
The Canadian patrol aircraft will provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability to bolster efforts to establish and maintain peace and will remain in the region “for a number of days,” the Canadian government said.
In October, the United Nations suggested a “rapid action force” be sent to Haiti to combat escalating violence from armed gangs whose turf battles have left hundreds dead and thousands displaced.
But many have expressed scepticism, citing abuses from past missions and questioning a force backing the administration of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, which has been without democratically elected representatives since early January.
Most countries have been wary of sending troops, though nearby Jamaica has said it would be willing to participate and El Salvador has offered “technical assistance”.
Some 69% of nearly 1,330 people across Haiti said they supported an “international force” – requested by the Haitian government – according to a January survey from local business risk management group Agerca and consulting firm DDG.
However, nearly 80% said they believed Haiti’s national police PNH needed international support to resolve the problem of armed gangs, most saying it should be deployed immediately.
UN envoy to Haiti Helen La Lime said last week she had heard caution from the United States and Canada, but “not a definite no.”
“Nobody wants to repeat the mistakes of the past,” she said, adding that the force would work in partnership with the PNH.
More than a third of those surveyed said since 2021 they knew someone in their neighbourhood, family or workplace who had been killed. Over 70% said their movements in the capital had been limited by gang presence and 83% said they had lost income.
Some 36% said they or someone they knew had since 2021 been victim of a kidnapping, while 28% said this was the case for physical assault, and 9% for sexual assault. A quarter said they had stopped social activities and a fifth said they had left their homes. ~ Reuters ~