On Tuesday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness informed lawmakers that Jamaica would be willing to actively participate in an international military deployment to Haiti. He also told them that Jamaica could support its neighbour on electoral reforms.
In October, the United Nations advised a “rapid action force” be deployed to Haiti, where gangs have colonized many areas following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021 which left a power vacuum.
This has caused regular gun battles between police officers and the gangs, and in one such battle, the police blocked the streets last week in protest after the deaths of police officers. Violent turf battles between rival gangs have killed hundreds and displaced several others.
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry has requested foreign military support. Helen La Lime, Haiti’s UN representative, has asked for more urgency, saying without foreign help police cannot win. But most countries are cautious about sending in their troops.
Jamaican PM Holness informed lawmakers, “Jamaica would be willing to participate in a multinational security assistance deployment to Haiti under the appropriate jurisdictional parameters to support a return to a reasonable level of stability and peace.”
Both Jamaica’s police and army had been informed and were preparing for “such eventualities”, he said.
A presidential adviser told British news agency Reuters that El Salvador’s Vice President Felix Ulloa has proposed to send a “technical team” to Haiti to advise on fighting gangs. The Central American country has experienced bloody battles against armed gangs, which was criticized by human rights groups.
Caribbean bloc CARICOM lodged a statement last week that denounced both the recent gang killings of police officers and the police protest in Haiti.
Holness said, “We continued to believe that any solution must be driven by the work of the Haitian people.”
“The developments over the past week, however, demonstrate that progress on the path towards the restoration of democratic institutions and the rule of law remains highly fragile.”
He cited the “increasing reports” of children being recruited into gangs even when they have yet to restart their school year.
In addition, Holness said that conversation within CARICOM will continue, and Kingston will host meetings between Haiti’s political leaders and civil representatives.
Mark Golding, Jamaica’s opposition leader said he would advocate Jamaica’s participation within a framework designed by the prime minister, citing “alarming prospects” for Haiti’s neighbour of further downfall.
Compensations for Haiti should be an agenda to discuss, Golding said. After Haiti’s independence, France enforced massive debt on its former territory for lost “property,” including slaves, which took a century for Haiti to pay off and hindered its progress.