China pushes UN to ban small arms to Haiti amid gang violence, diplomats

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China has asked the United Nations Security Council to vote on banning small arms to Haiti, sanctioning the Caribbean nation’s gang leaders, and even sending a regional police force to the violence-plagued island, diplomatic sources said Thursday.

The proposal comes as Council members consider renewing a UN political mission to Haiti which expires on Friday night. 

And it also comes as the impoverished country slides into chaos, with deadly gang violence soaring, fuel shortages and food prices climbing.

The individual sanctions would include travel bans and asset freezes, according to a draft text seen by AFP. 

China has taken an increasingly prominent role in issues relating to Haiti at the UN in recent years, largely because Port-au-Prince has recognized Taiwan — the self-ruled, democratic island that Beijing views as its own territory and has vowed to seize one day, by force if needed. 

Countries that have diplomatic relations with China usually refrain from having official exchanges with Taiwan.

At the UN, Beijing has taken a harder line on Haiti, though it denies any link between its stance and the Taiwan issue. 

A Chinese diplomatic source told AFP that it was necessary to push political authorities in Haiti to act, and to put those responsible for the violence on notice with legal sanctions.

“The situation in Haiti can’t be worse. As we conduct the negotiations here, the gang violence is escalating in Port-au-Prince,” a spokeswoman for the Chinese mission to the UN said. 

“An embargo of weapons against criminal gangs are the minimum the Council should do in response to the appalling situation,” she added.

The United States is not necessarily against such sanctions, but they must be the right fit, an American diplomat said on condition of anonymity. 

It wouldn’t make much sense to implement an arms embargo without a sanctions committee or a group of UN experts to oversee it, the diplomat said, adding that further information about the proposed sanctions against individuals was necessary to discuss the idea.

It would all “need more work,” the source said. 

At least 89 people have been killed in Port-au-Prince alone this week after days of gang violence, and aid agencies have said the region is dangerous to access.

The crushing poverty and widespread violence is causing many Haitians to flee to the Dominican Republic, with which Haiti shares a border, or to the United States.

The Security Council is debating whether to extend the special UN political mission to Haiti, known by its acronym BINUH, to 2023. 

A vote had initially been scheduled for Wednesday, but with Council members debating China’s proposal, it could be pushed back to Friday. 

(AFP)

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