An Armed Forces of Canada Boeing C-17A Globemaster III aircraft arrived in Haiti Saturday, delivering the first four of more than a dozen new armored vehicles for the Haiti National Police.
The vehicles are among 18 Haiti’s government purchased commercially from a Canadian-based firm over the summer but for inexplicable reasons were delayed getting to the Caribbean nation. The government of Canada, which had guided Haiti through its purchase, later stepped in to ensure delivery of the vehicles.
Saturday’s flight is part of a stepped-up effort by both Canada and the United States, which also flew in three additional armored vehicles later Saturday, to provide the ill-equipped Haiti National Police with badly needed security assistance to confront powerful gangs.
In a statement, U.S. Southern Command said in response to a request for international assistance from the Haitian government, a U.S. Air Force C-17, based at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, also transported armored vehicles and other vital security equipment purchased by the Haitian National Police from Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Ontario, Canada, to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
“The delivered equipment will help the HNP ensure access to vital resources and infrastructure urgently needed in Haiti to respond to a public-health crisis following a recent rise of cholera cases in the country,” Southcom said.
In a joint statement, the Canadian government said that along with the United States, they remain “committed to supporting the police in its work to protect and serve the Haitian population.’
After more than four weeks, gangs continue to block the distribution of fuel from the country’s main terminal, Varreux, in Port-au-Prince while also engaging in attacks on other ports, police stations and kidnappings.
The alliance of gangs, known as the G-9 Family and Allies, has used trailers to block access to the terminal and seaports, as well as dug trenches along the road.
Just as the Canadian armed forces flight was offloading the tan-colored armored vehicles on the runway at Port-au-Prince’s Toussaint Louverture International Airport on Saturday, the operators of the Varreux terminal issued an appeal for help. The facilities had “suffered a new attack by armed men” on Friday night, one of the tweets said. “Individuals entered the compound via the northern evacuation portal neighboring Cite Soleil, overpowered the surveillance and emergency [protocols], then left with 4 tank trucks and filled drums with more than 28,000 gallons of petroleum products.”
It was the second armed attack in less than a week by gangs, which have been selling diesel, gas and propane for between $13 and $23 a gallon on the black market. Outside of Port-au-Prince, gasoline is more than $30 a gallon.
“WINECO is sounding the alarm on these situations of systematic theft and irregular handling, which endanger personnel, facilities and the surrounding population,” the company said.
Since mid-September, Haiti has been in the throes of a gang blockade of its seaports and roads, preventing the flow of fuel and drinking water in the country. Hospitals have been forced to close or cut services; the school year is currently delayed and hunger is deepening as Haitians have no access to markets, and grocery store shelves go bare.
On top of it all, the country is now wrestling with an outbreak of cholera, a deadly waterborne disease that creates life-threatening vomiting and diarrhea.
“Civil unrest, lack of access to affected populations and fuel and logistics constrains are hindering the emergency response operations,” the Pan American Health Organization said Friday after reporting that the government has reported 35 deaths and 560 suspected cases in metropolitan Port-au-Prince.
Despite attempts to take back control of key infrastructure from the gangs, the country’s ill-equipped police force has not been able to. Earlier this month, Haiti’s government pleaded with the U.S. and others in the international community for a specialized armed force to help police regain control of the Haitian territory so that a humanitarian corridor can be created to get help to those who need it.
The U.N. secretary general in a letter to the Security Council on Sunday endorsed the deployment of a rapid action force to help police and offered other proposals on how the international community can help strengthen the Haiti National Police after the strike force leaves.
The idea of a multinational strike force is also being endorsed by the United States, according to a copy of a United Nations Security Council resolution the Biden administration has drafted. The draft, obtained by the Miami Herald and McClatchy, which first reported on the language, encourages the “immediate deployment of a multinational rapid action force” to Haiti to address the nation’s worst security and health crisis in decades.
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