PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres visited Haiti on Saturday and again called on foreign governments with strong security forces to help the beleaguered country recover. combat the outbreak of gang violence.
The call came after Guterres met with Prime Minister Ariel Henry, civil society leaders, UN staff and heads of various political parties during his one-day trip.
“Now is not the time to forget about Haiti or weaken our solidarity with its people,” he said.
Guterres met with reporters at Haiti’s international airport in Port-au-Prince, who pressed him on whether an international security force would be deployed as requested by the prime minister last October.
Guterres said he spoke with Henry about the issue, as well as the need for credible elections.
“I am not here to tell Haitians what to do. I am here to listen to them and encourage them to build as broad a consensus as possible to move the transition process forward,” he said.
Henry, who has ruled the country since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, is under pressure to hold elections. But experts noted that it was impossible to do so given the current level of violence in the country, with gangs controlling around 80% of the capital.
There are no longer any democratically elected institutions in Haiti, as the country has not held legislative elections since October 2019.
“Haiti must return to democratic order as soon as possible,” declared António Guterres.
He also said Haiti urgently needs more humanitarian aid as poverty worsens and cases of famine increase. Gangs impede the movement of goods and people and control access to water, food and healthcare as civilians attempt to retaliate with a violent uprising.
“I felt all the exhaustion of a population that has faced for too long a cascade of crises and unsustainable living conditions,” said António Guterres. “One in two people in Haiti lives in extreme poverty, suffers from hunger and does not have regular access to drinking water.
Guterres’ visit came just days after the UN human rights expert in Haiti visited the country and also called for an international security force and an arms embargo. .
Guterres is due to attend a summit in Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday organized by Caricom, a Caribbean trading bloc.
Associated Press writer Dánica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.