Canada imposes sanctions on three powerful Haitian politicians in response to escalating gang violence

Canada has sanctioned three powerful Haitian politicians, including a current senator, and frozen any assets they may have in the country as part of its ongoing effort, along with the United States and the UN Security Council, to stem escalating gang violence and the flow of illegal individuals curb weapons.

The politicians are former Senator Herve Fourcand, current Senator Rony Célestin and former Lower Chamber Speaker Gary Bodeau. They join two other politicians — Joseph Lambert, current Senate President, and Youri Latoture, former Senate Chairman — both sanctioned by Canada and the United States in a joint effort.

READ MORE: Days before the US and Canada imposed sanctions on two Haitian politicians, one challenged them

The sanctions were announced by Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly on Saturday.

“Canada continues to pressure armed gangs and their supporters to help the people of Haiti emerge from this crisis and restore peace and security to their country,” Joly said. “We will consider imposing new sanctions on individuals and organizations in Haiti, as well as other measures to end the ongoing violence.”

READ MORE: Rising homicides and kidnappings in Haiti show crisis is not over even as fuel flows resume

In a statement, Canada’s government said it had reason to believe the sanctioned politicians were “using their status as former or current holders of public office to protect and permit the illegal activities of armed criminal gangs, including money laundering and other acts of corruption.” .

Canada says the sanctions under the Special Economic Measures Regulations against Haiti are being imposed in response to unacceptable behavior by members of Haiti’s political elite in providing illegal financial and operational support to armed gangs.

In a statement to the Miami Herald, Bodeau called the sanctions “a political move” to assassinate his character and prevent him from running in future elections. He said he was “really shocked” to see his name among those quoted in a tweet from Canada’s ambassador to Haiti announcing the targets of the recent sanctions.

“All my life I have never participated in gang affairs, human rights abuses or drug activities, in my country or anywhere else. I have never engaged in anything that could destabilize my country and the security of my countrymen,” Bodeau said.

Canadian officials gave no details as to why the three politicians are being sanctioned, and it’s unclear whether the Biden administration will follow through.

Célestin, who represents the Haitian Central Plateau in the remnants of the country’s dysfunctional 10-member Senate, has been at the center of controversy and in the eye of the Canadian government for some time.

Last year, Canada’s La Presse reported that his wife had bought a $4.25 million luxury mansion in Laval. The purchase had drawn so much criticism from Haitians in Montreal that the woman, who was employed as a diplomat by the Haitian consulate in Montreal, lived under the protection of private security guards.

Fourcand, on the other hand, hails from the southern region of Haiti, which was hit by a deadly earthquake last August and has been a hotbed of violent protests this year.

After the quake left more than 2,000 dead, Fourcand personally flew dozens of injured Haitians to hospitals in Port-au-Prince. However, his name had previously been mentioned in a US arms trafficking case in Fort Lauderdale, but no charges were brought against him.

READ MORE: Arms trafficking case in US court sheds light on Haiti’s illegal gun issues

Bodeau said since the assassination last year of former President Jovenel Moise, whom he considered an ally, he had been “targeted and persecuted by various political leaders, including the current administration.”

He claimed that on September 13 and 14 this year he was attacked at his current place of residence by violent mobs with stones and guns.

“When I called the authorities in my country, nobody came to my aid,” he said, appealing to Haitians to stand by him.

Haiti’s gangs and their supporters continue to terrorize vulnerable populations in the country, Canada claims with impunity, and have caused a humanitarian crisis in the country that includes a cholera resurgence.

“Gangs are also committing unspeakable acts of violence, including widespread sexual violence, against affected populations and preventing the delivery of essential services and humanitarian assistance,” the statement said.

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