U.S. sends more Marines to Haiti to protect Embassy

The United States has sent an elite Marine unit to help secure the U.S. Embassy in Haiti as the country struggles through a political transition amid rising gang violence, authorities said Wednesday.

Haiti, the Caribbean Community and the United States are setting up a committee of Haitian leaders to take over for embattled Prime Minister Ariel Henry and lead the beleaguered nation to new elections. Henry, under pressure from the United States, Caricom, the gangs and ordinary Haitians to resign, said Monday that he would step down once the transitional presidential council was in place and had chosen an interim leader to replace him.

U.S. Southern Command said Wednesday that it had deployed a Marine Fleet-Anti-terrorism Security Team “to maintain strong security capabilities” at the Embassy in Port-au-Prince and “conduct relief in place for our current Marines” at the request of the State Department.

Marines, who provide security at diplomatic missions worldwide, helped airlift nonessential embassy staff out of Haiti over the weekend. Southern Command on Wednesday described the FAST deployment as a “common and routine practice worldwide” that would allow additional non-emergency personnel to depart.”

As leader resigns, Haitian politicians rush to form new government

Haiti, which has struggled for decades with corruption, poverty and violence, has descended into chaos since the still-unsolved 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Armed gangs control more than 80 percent of Port-au-Prince, U.N. officials have estimated, and gang members kidnap, rape and kill with impunity.

This month, gangs attacked two prisons, freeing thousands of criminals, and assaulted the international airport, the main seaport and at least a dozen police stations. Bodies have accumulated in the streets of the capital with no government workers to take them away.

The Haitian presidency remains vacant, and the last lawmakers’ terms expired in January 2023. That’s left Henry, who was appointed by Moïse days before his assassination, to run the government. The 74-year-old neurosurgeon has drawn criticism for failing to control the violence or hold new elections.

The prime minister was in Nairobi to rally support for a U.N.-approved, Kenya-led security force for Haiti when the violence intensified. He has since been unable to return. He was last seen in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory in the Caribbean.

Haitians shot dead in the streets and there’s no one to take the corpses away

The Biden administration spent nearly a year searching for a country to lead the Multinational Security Support mission to Haiti, and wrote the U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized it. The United States will provide logistics, intelligence, airlift and medical support and $300 million in funding, officials say, but won’t join in street patrols.

The State Department is vetting the Kenyan police units to be deployed to make sure they have not been involved in human rights violations.

“This week, the Department of Defense doubled our funding for the Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission, and we are working with Haitian, Kenyan, and other partners to expedite its deployment to support the Haitian National Police and to restore security in Haiti,” Southern Command said. “The Department of Defense is postured to provide enabling support for the MSS, including planning assistance, information sharing, airlift, and medical support.”

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