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Haitian Officials Request U.S. Troops to Protect Infrastructure amid Political Turmoil

Police Chief Leon Charles addresses a audience after suspects in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise were shown to the media, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, July 8, 2021. (Estailove St-Val/Reuters)

Haitian government officials said they’ve asked the United States to deploy troops in an auxiliary effort to help shield Haiti’s infrastructure from attack amid the political turbulence the country is experiencing after President Jovenel Moïse’s sudden assassination Wednesday.

They requested U.S. forces to help protect Haiti’s port, airport, gasoline reserves, and other facilities. There are concerns that the leader’s murder could exacerbate the already fraught situation in the country, which is afflicted by civil unrest, economic instability, gang violence, and a COVID public health crisis, among other woes.

The Haitian minister of elections, Mathias Pierre, told the New York Times that the government appealed for U.S. soldiers after President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly pledged to aid the embattled government.

Pierre said he fears that “urban terrorists” that have been creating chaos lately might exploit the power vacuum to attack infrastructure centers important to the economy while the Haitian authorities are distracted with tracking down suspects in the killing.

“The group that financed the mercenaries want to create chaos in the country,” he said. “Attacking the gas reserves and airport might be part of the plan.”

Haitian officials have said that “foreign” forces played a role in the assassination, and the police have already suspected over two dozen people of involvement as well, including 26 Colombians and two Americans of Haitian descent.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said recently that a delegation of senior FBI and homeland security officials would head to Port-au-Prince “as soon as possible” to work on relief and assistance efforts.

The U.S. will also send $5 million to bolster the Haitian National Police’s resources to combat gang violence and deliver coronavirus vaccines to help control the recent outbreak there.

The interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, has declared a 15-day “state of siege,” which in effect imposes martial law, in an effort to bring order to the deteriorating, near-anarchical environment in Haiti.

After suspects believed to be connected to the assassination were arrested, protests erupted outside the police station where they were being detained Thursday.

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