[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
25336: (news) Chamberlain: U.S. wants to allow Haiti to buy weapons (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, June 8 (Reuters) - The United States is working
on a plan that will allow Haiti to buy weapons as escalating violence
threatens elections set for this year to replace ousted President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the U.S. ambassador said on Wednesday.
Ambassador James Foley said the 4,000-strong Haitian police force was
woefully short of weapons and equipment.
A 14-year-old arms embargo that the United States imposed on Haiti
allows for exceptions. Last year, Washington donated around 2,600 handguns
and 21 semiautomatic rifles and submachine guns to the Haitian police,
according to State Department media guidance.
"Finally, the State Department and the U.S. Congress are now working
on a supervision and training program that would allow the Haitian
government to purchase weapons in the U.S.," Foley said.
"Those weapons are a very important element in the capacity of the
Haitian police to ensure security," Foley said during a ceremony at which
the U.S. Embassy donated 40 four-wheel-drive trucks, 75 motorcycles, two
armored cars and police protective gear. The material is worth $2.6
A spokesman for interim Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue said
money for a weapons purchase had already been deposited in a Florida bank
and that Haitian authorities were simply waiting for a green light from
Some human rights groups, which have accused the Haitian police of
summary executions and other violence against Aristide supporters, said
selling the police weapons might fuel increased rights violations.
They also fear the guns could end up in the hands of gangs blamed for
crime and political violence that has killed more than 700 people since
U.S. officials and the interim government generally blame the violence
on Aristide supporters who are demanding his return from exile in South
They say the pro-Aristide militants want to disrupt U.N.-assisted
legislative and presidential elections scheduled for October and November.
But Roger Noriega, U.S. assistant secretary of state for western
hemisphere affairs, acknowledged on Tuesday that the situation was more
"I think the preponderance of violence is opportunistic," Noriega said
in Florida. "It's criminal gangs in many cases, there are narco-traffickers
involved in this but, yes, some of it is political in that there are people
who want to disrupt Haiti's democratic transition."
Noriega along with representatives from Canada, France and Brazil,
which heads a 7,400-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, are visiting
Haiti this week to assess the security environment in the run-up to the
The elections are regarded as crucial for returning Haiti to democracy
and stability after Aristide was ousted in February 2004 by an armed
revolt. But voter registration has fallen far behind schedule.