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U.S. government promises to fortify Haiti police amid crisis


The U.S. government pledged Tuesday to strengthen Haiti's National Police as the country struggles with a spike in gang-related violence and a severe shortage of fuel that has deepened an economic crisis.


Todd Robinson, U.S. assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), said the U.S. has provided Haiti's police department with 19 of 60 police vehicles promised and will soon hand out a couple hundred sets of protective gear.


He said the U.S. also will work with police to fight gangs and implement community development and violence prevention programs.


"Let's be clear. Haiti faces a number of challenges, but gangs are the greatest threat to citizen stability. The U.S. government takes this threat extremely seriously," Robinson said during a two-day official trip to Haiti.


He said the U.S. will work with other government authorities: "But, at the end of the day, it's not going to be the international community that comes to Haiti's rescue. It's going to be Haitians."


Robinson added that the U.S. does not plan to send troops but is working closely with Haiti "to release safely and as quickly as possible" the 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian who were kidnapped on Oct. 16.


Hours after Robinson spoke, top government officials in Haiti held a press conference to talk about the widespread lack of fuel blamed on gangs blocking gas distribution terminals. The shortage has affected hospitals, schools, public transportation, phone companies, banks, newspapers, radio stations and others.


"We are working around the clock to solve the gas crisis," said Justice Minister Liszt Quitel. "The crisis is complicated."


Meanwhile, Defense Minster Enold Joseph said authorities are investigating why 30 fuel tanks dispatched to Haiti's southern region disappeared, noting that he has observed gas being sold on the black market.


Newly appointed Police Chief Frantz Elbé said authorities are aware that trucks carrying goods such as rice, sugar and cement are passing through gang-controlled territory but fuel trucks are not. He said police have a security plan to ensure gas will be delivered, but he did not elaborate.



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