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Canada, U.S. urge citizens to leave Haiti amid deepening turmoil – CBC.ca

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The U.S. and Canadian governments are each urging their citizens to leave Haiti because of the country’s deepening insecurity and a severe lack of fuel that has affected hospitals, schools and banks. Gas stations remained closed on Thursday.

The rare warning from the U.S. State Department comes as Haiti’s government and police are struggling to control gangs that have blocked fuel distribution terminals for several weeks.

“Widespread fuel shortages may limit essential services in an emergency, including access to banks, money transfers, urgent medical care, internet and telecommunications, and public and private transportation options,” the State Department warned on Wednesday. “The U.S. Embassy is unlikely to be able to assist U.S. citizens in Haiti with departure if commercial options become unavailable.”

It’s unclear how many U.S. citizens currently live in Haiti. A State Department official told The Associated Press that it does not provide those statistics and U.S. citizens are not required to register their travel to a foreign country.

Canada pulls back non-essential employees

Canada also issued a similar warning on Wednesday: “If you’re in Haiti and your presence isn’t essential, consider leaving if you can do so safely.”

Global Affairs Canada said on Thursday that it is temporarily withdrawing non-essential Canadian employees and family of Canadian Embassy staff in the country.

People walk past a closed gas station in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Thursday. (Matias Delacroix/The Associated Press)

“The safety of Canadians is our highest priority at all times, and to this end our embassy in Port-au-Prince remains open,” the statement said.

The warnings come as U.S. and Haitian authorities are trying to secure the safe release of 17 members of a missionary group from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries who were kidnapped by the 400 Mawozo gang on Oct. 16. There are five children in the group of 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. Their Haitian driver also was abducted.

‘Serious upheaval and unrest’

“We request continued prayer for the kidnappers, that God would soften their hearts,” the organization said in a statement on Wednesday. “As you pray, remember the millions of Haitians who are suffering through a time of serious upheaval and unrest.”

On Tuesday, top Haitian government officials acknowledged the widespread lack of fuel during a news conference and said they were working to resolve the situation, although they provided no details.

Defence Minister Enold Joseph said the government is investigating why 30 fuel tanks sent to Haiti’s southern region went missing, adding that he has observed gasoline being sold on the black market.

In addition, Le Nouvelliste newspaper recently reported that truck drivers have been kidnapped and fuel trucks hijacked.

‘Everything is upside down’

“Everything is upside down,” said Pierre Alex, a 35-year-old who works at a factory that makes clothes hangers. He said his son isn’t able to go to school but can’t work at home either because there is no power and no internet. “I don’t know what saints to call upon to come help me.”

The fuel shortage also has threatened Haiti’s water supply, which depends on generators, and hospitals in Port-au-Prince and beyond.

A police officer patrols at an intersection in Port-au-Prince Thursday. (Matias Delacroix/The Associated Press)

Marc Edson Augustin, director of St. Luke Hospital, said he can only care for 50 patients with COVID-19 despite having 120 beds set aside for them because the company that provides oxygen to the institution has been hit by the lack of fuel.

On Wednesday, Doctors Without Borders warned that the shortages have forced it to reduce medical care since last week, with staff treating only patients with life-threatening conditions. The aid group said that its hospital and emergency centre will run out of fuel for generators in three weeks or less if new supplies don’t arrive.

Spike in food prices

“As tensions and armed conflict escalate in Haiti’s capital, shortages of fuel, public transportation and drinking water are putting medical facilities and patients at risk,” the aid group said. “Nearly all public and private health facilities in Port-au-Prince have stopped or limited admissions to only acute cases or closed their doors due to similar problems.”

The aid group said that one patient with respiratory distress was recently refused at four different medical centres because the lack of fuel forced them to halt admissions. A fifth facility took her in, officials said.

Doctors Without Borders also said that the lack of fuel is preventing staff from reaching the hospital because of the scarcity of public transportation. It’s a problem seen elsewhere, with parents unable to send their children to school and some employees unable to go to work.

The situation also has led to a spike in food prices in a country of more than 11 million people where more than 60 per cent of the population makes less than $2 a day. Meanwhile, a gallon (about 3.8 litres) of gasoline, when available, currently costs $15 US.

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U.S. to revoke terrorist designation for Colombia’s FARC, add breakaway groups

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The United States will revoke its designation of the Colombian group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia as a foreign terrorist organization on Tuesday while designating two breakaway groups as such, a senior State Department official said on Friday.

A review of the terrorist listing – required every five years under U.S. law – found that the leftist organization known by the Spanish acronym FARC should no longer be listed, The official said.

But the two dissident groups that have formed out of FARC, La Segunda Marquetalia and FARC-EP, or People’s Army, would be designated as foreign terrorist organizations, the official said.

“It’s a realignment to address these current threats,” the official said. “The FARC that existed five years ago no longer exists.”

Founded in 1964, FARC was responsible for summary executions and kidnappings of thousands of people, including Americans.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that the United States was preparing to remove FARC from the list five years after the group signed a peace agreement with Bogota.

The State Department notified the U.S. Congress on Tuesday of its planned delisting of FARC. The Colombian government was formally notified on Wednesday.

The government of Colombia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The decision will allow U.S. government agencies like the U.S. Agency for International Development to work on peace implementation in parts of Colombia where demobilized FARC soldiers are located, the official said.

“This is a priority for the Colombian government in the implementation of the peace agreement,” the official said.

 

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Simon Lewis in Washington; Additional reporting by Oliver Griffin in Bogota; Editing by Mark Porter and Leslie Adler)

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Tunisian police say they shot, wounded extremist trying to attack them

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Tunisian police on Friday shot and wounded an extremist who sought to attack them with a knife and cleaver in the capital, authorities said.

The 31-year-old man, whose identity was not disclosed, shouted, “God is great. You are infidels,” as he ran toward police officers near the interior ministry, the ministry said in a statement.

Witnesses and local media said police shot the man in the leg and arrested him. The man, who was previously labelled an extremist by the government, was taken to hospital and is being investigated by an anti-terrorism unit, officials said.

Tunisian security forces have thwarted most militant plots in recent years and they have become more efficient at responding to those attacks that do occur, Western diplomats say.

The last major attacks in Tunisia took place in 2015 when militants killed scores of people in two separate assaults at a museum in Tunis and a beach resort in Sousse.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Frances Kerry and Cynthia Osterman)

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At least 19 killed in bus crash in central Mexico

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At least 19 people were killed and 20 more injured on Friday when a passenger bus traveling on a highway in central Mexico crashed into a house, authorities said.

The brakes on the bus, which was heading to a local religious shrine in the state of Mexico, failed, according to local media reports. State authorities did not disclose the possible causes of the accident.

Assistant state interior secretary Ricardo de la Cruz Musalem said that the injured had been transferred to hospitals, including some by air.

The state Red Cross said 10 ambulances had rushed to the area.

 

(Reporting by Sharay Angulo; writing by Laura Gottesdiener)

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