- Associated Press - Friday, April 12, 2019

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Friday to completely end its peacekeeping operations in Haiti on Oct. 15 and establish a political mission to support government efforts to promote order and development in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country.

U.N. military peacekeepers had already left the country on Oct. 15, 2017, but a stabilization group stayed behind to train national police, help the government strengthen judicial and legal institutions and monitor human rights.

The resolution approved Friday gives a final six-month period for such operations and asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to plan a political mission.

Haiti’s leaders had asked the U.N. to allow government authorities to fully assume responsibility for security.

The Security Cuncil resolution acknowledged Guterres’ recent report citing “the increased capacity, leadership, and crime prevention operations” of Haiti’s police.

But the council also said that “Haiti continues to face significant challenges,” and said progress in its social, economic and political development “is crucial to achieving lasting stability.”

Haitian President Juvenal Moise’s administration set off deadly protests last July when officials abruptly announced double-digit increases in the prices for gasoline, diesel and kerosene as part of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund to eliminate fuel subsidies and boost government revenue.

Since then, Haiti’s largest opposition groups have united in a campaign of protests to push Moise, who is backed by the United States, from office.

Along with the deteriorating economy and political instability, overall security in Haiti has been shaken by increasing gang violence, and the Haitian police force’s inability to control large swathes of poor neighborhoods around the capital.

In Friday’s resolution, the Security Council expressed concern at the recent rise in gang violence and underlined the need to address its root causes, “including through strengthened rule of law, political and socio-economic measures, violence reduction programs and weapons and ammunition management.”

Acting U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen welcomed the resolution, saying it “will mean a significant handover of responsibility back into the hands of the Haitian government and its people.”

“Now is the time for the government of Haiti to step up and assume this responsibility,” he said.

“In the immediate future, we call on all Haitian actors to continue efforts toward a constructive and inclusive dialogue that aims to find lasting solutions to the current political and economic challenges,” Cohen said. “We are convinced that genuine dialogue and compromise, leading to a transparent and accountable government, can best serve the needs and aspirations of the Haitian people.”

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