The United States and Haiti are at odds over deported criminals
Joseph Guyler Delva:
Washington has threatened to punish Haiti if the troubled Caribbean country refuses to accept criminals deported from the United States, Haiti's prime minister said on Friday.
A U.S. embassy spokeswoman denied Washington had threatened to cut aid to its impoverished hemispheric neighbor.
Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis said he had discussed on several occasions with U.S. officials the threat that deported criminals posed to Haiti's fragile security. But instead of being inclined to reduce the number of deportations, the U.S. government told him it intends to increase them.
"The U.S. told us the number of deportees will rise from 25 to 100 per month," Alexis told Reuters.
"The U.S. administration has threatened to cut its assistance to the country and to revoke Haitian officials' visas if we refuse to receive those deportees," said Alexis.
Like other Caribbean countries struggling with rampant crime, such as Jamaica, Haitian authorities say criminals deported from the United States after serving prison sentences fuel violence and gang activity.
Many joined gangs as youths and their criminal experience and connections are highly valued by criminal organizations back home.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince said the two governments were in constant talks about deportees.
"At no time in these discussions did U.S. officials suggest that U.S. aid to Haiti was in jeopardy," she said. "The United States continues to be supportive of Haiti's efforts to address the security situation through a broad-based judicial and police reform."
Alexis and police chief Mario Andresol said deportees were heavily involved in a wave of kidnappings that has afflicted the capital Port-au-Prince.
Alexis said his government was not categorically opposed to accepting Haitians deported from the United States. But he said the deportations should be carried out with some care.
"Many of those deportees left Haiti when they were 3 or 5 years old. So they have learned to become criminals in the United States," said Alexis.
"We have asked the U.S. to help us build a high security prison to hold those deportees and we have asked them to send us the deportees before the end of their prison time," Alexis added, arguing that would improve the Haitian government's chances of controlling their activities.
The number of kidnappings has risen alarmingly in the Haitian capital in recent weeks.
The crime wave has largely ended a lull in violence which followed elections in February that brought President Rene Preval to power and ended the controversial rule of a nonelected interim administration appointed after ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in an rebellion in 2004.
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