Haitian prime minister Garry Conille with Kenyan Forces
Haitian prime minister Garry Conille with Kenyan Forces AFP

Haitian police said it's making progress in its fight with the country's criminal gangs, which control vast swaths of the capital, shortly after the arrival of the first contingent of an international force tasked with aiding it in the endeavor.

Concretely, authorities said they took back control of the country's largest hospital, located in Port-au-Prince, four months after criminal organizations seized the area to use it as an escape route.

According to The Miami Herald, armed groups have looted and torched over 30 public and private health facilities in the metropolitan Port-au-Prince area since February 29, when they escalated their operations in the country seeking to provoke the departure of then-prime minister Ariel Henry.

However, it will likely be long before the hospital, financed by the U.S. and France after the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country, is fully operational again. The outlet described "furniture strewn on the ground and an electrical utility pole tossed sideways on one of the buildings."

The arrival of the international force has raised hopes of finally quashing the gangs' control of the territory, but the local police chief said that so far authorities have been in a period of "evaluation and planning." Both local and U.S. officials have been reluctant to detail the Kenyan forces' level of involvement due to strategic concerns.

So far, 400 officials from the African country have reached Haiti. The figure is expected to climb to 1,000, while additional forces from other seven countries (Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, Bangladesh, Benin and Chad) are set to take it to 2,500. Most of the funding is coming from the U.S., with Canada and France also contributing with funding and training.

It has previously been reported that they will initially have a "static" role, helping protect key infrastructure in the country rather than fighting the gangs.

The force faces a daunting task, as well as phantoms from the past, considering several previous interventions in Haiti have gone awry. They face much more sophisticated gangs and a decimated local police. Haiti currently has about 4,000 officers on duty, a figure that pales to the approximately 38,000 the Untied Nations say the country needs to achieve median levels of policing

In the meantime, top U.S. officials asked Haiti's new prime minister, Garry Conille, to focus on establishing an electoral council, as the Caribbean country faces crises on multiple fronts.

Brian Nichols, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, said that this step would "give the Haitian people an opportunity to select their leaders democratically for the first time in years."

He said so after a meeting between Conille and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, where the American official recognized the steps taken toward addressing the security crisis but emphasized on the need for progress in the electoral area.

Haiti's recently-formed transitional council, which elected Conille, has been tasked with paving the way for what would be the country's first presidential election since 2016. Its mandate expires on February 7, 2026, the date set for the new president to take office. Setting up such a body is a requisite before an election can take place.

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