Rep. Demings Applauds Senate Introduction of Haiti Criminal … – Val Demings

Orlando – Today, Rep. Val Demings (FL-10) applauded Senate introduction of her legislation to crack down on the funders of Haiti’s violent street gangs. Rep. Demings led the same legislation in the House of Representatives earlier this month.
The Senate companion to Rep. Demings’ bill is led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and was joined by Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.). The bipartisan and bicameral legislation would require the Department of State to investigate and provide Congress with annual reports regarding the nature of the relationship between criminal gangs and political and economic elites in Haiti.
Said Rep. Demings,Governments must protect their citizens. I introduced this legislation in the House of Representatives earlier this month because we must fight for a Haiti free from fear and gang violence, where the Haitian people have the safety and freedom to build their own future. We need to root out the bad actors behind Haiti’s lawlessness and hold them accountable. After the brazen assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, killings and kidnappings have soared, with the backing of Haitian political and economic elites. The United States must take concrete steps to hold these criminals accountable and help the Haitian people achieve stability, freedom, human rights, and democracy.”
Said Chairman Menendez, “I am proud to be joined by my colleagues in introducing this bicameral legislation not only to shed light on the devastating gang violence in Haiti but also signal our commitment to hold bad actors to account regardless of their status. There is a growing body of evidence of Haiti’s armed criminal gangs’ gross violations of human rights, drug trafficking and racketeering schemes, all of which have ushered in a new era of terror exacerbating the country’s significant economic, security, and humanitarian challenges. It is time for both Haiti’s gangs and their financers and political backers to face more consequences for threatening Haiti’s future and broader hemispheric stability.”
Said Senator Rubio, “Violent gangs, an outburst of cholera, and an unstable government are making the humanitarian crisis in Haiti worse by the day. Haitians will continue to suffer as long as gang members continue to be propped up and protected by corrupt government officials. Holding these bad actors accountable is the first step to addressing the complex crisis Haiti is facing.”
Said Senator Kaine, “The people of Haiti have long suffered at the hands of criminal gangs and their backers. This legislation targets these individuals who perpetuate unspeakable violence against the Haitian people, and the powerful public figures who deploy these gangs for their own benefit. Exposing the connections between these individuals is an important step towards transparency, accountability, and justice for the Haitian people.”
The Haiti Criminal Collusion Transparency Act of 2022 requires an investigation into the financial backers of gang violence in Haiti, which is a necessary step to target these individuals with sanctions. This is the same model that has been followed for Russia oligarchs and others backing violence and will identify ties between violent gangs and their funders and hold those financial and political backers accountable.
The Global Magnitsky Act of 2016 gives the U.S. government the power to levy sanctions. Rep. Demings’ legislation requires an investigation into the ties between Haiti’s gang violence and its financial backers, in order to uncover the root funders of violence. Once the State Department has this list, they can be targeted through the Magnitsky Act for sanctions.
Earlier this year, Rep. Demings also supported and voted for legislation to require investigations into “significant acts of corruption” and human rights violations in Haiti. Rep. Demings’ Haiti Criminal Collusion Transparency Act builds on that effort with a new focus on the backers of street gangs and a requirement for a multi-year investigation which can track ongoing changes in violent crime in Haiti.
The Miami Herald reports that, “As kidnappings spike and gangs extend and tighten their grip on metropolitan Port-au-Prince — after seizing the main courthouse in downtown last month, gangs now have their sights on the ports — Haitians are increasingly feeling helpless.”
Rep. Demings co-chairs the House Haiti Caucus, which she helped to form in 2021. Over the past year, the Caucus has closely monitored efforts to restore democracy in Haiti, worked to ensure the safety of kidnapped missionaries, and led efforts to send COVID-19 vaccines to Haiti. Rep. Demings helped lead calls for stability, security and democracy following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, including a transparent, independent investigation into that act. Since the assassination, she has pushed the Biden-Harris administration to withdraw support for de facto ruler Ariel Henry.
Rep. Demings successfully called for redesignation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and a renewal of the lapsed Haitian Family Reunification Parole (HFRP) program, and called for an immediate halt to deportations of Haitian asylum seekers which have contributed to a worsening crisis.
Rep. Demings has also held events to elevate the voices of the Haitian community.
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