WASHINGTON (AP) — Two Haitian politicians are facing U.S. sanctions over allegations they abused their positions to traffic drugs in collaboration with gang networks and directed others to engage in violence.
The Treasury Department said Friday it was imposing sanctions on Haitian Senate President Joseph Lambert and former Sen. Youri Latortue. The two are accused of using their official roles to engage in the drug trade for decades. Lambert was also designated by the State Department for diplomatic sanctions and visa restrictions.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that “there is credible information of Lambert’s involvement in a gross violation of human rights, namely an extrajudicial killing, during his government tenure.”
He said the State Department is also designating Lambert’s spouse, Jesula Lambert Domond.
The sanctions mean their U.S. property is blocked and American people and companies that do business with them could face penalties as well.
Spokespeople for Lambert and Latortue did not immediately return WhatsApp messages seeking comment on Friday.
The sanctions against Lambert and Latortue come as Haiti is embroiled in political violence and economic crisis.
Last month, Eric Jean Baptiste, a former presidential candidate and leader of a political party in Haiti, was shot to death in the capital, Port-au-Prince, along with his bodyguard. Baptiste’s death stunned many in the destabilized island nation.
Brian Nelson, Treasury’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said Lambert and Latortue “abused their official positions to traffic drugs and collaborated with criminal and gang networks to undermine the rule of law in Haiti.”
“The United States and our international partners,” Nelson said, “will continue to take action against those who facilitate drug trafficking, enable corruption and seek to profit from instability in Haiti.”
Associated Press writer Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this story.