PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI- Joseph Lambert and Youri Latortue, who are accused of “actively contributing” to drug trafficking passing through the Caribbean country, were sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department.
The Treasury Department found that Lambert, a presidential candidate in Haiti last year following the assassination of the current president, and Latortue, one of his predecessors in office and the cousin of former Prime Minister Gérard Latortue, “abused their official positions in order to traffic drugs and collaborate with criminals.” Criminals and gangs undermine the rule of law in Haiti.
Antony Blinken, secretary of state, maintains Lambert has been involved in “significant corruption and serious human rights violations.” Blinken also states there is evidence Lambert has carried out an extrajudicial execution.
Lambert’s wife, Jesula Lambert Domond, is also blacklisted by the State Department, which bars them from entering the United States; the Canadian government announced it will take similar steps in order to join them.
The Treasury Department aims to seize assets owned by the two politicians under U.S. jurisdiction and prevent them from doing business with any entity or individual in the United States, including international banks.
In a tweet posted Friday, Latortue vehemently denied the allegations, writing: “Drugs: Never! Gangs: I’m against! Laundering: I fought corruption & laundering with numerous public reports-Violence: listen to my speeches to the contrary! Arms trafficking? Lies! No due process! No confrontation!”
“To my family, my friends & supporters: I will defend myself with law and truth,” he continued.”
There was no immediate response to requests for comment from Lambert or the office of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.
In 2010, Wikileaks revealed a classified diplomatic memorandum from 2006 that claimed Latortue was “the most corrupt of Haitian politicians.” The Treasury assured that Lambert and Latortue had a history of drug trafficking.
In the statement, Lambert used his position to facilitate the trafficking of cocaine from Colombia to Haiti and to facilitate impunity for other narcotics traffickers. According to the report, Lambert has also directed others to engage in violence on his behalf.
“His drug trafficking, corrupt tactics, and continued disregard for the rule of law have contributed to the continued destabilization of Haiti.”
“Like Lambert, Latortue has also had lengthy involvement in drug trafficking activities,” the release said. “Latortue has engaged in the trafficking of cocaine from Colombia to Haiti and has directed others to engage in violence on his behalf.” Latortue served as president of the chamber from 2017 to 2018.
“The United States and our international partners will continue to take action against those who facilitate drug trafficking, enable corruption, and seek to profit from the instability in Haiti,” Treasury Under Secretary Brian Nelson said.
Kirby said “US authorities “stand ready to take additional action as appropriate against other bad actors.”