The interim prime minister criticized an arms embargo on Haiti, saying it was hurting an ill-equipped police force struggling to control a surge in violence.
Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue said Wednesday the embargo has contributed to a shortage in weapons for new police recruits.
While Latortue did not mention specific countries, the United States imposed an arms embargo on Haiti in 1991 after a military coup first ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. A U.S.-led military intervention restored Aristide in 1994 but maintained the embargo.
“I’m announcing to the international community that my patience has run out,” Latortue told reporters outside the electoral offices in the capital of Port-au-Prince. “The population is asking for security while we are sending our police to the slaughterhouse.”
Latortue’s caretaker government and a 7,400-member U.N. peacekeeping force are struggling to contain flashpoints of violence more than a year after an uprising ousted Aristide. More than 400 people have been killed in September in clashes between police, peacekeepers, pro- and anti-Aristide gangs and former soldiers who led the February 2004 revolt. At least 40 police officers have been killed.
“As prime minister, I cannot standby and watch police die,” Latortue said. “A lot of people are pretending to help us … but aren’t giving us the tools we need.”
The U.S. State Department said last year it would consider individual requests from the Haitian government for weapons purchases.
U.S. officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Haiti has about 3,000 police officers for a population of 8 million, though officials say they are training thousands more.
Many police stations were looted of arms, ammunition and patrol cars during last year’s revolt. Haitian officials say police need more heavy arms because street gangs are using assault weapons.
Haitian police have come under criticism from U.N. officials for using excessive force. Police have opened fire twice on pro-Aristide marchers in recent weeks, killing three protesters.
Many fear violence will disrupt elections later this year.
The electoral offices in Port-au-Prince has been attacked twice in the past week. Gunmen sprayed the compound with bullets Tuesday, four days after someone tossed a grenade at it. No one was hurt in either incident.