U.S. imposes sanctions on two Haitian politicians over drug trafficking

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on a current and a former Haitian senator, accusing the two politicians of engaging in international drug trafficking activities, Washington's latest action targeting corruption in the Caribbean country.

In a statement, the U.S. Treasury Department said it had frozen the U.S. assets of Haitian senator Rony Celestin and former senator Richard Lenine Hervé Fourcand.

“Rony Celestin and Richard Fourcand are two more examples of corrupt Haitian politicians abusing their power to further drug trafficking activities across the region,” the Treasury's Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, said in the statement.

“Treasury will continue to hold corrupt officials and malign actors accountable for the illicit drug trafficking that is destabilizing Haiti.”

Fourcand and a spokesperson for the Haitian prime minister's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Reuters could not immediately reach Celestin for comment.

The Treasury accused Celestin of using his political position to organize the import of drugs from Venezuela into Haiti as well as the export of drugs to the United States and the Bahamas.

Washington said Fourcand uses his aircraft to transport drugs through southern Haiti and accused him of using his "political clout" to install people in government positions that would help facilitate his drug trafficking activities.

Friday's move freezes any U.S. assets of the two and generally bars Americans from dealing with them. The Treasury said Canada had also blacklisted the two politicians.

In September, Haitian gangs created a humanitarian crisis by blocking a fuel terminal for nearly six weeks, halting most economic activity and triggering U.N. discussion of a possible foreign strike force to open the terminal.

Canada and the United States have sanctioned political leaders who allegedly finance the gangs, which according to policy makers are backed by Haitian elites.

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Brian Ellsworth in Washington; Editing by Peter Graff)