The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on two Haitian politicians accused of involvement in drug trafficking.
The US Treasury Department levied financial sanctions against Joseph Lambert, “the sitting President of the Haitian Senate (who) has held political positions in Haiti for 20 years” and Youri Latortue, “a former Haitian Senator and a longtime politician.”
In addition, the State Department imposed visa sanctions on Lambert and his wife, making them generally ineligible to enter the US.
The actions come as the Haitian government, led by Prime Minister Ariel Henry, have called on the international community to provide assistance as the nation as it grapples with security and humanitarian crises.
Friday’s financial sanctions, imposed in coordination with Canada, target two politicians who “have abused their official positions to traffic drugs and collaborated with criminal and gang networks to undermine the rule of law in Haiti,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in a Treasury Department statement.
According to the statement, “Lambert used his position to lead and facilitate the trafficking of cocaine from Colombia to Haiti and to facilitate impunity in Haiti for other narcotics traffickers”
“Lambert has also directed others to engage in violence on his behalf,” it said. “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.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a separate statement announcing the visa sanctions, said, “there is credible information of Lambert’s involvement in a gross violation of human rights, namely an extrajudicial killing, during his government tenure.”
Latortue vehemently denied the allegations, tweeting Friday: “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.”
CNN has reached out to Lambert for comment.
US officials have spoken out about the situation on the ground in Haiti, and Blinken previewed forthcoming sanctions in an event with Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly in Montreal last week.
“We have a small minority of gangs that are controlling access to everything that is necessary to respond to the problem, the problems that are facing the Haitian people. There are the elites that are directing them, that are funding them, and the government is not controlling anything. So for people to have access to potable water, to medication, when the ports and the roads are blocked by these gangs and by the elites that are controlling them – hence the sanctions that we will be imposing together in order to exert pressure on the elites that control the gangs,” he said.
The United Nations in recent weeks adopted a security council resolution, proposed by the US and Mexico, to impose sanctions on criminal leaders in Haiti.
The US and Mexico have also backed another resolution that would create “a limited, carefully scoped, non-U.N. mission led by a partner country with the deep, necessary experience required for such an effort to be effective,” in the words of US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
As of yet, no nation has been identified to lead that mission, and the potential of a military intervention has been met with resistance.
This story has been updated with additional details.
CNN’s Aliza Kassim and Etant Dupain contributed to this report.