Haiti Chaos Leaves Civilians in Urgent Need of Help

Op-Ed by Emily Thompson

An explosion of gang-led violence in Haiti has prompted the government to declare a state of emergency and impose a curfew after thousands of prisoners escaped when the country’s two biggest prisons were breached, and police stations came under attack.

The 72-hour state of emergency went into immediate effect as the government said it would set out to find the killers, kidnappers, and other violent criminals it said it had escaped in the attacks.

Finance Minister Patrick Boisvert, serving as the acting prime minister during Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s overseas efforts to garner support for a United Nations-backed security force aimed at stabilizing the country amidst conflicts with rising powerful criminal groups, stated, “The police were ordered to use all legal means at their disposal to enforce the curfew and apprehend all offenders.”

The capital city of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, is under the tight grip of merciless gangs that prey upon its residents, dividing neighborhoods into hostile territories ruled by criminal lords, and effectively severing Haiti’s vital international port from the rest of the nation. Gangs led by Jimmy Cherizier, a former police officer known as “Barbecue”, are trying to force Henry from power.

According to estimates from the United Nations, gangs have usurped control over 80% of the capital, engaging in violent skirmishes to conquer the remaining areas.

“The sentiment on the ground is that the country cannot continue like this. The level of violence that people are exposed to is inhumane,” UN deputy special representative in Haiti Ulrika Richardson warned in a press briefing in New York last week.

Indeed, civilians are suffering and Haitian men, women, and children remain in grave danger as gangs control the streets.

According to a recent CNN report, in the neighborhood of Delmas, dozens of women from the nearby gang-controlled slum of Cité Soleil lined up to receive food handouts from the UN’s World Food Programme.

“Every person CNN approached said they had been brutalized one way or another; one recounted being raped by a gang member, showing scars on her arm from the attack,” the report said. “A widow said her husband had been burned alive inside their family home during a battle between gangs.”

Gangs have escalated their operations into a significant kidnapping business, abducting at least 2,490 people last year for ransom, with those unable to pay often being killed. This activity contributes to one of the world’s highest national homicide rates, which doubled last year to 41 murders per 100,000 people, according to the UN.

Despite efforts by the Haitian National Police, including the formation of a new anti-gang unit that has had some success in curbing gang activities, the force is overwhelmed by the sheer number of gangs, nearly 100, and lacks adequate firepower and training. The situation is exacerbated by a mass exodus of police officers, with 1,663 resigning in 2023, further destabilizing the country’s security and law enforcement capabilities.

CNN also noted that over 300,000 civilians have been made homeless by inter-gang warfare, according to the UN.

These gangs are attempting to remove Henry from power for several reasons. Their motivations are rooted in a desire for increased control, power, and influence within the country. The gang leaders perceive the government, especially one they view as weak or unpopular, as an obstacle to their goals. By challenging or seeking to overthrow such the government, they aim to create a power vacuum that they can then exploit to expand their territory, increase their control over economic activities, especially illicit ones, and enforce their authority over larger swathes of the population.

In Haiti, where political instability has been a longstanding issue, gangs see an opportunity to leverage their influence over communities and territories to negotiate power or secure concessions from the state. This includes seeking immunity for their actions, demanding control over certain economic sectors, or even attempting to gain legitimate political power.

Gangs thrive in environments where the state’s presence is minimal or contested, allowing them to present themselves as alternative sources of order or protection – and Haiti is no exception. By removing Henry, a prime minister they view as a threat to their interests, the gangs further erode the state’s legitimacy and capacity to govern, thereby strengthening their own positions within society.

In the specific context of Haiti under Henry, gangs are reacting to his policies and the international support he receives, viewing his government as a barrier to their objectives. Their actions against him is nothing short of a strategic move to destabilize the government and ensure their dominance remains unchallenged.

To regain control and restore law and order, the government led by Henry needs to adopt a multifaceted strategy involving strengthening the capacity of law enforcement agencies through better training, resources, and international support to effectively combat gang violence. It’s crucial to foster community engagement, encouraging collaboration between the police and local communities to build trust and gather intelligence on gang activities.

Once the government regains control of the streets, it will need to implement social programs aimed at addressing the root causes of violence, such as poverty, unemployment, and lack of education, which will directly help diminish the allure of gang life for vulnerable populations. Additionally, pursuing diplomatic efforts to secure international aid and cooperation would bolster Haiti’s ability to tackle these challenges.

Haiti must ensure the justice system is efficient in prosecuting criminal activities, which will reinforce the rule of law and deter future offenses. By taking a comprehensive approach that combines security measures with social and economic development, Henry can work towards reestablishing stability and safety in Haiti. Until then, no one is safe.

Image credit: Associated Press

Become a Patron!
Or support us at SubscribeStar
Donate cryptocurrency HERE

Subscribe to Activist Post for truth, peace, and freedom news. Follow us on SoMee, Telegram, HIVE, Minds, MeWe, Twitter – X, Gab, and What Really Happened.

Provide, Protect and Profit from what’s coming! Get a free issue of Counter Markets today.

Activist Post Daily Newsletter

Subscription is FREE and CONFIDENTIAL
Free Report: How To Survive The Job Automation Apocalypse with subscription