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Gangs Wreak Havoc in Haiti With Unprecedented Violence

2024

Criminal gangs, wielding more power than Haiti's state security forces, have launched violent attacks on prisons and the airport serving Port-au-Prince, the country's capital. This has led to the closure of businesses and schools, forcing an estimated 15,000 people from their homes. The situation has escalated to a point where the U.N.'s top human rights official has deemed it "beyond untenable," with over 1,190 people killed since the start of 2024 alone. Efforts to send international help have so far been unsuccessful.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk has urgently called for the deployment of a multinational security force to support Haiti's struggling police and military, citing the lack of a realistic alternative to protect lives.

Recent developments include a surge in violence on Feb. 29, as Prime Minister Ariel Henry traveled to Kenya to seek U.N.-backed support against the gangs. Upon his absence, prominent gang leader Jimmy "Barbecue" Cherizier announced the alliance of his group, G9, with other gangs to pressure Henry to resign.

Finance Minister Patrick Boivert, acting as Haiti's prime minister in Henry's absence, declared a state of emergency on March 3, imposing an evening curfew to regain control of the situation. Despite mounting pressure, Henry has not been able to return to Haiti, landing instead in Puerto Rico after being denied entry to the Dominican Republic.

Haiti's long-standing instability stems from government corruption and violent political unrest. The nation has faced challenges exacerbated by powerful earthquakes in 2010 and 2021, which claimed thousands of lives and crippled infrastructure. The current crisis intensified in 2021 with the assassination of then-Prime Minister Jovenel Moïse, leading to Henry's appointment amidst economic and political turmoil.

Gangs in Haiti, estimated at 200 with 23 main factions in Port-au-Prince, have expanded their control to about 80% of the capital. They have grown more powerful due to smuggled firearms and ransom payments, surpassing the state's weakening authority. Recent reports indicate the gangs' acquisition of high-caliber weapons has transformed the country's violence landscape, posing significant challenges to security forces.

The situation in Haiti remains critical, with urgent international intervention needed to address the escalating violence and instability.

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