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Monday, March 27, 2023

Port-au-Prince in the hell of the gangs

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The inhabitants of the Haitian capital spent another sleepless night. On social networks, many of them share recordings of heavy shooting. After a relative lull on Sunday morning, the violence resumed. with even more intensity at the end of the afternoon », Reports Alterpress. In several neighborhoods in downtown Port-au-Prince, such as Nazon or Solino, entire families are ” lying on the ground » to avoid stray bullets. ” A resident of Delams says that on returning home to the crackling of gunfire around 7 p.m., he met many people who had to flee their homes. An unknown number of families have left their homes to take refuge elsewhere, in places less exposed to attacks by criminal gangs. But, are there really places less exposed to armed gangs today in Haiti? ? asks Alterpresse.

Today, the capital of Haiti is 100% controlled by armed gangs “, notes Marie Rosy Auguste Ducéna, of the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH). From now on, even neighborhoods hitherto rather spared are attacked by armed gangs. Like the ” well-to-do neighborhood Fort Jaques, on the heights of Port-au-Prince where gang members set fire to a police station before climbing onto the roofs of buildings and shooting at the houses below, reports Jacqueline Charles du Miami Herald.

► To read also: Port-au-Prince overwhelmed by its gangs : “ I had the reflex to run under fire »

How can this new outbreak of violence be explained?

In the last quarter of 2022, the violence committed by armed groups had initially decreased. This is what Gédéon Jean, who heads the human rights analysis and research center in Haiti, points out. This was just after the sanctions imposed by Canada and the United States against Haitian political and economic figures, accused of financing and arming the gangs. But this relative calm was only short-lived. Since the beginning of the year, the exactions of the gangs increase ” exponentially “. There are several reasons for this, explains Gédéon Jean, who heads the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights. There is the political conjuncture, but not only: As gangs receive funding from certain sectors that are now targeted by sanctions, gangs lose a significant portion of their financial resources “, emphasizes Gédéon Jean. ” So the increase in violence and kidnapping could be a way for them to make up for this shortfall. A second reason could be the struggle [entre gangs rivaux, NDLR] to conquer territories “.

However, two weeks ago, the carnival was able to be held in the heart of Port-au-Prince without major security problems. ” The carnival could have taken place simply because these armed gangs are controlled », Estimates Marie Rosy Auguste Ducéna of the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH). ” It is violence that is guided insofar as it serves the interests of a certain group “.

► To read also: Haiti : agricultural production in the Artibonite threatened by gangs

The inhabitants of the capital feel abandoned by the police

The testimonies of residents of Port-au-Prince report the absence of police in the streets. ” The police have decided not to work the usual hours because they require adequate means to be able to confront the armed gangs. It started in January with an event in the department of Artibonite “recalls Marie Rosy Auguste Ducéna. ” Seven police officers were murdered by armed bandits. Their bodies could never be recovered by the police institution. And since then, there is this feeling of revolt within the police institution. The management of the institution failed to make the police understand that they could not abandon the streets. So, today, there are actually fewer and fewer police officers on the streets. Whether in Port-au-Prince or in provincial towns “. In January alone, 18 police officers were killed in Haiti.

The Newbie: The bandits have free rein »

Meanwhile, the gangs extend their grip. Or as it was put Le Nouvelliste this week-end : ” The bandits have free rein “. Added to the problem of displaced persons is access to food and drinking water for a literally besieged population, underlines Alterpress. Not to mention the fact that several schools will again keep their doors closed from today. Several students and school staff were abducted last week”, announces The National. ” The most serious thing is that faced with this enormous humanitarian problem in Haiti, the international community is indifferent and reluctant to play its role in the search for a viable solution. “, criticizes for its part the Dominican newspaper Diario Libre.

► To read also: Extensive military operation against gangs in the capital of El Salvador

Gideon Jean: We need men on the ground »

Gangs are gaining ground. They get stronger. So the more time we lose, the more difficult it will be for the Haitian police to restore order. “, also underlines Gédéon Jean. ” Today, the international must take the necessary decision. I am speaking in particular of France, the United States and Canada, which are the first to decide on the situation in Haiti. So they have a responsibility to restore security. And I take up this sentence from Emmanuel Macron: “security is above all a question of means and not of postures”. We need men on the ground, an international force to accompany the police to carry out operations. And not promises and lectures. If we think of the people of Cité Soleil, Martissant, Artibonite, who are suffering, the women who are raped, the girls who are raped, the people who are subjected to kidnappings and inhuman and degrading treatment… If we really think about all that, we certainly don’t need exploratory visits. The population puts its priority on the table : it’s security ! »

The UN too has sounded the alarm in a new report published at the end of last week: If the situation in Haiti continues to deteriorate and its security institutions disintegrate, a significant international response will be required, including large-scale emergency assistance and a stabilization or peace support operation. “, can we read there.

► To listen also: Gangs and power in Haiti, the story of a dangerous liaison

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