Conflicts & War

Gang violence drives hundreds from their homes in Haitian capital

By Milo Milfort

Port-au-Prince, Mar 7 (EFE).- A renewal of hostilities among the heavily armed gangs that dominate Haiti’s capital has spurred hundreds of people to flee their homes in the battle zones, where thousands remain trapped without basic services or any semblance of security.

Hundreds of homes have been burned and some 1,500 displaced residents have set up an encampment in Port-au-Prince’s Poste Marchand district, not far from the National Palace.

Scarcely a day goes by without word of new kidnappings, targeting not only the families of relatively well-off doctors and civil servants, but also those of workers.

“We have noted a certain rising tendency in comparison with the last quarter of 2022, when there was a decline due to the regime of sanctions imposed by the international community” on the wealthy Haitians who were financing the gangs, Gedeon Jean, head of an NGO that tracks abductions, told EFE.

He said that the current increase in kidnappings is also the result of those sanctions, as the gangs need new sources of income.

“Even the gangs that didn’t devote themselves to kidnapping have begun to commit them. They do it to gain money and to be able to continue living in opulence,” the director of the CARDH organization said.

The principal combatants are the G9 coalition, led by charismatic former police officer Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherisier, and GPEP, under the command of Ti Gabriel.

The National Network of Human Rights Defenders (RNDDH) estimates that 70 people have been killed in the last few days, while more than 50 others have disappeared.

While the majority of the dead are gang members, civilians have also died, according to CARDH’s Jean.

Observers suggest the present fighting started when G9 sought to expand into the formerly peaceful Solino and Delmas 24 neighborhoods, where they ran into violent resistance from police who live in those districts.

Many schools have closed and those that remain open are largely deserted.

Marguerite Clerie, president of the Professional Association of Private Schools, told a capital radio station Tuesday that all educational institutions are affected, directly or indirectly, by the “catastrophic situation of fear and desperation.”

“All of the children in Haiti live in a war situation, but we are not in Ukraine. This makes them stressed and not very interested in school,” she said. EFE mm/dr

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