Haiti is sinking into yet another crisis, the elite are taking advantage of it
Since the beginning of the month, the pearl of the Caribbean has once again found itself the victim of armed gangs. In Port-au-Prince, in the commune of Cité Soleil, violent clashes erupted at the initiative of a coalition of « G-9 » gangs to obtain strategic positions held by other groups. These fights have already caused nearly a hundred deaths . “In this area, we find the Varreux oil terminal, the largest in the country, which supplies the capital and all of northern Haiti. So if you have access, you decide on the social temperature of the island because it allows you to supply a good part of the territory with fuel »explains Max Bordey, installed in the south of the island where he manages an Aquadev structure allowing in particular access to water.
A few months earlier, between the end of April and the beginning of May, 200 people had been victims of similar and equally deadly battles in the popular districts of Tabarre and Croix-des-Bouquets in the capital. Rival armed gangs then clashed for about ten days. In Cité Soleil, the same horrors are repeated, deplore the inhabitants. “The country experiences the worst atrocities committed by gangs almost live”notes the Haitian daily Le Nouvelliste. In a recent report, the NGO National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH), criticizes the behavior « of the current political coalition in power, led by de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry, which continues to implement this new form of political governance, imposed by the administration of Jovenel Moise and characterized by the use of armed gangs , with a view to creating a climate of terror in the country”. Beheadings, mutilations, rapes…, the practices are described in this text pointing out the links between gangs and authorities. The G-9 would have been helped by « the National Equipment Center (CNE, a state institution) which provided them with heavy machinery for the destruction of houses and the digging of a passage to the other gang ».
The impact of the conflict is considerable and affects all activities throughout the capital. Gas stations dispense fuel drop by drop, dramatically driving up prices on the black market. It angered many residents. In the north, in Saint-Marc, thousands of people dressed in white marched on July 14 against insecurity. “Barricades have been erected in the streets of Port-au-Prince to protest against the shortage of fuel and the insecurity that bereaves and impoverishes families. Gasoline sells for up to 1,500 gourdes per gallon while the same product is not available at gas stations”describes the Haitian daily Le Nouvelliste.
The rise of the dollar, generalized inflation and food shortages accentuate the economic crisis that is raging in Haiti. The devaluation of the gourde, the local currency, weighs on imports. “It is becoming more and more difficult for the population with the soaring prices of basic necessities: rice, cereals… Especially since the island remains cut in two. Because the main access roads to the south for a year have been in the hands of three gangs. Another food crisis awaits us. Calls for social uprisings are growing,” observes Max Bordey who acts with the Secours populaire français in the department of Grand’Anse. Faced with this impasse, anger is growing without any real political outlet. Nearly half of the 11 million Haitians suffer from food insecurity. Among them, 1.3 million are facing a humanitarian emergency, which precedes the stage of famine, according to the classification of the World Food Programme.
Calls are increasing for government authorities to assume “their responsibilities”. Most Haitians remain convinced that the current power is involved in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on July 7, 2021 and have been pointing to the bankruptcy of the state for years. In this context, they witness the rise in power of private entities: armed gangs, economic and political elites. In a report by the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH), the NGO castigates the behavior « of the current political coalition in power, led by Prime Minister Ariel Henry, which continues to implement this new form of political governance, imposed by the administration of Jovenel Moise and characterized by the use of armed gangs, in for the establishment of a climate of terror in the country ».
Nothing new, finally, for Frédéric Thomas, researcher at the Tricontinental Center (Cetri): “We have found the same mechanisms since Ariel Henry came to power. This is one more massacre affecting working-class neighborhoods, clashes between gangs under the funds of police collaboration”. The anger of the inhabitants is also explained by the passivity of the government for a year . “Faced with these repeated crises, the authorities remain silent and aggravate mistrust. The Haitian Prime Minister signed the condolence book after the assassination of Shinzo Abe and said nothing to his citizens, affected by the death of a hundred people”, notes Frédéric Thomas.
Most of the capital and its outskirts, where most of the violence is concentrated, have come under the control of gangs. “It emanates from political actors who arm young citizens in order to protect their interests” analysis Rony Desroches of the Civil Society Initiative (ISC). These criminal gangs appear to be much better armed than the police. “They derive their resources from kidnappings, racketeering, their links with the economic elite. They are less the result of the absence of the Haitian state than of the privatization of its services. Public force has been delegated to armed gangs in order to repress social protest, establish the power of leaders and ensure their impunity. Numerous investigations point to the responsibility of senior state officials and police officers in gang attacks, or in condoning them. The massacre of the inhabitants of La Saline, in 2018, perceived as opponents, is the work of the Moïse administration », notes Frederic Thomas.
If the Haitian ruling class relied on armed gangs to maintain its power, threatened by the immense popular uprising of 2018-2019, it was able to count on international support including the United States, the key player. . The recent seizure of weapons of war in containers from the United States in Port-au-Prince and Port-de-Paix is puzzling. « The White House has set for Haiti the conditions of international diplomacy, on which the other States, French and European in the lead, have aligned themselves, as well as the international institutions, the most important of which, the UN », condemns Frédéric Thomas. Le Nouvelliste wonders in its editorial: “Until when are we going to let Haiti cook in its own juice? ». And to challenge: « In the meetings of the international community there are many friends of Haiti who believe that everything is fine (…) Everything is fine Madame la Marquise ». The social temperature is likely to rise even higher.