Haiti: Gang violence and natural disasters deepen a humanitarian crisis

The long-running crisis has arrived Haiti It reached a “critical stage” this month, after armed gangs attacked government buildings and forced the Prime Minister to resign.

About 15 bodies were found on Monday in an upscale suburb of the capital, Port-au-Prince, where gang members are launching attacks, in new acts of violence that show that the serious crisis witnessed by Haiti continues unabated.

The agency noted,Associated Press“, until the violence that broke out in recent weeks, exacerbated one of the most serious humanitarian crises in the world, claimed dozens of lives, and displaced 15,000 people in the latest wave of gang attacks.

The capital, Port-au-Prince, has witnessed acts of violence committed by criminal gangs in recent weeks, and Haitians are awaiting the formation of a transitional presidential council after the announcement of the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

The gangs control entire areas of Haiti, including 80% of the capital, and their members are accused of committing abuses, especially crimes of “murder, rape, and kidnapping” in exchange for ransom.

Natural disasters, violence and assassinations

In July 2021, former Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated, and was replaced by Henry, who was recently appointed acting Prime Minister, under controversial circumstances.

After the elections were postponed several times, Henry faced intense local and international pressure to facilitate the transfer of power.

The wave of attacks and violence committed by gangs in Haiti has escalated since 2022, and the number of Haitians facing severe food insecurity has tripled since 2016, according to data. World Food Programme of the United Nations.

Last summer, gangs took control of large areas of the capital, Port-au-Prince. In October 2023, the United Nations Security Council approved the deployment of an international security mission to help control the violence.

The island was devastated by massive earthquakes and tropical storms, which struck it even before it fully recovered from the 2010 earthquake, which killed more than 100,000 people.

Chronological sequence

Before February 7, the day Prime Minister Ariel Henry was scheduled to step down, mass protests broke out demanding his dismissal, but he refused because the elections, which were scheduled to be held the previous month, were postponed again.

In late February, Henry left Haiti for a trip to Guyana and then Kenya. While in Guyana, he said there was an agreement to hold elections in August 2025, which would be another long postponement.

On February 29, gangs in Haiti launched coordinated attacks throughout Port-au-Prince. Over the course of several days, gangs set fire to police stations, closed the country’s main airport, stormed the two largest prisons and released thousands of prisoners, according to the Associated Press.

On March 3, Haitian officials declared a state of emergency and imposed a nightly curfew.

Haiti’s most powerful gang leader, Jimmy Scherizer, known as “BBQ,” claimed responsibility for several of the attacks on March 5.

Network Quotes CBS News “If Ariel Henry does not resign, and if the international community continues to support him, we will be heading straight toward a civil war that will lead to genocide,” Scherizer told reporters.

Resignation of the Prime Minister

As the violence continued, Henry remained stuck outside the country in Puerto Rico, unable to return to Haiti.

On March 12, Henry announced his intention to resign from his position as Prime Minister in a video clip on the “X” communication platform.

“The government I am running cannot remain insensitive to the current situation,” he said, adding that “there is no sacrifice dear to our country,” and stressed that the government “will dismiss itself” once a transitional presidential council is formed.

During an emergency meeting held on the same day with representatives of Haiti and the United NationsUnited State In particular, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and its partners assigned some political parties and the private sector to form these transitional authorities.

But the negotiations to form this body, which consists of 7 members with the right to vote, were delayed and faltering, especially due to internal disputes.

Henry did not set a time frame for the transition period, and he remains in his position as prime minister, but from Puerto Rico, according to NBC News.

On March 15, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told reporters that almost all members of the Transitional Council had been identified, although the process had not yet been completed, Reuters reported.

On Monday, the United States expressed its confidence that this would be achieved soon. Deputy US State Department spokesman, Vedant Patel, said, “The concerned parties in Haiti are very close to completing the formation of the council,” adding: “We expect new news from them as of today.”

“Mad Max”

On Sunday, the curfew was extended to Wednesday in the western region, which includes Port-au-Prince. On Friday, the Haitian police carried out an operation in the stronghold of a gang leader near the capital, causing casualties among gang members, an official in a police union told Agence France-Presse.

Kenya, which intends to deploy 1,000 policemen as part of a multinational security support mission, announced the suspension of sending its men, but confirmed that it would intervene as soon as a presidential council was formed.

The UN Security Council held a closed session on Monday to discuss the situation in Haiti.

The Executive Director of UNICEF described the situation in Haiti as “horrific” and “almost like the scene from Mad Max,” a film depicting a post-apocalyptic future.

Catherine Russell told the American CBS network, “Many people are suffering from hunger and malnutrition, and we are unable to provide them with adequate assistance,” adding that the current situation is “the worst anyone has seen in decades.”

The role of the United States

For its part, the US President’s administration welcomed Joe Bidenwith Henry’s resignation.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said in a press conference on March 15 that the United States has long supported “Haiti-led efforts for a peaceful transition of power.”

Axios noted that the transition would be “sensitive for Washington.” However, some in Haiti reported that the United States was actively supporting Henry through its efforts to stabilize the country.

The United States encouraged a United Nations-led operation to restore order in Haiti, without taking the initiative in that mission, while Kenya and a number of Caribbean countries offered to deploy security forces in Haiti.

The White House spokeswoman indicated that the Biden administration pledged to provide additional aid worth $58 million to Haiti.

For its part, the US Army announced the evacuation of non-essential embassy employees from Haiti on March 10.

On March 13, the United States Southern Command announced the dispatch of a team of US Marines to enhance the security of the embassy.

The first charter flight carrying dozens of American citizens from Haiti arrived in Miami on March 17.

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