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Is Haiti on the Verge of Anarchy?

Armed gangs have taken over control of the capital as fear and chaos spreadacross the country. The capital is in a state of anarchy. Crime, food inflation and shortage have wreaked havoc in the country.

The island nation of 11 million people is without an elected government since January 2023. The term of 10 senators has expired leaving the country without any elected official. Ironically the current Prime Minister Ariel Henry has not been elected either. He had replaced President Jovenel Moise, who was assassinated in July 2021.

According to a report by the Brookings Institute, the Haitian National Police (PNH) and elected officials have lost all control and the country has essentially descended into mob rule, with gangs controlling different swathes of the island nation.

Brookings estimates that close to 5 million Haitians face acute hunger. Food shortages, high prices, cholera, and food shortages have plunged the masses into further chaos.

Prime Minister Henry has called on the international community to intervene to prevent the chaos.

Megan Janetsky who covers Cuba and the Caribbean for the Associated Press spent two weeks in Haiti during which time she was able to interview gang-lords, including the biggest among them al, Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, told the NPR:

“the U.N. has the estimate of 60% of the city is controlled by gangs. If you ask Haitians there, they’re going to tell you it’s more like 100%. These gangs have a very firm grip on society right now. You walk in the street and there’s just a feeling that anything could happen at any moment, which is just how Haiti is nowadays. You have rampant kidnappings with ransoms up to a million dollars. You have horrifying stories of gang rapes, people getting caught in the crossfire between gangs and police that are incredibly underequipped to handle the situation. And now, you know, with what some people describe as a de facto dictatorship – basically a skeleton government in Haiti – you have these gangs kind of assuming a role of even, like, a government in a lot of these areas. They’re the ones that control the day-to-day lives of most Haitians now, where the government is absent.”

Louis Herns Marcelin, Haitian-born professor of social sciences at the University of Miami told the Miami News:

Haiti is not only on the verge of collapsing but most of Haiti’s institutions have collapsed, including the justice system, because of corruption, impunity, and gangs who have controlled the system since last July. They even control the Supreme Court of Haiti.

Politics have been highly contaminated by criminality and drug trafficking to gain power. The private sector has collapsed. Most business leaders have left the country and of those who remain, very few can survive. For example, just last Friday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, along with the Government of Canada, designated Haitian nationals Joseph Lambert (a sitting president of the Senate in Haiti) and Youri Latortue (a former president of the Senate there)—pursuant to Executive Order 14059 of December 15, 2021—as “Foreign Persons Involved in the Global Illicit Drug Trade.”

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Written by Aliyah Collins