With gangs operating in almost total impunity throughout Port-au-Prince, catastrophic levels of hunger in some areas, and a growing cholera epidemic, the United States has decided to back a multinational rapid reaction force to Haiti. This will not be a UN peacekeeping force and the USA is expected to play a major role in its operations. At the same time, the USA has deployed a USAID Disaster Assessment Response Team (DART) and is expected to ramp up its humanitarian support. The current situation is untenable and hopefully the multi-national force can help stabilise Haiti somewhat. The full article by MIchael Wilner and Jacqueline Charles in the Miami Herald follows.
According to the United Nations, over 470 people have been killed, injured or are missing in recent violence as gangs war with each other and the government. Government officials have been told to stay home and the violence is getting closer to key governmental institutions including the National Palace. This is not the first time that elites have used gangs as mercenaries and/or pawns for achieving their political or economic ambitions. What is new is the sheer scale of the violence, made worse by illicit shipments of weapons. The Haitian police are simply out numbered and out-gunned. Unless the Haitian government and its partners can develop sufficient numbers of well-trained, well-armed, sufficiently paid and reasonable accountable police officers with the right leadership, the situation will only get worse. The full NYT article by Maria Abi-Habib and Andre Paultre follows.
Gang violence in Haiti's largest city continues to have a pervasive negative impact that reverberates throughout the country, affecting security, the economy, food security, education, and health care. According to Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald, dozens of people have been killed and more than a hundred injured in a new round of deadly violence "aggravating fuel shortages, raising transportation costs and making an already troubling humanitarian crisis even worse." Further, 20,000 residents of the densely populated slums have been displaced by gang violence since May. A July 8 article about gang violence in Port au Prince is copied below and linked is an update by Charles.
This is not the first time that insecurity, poverty, a compromised police force, and a polticial power vacuum has enabled a surge in kidnappings. What is different this time is both the extent and the methods - police officers, doctors, priests, and entire busses of people have been kidnapped. Both rich and poor are vulnerable. The companies that continue to operate in Port au Prince are moving their staff into compounds, transporting them in armored cars, and some are commuting by boat to avoid the roads entirely. In this environment, instability will persist, the economy will not grow, and those who can will leave through either regular or irregular means will do so. As is so often said, Haiti is at a crossroads - the way ahead is uncertain. The full article by Washington Post contributor Anthony Faiola and Widlore Merancourt follows.
The Haitian President has been killed in his home and his wife wounded. He came into power in 2017 and has been ruling by decree since January 2020. While he did little to address Haiti's underlying issues, and may in fact have made them worse, neither he nor his wife deserved this. The former president's seventh prime minister had not been nominated yet, the President of the Supreme Court died of COVID, and the path ahead for replacing the President is unclear. Amongst all of Haiti's problems, the government is now in disarray. The full article by Miami Herald Journalists Jacqueline Charles and Johnny Fils-Aime is below with updates to follow.
The U.S State Department has releaed its 2021 Trafficiking in Persons (TIP) reports. Haiti is "Tier 2" country meaning it is falling short in many areas. The economic downtown, political instability, and conflict increased vulnerability. Of note, the government did not make efforts to combat child domestic slavery with estimates of the number of restaveks in Haiti as high as 300,000. The number of street children has likely increased and "orphanage entrepeneurs" continue to operate unlicensed shelters as profit-making enterprises. The concrete steps Haiti could take to improve prevention and response are laid out in the Haiti section of the report copied below.
Haiti has yet to deliver a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine. There are many reasons for this - a weak government, political instability, an already over-burdened health system, other pressing problems such as gang violence, and a false sense of confidence that the pandemic would affect Haiti only minimally. According to the Miami Herald, USAID announced a $16.1 million commitment to assist Haiti in the battle against COVID-19, it was providing lab equipment, disease surveillance, hand-washing stations and 50 oxygen concentrators to be distributed to 16 hospitals. It remains to be seen whether Haiti will be able to secure and use vaccines that the United States could provide. The full article by Jacqueline Charles is linked and copied below.
Haiti is a religious country and social movements, when they take off, often have the participation of its faith communities. The Catholic Church has closed its institutions for three days to demand the release of kidnapped priests and nuns. Regardless of religious affiliation, nobody is safe until the present political crisis is resolved, the country has a government that actually governs, and security can be restored. It is time for the faith communities to work together in making that happen. The full article on the strike by AP journalist Evens Sanon follows.
The UN Security Council may not agree on much but it is unanimous in urging Haiti to settle political differences and hold elections. The conditions for having an election are challenging - and flawed elections have made Haiti's situation worse in the past. Still, the current political impasse is untenable. As insecurity increases, gangs once again fill the void. Protests are frequent, the economy is not growing, and basic services do not reach those most in need. In short, the risk of collapse is real. An article by Miami Herald journalist Jacqueline Charles folllows.
There is no justice without a functioning judicial system and Haiti's is broken. Prisons are sorely over-crowded in part due to 80% of inmates being held for years with no trial. In addition, activists report a distrubing increase in illegal preventive detentions. Judges are few, overwhelmed, and often threatened. Haiti remains a fragile democracy and will remain so without justice and the rule of law. If the judicial system improves, then we will know that Haiti is, at last, changing for better. The full article by AP journalists Evens Sanon and Danica Coto is linked and follows below.