Haitians seek to flee gang-fueled anarchy as neighbors boost militaries
Haitians seek to flee gang-fueled anarchy as neighbors boost militaries
Haitians seek to flee gang-fueled anarchy as neighbors boost militaries
by DZRH News06 April 2024
FILE PHOTO: People take cover from gunfire near the National Palace, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti March 21, 2024. REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol/File Photo

By Harold Isaac and Gilbert Bellamy

PORT-AU-PRINCE/KINGSTON (Reuters) - With no sign yet of a long-promised transitional council to usher in the deployment of international troops and restore order, Haitians who can are trying to flee the country.

Violent gangs have taken over much of the capital, killed thousands, and forced millions into acute hunger.

"Every day is a matter of life or death," Pierre Joseph, a 34-year-old Save the Children worker, was quoted as saying by the charity in a statement. It said he had been forced to leave two different homes with his wife and six-month-old baby, and was struggling to find basic supplies.


"For the first time, we are facing a crisis where nothing works, where the government is simply not functioning," he said, adding that food and power supplies have collapsed. "Everyone is afraid and leaving the country."

The airport and maritime ports at Port-au-Prince have been closed for a month due to gang activity, although the airport in the northern city of Cap-Haitien restarted flights to Miami last week, prompting many who are able to try to leave.

Neighboring countries have bolstered border security measures, including the Dominican Republic, the only country that shares a land border with Haiti and which has ruled out refugee camps on its territory and deported tens of thousands.

In remarks released by the Dominican government on Thursday, Dominican Foreign Minister Roberto Alvarez told the BBC that some 10,000 military personnel had been deployed to its nearly 400-km (250-mile) border, at a "heavy burden" to the national budget and disrupting cross-border trade.


Haiti has no elected representatives and has descended into a state of anarchy as gangs expand their near-total grip on the capital.

Haiti's Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced his resignation on March 11 as worsening violence blocked his return from abroad, pending the installation of a transitional council brokered by regional leaders to install his replacement.

Henry had in 2022 requested an international force to help police restore order but the process lagged and has been put on hold until the council is in place.

Soldiers from the Bahamas and Belize traveled to Jamaica last month for training by a Canadian task force to support deployment of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) troops to Haiti.


"This is just another iteration in ongoing efforts to ensure regional forces are proficient, integrated, and ready for any contingencies that may arise within the region," Jamaican Defense Force Lieutenant Colonel Kevron Henry said in an interview.

Alvarez said military intelligence suggested many recruits were unwillingly forced into gangs by economic need and threats of violence.

The new provisional council would need to secure "hard cash" to fund police intelligence and equipment within Haiti, he added.

"I certainly did not say it would be easy but I believe it is possible; the national police still exists," he said.


Despite hundreds of millions of dollars in international pledges, few funds have been handed over to the U.N. dedicated security mission trust fund. Gangs meanwhile, benefit from extortion, ransom payments and alleged backing from corrupt elites that have allowed them to amass large arsenals.

(Reporting by Gilbert Bellamy in Kingston, Harold Isaac in Port-au-Prince and Sarah Morland in Mexico City; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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