Diaspora

Haiti gang violence traps thousands in Cité Soleil – The Washington Post – The Washington Post

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — While the gangs clash outside, Florient Clebert, his four sons and a daughter have been trapped inside their home for days. They’ve seen several neighbors killed. His brother was shot in the head last week and could not be treated in a hospital.
Now the family is running out of food. Clebert, 39, an out-of-work substitute teacher, has been unable to get to the bank to withdraw money. Government forces, meanwhile, seem to be doing nothing.
“We are the masses, and we are abandoned,” he told The Washington Post on Thursday, his voice trembling as gunfire rang out in the background.
Scores of people are dead amid days of violent clashes between warring gangs in Cité Soleil, the Haitian capital’s largest slum, and thousands more have been trapped without food or water, exacerbating the spiraling insecurity and humanitarian crises in this beleaguered Caribbean nation.
The United Nations said that at least 99 people have been killed and more than 130 wounded since the current round of violence erupted last week.
Jöel Janéus, the mayor of Cité Soleil, said the gangs have burned most of the bodies, and many families have few answers about the whereabouts of their loved ones.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s office and the interior ministry have been in touch with local officials, Janéus told The Post, but have taken little action to end the bloodshed. He said he spent his own money on food and water for residents because the mayor’s office has no money.
Janéus said he was in hiding. “I’m receiving a lot of pressure and threats,” he said.
The carnage in Cité Soleil, a community of more than 260,000 people on the Port-au-Prince Bay, is part of a surge of violence and kidnappings for ransom by armed gangs amid worsening political instability following the still-unsolved assassination a year ago of President Jovenel Moïse.
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The United Nations said this week that 1.5 million people in Port-au-Prince are trapped, “deprived of basic services and their freedom of movement,” by the gang violence. The U.N. Security Council voted Friday to extend its political mission in Haiti for another year.
The violence in Cité Soleil erupted last week between warring coalitions of gangs: G-Pèp and the G-9, a federation of nine gangs led by Jimmy Chérizier. The United States has imposed sanctions on Chérizier, a former police officer who goes by the nickname Barbecue, for allegedly leading armed groups in “coordinated, brutal attacks in Port-au-Prince neighborhoods.”
In a video shared on social media this week, Chérizier held a long gun and proclaimed, “The fight to liberate the country is launched against kidnappers and robbers.”
Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network said that more than a dozen people have been disappeared in Cité Soleil and that more than 120 homes have been destroyed by arson or by heavy machinery that it alleged the National Equipment Center provided the G-9.
Kington Louis, director general of the National Equipment Center, told The Post that the allegations are false. He said one of the center’s loaders was hijacked by the gangs who assassinated the driver when he refused to do what they demanded.
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Doctors Without Borders called on the gangs to spare civilians. The organization said the needs for food, water and medical aid are acute in Brooklyn, an isolated neighborhood of Cité Soleil that residents have been unable to leave since July 8.
“Along the only road into Brooklyn, we have encountered corpses that are decomposing or being burned,” Mumuza Muhindo, the group’s head of mission in Haiti, said in a statement. “They could be people killed during the clashes or trying to leave who were shot. It is a real battlefield.”
A fuel terminal near Cité Soleil temporarily suspended deliveries this week, exacerbating nationwide fuel shortages and spurring protests that blocked main roads across the capital. Fuel deliveries resumed Thursday.
Janéus, the mayor, has been personally affected by spiraling insecurity. In November, armed bandits descended on his home in Croix-des-Bouquets, a neighborhood east of Port-au-Prince that’s a stronghold of the notorious 400 Mawozo gang, and kidnapped his wife.
Abductions by the busload: Haitians are being held hostage by a surge in kidnappings
Friends, family and residents of Cité Soleil pitched in to help him collect the $40,000 ransom the gang demanded. Janéus said he negotiated with Germine “Yonyon” Joly, the leader of 400 Mawozo, who ran the gang’s operations from a Port-au-Prince prison by cellphone.
Joly was transferred to the United States in May to face charges over his alleged roles in a criminal conspiracy to violate U.S. export laws by smuggling firearms to Haiti and a conspiracy to commit hostage-taking in the kidnapping last year of 17 missionaries with an Ohio-based charity in Port-au-Prince.
“My three kids are now in the U.S.,” Janéus said, “but my wife is with me in Haiti. Although she’s seeing a psychologist, she is still unstable since the kidnapping.”

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