Diaspora

Inside world’s most dangerous city ruled by 200 gangs & vicious warlord named ‘Barbecue’ who ‘burns victims… – The Sun

CHAOS, explosions, gunfire and bodies rotting among the rubbish – welcome to the most dangerous city on Earth.
Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince is a crumbling but resilient city under siege from heavily armed gangs and ongoing political turmoil.
Haiti has long-suffered the title of the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, and the crime-ridden capital bares the brunt of overlapping crises.
Persistent earthquakes, soaring inflation, civil unrest, famine and a near-total political collapse all blight Port-au-Prince.
Yet, its biggest enemy? The 200 merciless armed gangs that inflict terror, sexual violence, torture and lawlessness.
Experts told The Sun Online that the crisis is already at breaking point as up to 20 people are killed per day in a wave of murders.
The most dangerous of these gangs is the so-called G9 coalition led by a warlord known as "Barbecue" – rumoured to have earned his nickname for setting his victims on fire.
Warring factions have torn the city apart and turned every day into a fight for survival.
Haiti was left wounded from the still unsolved assassination of President Jovenal Moïse in July 2021, which plunged the country into further instability and unrest.
With no functioning government, a power vacuum has trailed in its wake – ready to be exploited.
“Armed violence has reached unimaginable and intolerable levels,” Michelle Bachelet, the outgoing United Nations human rights chief, warned the world in May. 
Now, the UN predicts that the deadly gangs control 60 per cent of Port-au-Prince – patrolling and barricading its streets and terrorising the city’s population.
“The gang phenomenon has become a metastasized cancer where they control the capital in all its peripheries,” said Dr Djems Olivier from Vincennes-Saint-Denis University, whose research specialises in the gangs of Haiti.
He told The Sun Online that the crumbling capital city has been transformed into a “barricaded metropolis” by the armed militia, who have "the right of life and death over the entire population".
New waves of gang warfare led to a summer of violence in 2022 as gangs fought over territory and clashes viciously erupted, spreading to previously peaceful areas.
The UN documented over 1,300 killings, injuries and disappearances between June and September, amounting to around 20 killed per day in the capital and thousands forced from their homes.
Their power and violence has multiplied by organising themselves into fierce territorial coalitions, the largest of which are the G-9 and G-Pèp.
These gangster forces impose their own kind of criminal governance on the city. Between them, the fiercest battles are waged.
And, for those that are trapped within gang-controlled territory, danger lurks at every corner.
Kidnapping for ransom is a persistent threat, whilst gun battles take place openly across streets, killing anyone caught in the crossfires.
Renata Segura, International Crisis Group’s deputy director for Latin America and the Caribbean, told The Sun Online: “There is a big question mark about what's going to happen when you leave your house every morning.”
It’s a city, she said, where ordinary people are used as “human shields”, murdered, extorted, their businesses looted, their homes burned.
“Children could be hit by a stray bullet when they're on their way to school."
A UN spokesperson informed The Sun Online: “Local populations are increasingly targeted by gangs.”
“Armed gangs use rape, including collective rapes, and other forms of sexual violence to instil fear, punish, subjugate, and inflict pain on local populations,” the spokesperson warned.
At the eye of this storm is Jimmy Cherizier, aka Barbecuethe nefarious and brutal warlord of the G9 coalition.
He envisions himself as a "revolutionary", a self-professed "man of the people" who wages war against the elite.
His methods, however, involve the killing, maiming and extorting of anyone unlucky enough to fall within his grip.
But he denies his nickname came from setting his victims on fire, instead claiming it came from his mum being a fried chicken street vendor.
Barbecue has been directly linked to horror massacres of the poor in recent years, including the 2018 four-day killing spree of 71 people in the slum of La Saline.
Haiti officials were later implicated in the attack, after being found to have financed and help arm the gangs. It was seen as an explicit attempt to silence those protesting against the government.
In the latest gruesome chapter of state-sanctioned violence, Barbecue organised simultaneous attacks in Cité Soleil during the election period of May to July 2020.
It led to the deaths of 145 people, the mass raping of women and the destruction of 98 homes.
In a 2021 report, “Killing with Impunity”, Harvard Law School and a Haitian crime observatory found the massacres to have been masterminded by high-ranking political officials and Haitian police.
The intention? To once again crush dissent and gain strategic access to polling stations “in an effort to secure electoral support for the [former] president and his party.”
In this way, gangs are used as personal mercenaries of death for political elites “allowing them to act with near complete impunity," according to the report.
Empowered by this freedom, gangs have the ability to bring Port-au-Prince to its knees, and they’ve used it.
In November 2021, Barbecue led the G9’s attack on Haiti’s main oil terminal, Terminal Varreux.
In a savage display of strength, they cut off the country from its much-needed fuel supply, wreaking havoc and pain.
They repeated this ruthless tactic this September, blockading the terminal for two months.
It paralysed the city by preventing the distribution of food, water and vital medicines and plunged the country into a deeper humanitarian crisis.
During a major police operation that resulted in a violent standoff, the terminal was finally liberated in November.
Yet, if this is an urban war, then Cité Soleil is the battleground.
A shantytown of tin and violence, the neighbourhood is home to a quarter of a million people, where sewage flows freely and poverty is at its most crippling.
The dense makeshift community is built out of rubble and ruins of Haiti’s infamous 2010 earthquake. Flanked on either side by the powerful G-9 and G-PEP coalitions, fighting regularly erupts onto its cramped streets and death is a daily reality.
The police barely dare to enter, services have shut down and the population of the “City of the Sun” is largely left to be preyed upon by gangs.
In July, 470 people in Cité Soleil were killed in 10 days of violent clashes as the G9 coalition attempted to expand their control of their slum. Raping, killing and burning houses as they went.
“What they're fighting over is the control of different economic sources,” said Summer Walker, Head of Multilateral Affairs for the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime.
Roads, markets and ports count as economic sources, but also people, Walker explained. The more people you control, the more you can extort.
In 2004, the UN called it “the most dangerous place on earth”. Today, it’s worse.
But for residents of Cité Soleil, it’s just home. “We are alive, but not living,” a community member told Concern Worldwide in October. “We are so traumatised.”  
“For Haitians, gang violence is at crisis point. They don't know what to do, and how this is going to be solved,” Walker told The Sun Online.
Suffering and decaying, Port-au-Prince faces a brutal road ahead.
Cases of cholera began to mount in October, exposing the city to a new humanitarian threat, whilst gender-based violence escalates at a relentless pace.
Port-au-Prince native Emmanuel, who has not given his real name due to security reasons, works with the most vulnerable in gang-controlled communities, particularly women and girls who have survived sexual violence.
"People talk about resilience, but resilience is myth, they are alive and with what little they have they keep going," Emmanuel told The Sun Online.
"We have seen the severely traumatised, who have lost everything, witnessed atrocities, are destitute and are just living on the edge but keep going blindly.
"People are hanging on by a thread."
In a call to action for international community, he warns: "the breaking point has occurred, people have already broken, the red lights have been ran."
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