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US must declare Haitian gangs as terrorists, sanction their leaders, politicians say

NORTH MIAMI — A group of Haitian American politicians want the Biden Administration to appoint a Haitian American special envoy to Haiti, designate the country’s gangs as terrorists and impose economic sanctions on “bad actors” behind the armed groups.

In press conferences held in seven different U.S. cities on Oct. 6, members of the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network (NHAEON) called on Biden to not be complicit in the humanitarian crisis in Haiti. They insisted Biden keep his promises, as a candidate, to support Haiti.

“This conversation started years ago,” North Miami Vice Mayor Alix Desulme said during the North Miami press conference at Moca Plaza. “Today we stand united asking the Biden administration to please do something. Our brothers and sisters are dying, the situation is dire and we need help.”

For the past month, people in Haiti have taken to the streets to protest the rising cost of living, particularly fuel price increases, and the gangs that have taken over entire portions of Haiti’s capital. The deal toll continues to rise as gang wars rage on, road blockades and barricade of the country’s main fuel storage facility leave people unable to meet basic needs. 

The resulting violence has caused a lockdown, with schools shutting down, 4.5 million people without enough food to eat and a potable water shortage. Now, hospitals and facilities are overwhelmed by a new cholera outbreak. 

“Haitians are terrorized, raped, murderd, kidnapped by gangs — no one, I repeat, no one is safe,” Mary Estimé-Irvin, Vice Chair of NHAEON said at the press conference in North Miami. “Our members want to assure our brothers and sisters in Haiti that we will not remain silent here in the United States.”

The organization would like to see Biden take some action to alleviate the urgent, humanitarian needs. For now, they said, no military intervention is necessary.

“Maybe it’s too early to tell, but if we need the security to get it going — yes,” Estimé-Irvin said. “But there’s a lot of fear with that in our community, that there’s not a takeover. We just need the help to stabilize the country and the ways for that to happen is if we have a special envoy, If we put economic sanctions, if we have a terrorist designation.”

A few NHAEON members including North Miami City Clerk Vanessa Joseph recalled Biden taking a knee at the Little Haiti Cultural Center and promising to be a friend to Haitians. 

“He said he would be a champion for the Haitian people,” Joseph said. “But I think we’ve come to a dangerous inflection point that performative politics will no longer work.”
NHAEON is made up of Haitian American elected and appointed officials in the U.S. In October 2021, NHAEON released immigration priorities in a list of 13 requests of the White House including money for resettlement and an end to expulsions.

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