Haitian crisis (2018–present)

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2018–2024 Haitian crisis
Tires set on fire by protesters in Hinche, February 2019
Date7 July 2018 (2018-07-07) – present (5 years, 9 months and 1 week)
Location
Caused by

2021 phase

2022–2024 phase

Goals2018–2021 phase
  • Resignation of Moïse, installation of transitional government, and fresh general elections

2022–2024 phase

  • Resignation of Ariel Henry[1][2]
  • End of armed gang violence, kidnappings, and killings
  • End to impunity and corruption in Haiti, and better living conditions
  • Release of 33 judges and 23 officers arrested after the alleged 2021 coup d'état attempt
Resulted in
Parties
Haiti Protesters
Lead figures
Casualties and losses
thousands[10]
360,000+ displaced[11]

Protests began in cities throughout Haiti on 7 July 2018 in response to increased fuel prices. Over time, these protests evolved into demands for the resignation of Jovenel Moïse, the then-president of Haiti. Led by opposition politician Jean-Charles Moïse (no relation), protesters stated that their goals were to create a transitional government, provide social programs, and prosecute allegedly corrupt officials. From 2019 to 2021, there were massive protests calling for the Jovenel Moïse government to resign.[12][13] Moïse had come in first in the 2016 presidential election, for which voter turnout was 21%. The 2015 elections had been annulled due to fraud.[14] On 7 February 2021, supporters of the opposition allegedly attempted a coup d'état, leading to 23 arrests, as well as clashes between protestors and police.

On 7 July 2021, Jovenel Moïse was assassinated, allegedly by a group of 28 foreign mercenaries; three of the suspected assassins were killed and 20 arrested, while a manhunt for the other gunmen, as well as for the masterminds of the attack, remains ongoing.[3][15] On 20 July 2021, Ariel Henry assumed the office of acting prime minister.

In September 2022, further protests erupted in response to rising energy prices, and a federation of gangs created a blockade around Haiti's largest fuel depot. Combined with an outbreak of cholera and widespread acute hunger, the crisis led the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Jimmy Chérizier, one of the country's gang leaders.[16] In 2022, Canada issued sanctions against three wealthy businessmen—Gilbert Bigio,[17] Reynold Deeb, and Sherif Abdallah—whom they accused of having "participated in gross and systematic human rights violations in Haiti" as well as numerous politicians including Michel Martelly, Laurent Lamothe, Jean-Henry Céant, Joseph Lambert, and Youri Latortue.[18] A UN report to the Security Council in October 2023 likewise identified Martelly, Deeb, and Latortue as having ties to gangs.[19]

In March 2024, acting prime minister Henry was prevented from returning to Haiti after a trip intended to secure the help of the Kenyan police in curbing gang violence.[20] The power vacuum, along with the chaos in the streets, led to the scheduling of an emergency CARICOM meeting on 11 March.[21] On 11 March, Henry announced his resignation under pressure from protesters, gangs, and the international community, to be effective upon the naming of a transitional council (at the CARICOM meeting in Jamaica) to assure interim governance until elections could be held.[22]

Background and origins

A Senate probe released in November 2017 concerning the 2008–2016 period (the René Préval and Michel Martelly administrations as well as the chief of staff of then-sitting President Jovenel Moïse) revealed significant corruption had been funded with Venezuelan loans through the Petrocaribe program.[23][24]

A new round of protests broke out in February 2021 amid a dispute over Moïse's presidential term. The protesters claimed that Moïse's term officially ended on 7 February 2021 and demanded that he step down. Moïse said that Haitian presidents have five years to serve according to the constitution and that he had one more year to serve since he only became president in February 2017. Protesters also expressed concerns about the 2021 Haitian constitutional referendum, a referendum proposed by Moïse which would reportedly scrap the ban on consecutive presidential terms and enable Moïse to run again.[25]

From 2017 to 2021, with Haiti's political leadership deadlocked, public administration virtually shut down due to a lack of funding, and the judicial system in shambles, gangs seized political power through co-operative politicians, and economic control through financing by the business elite, protection rackets, kidnappings and murders.[4]

History

2018 protests

When Venezuela stopped shipping oil to Haiti in March 2018, this led to fuel shortages. With the removal of government subsidies in July, kerosene prices went up over 50 percent, with similarly steep hikes on other fossil fuels.[26] These rises in taxes on gasoline, diesel, and kerosene that went into effect on 7 July 2018 brought Haitians into the streets. Flights were canceled into and out of Haiti by U.S. airlines.[27][28] The government backed down on the tax increases, and the President accepted the resignation of the inexperienced Jack Guy Lafontant as prime minister on 14 July 2018, replaced one month later by Jean-Henry Céant.[29][30]

In mid-August 2018, Haitian-Canadian Gilbert Mirambeau Jr. tweeted a photo of himself blindfolded holding a cardboard sign with "Kot kòb PetwoKaribe a ?" ("Where did the PetroCaribe money go?") written on it. The hashtag petrocaribechallenge was soon circulated on social media.[30][31] According to Shearon Roberts, such messaging served initially to inform the international community that a regime change effort was underway. Haitian media then shared the hashtag offline, amplifying the message within the country.[32]

Anger over the revelations and accusations from the continuing investigation simmered into the autumn and boiled over again, first in October 2018, with tense scenes and violence in Les Cayes, in Jacmel, and in Saint-Marc.[33] A week of protests in November 2018 led to 10 deaths, including several killed when a government car "lost a wheel and plowed into a crowd."[34]

2019 protests

February

Significant protests broke out again in February 2019 following a report from the court investigating the Petrocaribe Senate probe.[35][36][37] Economic problems and the increased cost of living helped fuel the protests.[37]

On 7 February, protesters targeted and damaged wealthy Haitians' luxury vehicles. The following day, the mayors of Petion-ville and Port-au-Prince announced the cancellation of pre-Haitian Carnival events.[37] Two days later protestors clashed with police, with demonstrators throwing stones at the home of President Moïse, after one of his allies' security personnel struck a woman's car and began to beat her.[38] On 12 February, protesters burned down a popular market, looted stores and assisted with a prison break in Aquin that freed all of the facility's prisoners.[36][39] In Port-au-Prince, the building housing the Italian and Peruvian consulates was looted by protesters.[40][41]

President Moïse addressed the country on 14 February, saying he would not step down and "give the country up to armed gangs and drug traffickers."[42] During a funeral procession on 22 February, Haitian police fired tear gas at a crowd of about 200 people carrying the casket of a man killed during protests days earlier. Opposition leader Schiller Louidor called for future protests, though the overall size of protests began to subside that day.[43]

March

Three days after the lower house voted a censure motion against Prime Minister Jean-Henry Céant's government on 18 March 2019,[44] President Moïse replaced Céant with Jean-Michel Lapin.[45] As of mid-November 2019, this change had not been ratified by the Haitian Parliament. Lacking a government because of the impasse between the President and the Parliament, Haiti saw hundreds of millions in international aid—for which having a sitting government was a prerequisite—suspended.[46]

June

During escalating protests on 10 June, journalist Rospide Petion was shot and killed in a company car on his way home from Radio Sans Fin in Port-au-Prince, where he had criticized the government on air before leaving the station.[47][48]

October

On 4 October, thousands protested across Haiti. In Port-au-Prince, the mayor joined the protestors in calling for President Moïse to step down. Two days earlier, the opposition sent a letter by delegation to the UN Secretary General denouncing the sitting President's role in the Petrocaribe affair, and the government's role in a massacre in La Saline, a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince.[49][50] Lyonel Trouillot wrote in L'Humanité that "[w]ithout dipping into conspiracy theory, there is something worrying about the international community's silence about the Haitian situation."[51][52]

On 11 October, Néhémie Joseph, a second radio journalist critical of the government, was found dead in the trunk of his car in Mirebalais.[53][54] On 22 October, thousands of Catholics demonstrated in the capital. Archbishop Max Leroy Mésidor asked Haitian leaders to heed the people who "cannot go on any longer. We are fed up." Energy crises, road blockages, and widespread unrest have led to massive drops in tourism, causing the closure of hotels in Petion-ville, where the Best Western Premier closed permanently,[55] and in Cap-Haïtien, where Mont Joli was closed.[56] Two people were killed in protests in Port-au-Prince on 27 October. Masked police officers were themselves out on the streets demonstrating that day because of low salaries and lack of health insurance.[57]

Although the Haitian constitution calls for legislative elections in October, none were held in October 2019.[46] The United Nations announced they had counted 42 deaths and 86 injuries since mid-September.[58]

November

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft and President Jovenel Moïse met in November 2019 about ways to implement a consensual resolution of Haiti's political crisis.

Peyi lok ("country lockdown")[55] is how the situation was described in Haitian Creole in November 2019 after two and a half months with schools, courts, businesses, public services, and economic production largely shut down.[55][59]

December

Although parents and school directors still felt uneasy amidst barricades and gunfire, schools across the country began to reopen in December.[60][61]

The U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (David Hale) visited Haiti on 6 December, following up on U.S. Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft's November visit.[62] During his visit, he met with the administration and with leaders from several opposing political parties, some of whom, including Fanmi Lavalas and Fusion-Mache Kontre, refused any collaboration with President Moïse.[63] On 10 December, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee began hearings on the situation in Haiti, which Frederica Wilson had pushed for. At the hearing, Maxine Waters was sharply critical of U.S. support for President Moïse. Neither the State Department nor USAID was present at the hearings.[64]

Violence towards the press

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, some reporters have been targeted by protesters.[65] Reuters journalist Robenson Sanon was wounded during the protests in February 2019 but believes that it was coincidental because he was caught in-between clashes.[65]

Journalist Rospide Petion was killed on his way home from the Radio Sans Fin in Port-au-Prince on 10 June 2019 by an unknown gunman. Some correspondents filming protests on 9–10 June were targeted by both police and the crowds.[47][48] On 11 October, Néhémie Joseph, another radio journalist critical of the government, was found dead in Mirebalais after complaining about receiving death threats.[53][54] Freelance journalist Vladjimir Legagneur is presumed to have been killed in March 2018 while reporting on gang activity in Grande Ravine.[66]

2019 actions

Moïse government

President Jovenel Moïse called for his opposition to participate in peaceful dialogue, saying that "the country's problems aren't solely political. The country's problems are social, economic and political."[37] The national police stated that there are "malicious individuals" who had interrupted peaceful protests in the country.[65]

Opposition

The opposition has been led by Jean-Charles Moïse.[12] This opposition declined offers for dialogue, demanded President Moïse's resignation,[37] and organized a nationwide general strike to attempt to force him to resign from office.[39] Alongside opposition lawmakers, he called for a transitional government to replace Moïse: "If Jovenel Moïse does not want to step down from power, we are going to name an interim president in the coming days."[12][67]

Arrest of foreign mercenaries

The Port-au-Prince newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported on 18 February 2019 that a Haitian citizen and seven non-Haitians were arrested in the city. At the time of their arrest, they were carrying rifles, pistols, drones, and satellite phones in their vehicle, which did not have any license plates.[68] Haitian Foreign Minister Bocchit Edmond confirmed that among them were five Americans.[69] According to the editor of Haiti Liberté, the group included two former Navy SEALs, a former Blackwater employee, and two Serbian mercenaries living in the U.S.[70] They were tasked with protecting the former head of the National Lottery, who intended to transfer US$80 million from a PetroCaribe bank account—controlled jointly by the President, the Prime Minister, and the President of the Central Bank—to a bank account solely controlled by President Jovenel Moïse.[70]

2020 protests

In September and October 2020, more protests occurred throughout the country in reaction to the perception of an insufficient government response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Haiti, in particular concerning support for those who lost their jobs because of the lockdown. Due to the lack of parliamentary elections, Jovenel Moïse was governing through executive orders.[71]

Police held protests demanding better pay and working conditions. The police exchanged fire with Haitian soldiers outside the National Palace where police were protesting working conditions in February. In early 2020, a United Nations report said the Haitian police was corrupt, and failing to protect the population.[71]

On 4 December, the Haitian national police undertook its first operation under Léon Charles into Village de Dieu, in an effort to subdue the Five Seconds Base gang with tanks. While Charles claimed success, eye-witnesses were less convinced.[72]

2021 protests

January

On 14 January 2021, hundreds demonstrated in Port-au-Prince, Cap-Haïtien, Jacmel, Saint-Marc, and Gonaïves against President Moïse. Most of the demonstrations were peaceful, but some violence was reported.[73] On 20 January, hundreds again demonstrated in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien to protest against President Moïse. One woman was shot by rubber bullets, and several others were wounded during protests.[74] On 28 January, journalists, lawmakers, police officers, retirees, former police officers, and human rights judges led protests against human rights abuses and police brutality, violence, and repression against protesters and chanted "When they don't get paid, we're the ones they call!"[75]

February

On 7 February 2021, supporters of the opposition against incumbent President Moïse allegedly attempted a coup d'état, claiming he should have stepped down five years after the end of Michel Martelly's administration on 7 Feb 2016, despite the year-long delay before he was sworn in in 2017.[76][77][78] Moïse stated he had been the target of an assassination attempt and ordered the arrest of 23 people, including three Supreme Court judges.[79] Throughout February, clashes with protesters and security forces occurred in Port-au-Prince,[80][81] and Jacmel.[82] On 25 February, at least 25 were killed and many injured during a prison break at Croix-des-Bouquets Civil Prison, during which gang leader Arnel Joseph escaped.[83][84] Joseph was later found and killed in L'Estère.[85][86]

March

Thousands of Haitians, including doctors and lawyers, demonstrated peacefully in Port-au-Prince on 7 and 9 March, under the slogan #FreeOurCountry, calling for President Moïse and Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe to resign and a crackdown on kidnappers.[87][88] The hashtag FreeHaiti led opposition demonstrations across Haiti on 15 March, to protest the killing of four police officers in a village in Port-au-Prince, corruption, and armed gangs controlling cities.[89] On 17 March, the Fantom 509 militia staged a jailbreak to free four arrested police officers.[90] In late March, protests were focused on the unpopular referendum to amend the constitution scheduled for 27 June ahead of legislative, local and presidential elections scheduled for the fall.[91]

April

In April, protesters circled the Presidential palace seven times drawing Vodou images in chalk on the ground in an effort to symbolically free themselves from the scourge of gang kidnappings. The protest was met by police firing tear gas.[92]

July: Assassination of Jovenel Moïse

On 7 July 2021, Moïse was assassinated, allegedly by a group of 28 foreign mercenaries. Later that day, USGPN (L'Unité de Sécurité Générale du Palais National, or The General Security Unit of the National Palace) killed three of the suspected assassins and arrested 20 others.[3][15] On 20 July, Ariel Henry assumed the office of prime minister.[93] In September 2021, Henry fired a prosecutor who intended to question him about the record of phone calls, which he denied receiving, in the hours after the assassination from Joseph Felix Badio, whose involvement in the crime was suspected.[94][95]

Badio was arrested by Haitian police in connection with the murder on 19 October 2023.[96] Also in 2023, a former Haitian senator, Joseph Joël John, who hoped to become president,[97] a retired Colombian army officer, Germán Alejandro Rivera Garcia, a Haitian businessman, Rodolphe Jaar, and—in 2024—a former DEA informant, Joseph Vincent, were sentenced to life in prison in a Miami court for their roles in the assassination.[98]

In February 2024, the fifth Haitian judge to lead the murder investigation charged Moïse's wife Martine and his prime minister Claude Joseph as co-conspirators in the assassination in part based on testimony from Badio. Joseph said that Ariel Henry was "weaponizing the Haitian justice system" and that the charges against him and against Moïse's widow were politically motivated. At the same time, former police chief Léon Charles was charged with both murder and attempted murder.[99]

2022 crisis

Montana Accord

On 30 January, the Transition Council defined by the August 2021 Montana Accord (named for the hotel in wealthy Pétion-ville where it was signed)[100] elected the former interim prime minister and former central bank governor Fritz Jean as president and Steven Benoît as prime minister for a two-year transition government.[101] While the political class called for him to step down at the end of Jovenel Moïse's term (7 February 2022), Ariel Henry rejected these demands, along with the results of the Montana Accord election, as a "distraction", saying that organizing the next elections was part of his mandate.[102]

Gang war

In April–May 2022, major clashes between the rival gangs 400 Mawozo and Chen Mechan took place in the Plain of the Cul-de-Sac area.[103]

In July 2022, an outbreak of gang violence occurred in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, leaving 89 people dead and over 74 injured.[104]

Sexual violence

In December 2023, the U.S. sanctioned four gang leaders, one of whom—Johnson André—was the leader of the 5 Segond gang, which the U.S. Treasury Department identified as being responsible for over 1,000 cases of sexual violence in 2022.[105] Rape—which only became a criminal offense in Haiti in 2005—is being used by gangs as a means of humiliating those living in rival gang neighborhoods. Abortion is illegal in Haiti, so rape victims are legally required to carry any resulting pregnancy to term[106] in a country with one of the highest mortality rates for mothers outside of war zones in Sudan and Yemen.[107]

Fuel protests

In September 2022, protests erupted, sparked by a governmental decision to eliminate fuel subsidies which caused prices to double overnight.[108][109][110] Jimmy (Barbecue) Chérizier, the leader of the G9 Family and Allies gang alliance, organized a blockade of the country's largest oil terminal (Varreux).[111] Gangs gunned down prominent figures, including journalists[112][113] and a politician[114] in the streets in October and November. Protests continued even after the lifting of the blockade on 7 November.[115][116]

2023 gang war

Clashes between 2023–2024
  Areas of gang activity

In 2023 the situation in Haiti continued to spiral downhill, with the last democratically elected officials leaving office, leaving Haiti without an elected government.[117] Four police officers killed by the Vitel'Homme gang in Petionville and seven police officers killed by the Savien gang on 25 January in Liancourt lead protesting police to storm Prime Minister Ariel Henry's residence. The riots ended a few days later.[118] Canada announced on 6 February that they would begin surveillance flights to Haiti in order to monitor the situation in the country.[119] According to leaked American documents in late February, the Wagner Group began to explore pathways and expressed interest in intervening in Haiti.[120]

A series of battles between gangs in early March led to the deaths of 208 people, kidnapping jumped 72% from the first quarter of the previous year.[121] Doctors, lawyers, and other wealthy members of society were kidnapped and held for ransom.[122] Examples include Jean-Dickens Toussaint and Abigail Toussaint, a Haitian American couple who were kidnapped on 18 March and later released,[123] Robert Denis, the director of the TV station Canal Bleu kidnapped on 11 April,[124] and Harold Marzouka, the Vice-Consul of Saint Kitts and Nevis and CEO of Haiti Plastics, kidnapped on 15 April.[125] Many victims were killed when ransom demands were not met, leading those with the means to do so to flee the country, further hampering efforts to pull the country out of the crisis.[122] Violence continued into April, with three police officers being killed in an ambush on 9 April by the Ti Makak gang in the Thomassin neighborhood.[126] 13 gang members were burned alive by a mob as they were being detained by police.[127]

On 27 July, the United States ordered its non-essential personnel to leave the country as quickly as possible. This order was given the same day an American nurse and her child were kidnapped, with 80% of the capital reportedly controlled by gangs.[128]

On 30 July, Kenya agreed to lead a multinational peace mission in the country.[128]

On 18 September, the feuding G-Pèp and G9 gangs reached an agreement to form a so-called Viv Ansanm ("Live together") coalition. Any hope this inspired was short-lived however, as by 22 September, the Taliban gang of Canaan run by Jeff Larose was leading an attack on the touristic town of Saut-d'Eau at the request of 5 Seconds gang leader Johnson “Izo” Alexandre, resulting in many injuries and at least 12 deaths. The motive for the attack, which lasted several days and spread to Mirebalais, was thought to be related to arms smuggling.[129]

As of September 2023, reports indicated that approximately 80% of the Haitan capital was under the control of gangs.[130] The growing crisis has led to discussions of a potential 1,000 strong United Nations backed Kenyan-led police intervention into Haiti, which Kenya had previously offered but which Haiti was at first reluctant to accept.[131][132] On 2 October 2023, United Nations Security Council resolution 2699 was approved, authorizing the "multinational security support mission" to Haiti.[133] If such an intervention were to occur, it would be the first time an African Union country would lead a major peacekeeping operation outside of Africa.[134] On 5 October 2023, Kenyan foreign minister Alfred Mutua was replaced by Musalia Mudavadi amid domestic controversy over the plans.[135]

In a 2023 UN report Robert Muggah estimated there could be as many as half a million weapons in the country. When interviewed in 2024, he said that "more than 80 percent" of those traced by the "ATF between 2020 and 2022 were made [in] or imported from the U.S."[136]

2024

A UN report issued on 15 January indicated that in the preceding year there had been 2,490 kidnappings and 4,789 reported homicides.[136] On 1 February, Joly Germine, a leader of the 400 Mawozo gang, pleaded guilty in a U.S. federal court to smuggling arms[136] such as "AK-47s, AR-15s, an M4 carbine rifle, an M1A rifle, and a .50 caliber rifle, described by the ATF as a military weapon," into Haiti, piloting the operation from a Haitian prison.[137]

On 13 March, an American blogger, Addison Pierre Maalouf, ignoring the "do not travel" recommendations of the U.S. State Department, was kidnapped by the 400 Mawozo gang while seeking to interview Jimmy Chérizier. He blamed corrupt police officers for the ambush which led to 17 days of captivity and $50,000 in ransom he says was paid to secure his release.[138] According to Maalouf's father, who paid the ransom, pressure brought by Chérizier on gang-leader Lanmò Sanjou (literally "la mort sans jour") helped secure the blogger's release.[139]

A surge in gang violence caused significant casualties, with 1,554 deaths and 826 injuries in the first quarter of the year. Gangs used sexual violence as a means of control and punishment, with reports of women being raped during gang invasions of neighborhoods, often after witnessing the murder of their partners. Gangs are also known to force women into exploitative relationships and use the rape of hostages to extort ransoms from families. They are also known for recruiting children.[140]

Ousting of Ariel Henry

Starting in January 2024, after his deportation following release from a US prison,[9] former senator Guy Philippe, with the support of an armed militia gone rogue—the Brigade de sécurité des aires protégées (BSAP)[141][142]—led protests demanding the resignation of Ariel Henry.[1][143][2]

On 26 January, a judge from Kenya's High Court halted the deployment of police officers to Haiti, on the grounds that the National Security Council lacked the legal power to send police officers abroad. The government said it would appeal the ruling,[144] offering to circumvent the High Court's earlier ruling.

On 29 February, while Henry was in Kenya signing the deployment agreement, a wave of violence broke out in the country.[145] Gunfire was directed at the country's main airport and many businesses in the area, with two police stations seized,[146][147] fueling speculation that an alliance between rival gangs was forming to overthrow the government.[148] Gang leader Jimmy Chérizier released a video saying that the goal of the operation was to prevent Henry from returning to Haiti.[143][2] Chérizier was said to have the support of other gangs as part of a newly-formed "Viv Ansanm" ("live together") coalition; though that coalition was quick to dissolve, other gangs still launched attacks together with Chérizier's G9 gang.[149] Gangs stormed jails after diversionary attacks on police stations, resulting in thousands of people being freed during the jailbreaks.[150] As the security situation in Port-au-Prince deteriorated, on 3 March, the government under Minister of Economy and Finance Michel Patrick Boisvert issued a state of emergency.[151] More than 160,000 people were displaced within the metropolitan area of the capital, effectively under siege by armed groups. Looting at the main port put at risk 300 containers filled with lifesaving aid.[152]

With the Port-au-Prince airport shut down due to gang violence, Henry's chartered plane was prevented from landing in Santo Domingo and landed instead in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on 5 March.[21][153][154] Over the next days US military airlifted its embassy personnel[155] and the European Union evacuated all diplomatic staff from Haiti.[156] Schools and government offices remained closed in the capital after the 8 March attack on the National Palace, and continuing attacks on police stations, hospitals, and courthouses.[157]

On 11 March 2024 Henry announced that he would resign and that a transitional council (whose membership would be determined in Jamaica at an emergency CARICOM meeting) would select an interim prime minister.[5] The Kenyan government suspended the deployment of its police force in Haiti until a new government was in place.[158]

Transitional Council

On 13 March, the Pitit Desalin party withdrew from the transitional council to create its own council, slated to include Guy Philippe,[159] who had called for amnesty for some in the gangs whose actions brought down the Henry government.[160] One week later, after encouragement from a "a big country", Jean-Charles Moïse reversed course and decided to name Emmanuel Vertilaire, on advice from the National Network of Farmers.[161]

On 24 March, Dominique Dupuy, who had replaced the only other woman on the council (Marie Ghislaine Mompremier) four days earlier,[161] resigned after receiving death threats and becoming the target of misogynistic comments. She was replaced by Smith Augustin.[162]

Composition of the transitional council[162]
Member Party Member Party
Edgard Leblanc Fils 30 January
Collective
Smith Augustin EDE-RED-
Historic Compromise [α]
Fritz Alphonse Jean Montana Accord [fr; ht] Leslie Voltaire Fanmi Lavalas
Laurent St Cyr Private Sector Louis Gérald Gilles 21 December
Agreement
Emmanuel Vertilaire Pitit Desalin

Added to these seven members are two observers (Frinel Joseph and Régine Abraham).[100]

After weeks of negotiation, a deal was sent to CARICOM on 7 April for a temporary government whose mandate will end on 7 February 2026. One of the council's tasks is to elect a prime minister, who cannot already be a member of the transitional council or the provisional government.[164] The transitional council was officially created by a governmental decree published in Le Moniteur on 12 April 2024. The names of the representatives of the seven parties were not published, as each person still needed to submit documents to the government to confirm their eligibility.[165] The next day, the transitional council rejected the governmental decree and called upon the members of the resigning government to publish the agreement without modification.[166]

Note
  1. ^ EDE / RED / Historic compromise counts Jovenel Moïse's prime minister Claude Joseph among its leadership, while the 21st December Agreement is close to deposed prime minister Ariel Henry. The private sector refers to allied business associations including, for example, the ADIH.[163]

Instability and roadblocks causing medical and food insecurity across the country

On 15 March, police entered Delmas in an attempt to capture Chérizier. The next day, they attempted to secure the principal port in Port-au-Prince, closed since 7 March due to the violence.[167] On 17 March, a UNICEF aid container carrying critical items for infants and mothers was looted in that port, in the context of a healthcare crisis where 60% of the hospitals are unable to operate nationally due to medical supply and fuel shortages.[168] Looting and vandalism at St. Francis de Sales hospital in Port-au-Prince caused damage estimated at more than US$3 million earlier in the month. It is estimated that amidst the crisis up to 20% of qualified medical staff had left Haiti by the beginning of the year.[169] Even before violence escalated shutting down all but one of the capital's hospitals, Haiti had the worst conditions for childbirth in Latin America and the Caribbean, with only "war-torn countries like Sudan and Yemen" having higher mortality rates.[107]

Gangs also raided a power station and four substations, stealing equipment and leaving parts of the capital without power.[170] On 18 March, 14 bodies were found after a gang attack in Petion-ville, a wealthy neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. Police protection allowed an administrative judge to escape when his home was attacked. UNICEF executive director Catherine Russell compared the anarchic situation to a scene from Mad Max.[171]

On 19 March, Le Nouvelliste reported that outside of the capital, schools and universities remained open and that activity in cities such as Cap-Haïtien, Jacmel, and Jérémie was relatively normal. Throughout the country, rising prices were nevertheless a problem, with agricultural products going to waste in warehouses. Problems of liquidity were affecting the banking sector in several areas while the health sector and public transportation were also disrupted.[172] According to public transportation union leaders who painted a grim picture of kidnappings and merchandise seizures on the roads, armed gangs continued their nearly 3-year-long control of the national highway system, letting traffic pass only when they wanted to raise money.[173][174] With the closure of the Port-au-Prince airport, the safest way of traveling to other Haitian cities disappeared, with traffic on the highways increasing as a result.[173] Of the 33,000 people who fled the capital in the two weeks following the escalation of violence, 90% did so by bus.[175]

On 22 March, a police union representative said that officers in the capital were unable to cash their paychecks at the state bank.[175] No ships had entered the container port since 5 March, and the sound of primarily US-made assault rifles could be heard throughout the capital. According to the WFP, for nearly half the population, food insecurity was at crisis levels, and for over 1.6 million this had reached emergency proportions (IPC-4) with pockets in or near the capital (Croix-des-Bouquets and Cité Soleil) risking a return to the "catastrophic" (IPC-5) levels seen at the end of 2022. According to Le Nouvelliste, "one of the worst-hit areas is the Artibonite Valley—the country's bread basket—where gangs took possession of land and stole harvests".[176]

On 27 March, it was announced that that the U.S. would provide $10 million worth of helmets, bulletproof vests, weapons, and ammunition to the Haitian national police from surplus material at the Department of Homeland Security, with U.S. funding for the Multinational Security Support stalled.[177] It was announced the same day that 170 French nationals and 70 others had been evacuated in the past week by special forces aboard Cougars and Caracals flown into Fort-de-France for transport on the helicopter carrier Tonnerre specially for the operation.[178]

While police were tied up with the 1 April gang-led attack on the neighboring National Palace, fires were set in the administrative building of the Petit Séminaire Collège Saint-Martial. Four cars parked in the courtyard were completely destroyed by fire, while others were vandalised. Computers, refrigerators, mattresses, generators, water purifiers, and solar panels were among the property stolen during the six-hour attack.[179] Two days later, the National Library of Haiti was pillaged, with furniture stolen and the generator damaged. These attacks were in addition to arson at the École nationale supérieure the previous week, looting of the National School of Arts, 10 pharmacies, and two hospitals.[180][181]

On 6 April, police were able to regain control of the Magalie, a freighter at the Varreux terminal in Port-au-Prince whose crew had been kidnapped and whose cargo had been looted of 10,000 bags of rice by the 5 Seconds and Taliban gangs two days earlier. Neither the rice nor the crew members were recovered in the operation.[182][183] The Taliban gang was also reported to have destroyed a police station in the Canaan suburb with a front loader.[184]

Vigilante action

On 29 March, two men suspected of preparing to buy arms for gangs were taken from police custody and hacked to pieces by a mob in a small town near Mirebalais.[185]

Pierre Espérance, director of the National Human Rights Defense Network in Haiti, expressed concern about the risk of the transitional council giving power to people linked to gangs, drawing attention to vigilante action as a "clear expression of Haitians' revulsion for gangs", and to "rank-and-file police officers [who] are revolting against the chief, who they say is tied to gangs."[186]

Response

Governments

  •  United States: U.S. Department of State spokesperson for Western Hemisphere Affairs stated in 2019: "We support the right of all people to demand a democratic and transparent government and to hold their government leaders accountable but there is no excuse for violence. Violence leads to instability, less investment, and fewer jobs."[40] The United States prepared humanitarian assistance to ensure food security in Haiti, and called for those responsible for corruption to be held accountable.[187] The U.S. State Department urged all U.S. citizens on 30 August 2023 to leave Haiti as soon as possible due to rising violence.[188]
In March 2024, the U.S. airlifted non-essential staff from its embassy and reaffirmed its support for a Kenyan police presence.[189]
Immediately after the publication of the decree creating the Transitional Council on 12 April, the U.S. President authorized $60 million in aid to the Multinational Security Support Mission in Haiti using the Presidential Drawdown Authority.[190]
  •  Canada: In December 2022, Canada imposed economic sanctions on Gilbert Bigio—Haiti's richest businessman, part of the Syrio-Lebanese elite—for his role in "protect[ing] and enabl[ing] the illegal activities of the armed criminal gangs".[17][18]
  •  Mexico: Foreign Minister Alicia Bárcena condemned the violence in Haiti, and said that the solution must come from within the country and without external interference.[191]
  •  Venezuela: President Nicolás Maduro called for an "integral support" to Haiti, including in the economic and social scenarios.[191]

Intergovernmental organizations

In October 2022, the United Nations singled out Jimmy Chérizier for sanctions among the gang leaders, but did not sanction Joseph Wilson (leader of the 400 Mawozo gang), "Izo" (Johnson André[194]) (leader of the Village de Dieu gang Five Seconds), Renel Destina (leader of the Grand Ravine gang), or Kempes Sanon (leader of the Belair gang).[195]
In December 2023, Joseph Wilson, Johnson André, Renel Destina, and Vitel'Homme Innocent (Kraze Barye gang) were likewise sanctioned.[105]
In March 2024 the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for urgent action, particularly in providing financial support for a multinational security support mission, to restore law and order in Haiti.[196] According a report by the UN's International Organization for Migration 13,000 Haitian migrants were returned to the country by its neighbors in March 2024—an increase of 46 percent from February. The UNHRC has called for states to stop returning migrants given the current insecurity.[197]

See also

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