Gangs suffocate in Haiti’s capital as deaths and kidnappings increase

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – At 6 a.m. when Vanick Moyes opened the door of his home and saw dozens of people running – their children in one hand and small items in the other – gunfire intensified.

Minutes later, he joined the crowd with his three children and fled their neighborhood in the Haitian capital as nearby fires engulfed homes, destroying homes where a few hours later the bodies of about 200 men, women and children were shot or mutilated by warring factions. Was done next to the skull. And in late April, the victims’ bones were burned.

“That Sunday, when the fighting started, I felt like I was going to die,” Moyes said.

Gangs are fighting each other and occupying territory with a new intensity and brutality in the capital of Port-au-Prince. The violence has alarmed many who believe the country is recovering quickly as it seeks to recover from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenal Moyes and the United Nations is preparing to debate the future of its long-term presence in Haiti.

Experts say the scale and duration of gang clashes, power criminals control and the amount of territory they control has never been seen before.

Gangs have been forced to close schools, businesses and hospitals as they raid new neighborhoods, seize control of major roads connecting the capital with the rest of the country, and abduct victims daily, including eight Turkish nationals still being held captive, authorities say.

In an effort to seize more territory for economic and political gain ahead of the country’s general election, gangs are recruiting more children than ever before, equipping them with heavy weapons and forming temporary alliances with other gangs, UN police chief Jaime Vigil Rechinos said. Commissioner in Haiti.

“It’s amazing,” he told The Associated Press, noting that gang clashes are becoming a protracted, brutal issue. “We are talking about something that Haiti has not experienced before.”

Between April 24 and May 16, at least 92 civilians and 96 suspected gang members were killed, 113 injured, 12 missing and 49 kidnapped for ransom, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The office warned that the actual death toll could be “much higher.”

Children under the age of 10 have also been gang-raped and at least a dozen homes have been set on fire, forcing about 9,000 people to flee and taking temporary refuge in churches, public parks and closed schools, UN officials say.

Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network says some victims have been beheaded and others thrown into wells and latrines. Gangra has posted pictures of the horrific scene on social media to further terrorize people. According to the network, most women and girls were raped before the murder.

“Armed violence has reached unimaginable and intolerable levels in Haiti,” Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement on May 17.

Bruno Mess, UNICEF Representative in Haiti, told the AP that a growing concern is lack of access to basic necessities like water, food and medicine because people are stuck in certain areas while teams continue to fight, citing growing malnutrition, with only 1 in 5 children in the Cité Soleil neighborhood. Affecting.

“We are really seeing Port-au-Prince suffocating,” he said, adding that UNICEF has been forced to use a helicopter and now a boat to reach those in need.

Hospital and clinic staff report that they are being expanded, Doctors Without Borders noted that it treated about 100 people injured by gunfire from April 24 to May 7, forcing the aid group to reopen a clinic in Cité Soleil that was closed early. It was April because of the violence.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry has remained largely calm amid rising gang violence, with Haiti’s new police chief, Frantz Elbe, saying dozens of gang members have been arrested since he took over the department six months ago and 94 more have been killed in clashes with police. About 5,000 suspects have been charged with crimes including murder and kidnapping, Elbe said.

“I’m going to find the culprits,” he promised at a news conference on May 9, adding that in a country of more than 11 million people in Haiti, about 11,000 officers are receiving training and equipment, adding fewer staff and less resourceful police departments. From the international community.

There have been reports of at least 48 homicides in the vicinity of Butt Boer, with Edna Noel Mary fleeing with her husband and three children when a gunfight broke out in late April.

The 44-year-old is sleeping on the concrete floor of a crowded shelter without a mattress in an increasingly unhealthy situation while her children are at a friend’s house.

“It’s not big enough to shelter all of us,” he explained, adding that he feared the gang would hire his two sons and rape his daughter. “These people have no regrets, and society doesn’t really care. … no civil protection. There is no authority. The police are here today, and they will leave tomorrow. “

As many as 1,700 schools have been closed due to gang violence, more than half a million children have been left uneducated, and some school principals have been unable to pay the gangs to ensure the safety of students, the United Nations has said. Efforts are underway to set up an FM radio station dedicated to class broadcasting, Mess said.

“It’s very sad for us that children who want to learn and teachers want to teach can’t do it because they feel insecure,” he said.

Ongoing violence and abductions have forced hundreds of Haitians to flee their country, often a fatal step. At least 11 Haitians were killed and 36 were rescued when their human trafficking boat capsized near Puerto Rico this month. Dozens more have died at sea in recent months.

Another concern is the lack of housing for an estimated 9,000 families who have recently been forced to flee their homes, but also for an estimated 20,000 others displaced last year who are still living in overcrowded, dirty government shelters. At the same time, the country is fighting to help some 20,000 Haitians who have been deported in recent months amid fierce criticism from the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden.

While police were trying to contain the gang violence, AP reporters visited the area around Butt Boer, where the smell of burnt houses and decomposing corpses spread to several blocks. The dogs bit the prey’s remains.

Several walls and gates have been scrolled through “400 Maoists”, evidence of the presence of a gang that kidnapped Turkish nationals in early May and abducted 17 members of a US-based missionary group last year, demanding a প 1 million ransom and detaining them. For a maximum of two months.

Nailed to a wooden post, a picture of a man killed during the recent gang violence has flown into the air. The sign below read, “Thanks to the government of my country.”

It was once a quiet neighborhood that Lucitha Gasson, 48, knew she would never return. He was getting ready for church when a gunfight erupted in late April, forcing him to leave his home. He is staying at a closed school, but the owner recently demanded that he and dozens of other Haitians find another place to sleep.

Gasson is now trying to figure out where to go because he can’t afford to leave the country.

“We cannot rely on the government. We cannot rely on agencies. They are all making promises that are not being fulfilled, ”he said. “Here in Haiti, you really have to rely on yourself and what you can do for yourself. There is nothing that the country can do for you. “

Reported from Cote San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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