Violence and border conflict with the Dominican Republic aggravate the emergency in Haiti | International

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Haiti is experiencing critical moments. Subdued by the violence of criminal gangs, the Caribbean country is moving towards decomposition, while it awaits a mission from foreign forces, aid that will allow some hope to be fixed on the horizon. In the absence of aid, life in the capital, Port-au-Prince, worsens. The violence also spreads to the center and west of the country. In recent weeks, one of the few safe routes between Port-au-Prince, the north and the border, route three, has ceased to be safe. Now it is, like the rest, part of the trenches of criminal groups.

The border conflict with the neighbor, the Dominican Republic, adds fuel to the bonfire. In September, the Government of Luis Abinader decided to close the crossing with Haiti because residents on the other side of the border had built a canal to bring water from the Masacre River to their lands. The answer, the closure. In many areas of Haiti, the blockade proved paralyzing. Nothing left Port-au-Prince, nothing entered through the border. Cities like Cap Haitien, in the north, safe for the moment from the violence, began to suffer the consequences. This week, the Dominican Republic finally agreed to reopen, but only for the movement of goods, not for people, which angers residents in the west of the island.

Accustomed to disaster, Haiti has finally received good news from the international community. On Monday, the United Nations Security Council approved the sending of troops for one year to the Caribbean country, a task that, if confirmed, Kenya must lead. The Government in Nairobi gave in to pressure from the United States, which had been searching for months for an ally who could take charge of the mission on Haitian soil. The objective is very specific: contain and push back criminal gangs, to allow the country to call elections and return to a certain institutional normality.

The problem now is to lower the United Nations mandate to the ground. Kenya is willing to lead the mission and send 1,000 police officers to Haiti, whose police force does not reach 10,000. The Caribbean country has around 12 million inhabitants. The United Nations assumes that the contingent should reach at least 2,000 agents, according to sources consulted by EL PAÍS. The cost of the mission also seems to be an obstacle. The United States has announced a donation of 200 million dollars, although the amount necessary to send such a number of people to the country, and to maintain their stay and operations, seems higher.

The United Nations resolution comes just one year after the acting president of the Caribbean country, Ariel Henry, asked the international community for help. September and October of last year marked the beginning of the penultimate cycle of violence and chaos in the capital and surrounding areas, home to three million people. Henry announced an increase in the price of gasoline, generating protests. Criminal gangs took over the port terminal where imported fuel is stored. Between the end of September and the beginning of October, Doctors Without Borders detected a new outbreak of cholera, years after the last case.

It was the penultimate cycle of chaos, but there were others before it. Also later. There has been no peace for Haiti since the assassination of the president, Jovenel Moïse, in July 2021. In the country, many criticize Henry, who took over the reins of the Government after the assassination of the president. Prime Minister under Moïse, Henry has not called elections in this time, due in part to his cabinet's inability to maintain order. Haiti has not organized elections since 2016.

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The Haitian gate at the binational border, in Dajabón (Dominican Republic). Luis Tavarez (EFE)

Violence and the border

Violence is reproduced. If the chaos of September and October of last year was followed by a few months of relative calm - relative because criminal gangs controlled more than half of the capital, according to the United Nations - violence broke out again between April and May. Residents of different neighborhoods organized against criminal groups, besieging entire neighborhoods, like Turgeau, protecting them with enchanted barricades. The vigilante groups adopted a name, what elsean expression in Creole that means something like “fuck you.”

As in any movement of this type, excesses were committed. The what else They killed at least 300 people, alleged members of criminal gangs. The lack of capacity of the Haitian authorities to investigate makes it impossible to know who were gang members and who were not. And, in any case, even if they were, there will be no way to know who killed them, much less bring the murderers to justice. Incapable of facing criminal groups, the what elseIn any case, they have been falling apart. Crime prevails.

The latest salvo from the criminal groups has been to present themselves to the people as a solid political option against Henry. In September, one of the prominent leaders of the Port-au-Prince underworld, former police officer Jimmy Cherizier, participated in a march through the city with his army of armed boys and took the opportunity to announce a large coalition of criminal groups, which he called, without irony, , Live togetherlive together. The objective, as before, was to defeat Ariel Henry.

“That happened and a few days later, the gangs were in conflict again,” explains Haitian economist and political scientist Joseph Harold Pierre. “Right away, they started fighting and many people in the Croix-des-Bouquets area had to leave their homes,” he says, referring to a large neighborhood that rises around two of the roads that connect the capital with the rest of the country and border. “You can't expect anything from them, they can get into conflict over anything,” he points out.

The escalation of the fight between the gangs had consequences. The first, that Port-au-Prince lost one of the few more or less safe routes that connected the city with the north of the country and the border with the Dominican Republic. Like routes one, two and eight before, the gangs took route three as part of their battlefield and made traffic impossible. Worse still, gangs appeared in municipalities outside the capital, such as Mirebalais and further to the northwest.

Thus, the problem now transcends the capital and also affects the Artibonite region. Last week, Unicef ​​released a statement precisely to denounce the situation in the area. “The violence that has been seen in the capital is intensifying in a similar way in the Artibonito, the most important rice region in the country, terrorizing families (...) Half of the 298 kidnappings registered in the country between May and June “They occurred in the south of the region,” that is, in the part closest to the capital. “These cases mainly affect civilians who travel by public transport. In a single event, 15 women who were going to the market were kidnapped and raped,” the report states.

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