In the face mounting resistance to his presidency Mr. Moise and the party used a tried-and true tactic: They turned to the militia to silence their opponents. A coalition armed groups quickly spread into opposition-led districts through extortion. kidnapping. and sexual violence. Mr. Moise is suspected in having allowed the repression with transfers of money. Corruption within the H.N.P. and a shortage of resources also led to a retrenchment of security services in some neighborhoods, reversing the hard-won gains in professionalism and reputation of the previous decade.
Port-au-Prince is the epicenter for Haiti’s crime wave and some 165 gang factions are active. At least 628 abductions were carried out this year by gangs — more than threefold more than the previous year. Although the mass abduction of missionaries by the 400 Mawozogang has attracted international attention, kidnappings American citizens in Haiti are not new. In 2020 alone, at the most nine U.S. citizens was kidnapped.
Today, Haiti’s criminal gangs have overtaken the state through collusion with armed groups and political leaders. The gangs are winning the loyalty of the people by offering protection, food, and services in a country with nearly 50% of its population being food insecure. They make themselves indispensable to society by controlling territory and wielding weapons. This increases their influence on future political outcomes.
Elections to replace President Moise in Haiti have been delayed indefinitely. Haiti will remain in uncertainty until the Ariel Henry-led caretaker government can guarantee Haitians a fair election — one in which they are free to express themselves without intimidation —
There are no easy solutions to address these issues. There are international organizations, regional governments and other institutions that can help to end the control of the gangs. The U.N. could provide limited police coverage to help the World Food Program or other aid organizations in areas where criminals are preventing humanitarian deliveries.
The U.N. should also enhance its advisory work with the H.N.P. Expand its support for the justice system. A U.N. counter-punishment mission to Guatemala in 2007 helped it lock up criminals, eliminate illicit networks, and almost reduce its homicide rates. Leaning on the Guatemalan mission as a blueprint, a similar effort could assist Haitian courts in tackling paralyzing case backlogs, while advising and protecting judges and prosecutors as they go after public officials guilty of conspiring with gangs.
The U.N.’s ability to accomplish anything will depend on China’s permission, as a permanent member of its Security Council. China has historically sought to limit U.N. involvement Haiti. Organization of American States and other regional bodies should seek to share some of this weight.