World in View: Haiti citizens fight gangs

June 14, 2023

From the May-June 2023 issue of News & Letters

by Eugene Walker

“There’s nowhere to run. We have to stand and fight back. If there has to be a war, I will be part of it, because authorities are not taking responsibility and are letting everyone die under their eyes.”
—Samuel, 25, Canape Vert neighborhood

Haiti in general, and Port-Au-Prince in particular, have come under increasing gang siege. Several hundred Haitians have been killed by the gangs, and over 130,000 have fled their homes as gangs invade to kill and rape, seeking to control more and more territory. Some 40% of those displaced now live in makeshift shelters lacking basic services.


Since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, gang activity has escalated and gangs are now estimated to control 80% of the city. Haitian police estimate that there are seven major gang coalitions in the country and some 200 affiliated groups. While the UN Secretary General and several countries are calling for international intervention, previous experiences with foreign intervention make many Haitians doubtful about such a solution.

Now residents in scattered neighborhoods are taking the situation into their own hands. In the Canape Vert neighborhood, residents captured 13 suspected gang members that the police held, beat and stoned them to death, as well as set their bodies on fire.

In the Turgeau neighborhood, more than a dozen masked men with machetes stood guard at a checkpoint. Resident Reynald Jean Pierre, 30, said he was “willing to die” to protect his neighborhood from gangs: “People are being kidnapped, people are being raped, people are being extorted, but we are not going to let it happen under our watch. We don’t have another home to go to.”

A resident of Canape Vert said he was saddened by the slayings of the young men who could have been doing something productive for society. He said: “We won this fight, but the war is not over. We are going to continue searching for gangs, and if they are still hiding, we are going to get them and make sure they don’t leave alive.”

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