The situation in Haiti is deteriorating. Haiti has been in a political crisis since 2019, when the scheduled elections for the year were cancelled. Then in 2021, the assassination of the elected leader of Haiti, President Jovonel Moise, saw the beginning of Haiti's political, economic, and social collapse. Thereafter, in July 2022, the public erupted in protest over the disparity in income pricing of fuel between the economic classes, the rising costs of fuel, food, and other necessities, as well as the absence of security. Gang violence has been threatening its citizens, who continue to flee. The country now faces a humanitarian crisis like never before, with catastrophic food shortages, medicines, and safety. And there is no respite in sight.
Only the Prime Minister, Ariel Henry has been leading the country. Yet, Haiti’s constitution demands both a president and a prime minister. Due to this, there is now a power vacuum and still little hope for the elections being held. In addition, there have been repeated demands from protestors for Henry to resign. However, the Haitian police have been using tear grenades and live bullets to disperse protestors while gangs have taken over their three main oil terminals.
Haiti has always been plagued by gang violence, but this incident intensified the situation. In September of this year, armed gangs blocked key fuel terminals which further escalated it. It has led to sitting leaders pleading for help and aid from foreign countries in an attempt to resolve the crisis and bring the country back to normalcy. The blockade is the result of a coalition of gangs dubbed the G9 led by former police offer Jimmy "Barbecue" Cherizier. According to Reuters, he has been sanctioned by the US Treasury Department for his role in a 2018 massacre.
The coalition demands that PM Ariel Henry step down. And their blockade occurred in response to the cut in fuel subsidies by the Haitian government. To make their position known, Barbecue appeared in an online video in October and claimed that the subsidies would harm the Haitian people. Despite this, Gang violence has restricted the lives of ordinary people. UN estimates say that as many as 4.7 million people -almost half the country’s population- are facing acute food shortages. The gangs have de-facto control over certain areas which have been designated as ‘no-go’ zones. Moreover, since the blockade, hospitals across Haiti have had to turn away patients because of electricity constraints, businesses have been impacted, and people do not venture out after dark. Thousands have been displaced from their homes due to gang violence. Thousands more have died due to ‘turf wars’ between close to 200 gangs.
The blockade has caused crippling shortages of diesel and petrol which impacts hospitals and businesses. Hospitals have been forced to turn away patients or are unable to care for critically ill patients due to massive power outages. Haiti which was cholera free for three years, has seen the extremely contagious disease come back in full force in the country. Yet, many countries are wary of military assistance, while the UN peacekeeping force has been heavily criticised for its role in bringing cholera back into the country during its 2004 to 2017 stint in the country. In the absence of any relief in sight, it appears that the situation in Haiti will continue to deteriorate.
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