Photo: Miami Herald
- What is the US’s latest travel advisory for Haiti?
The US has told its governmental and non-governmental personnel and their families to evacuate Haiti immediately. The US embassy issued a Level 4 Do Not Travel Advisory on Thursday. The embassy advised US citizens to leave Haiti immediately, citing the current security situation. According to Travel.state.gov, kidnapping and violent crimes involving firearms, including robbery and carjackings, against US citizens have become more common. Kidnapping ransoms have swindled families thousands of dollars while harming victims. Robbers follow and attack tourists when leaving Toussaint Louverture International Airport, Haiti’s primary international airport. In addition, the State website warns about violent protests and limited vital resources. The biggest shortcoming is that the website states that the US embassy’s power to aid citizens outside the US embassy in Port-au-Prince is limited.
- What has led to the current Haitian situation?
Unfortunately, there have been various factors that have led Haiti to more violence. Firstly, Jovenel Moïse, the President of Haiti at the time, was assassinated at his home in 2021. Following his assassination, a continual power vacuum plagued Haiti. There has been no clear successor, merely a provisional government patching the presidential position. Secondly, there was a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that ravaged Haiti in 2021. The earthquake caused widespread damage and displacement. When accounting for the earthquake that occurred a month after the presidential assassination, this only worsened the situation in Haiti. Lastly, the COVID-19 pandemic affected Haiti’s worsening poverty problem. According to the World Bank, the poverty rate increased from 60% to 70%. With these factors in mind, prominent criminal gangs have become more powerful in Haiti. While the events described did not occur this year, it was a gradual effect of governmental incompetence alongside increasing poverty that has only made Haiti more violent in 2023.
- Why did the US take so long to issue this new advisory?
Over the last several years, Haiti’s violence rates have made headlines worldwide. However, in 2023 there has been an exponential increase in crime rates. Approximately 1,600 severe crimes occurred during the first quarter of 2023. These crimes include homicide, rape, kidnapping, and lynchings. Only 692 of these incidents occurred during this same period in 2022, demonstrating an alarming uptick in violence. As gangs have better control of Port-au-Prince, more violent crimes have only continued to increase. In addition, the US embassy’s control has weakened. Without a fully functioning embassy, the US government cannot effectively help US citizens in Haiti. When accounting for these two factors, it becomes clear why the US would issue such a notice in the first place.
Crime is only worsening in Haiti. A solution to such a conflict is fundamental for restoring peace within the county. However, this is a difficult task considering how weakened the central government is and how strong gangs are.
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