World November 30, 2023 - 11:08 am

Gangs in Haiti gain more ground to the west: victims rise to almost 1,700

Haiti.- Haiti is grappling with escalating violence and insecurity due to the widespread influence of gangs and criminal groups. Recent statistics show a disturbing trend in the northwest and southwest regions, with at least 1,694 reported cases of murder, injury, or kidnapping over nearly two years.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ latest report paints a harrowing picture of life in the lower Artibonite department. Residents face daily threats, including murders, rapes, robberies, property destruction, and other abuses. From January 2022 to October 2023, the victims were predominantly men (70%), followed by women (29%), and minors forming the remainder.

A case from July 2022 exemplifies the brutality. Marc, a young man returning from a funeral in Jean Denis, was forcibly removed from a bus and beheaded by the Jean Denis coalition, who accused him of being an informant for the Gran Grif gang. In Artibonite alone, the gang’s dominance has led to 350 deaths, 226 injuries, and 1,118 kidnappings.

Violence in Bajo Artibonite occurs in communities and on public roads, with the study categorizing these incidents into attacks on rival villages and highway assaults. In 17 locations, 110 attacks on rival villages resulted in 292 deaths and injuries. Gang control over streets and highways is evident, with 85 fatalities and injuries reported in 22 months, often involving barricades or ambushes along these roads, areas not secured by the Haitian National Police.

Another disturbing incident from July 2023 involved the Gran Grif gang attacking the town of Liancourt. They killed five members of local defense groups and injured 15 others, also setting fire to all the stores in the town.

Kidnappings have gained international attention, often targeting representatives of charitable organizations working to alleviate Haiti’s humanitarian crisis. From January 2022 to October 2023, over 1,118 kidnappings were recorded.

Since July 2022, more than 300 homes have been destroyed, primarily in Liancourt, Moreau, Moreau-Dwèt, and Petite Rivière de l’Artibonite. Sexual violence, including rape, is used by gangs as a tool of fear and punishment, especially in rival villages. Kidnapped women and girls are often subjected to sexual violence to extort ransom from their families.

The impact of gang activity on western Haiti’s economy is significant, particularly in the destruction of homes and agricultural infrastructure. In the Lower Artibonite, a key agricultural region, gangs have exploited local resources and occupied large areas of cultivable land.

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