Deaths from gang violence on the rise in Haiti
It was around 6 a.m. when Venique Moïse opened the door to her house and saw dozens of people running – with their children in one hand and their few belongings in the other – as the gunfire intensified.
Minutes later, she joined the crowd with her three children and fled her neighborhood in Haiti’s capital as fires burned nearby, collapsing homes where the bodies of nearly 200 men, women, and children were found hours later. shot or mutilated with machetes by warring gangs, along with the skulls and bones of victims set on fire at the end of April. “That Sunday, when the war started, I felt like I was going to die,” Moïse said.
Gangs clash and take over territory in Port-au-Prince with a new intensity and brutality. The violence has horrified many who feel the country is rapidly unraveling as it tries to recover from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and the United Nations prepares to debate the future of its longstanding presence in Haiti.
Experts noted that the scale and duration of gang clashes, the power criminals wield, and the amount of territory they control have reached unprecedented levels.
The gangs have caused the closure of schools, shops, and hospitals while raiding new neighborhoods, taking control of the main roads connecting the capital with the rest of the country, and kidnapping victims daily, including eight Turkish citizens who remain captives to authorities.
They are also recruiting more children than before, giving them heavy weapons, and forming temporary alliances with other gangs to seize more territory for economic and political gain ahead of the country’s general elections, said Jaime Vigil Recinos, police commissioner for the United Nations in Haiti.
“It’s amazing,” he told the AP, noting that clashes between gangs turn into protracted and ruthless affairs. “We are talking about something that Haiti has not experienced before.”