Vadel was angry, erupting frequently, snapping at his consort as she tried to get him to sit and share dinner. The gang leader who considered himself the biggest warlord in Haiti, with over three thousand soldiers and hundreds of wannabes wanting to join the band, had lost one of his best fighters in the last attack on Arcahaie. He had launched the assault on the town hoping to encircle the Ogre’s Bakas and force them to retreat to Montrouis. Once Arcahaie was taken, Vadel would have had more territory than any of the other warlords, surpassing the Ogre who liked to call himself President with his wife Tine parading like a First Lady. Sadly after fierce fighting, the assault had failed and Vadel lost his best fighter, while he barely escaped when the young Baka fired a Law rocket at his four wheeler. Luckily he saw it coming and jumped out of the all terrain vehicle, rolling into a ditch, but his main guy who had been driving did not make it. In a ball of fire the vehicle careened into the wall of a house killing all three of the passengers left in there. Vadel survived because of his quick reflexes, but he lost some good men in the fight. Nearly a dozen motorcycle riders, some with passengers riding shotgun, also perished making the foray costly and Vadel was furious, invoking the gods and asking for revenge. The only satisfaction, albeit a small one, was that one of his snipers, armed with a Chinese made SK rifle with attached scope got in a good shot, which took down the Ogre’s Chief Baka as his fighters were retreating back to Cabaret to regroup. The Bakas had attacked and made the retreat difficult. Spurred by the need for revenge because their leader had fallen they fired rounds after rounds from M-16s.
Vadel and his motorcycle riding soldiers fired back with their M-4s and Chinese made Kalachnikovs forcing the Bakas to take cover; they then rode away angry, firing at everything that moved. For now the warlord was back in his headquarters in Delmas counting his losses and trying to figure another way to attack Ogre whom he had sworn to cut the head off and dismember the body. The country was on fire with major fighting in the South between warring factions.
Miragoane has become a war zone because of control for the port which allows ships to bring in fuel for cash. The gangs need the gasoline to drive their pick ups or motorcycles depending on the preferred vehicle. Many of the top gang leaders like to ride in Polaris all terrain four wheelers where they parade flashing their high caliber weapons. In order to rule and dominate you need gasoline to get around, so you need access to one of the ports where the precious liquid is brought in by rogue sellers on ships who are defying the international ban. The fuel is sold at a high price and the mark up near 100% when reselling it on the market, so the warlords fight for access and control of those key ports like Port-au-Prince, the biggest one in terms of traffic, shared by the two bosses there, St Marc and Montrouis for the Ogre’s needs, Gonaives, Les Cayes, Cap Haitien, Miragoane and La Gonave which belongs to an obscure gang that contented itself with ruling over the smaller island.
The fight in Miragoane involves three small gangs from the area and another group further south from Aquin. A former politician turned gang leader who called himself Biassou controlled Aquin and its communes from the hills that dominated the town. Biassou wants control of Miragoane so he can control distribution of gasoline in parts of the South. To do that he is launching his men on the town which has no recognized leader. Rather there is a coalition of small gangs who deal with anyone who orders the fuel online. The Boys from Miragoane collect a fee for allowing safe passage. A few days ago, riding on their Toyota pick ups with .50 caliber guns mounted Biassou’s men tried to overtake Carrefour Desruisseaux, the entrance to the town itself. Because they had received intelligence about the attack, the Boys were ready and they laid out a gauntlet in the southern entrance. Firing their AK-47s from well protected cover, they inflicted many casualties, shooting with deadly precision. After a fierce fire fight, Biassou’s men retreated back to Aquin, looking for another opportunity because they are not giving up.
Since the end of the peyi lock period Haiti has been the theater of actions, meetings and activities below the surface, away from the public eye. Finally able to freely travel around the country, albeit wearily, President Jovenel Moise is acting like a despot on a victory tour, putting opponents in jail or getting them in trouble with the law, and making promises that he will not keep once again. As if he is on campaign, Jovenel is talking about road building, improvements in agriculture and social life while swearing to defeat the “system”. Not content to catch his breath after months of hiding and allowing the country to slide into anarchy the president is not talking about elections or rebuilding the economy, but rather his aim is constitutional reform. It’s as if Jovenel thinks he just won the election once again, if we can call the sham process which saw his ascent an election. He is going around the country promising once again to make everything better because he does not have Parliament in his way. The last word of wisdom he has laid out is that he will negotiate his mandate once a new constitution gives him more power. Moise seems to think everyone is stupid and will let him install a nice dictatorship with no opposition. He had the majority of members of Parliament in his pocket and he did not deliver so….
The way Haitian society is reacting to current events is paving the way to dictatorship where the “savior” will intervene. This is happening because of the social forces facing each other. The majority of the population is made of young people. Most of the people still alive left in the country are under forty, with many under thirty. So our population is young, poorly educated, and in some instances uneducated, with very little to look for in terms of a bright future. Food is becoming very expensive and many people cannot afford it anymore; so they depend on handouts from NGOs and religious groups. A large amount of people, some say nearly a third of the population is living close to famine, barely eating one meal a day. Although President Moise started his mandate in peace with a caravan to revive agriculture, the production output has gone down and much less food is being produced, with harvest in the Artibonite region going down to 50% of what it used to be ten years ago. Or the amount of time we’ve had Tet Kale one and two in power. Agriculture is going down while farmers are forced to close shop and move to the nearest town, leaving more land unkept, drying up in the sun.
In Port-au-Prince, fear is the constant companion as people try to go about their daily activities. Kidnappings are the newest worry even for people of modest means. If you can raise two or three thousand dollars U.S. from your acquaintances you are a target. Crime is rampant as the gangs control the streets after dark, while police officers sit in fixed points hoping trouble will not come their way. Once the sun goes down people race by in their cars trying to get home before night really begins. Streets that are clogged with traffic during the day become deserted after eight PM as isolated cars race by as fast as they can go in the pot hole filled streets. the atmosphere is like Dante’s inferno, during the day you can’t get around become there are traffic jams everywhere, but at night you don’t want to go around either unless you are in a group of well armed soldiers. The few police officers riding on patrol stay in well defined areas easily avoided by bandits, while other cops sit inside vehicles in fixed points. Every night shots are fired with no one seeming to care, while on occasions bodies of young people turn up in the morning to lay there for hours. Bandits hang out around some banks waiting for a customer to rob, sometimes after receiving precise information. The new worry is being snatched by a motorcycle with two riders as you are stuck in a traffic jam. They are taking children and young people as the car they are in is stuck with no place to go.
While all this crime is happening the PNH, the only police force tasked with maintaining order and protecting the population is going through tough times. First, police officers’ morale is at an all time low because of low pay and very little in terms of social benefits. If a police officer dies in the line of duty his family only receives three months salary after waiting a few months. While they wait for that pittance not worth losing your life over, the family must fend for themselves. Second, the police is being used by the president to stay in power and fight his opponents; sometimes their actions are illegal, like when they break up a perfectly peaceful legal demonstrations by spraying tear gas or shooting, and not always in the air. Usually they use rubber bullets, but all this is done while violating the people basic right to protest, which was won with the ouster of dictatorship in 1986. Because they are poorly paid many police officers want to form a union to fight for the right to get increased salaries and social benefits. Many other police officers choose to go for easy money to make up for the poor pay. They work with bandits to make more money than what they pull in as wages and perks. The executive has been paying extra money via a debit card in banks to those who do the dirty work while some others get cash money for even dirtier work. Those guys who are making extra money and enjoy the power they are getting from a government that gives them free reins to violate people’s rights are against the union because it will stop them from making easy money. So we have a divided police force that is tasked with stopping rising criminality.
On top of all that police officers are poorly equipped to fight the gangs who are well armed with unlimited ammunition it seems.
The judicial system is so corrupted that most people have lost faith in it. Justice to the highest bidder is the name of the game, as judges sell decisions through go betweens that are not always lawyers. Unless a gangster is well known and his arrest is publicized, he usually can pay to be freed if busted by police. The jails are full, but most people in there are not criminals, while the real criminals in custody rule the prisons forming gangs inside affiliated with those on the outside. In a future post I will talk about conditions in prisons in Haiti. Political prisoners are being mistreated and beaten in their jail cells and no one seem to care.
All of these forces at work along with other events and upcoming upheaval will lead to a dictatorship, which is what Jovenel Moise is trying to set up. He will use the fear of insecurity coupled with a worsening economy to appear as the only savior, trusted by the international stooges. When people are afraid they will accept anything that will alleviate that fear even if it is worse for them in the long run. People will always take a temporary aspirin to soothe the pain of a disease that runs deep rather than doing the necessary surgery. This is all a set up for the savior to come down with the help of God and save us from the bandits who are running amok, bloodthirsty, ruining our lives and those of loved ones. For those of us safe in the diaspora there is little hope of a vacation to enjoy home as we struggle with jobs, inequality, discrimination and Trump disease. Oops sorry, did not mean that. He and Vladimir are two of a kind making their countries great again.