Danse Petro : Gangs in All Cities

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Well, we have gotten to a crossroad where choices must be made, despite the apparent apathy that seems to affect everyone. Presently, in impoverished neighborhoods of every major town in Haiti, there is at least one gang, sometimes more, often at war, well armed, working to keep the population oppressed and impoverished. As Marie Yolene Gilles, a human rights activist, was laying out recently on the radio, there are gangs all over the country, and in a matter of fact tone she named the head of each of the major gangs in operation around major towns in Haiti. In Port-au-Prince alone, you have 5 or more major crews at or near Martissant, with two more in the hills above Carrefour Feuilles. In Delmas you have gangs in Delmas 6, 2, and 5 for the lower Delmas area, in Delmas 75 there is a crew for upper Delmas. Back in Port-au-Prince you have at least two outfits in Solino, and three or more in Belair. In Rue de la Reunion there is an outfit that operates in the downtown area; Lasalin and Rue St Martin are territories controlled by two or more gangs. In Cite Soleil each neighborhood has it’s own gang and leader, often they are at war. In Petion-Ville, there are a couple of crews, but they are discreet, mostly operating in Jalouzi or Morne Hercules. Drugs and prostitution keep them busy and they rarely fight anybody. In Croix-des-Bouquets and in La Plaine there are at least three or more outfits keeping these areas very insecure, especially after sunset.

I could probably mention more of those criminal outfits, but the question is what is going to happen in Haiti in the upcoming years. According to many, there is a collusion between the gangs, politicians and many in the police force. In The third conscription of Port-au-Prince, there is a group called Baz Pilat that is headed by a police officer, with a few more of his mates in the gang. Last month this group was fighting the guys from Gran Ravine, which caused the burning down of a few houses with some unconfirmed deaths. So because of that real or perceived collusion the police rarely attacks gangs in their turf, content to arrests them when they venture out of their territories. A wise approach if you ask me, for the little pay they get police officers are not eager to risk their lives in protracted fights. The last such attack left the police team in retreat with their armored vehicles damaged and shot up. Fortunately no one died, so it was a good day. It has been over a month and a half since the Minister of Justice issued an ultimatum to a

gang operating in Village de Dieu near Martissant. I can still hear everyone laughing about that. Nothing followed. Police were the ones laughing hardest.

Many politicians have been tied to gangs, the most talked of case being of Odma, a major gang leader in L’Artibonite who denounced his sponsor on the air. Who was his sponsor? An elected depute from L’Artibonite called Prophane, according to Odma. The celebrated Arnel, gang leader from Martissant, presently incarcerated incommunicado talked regularly to sitting Senator Gracia Delva. I could go on with more examples, but I’ll spare you more drivel.

What should be done by those concerned? Who is responsible? What will the future hold? These are questions I would love to be able to answer. Haiti may become as violent and as ungovernable as Somalia or closer to us, Mexico where mass killings take place routinely. The international community will have to bear some responsibility only because guns are not made in Haiti; despite an arms embargo, supposedly, guns and ammo are pouring in. Young people wearing rags, living in hovels and owning very little are sporting assault rifles that costs thousands of dollars in Haiti with seemingly unlimited ammunition. They are not connected enough and do not have the resources to purchase and bring in guns to the country. So who is feeding them? The government and the politicians allied to it also have to bear responsibility, only because they profit from the situation. Powerful interests are involved, with many in the highest sphere of society.

Haitians everywhere need to take stock of this situation and decide whether or not they want to have a country left in the next ten years. The way things are going, in ten years either we will be the Somalia of the American continent or we will be like parts of Mexico where gangs rule everything. Everywhere Haitians need to get involved and participate in whatever effort that will stop this slide down to nothingness that the country is on. Any small action, even staying informed and sharing the info is a start because everyone has to get involved or we will all be sorry when it’s too late. Organize with your friends and let the powerful hear your voices. Do whatever you can and remember all efforts count because you get there one step at a time.

By the way, stay safe, wear a mask and wash your hands often. Sahara dust is killing me today, it’s unnatural.

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