Danse Petro: Sorrowful times

Two more journalists murdered in Laboule 12 a couple of days ago. After the threats made toward Zenith FM by the gang Mawozo, this wanton killing of two young men who were working for an online media outlet in Haiti, Amady Jhon Wesley and a colleague, is a result of the anarchy in the streets encouraged by the government. Quality of life is very bad presently in the country, but the population is kept from taking to the streets and demanding better living conditions because of fear and insecurity. The regime in charge of the government is continuing with the policy of allowing the gangs to control the slums and ghetto neighborhoods where the majority of the population lives, in order to stop people from mobilizing. And presently, the gangs are moving to areas where persons with money have built big comfortable homes, like Laboule and the Plaine du Cul de Sac.

A few months ago, a turf war started up in Laboule, in the hills above Petion-Ville, where many persons with high income and assets live, between two different gangs which originally operated downtown. According to reports from media outlets, the fight started because a landowner in the area with connections with a gang in Martissant brought some members up to intimidate small land owners in the area. Soon after shots were fired everyday, and a gang war was transplanted from the southern entrance of Port-au-Prince to Laboule. Law abiding residents in the area are living through a nightmare because of shots fired every night, and insecurity in the formerly peaceful neighborhood once it’s dark.

The start of the new year has brought more kidnappings, as persons have been snatched in Petion-Ville, often in broad daylight. The Haitian National Police, or PNH, looks like amateur spectators while insecurity ravages the capital and surrounding suburbs. Is the PNH that inefficient or is it part of the plan to stay in power by keeping the police on a short leash? Often, persons say the gangs have more firepower and that the police cannot match them. Curiously enough, back in the tumultuous days of Peyi Lok, when barricades were set up all over the country by a large amount of the population, the PNH had well armed special units, with .50 caliber machine guns on pickup trucks, along with M-60 machine guns. There were rumors of snipers from foreign countries shooting demonstrators near the palace. A few months ago, a group of police officers from the CIMO, a special unit trained to fight urban uprisings, became angry because one of the members of their unit was killed by the gang headed by BBQ, the G9 leader. They entered BBQ’s turf in Delmas 6 and destroyed his headquarters, while breaking into his house and damaging cars there. They met little resistance because Cherizier, aka BBQ, ran and hid in Lasalin. The police officers involved were ordered back and transferred far from Delmas. Around New Year’s Eve, BBQ returned to Delmas and started a fight in Bel Air that is still going on. Many homes in the area between Bel Air and Lower Delmas have been taken over by gang bangers, forcing the persons who lived there to run for their lives, abandoning homes and everything behind. No one knows how many were killed because it’s no man’s land.

The HNP has the firepower and the training to fight the gangs and probably eradicate most of them if ordered to do so. Between the SWAT and the other special unit, a task force can make life hard for gangs, which are mostly made up of untrained young men who cannot carry a strategic fight. There will be some collateral damage because gang bangers are part of the population, and they will hide behind women and children, but if the HNP has the support of the government it will prevail. The population needs to put pressure on the authorities to stop supporting this situation, and make the environment safe and peaceful. Elections cannot and must not take place until insecurity is curtailed, even though a bunch of greedy politicians, allied with gangs are calling for them.

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