© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Motorcyclists cross a burning stretch of road as anger builds over growing fuel shortages caused by gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, May 13 7 in 2022. REUTERS / Ralph Tedy Erol / File Photo
(Reuters) – Haiti is facing a humanitarian crisis, with shortages of food, fuel and water causing catastrophic famine, and the government is begging for military assistance from abroad.
WHAT ARE CAUSES OF CRISIS?
The cause of the current crisis is the blockade of an important fuel depot by armed gangs that began in September. That has led to gasoline and diesel shortages and halted most transportation operations, creating shortages of basic goods, including clean water.
WHO ARE THE BLOCKADE LEADERSHIP GANGS?
The blockade is being led by a coalition of gangs known as the G9, which control areas in and around the capital Port-au-Prince. The leader of the group, Jimmy “Bar Grill” Cherizier, is a former police officer who became the target of sanctions by the US Treasury Department for his role in a 2018 massacre.
He and other gang leaders are considered de facto authorities in areas including Cite Soleil, a poor seaside town that has suffered brutal outbreaks of gang violence during the year. now. It is also where the first cases were reported during the cholera outbreak in October.
WHAT DOES GANGS WANT?
The G9 on September 12 dug a trench outside the main entrance of the Varreux fuel station to protest Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s announcement that the government would cut fuel subsidies. Bar Grill, who said higher fuel costs would harm Haitian people, appeared in October in an online video at the station entrance demanding Henry’s resignation.
WHY ARE THE GANGS SO POWERFUL?
Haitian gangs have expanded their control over the country’s territory since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021.
The murder, which involved Colombian mercenaries, created a political power vacuum. Henry has ruled on a provisional basis since then, although the constitution requires both president and prime minister.
Haiti was already in a political crisis before the assassination, due to the inability to hold the scheduled elections in 2019. It no longer has a functioning parliament because the terms of the legislators have expired, but few believe that an election can be held under the current circumstances.
WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF BLOCKADE?
Fuel shortages have brought most economic activity to a halt.
Hospitals have closed or shut down because they are unable to power diesel generators, which are necessary to maintain stable electricity in Haiti because of the unreliable power grid.
The United Nations says Haiti is witnessing catastrophic famine, with more than 4 million Haitians facing severe food insecurity.
Civil unrest is growing, and anti-government protests have sometimes turned into looting. Haitians say a growing proportion of gunfights in residential areas are waged between rival gangs or with the police.
The United Nations says gangs are using sexual violence, including among children and the elderly, to instill fear in locals.
HOW HAS THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY REACTED?
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres proposed a “rapid action force” to confront the gangs and reopen the station, while the United States and Mexico proposed a security mission that would be led by a ” partner country” led the way.
That came after Haiti requested international military assistance.
Allies including Canada and the United States have promised to provide security assistance to Haiti, but have not offered to send troops. The Bahamas said it would send troops if requested.
Most countries are wary of military involvement.
A United Nations stabilization force that operated in Haiti from 2004 to 2017 has faced fierce criticism, including its role in a deadly cholera outbreak.