HAITI FACES HAVOC

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry.
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry.
Associated Press/Matias Delacroix, File

After a special session with Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry in Trinidad last week, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders say they are now even more convinced that a regional fact-finding mission should soon head to Haiti where authorities have reported that heavily armed gangs are taking control of large parts of the capital with each passing week.

Leaders used the opportunity of a special summit on agriculture and food production to sit down with PM Henry for an update on the situation and have reported that the security, economic and humanitarian situation is raging out of control.

Leaders at their main summit in Suriname in July had agreed that a CARICOM “mission at a high political level should take place” as rival gangs are fighting for control of turfs in various parts of the country including the capital Port Au Prince.

The fighting has led to efforts at mass migration of Haitians with thousands paying large sums of money to fly south to Guyana and Suriname as a first step to reaching the US mainland through Central America and Mexico.  A few hundred remain in the two CARICOM member nations finding productive work, others do so in Brazil but most try to head to the US through dangerous and often deadly overland routes through the Americas, officials say.

Others hop on rickety boats to Jamaica, The Turks and Caicos Islands and The Bahamas among other nearby islands. Bahamian Prime Minister Phillip Davis said last month that the archipelago simply cannot accommodate more Haitians as refugees. Estimates of Haitians in The Bahamas range from 80,000 to 130,000 people.

We are unable to open our borders to irregular migration and or refugees either because of our own limited resources and because they ask us to do things but, at the end of the day, who foots the bill? You, the taxpayers. The world is suggesting that we should absorb all of those who leave Haiti. That’s what they will say to me,” a frustrated Davis had told a local forum.

In the latest efforts to get a grip on the situation, leaders sat down with PM Henry after their deliberations on food production and agriculture with Henry briefing them on what officials said was a rapidly deteriorating security and humanitarian situation.

Vincentian Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, one of the leaders designated by colleagues to provide guidance on things Haitian, said Henry had insisted that Haiti “wants CARICOM to be very much involved. We will have to do a lot of advocacy with a number of stakeholders including the United States as it pertains to the security situation to see how we could provide political assistance” Gonsalves told reporters.

No dates have as yet been touted for the mission to Haiti but a mini summit would be held in The Bahamas after any mission heads to the region’s most populous member state. Haiti joined the 15-nation regional bloc back in 2002. CARICOM is also hoping to involve the African Union, The Organization of American States (OAS) and other related stakeholders after the visit by a mission.

The security, humanitarian and other aspects of daily life have worsened since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise by alleged Colombian mercenaries. Police have made dozens of arrests but have yet to properly solve the assassination.

Gangs roaming the capital and fighting for turf control, have murdered dozens of people, kidnapped dozens of others and have engaged in indiscriminate violence against ordinary citizens, triggering efforts at mass migration.

Security officials reported recently that nearly 500 people were killed, injured or are missing in July alone in the capital. Dozens of women have been raped by marauding gang members.

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