Vant Bef and Le Nouvelliste both reported the new outburst of gang activity in Petionville. Police went without orders to the aid of a colleague besieged by the bandits. The police chief was slow to send reinforcements because he had not ordered the operation. The incident is sowing further discord between the top brass and the rank and file. Also, north of Port-au-Prince, the same gang used tractors and a backhoe to break down concrete barriers the police had erected to protect the Pernier neighborhood. They filed through the streets preparatory to looting and kidnapping. Five days earlier, on January 15, the police killed four gang members who had invaded the home of a justice of the peace in Tabarre. The police arrived quickly at the scene after receiving a neighbor’s phone call, Radio Metropole reports. On January 21, four gang members were arrested in Gonaïves.
Meanwhile, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations Bob Rae wrote in the Toronto Globe and Mail that a foreign security force to aid the Haitian police would have “little sustainable impact.” He said, “We have to admit there’s been a history of what I would call large-scale military interventions that have not worked.”
In a piece shortly to be published by the Inter-American Dialogue, the Haiti Democracy Project contests this view. In this, we join the U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres. Before the last U.N. mission came to Haiti, five of the last seven presidents had been overthrown. While it was there, four presidents were inaugurated and nine elections held. After it left, the president was assassinated, no elections were held, and the gangs spewed onto the streets. We never claimed that the U.N. mission solved Haiti’s problems. It only imposed a surface stability that better policies by Haitians and foreigners could have built on. It staved off the disaster that is now unfolding. From the new accounts of gang offensives and reportage last year, the police despite bravery acknowledged by all are sometimes overmatched in these pitched battles and firefights. In the article for the Inter-American Dialogue, the Haiti Democracy Project calls on the United States to quit trying to slough this mission off onto Canada and get on with the job.
In his newspaper article Ambassador Rae also contends that the situation has improved in Haiti.
The latest gang offensives, which are only the first of many to come, give the lie to that contention. The problem remains as serious as it was when the Haitian government made its request on October 6, 2022. The apparent lull owed to the soccer finals and the Christmas holidays.
The U.N. mission’s remit was strictly limited to security. Haitians were always in the lead, and the U.N. soldiers came in behind the police. The mission had no power over elections or government policy. In the last full year of its stay, a presidential election was overturned by the losers with no intervention by the mission.