Oct 27, 2022

Haiti asks for international support as criminal gangs there grow stronger Transcript

Haiti asks for international support as criminal gangs there grow stronger Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsCrimeHaiti asks for international support as criminal gangs there grow stronger Transcript

Just 600 miles off of Florida’s coast, millions of Haitians face humanitarian, security, and political crises. Read the transcript here.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):

The nation of Haiti is in free fall. Just 600 miles off Florida’s coast, the country that is no stranger to struggle is facing a confluence of humanitarian, security, and political crises. Millions do not have enough food. Cholera is spreading. Gang violence has reached previously safe areas, and the government appears powerless to provide solutions. Nick Schifrin has our story. And a warning, some of the images are disturbing.

Nick Schifrin (00:31):

In this Port-au-Prince hospital run by Doctors Without Borders, the patients are survivors of a country that’s collapsed. Their society, like their legs, are fractured, and they suffer the wounds of war ravaging the Haitian capital. More than a quarter are gunshot victims, including this teenager. We’re keeping him anonymous from the gangs that shot him.

Speaker 3 (00:52):

When I was looking at my stomach, I saw a big hole here and another one here. I didn’t die because they gave me care.

Nick Schifrin (00:58):

He’s from Cite Soleil, Port-au-Prince’s biggest slum, where residents try to survive not just choking poverty, but also a recent wave of intense violence. He was filming this video of a gang tearing down a home when the bullet hit.

Speaker 3 (01:18):

We are in the middle of a war. You sleep, it’s war. You wake up, shots are fired. What I’m trying to say is, that it was the day for me to take a bullet, but it’s not only me. I’m not the only victim.

Nick Schifrin (01:31):

Violence escalated in July, when new battles raged between rival gangs fighting for territory including GPEP and the G9. Led by a former police officer, Jimmy Cherizier, known as Barbecue, they use excavators to raise each other’s neighborhoods. In broad daylight, gang members kidnap Haitians from their cars for ransom. They torch government buildings and set court documents on fire. And in mid-September, a gang seized the largest fuel terminal and are holding hostage 70% of Haiti’s fuel. Barbecue taunted authorities and rallied supporters.

Jimmy Cherizier (02:06):

It is true that you are going to get through into this oil terminal when we are dead. To the Haitian people, if it’s true that we need to live as real human beings, and for other nations to respect us, man your barricades.

Gary Pierre-Pierre (02:24):

These are war lords. These are people who have military training and who are really a de facto force in the country.

Nick Schifrin (02:31):

Gary Pierre-Pierre is the founder of the Haitian Times and English language newspaper.

Gary Pierre-Pierre (02:36):

They dictate when we have water, when we have fuel, when people can go out. Watching is basically a slow motion coup de tat. Haiti has reached the point of a fail state right now. It is not functioning.

Nick Schifrin (02:52):

Haitian society is furious. For months, demonstrators across the country have protested against insecurity and a lack of food and gas. As police looked on, demonstrators even looted humanitarian warehouses. And now the violence and fuel restrictions have exacerbated a cholera outbreak. Marceline Joseph gave her son liquids, but it was too late for the rest of her family.

Marceline Joseph (03:16):

Mom, I saw him getting worse, so I brought him here. And when I got here, I learned that my little sister had died of cholera.

Nick Schifrin (03:23):

Where is the Haitian government? It’s been 15 months since President Jovanel Moise was assassinated and Haiti’s caretaker Prime Minister Ariel Henri requested international troops to keep a peace that the government is unable to provide. Last week in New York, the international community took a first step to try and provide stabilization. For the first time in five years, the UN Security Council passed a resolution on Haiti that sanctioned gang leaders including Barbecue and their financial sponsors. But a US end Mexico resolution endorsing a foreign troop deployment to Haiti remains on hold.

Do you think that it’s a good idea for the UN Security Council to authorize an international military mission to go to Haiti?

Gary Pierre-Pierre (04:08):

The question is that what choices do we have? It’s not a good idea, but it’s a series of bad ideas. This mission, whatever form it comes in, needs to address the social inequalities. These young men have been marginalized in the society.

Jean Claude Joseph (04:27):

For every 10 young boys that grew up in Grand Ravine, eight of them had firearms and I was one of them.

Nick Schifrin (04:33):

Jean Claude Joseph is a former gang member turned peace builder. He started carrying guns when he was 10. In his twenties, he led a gang in his neighborhood, Port-au-Prince’s Grand Ravine. In his thirties, he disarmed himself through a government program and co-founded Lakou Lape, a community organization that trains young Haitians to resolve conflict through dialogue. He says the gangs are popular because they are both the power and the bank.

Jean Claude Joseph (04:59):

When a 10 year old enters an armed gang, he is the one who puts food and drinks on the table and even pays the rent. It’s like having a job.

Nick Schifrin (05:08):

Back in Cite Soleil, the teenager who was shot sent us this video, his neighborhood, no running water and no school, but he has nowhere else to go.

Speaker 3 (05:19):

I hope for all the bandits to be killed or arrested and put in prison. Only then the country will work properly. Bandits are destroying the country.

Nick Schifrin (05:28):

And for more on this, I’m joined by Brian Nichols, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Doctor Nichols, thank you very much. Welcome to the News Hour. You led an inter-agency delegation to Haiti earlier this month. What did you see?

Doctor Nichols (05:42):

I saw a Haiti that’s suffering from cholera, from intense security challenges posed by gangs. I saw a Haiti whose economy is grinding to a stand still due to a lack of fuel, and a Haiti that needs our help more than ever, and we’re going to give that help.

Nick Schifrin (06:02):

What does the US hope to accomplish by the actions that we saw at the UN last week sanctioning gang leaders, including Barbecue and their financial sponsors.

Doctor Nichols (06:14):

The intention is not only to go after gang leaders like Jimmy Cherizier, aka Barbecue, but to go after those who support them, who fund them, who direct their nefarious activities. Wherever they are, we’re coming for them.

Nick Schifrin (06:30):

The second resolution the US is working on is to send an international military force to Haiti. Why does the US support another international force to go to Haiti?

Doctor Nichols (06:40):

Well, our focus is on providing the security that the Haitian cabinet and the UN Secretary General have asked for, and that would be a multinational force with a substantial police component that will provide security to the Haitian people and to give Haitian actors and Haitian political figures the space to reach an agreement on a way forward to organize elections and to restore democracy in Haiti.

Nick Schifrin (07:10):

Will there be US military personnel as part of that mission?

Doctor Nichols (07:14):

We’re looking at how we would support the mission. Our focus is providing those things where we have unique skills and advantages, but we need to do that in support of a partner nation that will lead. There are intensive talks going on right now.

Nick Schifrin (07:31):

Journalists and historians in Haiti have long said that the US has never allowed Haiti to make its own political decisions. Do you fear that sending this force would just make the same mistakes as the past?

Doctor Nichols (07:44):

Given the cholera outbreak now, the security situation, the lack of fuel, we need to act. But that action should open the space for Haitians to come together around the organizing of elections, around the process to restore democracy and to get the country moving forward again.

Nick Schifrin (08:09):

Let’s talk about politics. Why is the US supporting Ariel Henri?

Doctor Nichols (08:13):

Well, our view is that Ariel Henri is a transitional figure. I’ve met with him many times, and in every conversation he has assured me of his intent to turn over leadership to an elected government.

Nick Schifrin (08:29):

There was of course controversy around his appointment. Many have called him illegitimate. Do you believe that he’s earned the right to transition Haiti to the next step?

Doctor Nichols (08:42):

He is taking difficult steps. He has ended fuel subsidies in Haiti, which is a controversial move. But it means that the government now has money to dedicate to education, healthcare, infrastructure in Haiti. Those are actions that we’ve wanted to see in Haiti for quite some time. And Prime Minister Henri is the one who’s taken them, and I respect him for that.

Nick Schifrin (09:09):

Earlier this year, you said this, “When we look at the history of Haiti, it is replete with the international community reaching into Haitian politics and picking winners and losers. Our goal in terms of the US government is to avoid that.” With your support for Henri, are you picking winners and losers even today?

Doctor Nichols (09:27):

We are not there to pick who Haiti’s leaders are, but the government that is there is led by Ariel Henri at the moment. But he’s a transitional figure. He’s not there permanently, and it’s up to Haitians to find their way forward, and we just hope to give them the space to do that.

Nick Schifrin (09:48):

And finally, on the humanitarian situation, of course, US AID is sending much needed supplies. Can those supplies actually get to the places that need them most given the gangs block on the port?

Doctor Nichols (10:01):

Our colleagues in the US AID working through local partners were able to deliver food for 6,000 people to Cite Soleil, which is also the epicenter of the cholera outbreak in Haiti. But that does not change the fact that the presence of Barbecue and the G9 gang around the [inaudible 00:10:21] terminal is a serious impediment to economic activity in Haiti and to the movement of assistance. And I would advise Mr. Cherizier to exit the terminal and to let the Haitian people go about their lives.

Nick Schifrin (10:43):

Brian Nichols, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, thank you very much.

Doctor Nichols (10:48):

Thank you for having me, Nick.

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