EXPLAINER: Who’s behind Haiti’s most powerful gang alliance?

Oct 20, 2022, 8:03 PM | Updated: Oct 21, 2022, 8:50 am
FILE - Jimmy Cherizier, also known as Barbecue, the leader of the "G9 and Family" gang, stands next...

FILE - Jimmy Cherizier, also known as Barbecue, the leader of the "G9 and Family" gang, stands next to a garbage pile to call attention to the conditions people live in as he leads a march against kidnapping through La Saline neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Oct. 22, 2021. Cherizier is a former officer with Haiti's National Police who worked with the Departmental Crowd Control Unit, which is deployed when there are riots or protests and has been accused of excessive force. He has since become whom many consider Haiti's most powerful gang leader. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

(AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

              FILE - Flanked by members of the G9 gang coalition, leader Jimmy Cherizier, aka Barbecue, right, talks to reporters near the perimeter wall that encloses Terminal Varreux, the port owned by the Mevs family, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Oct. 6, 2021. The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Friday, Oct. 21, 2022 demanding an immediate end to violence and criminal activity in Haiti and imposing sanctions on Barbecue, a former police officer. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, File)
            
              Demonstrators carry a mock coffin with the image of Prime Minister Ariel Henry during a protest to reject an international military force requested by the government and to demand the resignation of Henry, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. The United Nations Security Council is evaluating the request by the Haitian government for the immediate deployment of foreign troops to help free Haiti from the grip of gangs that has caused a scarcity of fuel, water and other basic supplies. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)
            
              FILE - Leader of the "G9 and Family" gang, Jimmy Cherizier, better known as Barbecue, shouts slogans with his gang members after giving a speech, as he leads a march against kidnappings, through the La Saline neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Oct. 22, 2021. The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Friday, Oct. 21, 2022 demanding an immediate end to violence and criminal activity in Haiti and imposing sanctions on Barbecue, a former police officer. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix, File)
            
              FILE - Jimmy Cherizier, also known as Barbecue, the leader of the "G9 and Family" gang, stands next to a garbage pile to call attention to the conditions people live in as he leads a march against kidnapping through La Saline neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Oct. 22, 2021. Cherizier is a former officer with Haiti's National Police who worked with the Departmental Crowd Control Unit, which is deployed when there are riots or protests and has been accused of excessive force. He has since become whom many consider Haiti's most powerful gang leader. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)
            
              FILE - Barbecue, whose real name is Jimmy Cherizier, sits at his house during an interview with AP, in Lower Delmas, a district of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, May 24, 2019. The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Friday, Oct. 21, 2022 demanding an immediate end to violence and criminal activity in Haiti and imposing sanctions on Barbecue, a powerful gang leader.  (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery, File)
            
              FILE - Jimmy Cherizier, alias Barbecue, a former police officer who heads a gang coalition known as "G9 Family and Allies, leads a march to demand justice for slain Haitian President Jovenel Moise in Lower Delmas, a district of Port-au- Prince, Haiti  July 26, 2021. The United Nations Security Council is expected to vote Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 19, 2022, on a resolution that would demand an immediate end to violence and criminal activity in Haiti and impose sanctions on influential gang leader Cherizier.(AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)
            
              FILE -This 1969 photo shows Haiti's former President Francois Duvalier who died in office on April 21, 1971. Haiti Prime Minister Ariel Henry and 18 top-ranking officials have requested on the second week of Oct. 2022, the immediate deployment of foreign armed troops as gangs and protesters paralyze the country. (AP Photo, File)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The U.N. Security Council has approved a resolution that imposes sanctions on Jimmy Chérizier, leader of a powerful gang federation in Haiti, who is accused of threatening the country’s peace, security or stability. It also places a travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo on Chérizier and would establish a committee to designate others to be put on a sanctions list.

The resolution comes nearly two weeks after Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry and his Cabinet requested deployment of foreign troops to help end Haiti’s deepening crisis, a request that the U.N. is still mulling.

Chérizier and the federation he leads, known as “G9 Family and Allies,” have blocked the entrance of a main fuel terminal in the capital of Port-au-Prince for more than a month as fuel, water and other basic supplies grow scarce amid a cholera outbreak. The gang has said it would not budge until Henry resigns, but in a video recently posted on social media, Chérizier, who is nicknamed “Barbecue,” called on the government to grant him and G9 members amnesty and to void all arrest warrants against them. The government has not responded as police struggle to contain gangs that have grown more powerful since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

Here’s a look at Chérizier’s life and rise to power:

WHO IS JIMMY CHÉRIZIER, AND WHY IS HE NICKNAMED “BARBECUE”?

Chérizier is a former officer with Haiti’s National Police who worked with the Departmental Crowd Control Unit, which is deployed when there are riots or protests and has been accused of excessive force. He has since become what many consider Haiti’s most powerful gang leader.

Chérizier told The Associated Press in a 2019 interview that he was born in the Port-au-Prince community of Delmas, next to La Saline slum, one of eight children whose father died when he was 5. He said his mother was a street vendor who sold fried chicken, and that’s how he was nicknamed “Barbecue,” denying he earned the moniker due to accusations that he set people on fire.

Chérizier told the AP that he is inspired by the late dictator Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, who ruled Haiti with a bloody brutality from 1957 to 1971 and had himself declared “president for life.”

HOW DID CHÉRIZIER BECOME SO POWERFUL?

Haiti’s National Police fired Chérizier in December 2018 and he still faces an outstanding arrest warrant for his alleged role in a 2017 massacre.

Authorities accuse Chérizier of becoming a gang leader of Base Delmas 6, an impoverished Lower Delmas neighborhood, and of organizing large-scale massacres that occurred in the nearby slums of Grand Ravine in 2017, in La Saline in 2018 and in Bel-Air in 2019, accusations Chérizier denies.

At least nine civilians were killed in Grand Ravine, another 71 people were killed, 11 women raped and 150 homes destroyed in La Saline and at least 24 people killed in Bel-Air, according to a report published by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic.

In June 2020, Chérizier established a new alliance known as “G9 Family and Allies.” It originally was composed of nine gangs from Cite Soleil, La Saline and lower Delmas but has since grown to include more than a dozen gangs, according to a U.N. Security Council report.

“The G9 … is notorious because of the diversity of its membership,” the report stated.

In mid-2020, the gang alliance was accused of killing at least 145 people in Cite Soleil and raping multiple women “in efforts to claim areas held by rivals with ties to Moïse’s political opponents,” according to the Harvard report.

“Residents believe they were targeted for their political affiliations, in an effort to secure electoral support for (Moïse) and his party,” the report stated, adding that “G9 reportedly enjoys ties to both the Moïse administration and (Haiti’s National Police).”

Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network has echoed those allegations, stating that local police have helped protect Chérizier even while he supposedly committed crimes.

In December 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department issued civil sanctions against Chérizier and others believed to be involved in the massacres, accusing gangs of removing “victims, including children, from their homes to be executed and then dragged them into the streets where their bodies were burned, dismembered and fed to animals.”

Chérizier has repeatedly denied any involvement in the massacres, saying he is a community leader who helps residents and is leading an “armed revolution,” adding that he would “put guns in the hands of every child if we have to.”

“I would never massacre people in the same social class as me,” he told the AP. “I live in the ghetto. I know what ghetto life is.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR CHÉRIZIER?

Since mid-September, Chérizier and his allies have surrounded a key fuel terminal in Port-au-Prince, refusing to move until the prime minister steps down. But after Haiti’s government requested the immediate deployment of foreign troops, Chérizier announced that he was seeking amnesty and the removal of all arrest warrants against him and his allies.

The gang also is demanding Cabinet positions, the director of Haiti’s National Disarmament, Dismantling and Reintegration Commission told radio station Magik 9.

The government has not responded publicly to those requests.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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EXPLAINER: Who’s behind Haiti’s most powerful gang alliance?