NATIONAL NEWS

Gang violence is surging to unprecedented levels in Haiti, UN envoy says

Jan 25, 2024, 2:58 PM

Residents of the Solino neighborhood, who were displaced from their homes due to clashes between ar...

Residents of the Solino neighborhood, who were displaced from their homes due to clashes between armed gangs, seek shelter as they walk along a street in the Carrefour community of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — An unprecedented surge in gang violence is plaguing Haiti, with the number of victims killed, injured and kidnapped more than doubling last year, the U.N. special envoy for the conflict-wracked Caribbean nations said Thursday.

In a grim briefing, Maria Isabel Salvador told the U.N. Security Council, “I cannot overstress the severity of the situation in Haiti, where multiple protracted crises have reached a critical point.”

She said the 8,400 victims of gang violence documented by her U.N. office last year — a 122% rise from 2022 — were mainly targeted by gangs in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Some 300 gangs control an estimated 80% of the capital, and accounted for 83% of last year’s killings and injuries, Salvador said. But, she added, their tentacles have reached northward into the Artibonite region, considered Haiti’s food basket, and south of the capital “gangs conducted large-scale attacks to control key zones,” systematically using sexual violence to exert control.

The briefing came more than three months after the Security Council approved the deployment of a multinational armed force led by Kenya to help bring gang violence under control.

But the deployment of Kenyan security officers has faced a series of hurdles. It finally got a green light from Kenya’s parliament. And Kenya’s U.N. ambassador, Martin Kimani, told the council a court verdict in a case brought by an individual seeking to block the deployment would be announced Friday.

If the court allows the deployment, Kenyan authorities told The Associated Press last month that the first group of about 300 officers was expected to arrive in Haiti by February. Kenya’s contribution would eventually rise to 1,000 officers at the head of a 3,000-strong multinational force. Burundi, Chad, Senegal, Jamaica and Belize have pledged troops for the multinational mission.

Haiti’s National Police are no match for the gangs. Less than 10,000 officers are on duty at any time in a country of more than 11 million people. Ideally, there should be some 25,000 active officers, according to the U.N.

Salvador told the council that although 795 new recruits will join the force in March, about 1,600 police officers left the force in 2023, according to data gathered by her office, further diminishing the Haitian police’s ability to counter gang violence and maintain security.

Haitian Foreign Minister Jean Victor Génus said the country stands “at a decisive crossroads on which the hopes for Haiti’s future are pinned.”

“The Haitian people have had enough of the armed gangs savagery,” he said, adding that the gangs have stepped up their activities, perhaps concerned that the multinational mission is going to arrive any day.

“Every passing day that this long-awaited support has not yet arrived is one day too many — one day too many that we’re being subjected to the hell imposed on us by the gangs,” Génus said. “Given that time is of the essence, we would like to see a swift and effective deployment.”

Kenya’s ambassador said the government has made ”significant progress” preparing for the deployment, while awaiting the court decision, including making assessment missions to Haiti.

Kenya is preparing for a planning conference with other police contributing countries in mid-February, Kimani said, and it is engaging with partners to prepare a pledging conference to mobilize funds for the mission.

National News

President Joe Biden and Maritza Rodriguez, Biden for President Latina adviser, greets patrons at Li...

Associated Press

President Joe Biden tests positive for COVID-19 while campaigning in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS (AP) — President Joe Biden has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a speaker at the UnidosUS annual conference broadcast on the White House’s YouTube channel. Biden was slated to speak at the event in Las Vegas Wednesday afternoon as part of an effort to rally Hispanic voters ahead of the November […]

13 minutes ago

Ukraine's Minister of Defense Rustem Umerov arrives for a social dinner for defense ministers atten...

Associated Press

Ukraine defense chief says his nation will find battlefield solutions no matter who wins US election

ASPEN, Colorado (AP) — Ukraine will find a way to battle Russia’s invading forces even if former President Donald Trump wins a second term and imperils vital U.S. support for its defense, Ukraine’s defense minister said Wednesday. In carefully framed comments to an audience of U.S. policymakers and journalists, Defense Minister Rustem Umerov reflected the […]

15 minutes ago

Associated Press

Thousands of Nebraskans with felony convictions could be denied voting rights under AG’s opinion

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Thousands of Nebraskans with felony convictions could be denied voting rights under an opinion from the state attorney general released Wednesday. Nebraska Attorney General Mike Hilgers issued an opinion that says a law passed earlier this year to immediately restore the voting rights of people who’ve finished serving their felony convictions […]

30 minutes ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Servic...

Associated Press

Multiple failures, multiple investigations: Unraveling the attempted assassination of Donald Trump

BUTLER, Pa. (AP) — The young man was pacing around the edges of the Donald Trump campaign rally, shouldering a big backpack and peering into the lens of a rangefinder toward the rooftops behind the stage where the former president would stand. His behavior was so odd, so unlike that of the other rallygoers, that […]

57 minutes ago

Texas state District Judge J.R. Flores hears arguments from Catholic Charities attorney William Pow...

Associated Press

Another Texas migrant aid group asks a judge to push back on investigation by Republican AG

EDINBURG, Texas (AP) — A prominent aid group along the U.S.-Mexico border asked a Texas judge on Wednesday to push back on a widening Republican-led investigation into nonprofits that help migrants, weeks after a separate court rejected efforts by the state to shutter an El Paso shelter. Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley provides […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Former Mozambican finance minister, Manuel Chang, is seen in court in Kempton Park, Johannes...

Associated Press

Former Mozambique finance minister on trial in US over ‘tuna bond’ scandal that spurred debt crisis

NEW YORK (AP) — The “ tuna bond ” scandal that shook Mozambique’s economy is washing into a U.S. court, where a former Mozambican finance minister is being tried on charges that he took bribes to commit his country — secretly — to huge loans that prosecutors say got looted. When the loans — supposed […]

1 hour ago

Gang violence is surging to unprecedented levels in Haiti, UN envoy says